Oklahomans speak out about penny sales tax

Sunday, February 24th 2008, 11:58 pm
By: News 9

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

In just a few days, Oklahoma City residents will be voting on whether to extend a one-penny sales tax. The tax could be used to lure an NBA team to the Ford Center. Groups on both sides of the issue are speaking out about the pros and cons of the extension.

Saturday, a pro-NBA rally took place with city leaders who explained why voters should say ‘yes' to this tax extension. Opposing views exist, however.

David Glover is using the Internet to get his message out.

"I think people are being somewhat fooled and mislead," Glover said.

If voters okay an extension of the MAPS for Kids tax on March 4, taxpayers will fork over $120 million for improvements at the Ford Center and the construction of an NBA training facility.

"We want to send a very strong message to the NBA that Oklahoma City is really behind this," Roy Williams of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber said.

Glover said sound bites like this are misleading.

"Where is it said, ‘Make these improvements to the Ford Center or we won't come'"? Glover said.

Glover posted a video on YouTube explaining why he says it's okay if taxpayers say ‘no'.

"Oklahoma City is at the top of the list for relocation," Glover said. "And, I believe that Oklahoma City has provided itself better than any other city in the nation, that we can handle a team. So, what does the $121 million buy us? Do we become ‘topper' of the list?"

He's not alone. Steve Hunt doesn't like the idea of using public funds for wealthy business owners.

"Taxpayers subsidizing large corporations, it's rampant in this country," Hunt said.

Shirley Darrell agrees.

"I'm not going to pay, or vote to pay, a penny for some millionaires who already bought a team," Darrell said. "If they want a practice facility, they can build it."

There's also the debate of whether or not an NBA team is the wrong way to boost a city's image.

"Its roads, its infrastructure, its hospitals, schools," Hunt said. "Maybe at the bottom of the list will be sports franchise."

"If we vote ‘no', the tax will go down a penny because the MAPS tax will be over," Darrell said.

But supporters say the penny tax is a small price to pay for the priceless exposure an NBA team will give Oklahoma City.

Even so, there are some people who aren't buying it.

"Maybe they'll do a sales tax and build a building for my office, for Darrell Associates, you think?" Darrell said.

Those same people we talked to say they're concerned about the lengthy and ‘wordy' ballot voters will use on March 4. They're concerned that the Ford Center isn't mentioned anywhere, only that the tax may be used to improve city sports facilities. That wording is too vague for some.

NEWS 9 has learned former state representative Wanda Jo Stapleton is challenging Mayor Mick Cornett to a public debate over the March 4 tax vote. So far, no word from the Mayor on if he'll accept her invitation.