Former OKC City Councilman Ed Shadid filed an initiative petition effort today aimed at funding Oklahoma City’s parks department operations and maintenance expenses.
The campaign needs 6,500 signatures to end up on a future ballot, Shadid said. That ballot could come in December at the same time the fate of MAPS 4 is expected to be decided.
If it makes a ballot and is approved by voters, Shadid’s proposal would create a new 1/8 cent sales tax to fund park services, including improved infrastructure, maintenance and programming. Shadid plans to file a separate initiative petition that would provide another 1/8 cent of sales tax for improved transit services.
Shadid said he expects to be able to gather enough signatures for both petitions. He said several organization meetings have yielded about 50 volunteers. The signatures must be collected within 90 days.
“I’m extremely confident because we have polling that shows a super majority supports it,” Shadid said.
Projects need operational funding
Shadid compared the initiative petition to the Better Streets Safer City 1/4 cent tax approved by voters in July 2018. That provided funding to hire more than 100 additional police officers.
Holt ‘excited’ about upcoming MAPS 4 planning meetings by Matt Patterson
Shadid has long been a critic of capital projects that don’t include funding for operational and maintenance expenses. He cites Scissortail Park as one example. He said when the 70-acre facility opens it will stretch the Parks and Recreation Department’s resources.
“We’re being asked to give up basic services that are standard in other major metro areas,” Shadid said. “We’ve continued to bring hundreds of millions in MAPS projects online with no plan whatsoever to pay for operations and maintenance expenses.”
The lack of restrooms at many city parks also irks Shadid.
“Only one percent of our parks have restroom facilities,” he said. “It’s ridiculous that when your child or grandchild is at a park and needs to use the restroom you have to leave. Study after study shows that widespread utilization of parks requires basic amenities like bathrooms.”
MAPS 4 could share ballot
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said having a 1/8 sales tax for parks and transit proposed on the same ballot as MAPS 4 might be confusing for voters. Holt proposed endowments to cover added operating expenses resulting from MAPS projects.
“A permanent tax for transit and a permanent tax for parks isn’t MAPS,” Holt said. “Those are entirely reasonable conversations to have, but we’re focused on MAPS. It can quickly become confusing for people who only follow it in passing that somehow this is a MAPS substitute or altering MAPS. But it’s really just a different conversation in my mind.”
Holt said if Shadid’s proposals meet signature requirements, they could end up on a 2020 ballot for multiple reasons. He said the council ultimately designates items to specific ballots, and statutory notification deadlines are closing the December ballot timeline anyway.
Still, Shadid hopes the parks and transit taxes end up on the same ballot as MAPS 4.
“Absolutely because they’re complimentary and it makes sense,” he said. “It’s just like the Better Streets Safer City extension we did.”
(Update: This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2019, to include more detail about election timelines.)