You can’t miss Oklahoma City’s progress during the past three decades. Children can’t remember living in a city without NBA MVP winners, a thriving Bricktown, spectacular libraries, an eclectic food scene, the Devon Tower and Olympians training on the Oklahoma River.
But as hard as Oklahoma City has tried, street quality hasn’t kept up with the rest of our success. It’s been our residents’ top concern for years on our annual survey.
We also need more police officers and firefighters. A recent staffing study showed we don’t have enough police officers, and we don’t have money to staff two fire stations that are opening soon. Our population has grown but our staffing hasn’t.
We have a plan to help make a difference. On Sept. 12, every voter in Oklahoma City should vote in the “Better Streets, Safer City” special election.
There are 13 bond propositions and two sales tax initiatives for a total of 15 choices on the ballot:
- A permanent, one-quarter-cent sales tax for police officers, firefighters and other services ($26 million in annual revenue).
- A 10-year, $967 million bond package for essential infrastructure.
- A 27-month continuation of the expiring MAPS 3 penny to fix our streets ($240 million in projects).
It’s a comprehensive package that would fix our streets and provide the community with more firefighters and police officers to reduce response time and keep you safe.
The benefits would be even more widespread. Not only are there proposals to invest in parks and transit and other critical public services, but also to start an affordable housing program and continue using the same job creation incentives that have helped companies like Paycom and Boeing expand in or relocate to Oklahoma City.
Property taxes would stay the same, and continuing the expiring MAPS 3 penny sales tax to focus on streets would transform our community.
It’s the first time since 1976 that we have asked voters about increasing the general operations sales tax. It would cost an extra 25 cents for every $100 you spend, and we think it’s important to present this option to make a commitment to our police officers and firefighters.
This is about personal and civic responsibility. As residents of Oklahoma City, we employ selfless public safety professionals and are owners of many buildings, bridges, streets, parks and more. We want to protect you, your investments and our employees. We want to keep — and attract — residents and employers who make our community dynamic.
If we put off protecting and improving our infrastructure, costs will escalate and it will be hard to be good stewards of your money.
You can get details about all this and more at okc.gov/BetterSafer. We’ve got interactive maps to explore projects near where you live, an in-depth FAQ, voting information and a place to sign up for updates.
People love living here. I love living here. And our community is going to keep growing for that reason — it’s a great place to live. We want to make sure Oklahoma City keeps getting better.
So please vote Sept. 12. These critical investments would make our streets better and our city safer.
Couch is city manager of Oklahoma City.