Initiative aims at improvements, programs for neighborhood parks
An initiative drive to enact a sales tax fund dedicated to Oklahoma City parks is to begin Thursday. If voters agree, neighborhood parks would receive new money for programs and improvements.
Former Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, a physician and leader of the petition drive, said Wednesday that studies show vibrant, active urban park systems are central to residents' overall good health.
Shadid asserted Oklahoma City leaders have in recent years shortchanged parks and other basic municipal services in favor of major building projects, a reference to MAPS 3 and its focus on downtown.
"Let's take care of the basics first," Shadid said, previewing a "Basics First" campaign that will seek signatures this summer and, later, voters' approval for enhanced funding for transit as well as parks.
Attorney Eric Groves plans to file the initiative petition on parks Thursday with the Oklahoma City Clerk's office. Shadid said a second petition aimed at financing transit improvements would be filed shortly.
From there, supporters will have 90 days to collect enough signatures to call an election. Shadid said he was confident the 6,499 valid signatures required for each petition would be gathered in time.
"We're going to beat the date," he said.
The parks initiative proposes a one-eighth cent sales tax increase, with proceeds earmarked for park programs and improvements.
Proceeds would go to outdoor activities such as athletic leagues and exercise classes; improvements such as baseball field backstops, soccer goals and restrooms; and operational expenses, with the exception of mowing the grass, an item Shadid said costs about as much as the tax would raise on an annual basis.
Parks managed by foundations or other private entities, such as the MAPS 3 downtown park, would be excluded to keep the focus on neighborhoods, Shadid said.
The proposal is similar in design to the dedicated sales taxes that help fund police and fire departments and the Oklahoma City Zoo. An eighth of a cent brings in about $14 million annually.