“This is to protect the investment we’ve made,” City leaders, critics discuss Oklahoma City election

OKLAHOMA CITY - Residents will head to the polls Tuesday in the 'Better Streets, Safer City' election to consider bond and sales tax initiatives.

Voters will decide whether or not to approve a $967 million general obligation bond package to fund basic infrastructure needs.

The bond package consists of 13 different propositions, with projects including:

- Streets and sidewalks ($491 million)
- Traffic control ($28 million)
- Bridges ($27 million)
- Parks/recreation ($138 million)
- Drainage control ($62 million)
- Economic/community development ($60 million)
- Fire ($45 million)
- Police ($31 million)
- Libraries ($24 million)
- Transit ($20 million)
- Civic center complex ($20 million)
- City maintenance facilities ($13 million)
- Downtown arena ($9 million)

Roy Williams, CEO of the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce, said majority of revenue would go towards road improvement. It's an issue he said needs to be "personalized."

"If you own a home or if you own a car, you know it needs maintenance. You need to take care of it. You have an investment, and I think that's the way to think about this bond issue," Williams said. "This is to protect the investment we've made over the last number of decades."

However, some voters said they're not convinced all of the measures would produce better results for the city.

Bob Waldrop said he intends to vote 'yes' on issues such as maintenance for city facilities but will vote in opposition of the street and sidewalk improvement, claiming that money may be unevenly distributed.

Waldrop also does not agree with allocating funds for "economic and community development," as proposed in the package. Money invested into that project would go toward job incentive programs, but he argues that money could be better spent on the city's low income residents.

"No one is going to write any checks to any low income person so that he or she can make bread in their home kitchen and sell it to their neighbors," Waldrop said. "Nobody is going to write a check for like six guys who want to start a home healthcare cooperative. It's all going to go to people who are already rich, who are already powerful."

In response, Williams said opponents should let history speak for itself. He claims most of the money approved in past bond obligations have not gone to big businesses.

"It's too easy for people to just say, 'Oh, all of this is just to benefit a big business' when, in reality, that's not what happened and that's not what's going to happen," he said. "There's very strict guidelines over how to access any of those funds, and all of it is performance driven. So, if jobs aren't created, if investments weren't made... nobody gets an incentive."

City voters will also vote a permanent 1/4 cent sales tax that would be used to hire 129 more police officers and 57 more firefighters, along with a temporary extension of the penny sales tax that is about to expire.

Polling locations will be open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday.