Supreme Court asked to review whether MAPS 4 ballot is constitutional
Former Ward 2 Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid on Wednesday asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to scuttle MAPS 4, arguing the way the proposal is structured unconstitutionally deprives voters of the chance to decide how their tax money will be spent.
In a petition to the high court, Shadid's attorney, Jay Barnett, wrote that MAPS 4 "fails the single-subject requirement" of Article 5, Section 57 of the constitution.
The petition says the constitution and state law require "a distinction" between general and special taxes.
In it, Barnett argues MAPS 4 is not a general tax and says analysis of a 2017 high court ruling "shows the purpose and effect of MAPS 4 is to fund an array of special projects."
Mayor David Holt said Wednesday afternoon that he would have no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
MAPS 4 would extend the 1-cent MAPS for streets sales tax, approved by voters in 2017 to fund street resurfacing and related improvements, for eight years, raising an estimated $978 million. The city council has set the MAPS 4 election for Dec. 10.
The council passed a "resolution of intent" expressing its intention for how the proceeds of the MAPS 4 sales tax will be spent.
Previous councils have made similar promises and council members have insisted city administrators adhere to those promises to protect MAPS' credibility.
Voters first approved Metropolitan Area Projects in 1993 as a temporary tax. It has been renewed a number of times since then, always for a limited duration.
The MAPS 4 resolution expresses the intent to fund a civil rights museum, sports venues, affordable housing and animal shelter.
Traffic corridors would be beautified, and facilities for agencies addressing domestic violence and diverting low-level offenders from jail would be built.
Funding is promised for parks, transit, sidewalks and related street improvements, senior health and wellness centers, youth centers, job-creation initiatives, and mental health crisis centers and related facilities.
Barnett contends in his petition that MAPS 4 does “exactly” what the state constitution prohibits.
“The city is saying to battered women, that they may receive the help they desperately need, but only if they vote for a soccer stadium," he wrote.
“It has said to the disabled that they may have sidewalks, but only if they will pay for NBA facilities.
“It has offered funding," he continued, "for mental health and substance abuse but only if those affected by such maladies will pay also for an ‘Innovation District.’”
On the MAPS 4 ballot, voters will be asked to decide whether to approve a general sales tax, similar in form to the 2017 quarter-cent sales tax increase voters approved to hire additional police and firefighters.
Barnett is asking the high court to declare that MAPS 4 "does not fall within the 'general revenue exception' to the constitution's single-subject rule," that MAPS 4 is prohibited by the state constitution, and that Oklahoma City "may by no means enforce MAPS 4."
In remarks to the council last month, when the council voted unanimously to send MAPS 4 to voters, Shadid threatened to file a lawsuit on constitutional grounds.
Shadid called the ballot language a "fraud" and Barnett, in remarks to reporters, said MAPS 4 amounted to "a billion-dollar slush fund."
Barnett said Friday that they were prepared to file immediately in Oklahoma County District Court should the Supreme Court refuse original jurisdiction.
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