A recent poll of likely Oklahoma City special elections voters shows many would like to see the MAPS vote done slightly differently moving forward.
A majority of people surveyed said they would rather vote for MAPS 4 projects individually. Most would also like to see some of the penny tax spent on operations and maintenance rather than completely spent on capital improvements.
The survey of 406 registered OKC voters was conducted by SoonerPoll and sponsored by former councilman Ed Shadid. The poll, conducted between April 24 and May 9, has a 4 percent margin of error.
Ward 6 councilwoman JoBeth Hamon said she was not necessarily surprised with any of the poll’s findings but did not think mental health and substance abuse facilities, which had the most support, would poll so well. Ward 1 councilman James Greiner had a similar feeling, but he did not think the soccer stadium, which had the least support, would poll so badly.
Almost 80 percent of those surveyed said they would rather vote for each MAPS project separately, while 16.3 percent said they prefer an all or nothing vote. Hamon said she has been told MAPS is structured as an all or nothing vote so the final package is a compromise that addresses many of the city’s needs. She is not totally convinced of that argument but does not know where she sides on the issue yet.
Greiner said he would much rather vote on individual projects.
“I would certainly rather vote on individual projects because when you’re talking about a big group of capital improvements, you’re going to have a wide range of things. Some things I won’t think are a great idea and other things I will,” Greiner said. “That’s how the typical voter would really want to vote.”
Ward 2 councilman James Cooper said he worries about putting individual projects up for vote.
“I get really nervous and worried about putting something like, ‘Hey, sidewalks. What does the entire city think about sidewalks?’ Because here in the inner city, most of us [care],” he said, “but when you start going further and further out into the more rural parts of Oklahoma City, which we have in our boundaries, sidewalks are nowhere near a priority for them.”
About 57 percent of those surveyed said they supported reserving a portion of the penny tax to pay for operations and maintenance, while almost 34 percent opposed it.
“I think this poll really speaks to people’s desires to see some kind of maintenance and operations dollars,” Hamon said. “There’s been frustration because operation costs are high and there hasn’t been a true avenue for funding. … The whole conversation about the operating dollars is kind of another hurdle to start analyzing.”
Of those surveyed, 71 percent said they wanted at least one quarter of the penny tax reserved for maintenance and operations — 21 percent said one quarter of the penny, 48 percent said half and less than 2 percent said the full penny should be used for operations and maintenance.
“I like the idea of reserving part of the MAPS penny sales tax for the — we can call it the maintenance and operations, but I call it the stewardship of the projects we pass,” Cooper said. “We build these projects, and I think then the question has to be, ‘How do we become responsible stewards of what we build?’ Seeing a dedicated sales tax to maintain and operate what we build makes sense to me. … I’m a lot more interested in maintaining and stewarding what we’ve already built than necessarily building big, new, $200 million shiny objects. What will transform people’s lives? A better environment in their neighborhood. Every bit of economic research will tell you that.”
At the same time, Cooper said the council should also look for creative ways to maintain and operate MAPS project outside a dedicated sales tax. Greiner said that could be possible through endowment funds.
“We do need to move into the direction of really talking about the operation and maintenance and how it’s going to be funded on all these MAPS projects,” Greiner said. “We have relied a lot on just the idea that if we build these things, then it’s going to generate more economic development … it’s going to increase the amount of money people are spending and that’s going to make up the difference. … Those endowment ideas that mayor [David] Holt has talked about is something that I would definitely consider. I don’t know if I completely support it yet, but on the surface, the idea is at least a very interesting and good conversation to have.”
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce conducts its own MAPS poll but has never released the results. The mayor and city council will determine which projects will become part of the MAPS package, which is set to be finalized in early September for a special election in December.