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MAPS threat lingers

Issues remain and voters react after questions were raised about constitutionality of MAPS 3 projects.

Tim Farley September 11th, 2013

Vowing to avoid a political battle, Oklahoma City attorney David Slane contended this week that his research into the constitutionality of the 2009 MAPS 3 measure is aimed at protecting the public. Recently, Slane and his legal team questioned whether the ballot language violated the state’s single-subject rule, which prohibits unrelated issues from being placed on a single ballot question. The MAPS 3 ballot centered on a sales tax extension that would finance eight separate projects.

Kenneth Jordan

Since Slane questioned the validity of the MAPS 3 election two weeks ago, OKC’s lead municipal counselor, Kenneth Jordan, delivered a letter Sept. 3 citing a 2011 state Supreme Court case, Thomas vs. Henry, that he claims validates the ballot language and election results.

In the letter to Oklahoma Gazette, Jordan said the city’s legal team used other case law, one dating as far back as 1943, to help guide the city’s decision to use the 2009 ballot language.

“The Court has remained consistent in its rulings on the single-subject test over the years, and we firmly believe that (the) ordinance and ballot title meet that test,” Jordan wrote.

In an interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Slane replied, “We’ve looked at the fact that they quoted a case that was decided after the election, but they didn’t have this legal precedent at the time (of the election). So what were they basing their decision on? We just want to know. They didn’t have a case on point in 2009 because it hadn’t been decided.

“I don’t want to get into politics.

I just want to know if it [MAPS 3] is legal or not.”

Although he’s taking more time to review previous legal challenges, Slane said he’s not “going by the wayside.”

On Monday, Slane told Oklahoma Gazette he has not decided if he will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the MAPS 3 vote.

Jim Couch

However, City Manager Jim Couch said the 2011 case “further strengthens” the city’s position that the ballot language did not violate the state constitution: “The letter Kenny sent out on Tuesday is still valid on Thursday.”

Slane also alleged the ballot language was “so vague that it violates the law in its vagueness.

“It doesn’t tell anything to the voter.

It doesn’t tell the voter what the money will be used for. ... It’s amazing something so vague could be passed.”

Slane, who, in years past, has advocated unpopular positions on Oklahoma’s rape law and invasion of privacy by government drones, isn’t backing down despite largely negative social media reactions toward the longtime OKC attorney.

Oklahoma Gazette reader Stephanie Bice wrote, “Why do I get the feeling this has nothing to do with MAPS 3 and everything to do with an upcoming election?” Another reader, Allen Brown, wrote, “There’s nothing wrong with proposing a package for approval, just like bond issues. Do we have to vote on each street repair separately?” Still, Slane contends his purpose is noble and aimed at protecting OKC’s taxpaying residents.

“There is so much money involved, and the public has no oversight,” he said.

City officials established citizenled subcommittees and a MAPS 3 Oversight Board that makes recommendations to the Oklahoma City Council.

The first of its kind
So far, Slane said his legal review team has not found previous state Supreme Court cases that focused on similar municipal ballot issues.

“If it goes that far, this will be a case of first impression,” he said. “This will be the first of its kind ever in Oklahoma.”

Slane threatened to file a legal challenge with the Oklahoma Supreme Court if city officials had not responded to his original letter from Aug. 29. At the time, Slane said he would seek a restraining order preventing the city from collecting MAPS 3 tax revenue or spending of that money on the eight projects. The projects, valued at $777 million, include a convention center, sidewalks, trails, senior wellness centers, fairgrounds improvements, a modern streetcar system, Oklahoma River Improvements and a 70-acre public park in downtown OKC. The MAPS 3 initiative was approved by 54 percent of voters.

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