OKLAHOMA CITY – A former Oklahoma City councilmember is expressing concerns about the upcoming MAPS 4 vote, and is saying he plans to challenge the process in court.
Last week, city leaders announced that 16 projects that were presented before the Oklahoma City Council earlier this year would be included in MAPS 4 package that was presented to city councilmembers on Tuesday.
The proposals include:
- Multipurpose stadium
- Mental health center
- Improved public housing
- New animal shelter
- Community parks
- Youth centers
- Senior wellness center
- Family justice center
- Public transit improvements
- Sidewalks and streetlight improvements
- Chesapeake Energy Arena improvements
- Jim Norick Arena
- Diversion hub
- Innovation district
- Freedom Center and Clara Luper Civil Rights Center
In all, the MAPS 4 projects would cost $978 million over eight years as part of an ongoing sales tax.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, many of the councilmembers said that although they may not like all of the projects on the list, they were overall pleased with the package.
Before Oklahoma City councilmembers could vote on the proposal, former Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid said that he doesn’t believe the council is working in good faith of the public.
"By meeting in small groups and hiding from the people things like the Boathouse Foundation asking you for another $3 million this year, and keeping that from the people, you're not allowing the people to fully understand the operational pressures that are coming from these. You're not allowing the people to have informed consent. The 1/8th of a cent for parks is at least as transformative as any other program on this list. It at least deserved a hearing. It's disappointing that it didn't, but I think that these projects were chosen a long time ago and that's for another meeting," Shadid said. "As David knows, and as many of you know, absent substantive changes in this ordinance, I will file an injunction in district court to challenge the constitutionality of this ordinance and the actions of the mayor and the council, which I think in a very sad, cynical, dishonest way are working to circumvent the single-subject rule of the Oklahoma constitution."
Shadid said that the language of MAPS 4 is very different from MAPS projects in the past. He says most of the voters in the city want to vote on projects separately, and the Supreme Court argues that voters shouldn't have to have an unpalatable 'all or nothing choice.'
"You're telling the domestic violence victim, 'You can have your family justice center, but you're going to have to vote to tax yourself for a multipurpose stadium in order to get it.' I think you know me personally. I think you know that some of those things are deeply personal to me; mental health, addiction facilities, things at the core of my being that I want so bad. But you're going to tell me that in order to get that, I have to vote to tax myself to give potentially $10 million to a privately-owned, practice facility for the richest people in Oklahoma? That's my choice. It is so far beyond an unpalatable choice, it makes me nauseous."
The multipurpose outdoor stadium would create a permanent home for a professional soccer team and a centralized venue that is suitable for hosting high school football and soccer championships. Organizers say it would also enable Oklahoma City to compete for major outdoor concerts, festivals and sporting events.
For more than a year, there have been rumors that the Oklahoma City Energy soccer team was looking for a new place to play. In the past, there have even been talks about the team building a new soccer stadium in Chisholm Creek.
When the MAPS 4 presentations were made, some citizens were concerned about taxpayer money going toward a multipurpose stadium that would be used by the team, which has always been privately funded.
"Yes, it's a publicly owned building, but we'll still have to pay to use it. I don't see why I have to pay to use something that my tax money is already supporting," said a citizen at the council meeting.
According to a survey by SoonerPoll, most of the voters surveyed 'strongly oppose' a multipurpose soccer stadium being paid for with taxpayer money.
“Ultimately, we’re doing a $37 million stadium, so if you don’t like it, over 96 percent of MAPS 4 is not a stadium,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told News 4 last week.
Despite Shadid's opposition, many people at the meeting spoke in favor of the multipurpose stadium.
Shadid argued that the MAPS 4 projects should be split up so voters can vote on what they support, and not have to tax themselves on things they don't.
"Why can't you give us more than one vote? That's what the people want, so don't you dare say that you came up with a MAPS that the people wanted because I showed you a scientific poll that said the people want to vote on it separately, and they want money for operations to prevent the painful cuts that are coming in the next recession," Shadid said.
Shadid says that he doesn't know how the Supreme Court will vote, but that he believes the case will move forward.
Ultimately, the city council voted unanimously and approved the MAPS 4 package be sent to a vote of the people.