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Citizens' group led by Ed Shadid calls for votes to strip MAPS 3 convention center, end tax collection early

A pair of initiative petitions would challenge key aspects of Oklahoma City's MAPS 3 plan.
by Randy Ellis and William Crum Modified: January 3, 2014 at 8:53 pm •  Published: January 3, 2014

Former Mayor Ron Norick says killing the planned MAPS 3 convention center would derail 20 years of “over-the-top” economic success and amount to a step backward for Oklahoma City.

A citizens’ group led by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is hoping voters will scuttle plans for the current $252 million downtown convention center and end collection of the MAPS 3 sales tax early.

Advocates have filed two initiative petitions aimed at calling a citywide vote on their proposal.

They have 90 days to collect signatures of at least 6,035 Oklahoma City voters. If they are successful, the question most likely would go before voters in March 2015, unless the city council agrees to call a special election.

“To step backwards is just a huge mistake, and I don’t believe the citizens of Oklahoma City will do that,” Norick said Friday.

As mayor from 1987 to 1998, Norick oversaw creation of MAPS, an acronym for Metropolitan Area Projects. Since 1993, successive 1-cent, voter-approved sales taxes have raised about $1.3 billion for projects ranging from the Bricktown ballpark to neighborhood sidewalks.

The convention center is one of eight projects promised to Oklahoma City voters, who approved the MAPS 3 sales tax on Dec. 8, 2009. MAPS 3 passed with roughly 54 percent support. The vote was 40,956 to 34,465.

Shadid, who is running for mayor in the March 4 election, contends voters in 2009 were denied access to information that a hotel likely would have to accompany development of the convention center to make it a success.

Read a PDF document containing Petition #30 to prohibit the sales tax from funding a convention center

Read a PDF document containing Petition #31 to move up the end date for the MAPS 3 sales tax collections

He has said constructing a hotel likely would require taxpayer subsidies of $50 million to $200 million.

Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee said the key word there is “likely” and that a new convention center is “an essential part of the ongoing success of Oklahoma City.”

When the new convention center opens, the current Cox Convention Center will be 50 years old, McAtee said.

For Oklahoma City to be a viable competitor for convention business, he said, “We need the functionality that would be provided by the new center.”

McAtee said questions regarding whether a hotel is necessary are under review.

“There will be plenty of opportunity for public discourse on how, if needed, it might be financed,” he said.

Shadid was ill Friday and unavailable for comment but on Thursday confirmed his involvement in the petition process.

Shadid was an advocate for MAPS 3 during his Ward 2 race in 2011, writing in one campaign piece that he believed MAPS 3 “should be completed as it was promised to voters, with maximum transparency, honesty and public deliberation.”

Over the past year, though, Shadid has questioned whether the city has adequate plans to absorb the costs of operating and maintaining MAPS 3 projects while preserving investments in neighborhoods and public safety.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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