Dustup over 'citizens' taints MAPS 4 board rollout
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon sought without success this week to remove the word "citizens" from the name of the MAPS 4 Citizens Advisory Board.
The question bears on how Oklahoma City will come to grips with Mayor David Holt's concept of "oneOKC" and how invested the Latino community will be in MAPS 4.
Hamon tried at Tuesday's council meeting to amend the resolution creating the advisory board, which is required by the ordinance authorizing the 1-cent MAPS 4 sales tax.
"I represent a lot of people [for whom] the word 'citizen' is exclusionary, people who are undocumented and are wonderful members in our community," Hamon said.
Hamon is right, Raúl Font, president of the Latino Community Development Agency, said Wednesday.
All consumers contribute to MAPS, he said, yet Latinos have not been well-represented in the decision-making nor well-served by the projects the past 25 years.
"To be diverse and inclusive you have to be aware and sensitive," Font said.
Holt said Tuesday that adoption of the resolution creating the advisory board and six subcommittees was the first "major step" toward implementing MAPS 4.
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The debate over language, though, dulled his acknowledgment of the value volunteers bring to oversight of hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds.
Holt was with the majority in defeating Hamon's amendment 6-3.
Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone observed council members represent a lot of different ethnicities.
"In my mind, if you live in Oklahoma City, you're a citizen of Oklahoma City, no matter your legal status," he said.
Holt said citizen is defined as "an inhabitant of a city. It is the most general and broad definition possible."
"It doesn't change the fact that people interact with the word 'citizen' differently," Hamon said. "Dictionary definitions follow culture."
Kenneth Jordan, the city attorney, said Wednesday that undocumented but otherwise qualified individuals are "not legally barred" from serving on the advisory board.
The mayor had declined Tuesday to say whether he would appoint one given the chance.
The council eventually voted 8-1, with Hamon dissenting, to establish the MAPS 4 Citizens Advisory Board. The mayor and council members are taking applications to serve.
MAPS 4 board
Members of the MAPS 4 Citizens Advisory Board and six subcommittees will be appointed by the mayor with the city council's consent. Each of the city's eight wards will have a representative on the 11-member board.
To apply: Go to okc.gov/maps4
Quote: "I'll be particularly interested in your thoughts, especially in regards to projects you're very passionate about," Mayor David Holt told council members.