Thursday, December 3, 2009


There is a fair amount of exaggeration by the proponents of MAPS 3 as well as its opponents. The conflict of interest allegations regarding Mayor Cornett, who the prominent people might be that will make large sums of money from overpriced projects paid by the taxpayers and whether or not the police and fire unions are making valid arguments or just being unions are all points to consider, but not in this examination. My perspectives are based on attending two lengthy meetings with extensive Q&A time with city councilman Larry McAtee, a proponent. Also a meeting with councilman Brain Walters and the OFP President, both opponents. I attended a lengthy meeting with a former city insider who is familiar with local corruption and how the local good old boy deals work. I have read massive amounts of information, listened to information on Mark Shannon’s radio program and have a grasp of basic economics and past performances of similar projects in other communities. I am often asked if these e-mails can be forwarded or printed out for distribution? Please do so, some people may have a different opinion, but many are looking for additional perspectives before making up their minds. Hopefully the following information will be helpful.

Bullet points for why you should vote NO on MAPS III, detailed information will follow the bullet points.

* Proponents are asking for a huge amount of money with no legal

obligation to do any project

proposed (read the ballot, to a degree, this is a pig in the poke).

* Not enough money to complete proposed projects. In the best of

times, a 1 cent sales tax has

never produced more than $92 million in revenues. This project requires $100 million in

annual revenues and now we are in a recession with declining revenues.

* Proponents didn’t allow us to chose what we wanted, it is all or

nothing. There are some good

projects and some that are very bad.

* The operational and maintenance expenses along with needed tax

payer subsidies will be

greater than new revenues produced by the various projects.

* Projects like the light rail, river rapids, convention center and

senior wellness centers should

be built by the private sector, government should not compete against free market businesses.

* The state fair board is not forthcoming to show accountability for

the millions of dollars

received from the gate receipts, vendors, supplies purchased by vendors and the fees from the

weekly events held on the fair grounds. Those revenues should pay for all improvements to

the fair grounds, rather than continually asking for more tax revenues for improvements.

The revitalization of OKC started in earnest in brick town with the opening of Spaghetti Warehouse. Other restaurants began to open, then a little retail and antique activity. However, the first MAPS really accelerated the revitalization process and helped make downtown OKC into an exciting community. It was done the proper way as is being proposed in MAPS 3, in that the money isn’t going to be borrowed, but it will be, pay as you go. Tax dollars won’t be wasted on interest.

MAPS 1 certainly increased city revenues and when Devon indicated they would not have their home office in OKC without the first MAPS, that just shows how important the improvements to the city were, for companies to be able to attract people who want to live and work in the OKC.

However, under the law of diminishing returns, if MAPS 3 passes, don’t look for such a noticeable difference. “IF” all the proposed projects are completed, there will be improvements, but at twice the cost of the original MAPS, and there will not be anywhere near twice the value. Just remember, if money is no object, there is little man can’t build as an edifice to himself. Man can build really flashy and beautiful things. However, money is an object, not only to build the projects, but more importantly to operate, subsidize and maintain them.

The extension of the one penny sales tax must raise $100 million dollars per year to pay for the projects, assuming the costs are held in check. The projected cost is $777,000,000 million to be collected over the next 7 years and 9 months. Unfortunately, $90 and $92 million are the most revenues ever collected from one penny of sales tax in a fiscal year or in any given 12 month period and that was before the recession hit us. It is likely the sales tax revenues will be far below the necessary amount needed. Therefore, will some of the projects be deleted (not one single project is on the ballot) or will the tax have to be extended? The ballot calls for a “Citizens Capital Improvements Sales Tax Advisory Board” to review projects and make RECCOMMENDATIONS regarding projects. This “Board” will ONLY be able to “recommend”, they will have not enforcement authority. Basically, the proponents are asking the voters to grant the money and then they will decide later when, where and what capital projects for which it should be spent. The order in which projects will be built, as well as the proposed LOCATIONS for the “convention center” the “light rail”

project, the “senior wellness centers” and the river floating venue have not been revealed by the proponents.

Most people never realize how much one penny adds up over time. Over the life of the project, the cost is projected to be $777 million. If you divide that by the 550,000 people who live in the city, it comes out to a cost of $1,400 for every man woman and child in the city.

However, tourists and people who live outside the city, shop and eat in the city and thus pay a portion of the costs. OSU economist, Dr.

Mark Snead crunched the numbers on 1 penny of sales tax in OKC by factoring in revenues raised by visitors and suggested the average cost for EACH RESIDENT of the city would be close to $900 over the course of the project. Therefore, the cost to a family of 4 would be $3,600. The taxpayers are going to have to decide if they want to spend that money themselves on the things they need or want or let the city spend it how ever they see fit?

The convention center is one of the most important projects to the Chamber of Commerce. The Cox Center is a functioning convention center, but a new one would be nice to have. However, its price tag is far above what is should cost (equal to 80% of the cost of all 10 projects in MAPS 1). Even before the recession, convention business was on the decline, yet more and more cities have been building them hoping for convention and conference business. In hopes of landing Big

12 basket ball tournaments, they will be forced to leave the Cox Center in place as the proposed convention center will not have an arena. The operational expense and maintenance costs will double, while increased revenues will probably be far short of hoped for levels. The largest privately owned convention and conference center in the state just opened in Norman a few months ago.

The proposed new park will run from the current I-40 cross town highway down to the Oklahoma River. Probably about 7 blocks long. The mowing, landscaping and cleaning costs will be enormous as well as the need for many additional police officers to prevent crime and the homeless from making it their new home. The city did not plan for any parking around the park. When asked where visitors would park, Councilman McAtee indicated they would park on the side streets around the park. The plan is to have lofts, retail and offices surrounding the park. There will be a great need for parking for those residents and customers, making parking a real problem for non local residents to visit the new park.

The senior wellness centers were added to MAPS 3 in hopes of attracting votes for the “all or nothing projects.” The model for these centers came for Little Rock Arkansas. The finest center of its kind is well used because the fee to use the facilities is very small.

However, the nearly $1 million a year operating budget requires a city subsidy of over $600,000 per year and we are talking about building 5 of these financial losers. Over the past few years the city has shut down many of its swimming pools for a lack of funds to keep them open.

These will be much more costly as they will be open year round, are indoors and thus will require heating and cooling. On top of that, it is government competing against privately owned fitness centers as well as facilities operated by the YMCA family centers. It is immoral for the government to build these centers and compete against those in the private sector. Worse still, from a moral or fairness perspective, young professionals and teens who live in OKC will be forced to pay for these centers, but they will not be allowed to use them.

The light rail systems in Portland Or, Tampa Fl and other places are financial disasters. They require heavy subsidies and it will be worse in OKC as we are spread out and love the freedom and flexibility afforded by our autos. If light rail is approved, the next desired project will be commuter rail service. These might include rail lines from Norman, Edmond, Midwest City, and Yukon. Councilman McAtee indicated the costs to establish those lines will be over 1 $BILLION dollars. Commuter rail lines in California, Utah, Dallas and virtually everywhere besides Boston and a couple of other high rise congested cities are huge money pits, requiring massive taxpayer subsidies.

Unfortunately, the Oklahoma Department Of Transportation (ODOT) has applied for $2 billion in stimulus dollars to build a high speed rail between OKC and Tulsa. If built it will not save more than 20 minutes in travel time and will require an estimated $22 million taxpayer dollars each year to keep the boondoggle operating. It has been proposed that the State, Tulsa and OKC all share in that cost. The lust by city and state leaders to provide passenger rail service is driven by a spirit of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Just because Boston or someone else has passenger rail, we think we must have a system also, even though our lifestyle and population density is antithetical to such propositions. The light rail boondoggle project alone is enough reason to defeat MAPS 3.

The Oklahoma River has quickly become a heralded venue for rowing and other uses. There have been many improvements already done with private dollars. Further improvements could also be done in the same manner. The white water rapids project will be a lot of fun. But it will compete against the White Water fun park. Another case of government going into business and competing against those in the private sector. If and again I say if, there is a market for such an activity, then put it out for bids to the private sector and let someone build and operate it to make a profit. The city should stay out of these kinds of ventures. The rapids project is modeled after the one in Charlotte North Carolina. By the way, that project just went belly up. Because of the short time span for usage, this one here will require heavy taxpayer subsidies.

The sidewalks and trials are proper functions of government. The city already has plans to build them. The money in MAPS 3 simply accelerates the time to complete them. If the citizens want to extend a tax for a few month for these purposes, they should be allowed to vote on those projects separately.

Another thing to consider. Oklahoma County government is under threat by the federal government to fix the problems associated with the jail. Propose costs so far have been exorbitant and chilling. The county commissioners are trying to trim costs and may ask the citizens for a sales tax increase to solve that problem. If the citizens refuse, a federal judge could order a fix and demand the cost to be paid through a huge increase in property taxes. If MAPS 3 is voted down, OKC will see its sales tax reduced and in fact be the lowest of any community in central Oklahoma. That might lessen the blow of a future short term county sales tax increase.

One final thought. There are 7 announced Republicans and 1 independent running for the soon to be vacated 5th district congressional seat. No Democrat has announced at this time. Week before last former State Representative Kevin Calvey was on Mark Shannon’s radio show and was asked if he supported or opposed MAPS 3. Since that time several of the other candidates have made their positions known. OCPAC Vice Chairman Richard Engle and I have contacted all of the candidates and I now want to make all of their answers known. This is important as it gives the voters a glimpse into the ideology of the candidates. Their philosophy for the size and activities of government during a recession and more importantly how they may react to pressure from city leaders once in Congress as to whether or not they will bring the “bacon home” from a bankrupt federal government or if they care more about fiscal restraint and reducing the federal debt. City leaders will want some parts of MAPS 3 subsidized by the federal government.

Will the next 5th district congressman be independent or a puppet on a string for the rich and powerful?

The Congressional candidates opposed to MAPS 3 are:

Kevin Calvey - Republican

Dr. Johnny Roy - Republican

Rick Flannigan - Republican

Paul Araby - Republican

Clark Duffe - Independent

The 5th district congressional candidate in favor is:

Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud - Republican

Two other responses:

State Rep Mike Thompson - Republican - told me his position, but doesn’t want it made public.

James Lankford - Republican - Indicated his strong belief that federal office holders (or candidates) should not interject themselves into local issues.

The voting members of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) overwhelmingly voted to oppose MAPS III. I would suggest it be voted down then after the recession has recovered, those issues may again be presented to the voters so they have a choice as to which ones to support and which ones to turn down.

Please direct any comments or a request to be added to our weekly e- mail list to:

Charlie Meadows, OCPAC Chairman

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