It has all the makings of an epic science-fiction adventure film: City leaders are faced with the loss of tax revenue and scramble to find new and innovative ideas to convince the unsuspecting taxpayers that the only way to save the city is to continue a previously successful sales tax.
Behind the scenes, we know that light-rail is what the city leaders want, but the taxpayers won't buy the concept if it is rolled out wholesale by the leaders " they have to make the taxpayers believe it was their idea from the beginning. The protagonist, a charming mayor surrounded by supporters from the chamber of commerce and civic leaders, presents a Web site where taxpayers can pretend they are part of the plan.
OK, maybe it's not an epic science-fiction film, but more like the episode of "The Simpsons" when a gentleman comes to town and sells the residents on their need for monorail. Because, make no mistake, "MAPS 3: Revenge of the Myth" is all about light-rail, whether we like it or not.
And, with all due respect to Oklahoma Gazette contributor and former gubernatorial candidate Vince Orza (Commentary, "MAPS 3?," Feb. 7, 2007, Gazette), Oklahoma City is not San Antonio, Texas, where a river truly does run through it. In Bricktown, we have a ditch.
Neither is Oklahoma City's music scene to be compared with Nashville, Tenn. " a city whose musical heritage is as natural to it as red dirt is to us. This is not to say that Oklahoma City doesn't have talented musicians, but to compare Oklahoma City to Nashville is intellectually dishonest at best.
Orza's infomercial for Oklahoma City University aside, the real issues for the MAPS 3 project are twofold: First, how it is being pitched to the public in Central Oklahoma, and second, that the real heart of the project is, and will continue to be, light-rail.
While former U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook served in Washington, parades of city leaders strolled through his office, bemoaning the fact that Oklahoma City didn't have light-rail. Light-rail has been the Holy Grail, the brass ring of downtown politics for decades. Although studies commissioned by the former congressman's office have proven that Oklahoma City does not have the population density to sustain light-rail without severe taxpayer subsidy or private-sector subsidy, city leaders want Oklahoma City to look and feel like a big-league city, and, after all, how can we look like a big city without dramatic photos of light-rail operations in our chamber marketing material?
When former Mayors Ron Norick and Kirk Humphreys presented their bold initiatives to the public for approval, they had definitive plans that the taxpayers could sink their teeth into, and today, Oklahoma still is savoring the veritable feast of growth and development their leadership brought to the taxpayer dinner table. MAPS 3, conversely, is a decidedly different menu item altogether. One of the least creative marketing strategies presented to the public since "The Music Man," it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
The problem for proponents of MAPS 3 is that we the people don't need band uniforms and understand fully that light-rail, although an intriguing and sexy concept for any city, is not needed, either. Perhaps the whole conservative concept of not having unnecessary tax burdens is an archaic concept, but it is one that the masses appreciate and embrace. - Ron Black
Black, the artist formerly known as "The 400-Pound Gorilla," is a political consultant and former talk show host living in Edmond.