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.
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.