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Oklahoma City voters say ‘yes’ to MAPS 3 proposal

BY JOHN ESTUS AND BRYAN DEAN Modified: February 12, 2010 at 11:31 am •  Published: December 9, 2009

Hoping to continue Oklahoma City’s renaissance, voters on Tuesday passed a far-reaching MAPS 3 initiative aimed at continuing citywide progress that began with the first MAPS in 1993.

"Oklahoma City’s golden age continues,” Mayor Mick Cornett said at a watch party for the Yes for MAPS campaign as red, white and blue confetti blasted into the air. "Let’s enjoy this. Let’s take stock of who we are and keep in mind we’re creating a city our kids and our grandkids are going to be proud of for generations to come.”

The penny sales tax that will pay for the $777 million package passed with more than 54 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.

Voter turnout was about 31 percent, about twice as high as a typical city election, said Doug Sanderson, Oklahoma County Election Board secretary.

The final vote was 40,956 yes, 34,465 no.

The MAPS 3 tax will last seven years and nine months when it begins April 1.

It replaces the current penny sales tax that funds Ford Center improvements and a practice facility for the Thunder. The city’s 3.875 percent sales tax rate will not change.

"Our only hope is to go forward,” said Gil Hensley, president of the city’s police union and co-chairman of the Not This MAPS coalition, which led opposition to MAPS 3. "Our message never changed: This city does not provide adequate essential services to its citizens. The votes are in. The vote’s done.”

The Yes for MAPS watch party, held in a Cox Convention Center ballroom, featured giant projection screens and flat screen televisions showing election coverage, a lighting system projecting colorful designs around the room and an ice sculpture adorning one of several food tables.

As election results came in, partygoers cheered while dining on upscale foods and vast selections of artisan breads, cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables.

Like its predecessors, MAPS and MAPS For Kids, MAPS 3 is designed to dramatically change the face of the city.

Once all projects are complete, downtown will be connected to the Oklahoma River by a sprawling, 70-acre central park that will house attractions of all types. Nearby, a new convention center will be built to attract coveted conventions and the economic perks that come with them. The river will be home to world-class kayaking and whitewater rafting facilities. Residents and visitors will be able to use a modern streetcar system to get there and elsewhere throughout the downtown area.

Outside downtown, MAPS 3 seeks to make the city healthier by adding more sidewalks, more trails and five senior aquatic centers to help keep the city’s aging population in shape. The state fairgrounds will also receive extensive improvements.

The first two MAPS — short for Metropolitan Area Projects — spurred billions in private development, and city leaders anticipate the same with MAPS 3.

There is no timeline for which projects will be built first, Cornett has said. A citizen oversight board would be appointed in coming weeks to help the city decide which projects to build first. Cornett has said he expects the park to be one of the earlier projects and the convention center to be built later.

Cornett said he’d like the park open by 2014, when a new downtown boulevard replacing the Crosstown Expressway bridge is scheduled to open.

City officials also plan to put MAPS 3 use tax money toward hiring more police officers and firefighters.

Use taxes are charged in place of sales taxes to businesses that buy items outside the city for use in the city.

The use tax plan was made in response to concerns from the city’s police and firefighter unions that MAPS 3 did not address public safety. Ongoing Coverage: MAPS 3

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