OKC mayor promotes MAPS 4 before election day
Mayor David Holt joined The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer during this week's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve most Fridays at 9:30 a.m. to add your questions and comments about downtown development. Below is an edited transcript of the discussion.
What lessons have we as a city learned from past MAPS programs to implement an even better MAPS4 program?
Mayor David Holt: Quite a few, but the most notable in the context of MAPS 4 is the addition of endowments (building on a concept first used in MAPS 1) to cover the operating costs of projects where the operating cost clearly falls on the city. Runner-up lesson has been the fact that our financial estimates have gotten so good that where MAPS 1 had a shortfall, MAPS 3 has maybe $50 million in excess funds. We have taken a similarly conservative approach with the M4 estimate. We assume a major recession. There is every reason to believe city leaders 10 years from now will be debating how to allocate MAPS 4 excess funds and that is a good problem to have.
Mayor, lately, I have seen indications that there may be some uncertainty in the local economy. How is MAPS4 "insulated" from potential downturns in sales tax collections, if at all?
Holt: We assume a major recession in our financial estimate. The estimate for M4 is very conservative and used the same approaches that yielded a generous overage in M3.
Is there a month in 2020 that we can expect protected bike lane construction to begin and/or to be completed? Can there be an event planned around a completion? It may seem minuscule, but "big league cities" have protected bike lanes. It would be great to share this with the public. We need our people from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, NYC, Chicago, Washington, D.C., etc. to understand that we are not a joke, and that progressive change is coming.
Holt: Such things are already funded, and MAPS 4 includes $20 million more for bike lanes. I don't know specific dates for commencement. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you an answer to that.
With the MAPS 4 schedule, when would we see the first projects break ground? Hard to predict, but it is it before the full amount of funds has been gathered?
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- Video: How will the tax for MAPS 4 work?
Holt: Oh, certainly. We don't wait till the very end of the eight-year tax to start. Having said that, historically, it may take a year or more just to make the implementation plan and get some funds in the bank. But as soon as is practical, we would want to start. But also remember, it is pay as you go, and that takes a little longer.
Mayor Holt, as you are aware, sales taxes are regressive in nature. Especially on some items. Was there no other funding strategy for your MAPS projects? A combo plan? A equity plan? Just wondering.
Holt: Cities in Oklahoma don't have a lot of funding options. We are heavily reliant on sales tax. I will of course use this as an opportunity to again plug the fact that M4 does not raise the sales tax rate from where it is today. Let me also use this as an excuse to note one advantage of sales tax that stands in contrast to other potential forms of taxation. We believe a third of sales tax revenue we receive is paid by NONRESIDENTS. Keep that in mind. Not a bad deal for residents.
Mayor Holt, how would you rate the success of the streetcar system so far? Do you feel there is a hunger for expansion from the city, residents and visitors?
Holt: I think over 400,000 riders in the first 10 or so months speaks for itself. Clearly it is being used and filling a need. And as our regional transit plans develop and as the convention center area matures, it will even more useful in the years ahead. As for expansion, we'll see. The BRT may fill that role if MAPS 4 passes. M4 has BRT lines to the northeast and the south that will arguably be just as useful as a streetcar extension would be in connecting downtown to the adjacent neighborhoods.
How can we work towards compromise/common consensus with such a diverse city and a diverse set of projects proposed for MAPS 4? For example, if someone says I can’t vote for MAPS because of the stadium projects or I can’t vote for MAPS because of all the social programs.
Holt: MAPS 4 is a continuation of an incredibly successful program and the projects will individually mean a lot to our citizens, BUT I would argue there is one more thing at stake here. I believe we have an opportunity Tuesday to show the nation once again how compromise works. The fact that the MAPS model addresses many different kinds of needs has been a positive of the model, not a negative. It is nothing to apologize for. The KWTV/SoonerPoll this week illustrated that every project individually polls well above 50%, but it's no doubt a different majority each time. And that's OK. As mayor, I hear from all those different echo chambers. I'm glad this is a win-win outcome for lots of different people who have different priorities and think differently. As mayor, I seek those win-win outcomes. America will work again when all elected leaders and voters seek those outcomes.