Nearly two decades ago, President George H.W. Bush made the promise "no new taxes," which gave every other politician cover to make the same promise. Then Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick didn't follow; instead, he led with an innovative and visionary plan to rehabilitate downtown. Norick showed guts and real leadership in convincing Edward L. Gaylord, publisher of The Oklahoman, to support what would become MAPS. Once Mr. Gaylord signed on, other leaders followed suit and the MAPS project received overwhelming support.
The genius of MAPS was that it gave voters something they could see and thus be able to measure the benefits of paying the extra penny in sales tax. We got a ballpark, the canal that led to Bricktown's development and a revamped, state-of-the-art Civic Center Music Hall that would attract the nation's finest concerts and plays, along with a spectacular new library. This was the foundation for people to believe in their government's ability to accomplish what it promised. As a result of the success of MAPS, Mayor Kirk Humphreys followed with MAPS for Kids, promising to rebuild the city's public school facilities. Once again, voters supported the program overwhelmingly. In both cases, voters could envision what they were paying for and measure the progress.
Oklahoma City has enjoyed nearly 20 years of growth and redevelopment as a result of MAPS. Now, Mayor Mick Cornett is trying to take MAPS one step further. However, rather than telling us what he wants MAPS 3 to be, he has asked us to tell him. Voters are being asked what the next big investment should be that will make Oklahoma City an American leader. Here are a few items to consider:
Cornett wants to make OKC an attractive venue for NCAA events, but the city isn't home to an NCAA university. Norman and Stillwater own those titles. This is part of the reason Oklahoma City University is looking at rejoining the NCAA, which could result in OKC becoming the beneficiary of basketball, wrestling, baseball and other NCAA tournaments and events.
The new, revitalized and prospering OCU has yet another opportunity to help put Oklahoma City on the national map. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts is discussing collaboration with the new Wanda L. Bass School of Music. OCU's long, rich music history has attracted this Broadway and Hollywood icon. Their collaboration could result in OKC becoming a starting point for many Broadway plays, casting calls and entertainment leaders. MAPS 3 could be helpful to this project.
MAPS 3 also could help Oklahoma City steal the thunder of Nashville, Tenn., and Austin, Texas' jazz and country music connections by capitalizing on our many renowned performers. Or, OKC could draw upon the many brilliant University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, OCU, Oklahoma City Community College, Rose State College and other college and university faculty members. We could form a center to study business, politics, economics and science by funding a think tank that brings world leaders here to create innovative solutions to problems facing our nation and the world.
MAPS 3 also could help fund the creation of "Oklahoma City: The City of Festivals." Imagine if we became home to several two- and three-day celebrations honoring the men and women of our military, police and firefighting forces, and civic clubs, as well as educators. Think about the hundreds of thousands of people who would visit our city and patronize our hotels, restaurants and malls, generating jobs, incomes and millions of dollars in tax revenues. Oklahoma City would make national news as the collecting point honoring these unsung heroes. MAPS 3 could extend the canal through downtown into the Myriad Botanical Gardens, connecting to the river. If it were properly landscaped, it could rival the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.
No doubt you have ideas for MAPS 3 as well: new and better roads and bridges, scholarships, parks. Let the mayor know what you think. Let's keep the momentum going. - Vince Orza
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.