As we venture on a new round of transformational projects that will set the course for our city’s economy for ourselves and the next generation, it is important we stop and realize one of the often undervalued legacies of the MAPS proposals. We are a city united that has pulled itself together.
When we voted on MAPS, we voted to stabilize our economy. We voted to attract billions of dollars in private investment and thousands of jobs. In fact, we continue to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, by attracting companies like QuadGraphics that provides more than 400 good-paying jobs in the southeast part of our city, or nationally recognized firms like Dell and AAA that directly link their growth in our city to the original MAPS. Even local companies like Devon credit their decision to expand and grow here to MAPS.
We have proven to the world time and again that when Oklahoma City citizens work together for a common good, something truly wonderful happens. Since the original MAPS campaign, we have repeatedly brought together elected leaders with citizen oversight boards, Republicans with Democrats, north with south, businesses with unions, trail enthusiasts with road builders, the young with the elderly. We have made our city a better place in which to work, live and raise a family.
Our voters understand that develop-ments downtown help even those living in the far-flung reaches of our city. And they have been rewarded for this belief. Certainly, those from across the city work at companies that chose to locate or expand in Oklahoma City because of MAPS. Or they benefit from the influx of out-of-state dollars coming to our city through our vibrant tourism and convention industries, or our low crime rate that correlates with a solid economy.
And, the economic boon from MAPS helps city services, including public safety. As out-of-towners spend money, that sales tax goes directly to allowing us to improve roads, infrastructure and public safety (65 percent of our general fund revenues go directly to public safety). And since we already have a permanent three-quarter cent sales tax dedicated to public safety, any increase in spending helps police and fire protection. Without this growing economy, it would not have been feasible to raise the pay for our city’s police and firefighters by more than 95 percent since 1989. Clearly, MAPS unites us by helping us all.
We cannot take our city’s future for granted. Other cities are putting on the brakes, laying off workers and reducing services. With MAPS, we can dedicate a portion of the “use tax,” a fee collected during the construction phase of MAPS, to add 10 firefighters, 20 police officers and no layoffs. Without MAPS, we can do nothing.
The simple fact is that by passing MAPS we can put more officers and firefighters on the streets. If we don’t pass MAPS, we risk the vibrant economy we have created, and we do nothing to support public safety.
Our track record proves that when we work together, we win. Let’s keep pulling on the same rope and vote yes on Dec. 8.
Cornett is mayor of Oklahoma City.