In the past, the Fraternal Order of Police has not opposed MAPS initiatives. But MAPS 3 has gone too far.
Out of three-fourths of a billion dollars, not one dime is being spent on education, roads, bridges, infrastructure or emergency services " namely police and fire. Here are just a few of the numerous reasons why the informed voter will have to vote no on Dec. 8.
In the last 20 years, Oklahoma City's population has increased nearly 15 percent. In the same period, the number of police officers has increased by less than 1 percent. Due to the need for specialized units, there are actually fewer officers responding to 911 calls today than there were in 1989. This means a single police officer may be responsible for patrolling more than 100 square miles. The MAPS 3 plan proposes a new park and convention center " properties that would require additional police patrol. It is just plain irresponsible to increase the area that needs security while decreasing the police department's resources.
In 1996, the average response time for high priority calls was about seven minutes. Police Chief Bill Citty reported to the Oklahoma City Council in May 2007 that the goal for 2008 was to respond to these same high priority calls in nine minutes and 30 seconds. The emergency service in a city should get better, not worse. The MAPS 3 initiative does not include any funding to reverse this negative trend.
City leaders continue to talk about "quality of life." The first issue when talking about the quality of life is safety in your home, your neighborhood and places of entertainment. If you call 911 in a life-threatening situation, what is more important: a new convention center or the safety of your family?
In February 2009, Chief Citty reported to the Oklahoma City Council that a report concerning OKC's municipal needs had been completed by an independent company. This report confirmed the need for more than 300 additional personnel in the police department. Many city leaders talk about "continuing the growth." The FOP believes in Oklahoma City and wants to help it grow, but we must proportionally increase the emergency services the city provides.
Around the same time City Council voted to place the MAPS 3 initiative on a Dec. 8 ballot, the city manager directed all departments to cut their budgets by 2 percent. The memorandum stated these cuts would be permanent, and additional cuts could be necessary in the coming fiscal year. These cuts could result in the loss of about 40 policemen and 30 firefighters from already seriously understaffed departments.
MAPS 3 is projected to spend more than three-fourths of a billion tax dollars, and not one penny of it will be spent to address any of the above concerns. Neither the police nor fire departments want pay raises from this initiative; they just want enough staff to keep this city safe. For the sake of public safety, education, roads, the economy and the future of Oklahoma City, join me in voting no on Dec. 8.
George, an Oklahoma City resident, is first vice president of the FOP Lodge 123.