Former OKC Councilman Ed Shadid submitted signatures this morning that he hopes will lead to a vote on a one-eighth-cent sales tax aimed at funding city park operations and maintenance.
Shadid said he submitted more than 6,500 signatures to City Clerk Frances Kersey. He said with the MAPS 4 vote coming Dec. 10 and with its likely approval by voters, additional money will be needed for parks operations which are not funded under MAPS.
“I think this is very similar to the time when citizens came together to do this 30 or 35 years ago when they did the one-eighth-cent tax for the zoo through the initiative process, and I think everyone can recognize the benefit of that over the decades,” Shadid said.
Shadid said the passage of MAPS 4, which includes more than $100 million for parks, would create problems for the department’s budget.
“We’re already in a situation where we can’t pay for what we’ve built, and we’re about to have another tsunami of projects that will not have operations and maintenance,” Shadid said. “That will almost certainly mean deep cuts to the parks department when the next recession hits. This initiative petition is something that is complementary to MAPS 4.”
10 day challenge period begins
Kersey confirmed she received the petition signatures Monday. She said the process starts a 10-day window in which their legitimacy can be challenged. If there is a protest, a hearing would be scheduled, Kersey said.
During the 10-day process, the signatures are verified. If no objections or irregularities arise, the decision on when to set an election would fall to the OKC City Council. The initiative needs 6,499 valid signatures to proceed to that point, she said.
Oklahoma City Parks Petition field director Susan McCann said those circulating petitions found many who were eager to sign.
“We discovered that OKC parks resonate with all who live here,” she said. “We shared good memories and experiences, but we also shared concerns with current conditions and the need for improvements.”
McCann said the most common desires from those who signed the petition were for the addition of dog parks, improved trails and stronger programming.
Voices Organized in Civic Engagement members also collected signatures. Sundra Flansburg said the organization found people concerned with the state of the parks system including the lack of restrooms and sports programming for kids.
“One elderly couple in my neighborhood told me they were happy to sign because we need to do better for the youth in our city, especially for kids on the east side,” she said.
Vote could come in March
Shadid said the tax would provide about $14 to $15 million for the parks department each year. So far, he knows of no objections to the petition.
“I think a lot of people recognize the problem with operations funding,” he said.
The initiative could find its way to a ballot in March, possibly the same day as Oklahoma’s presidential primary, or in June, when the state holds primaries ahead of the November general election.