Monday, December 7, 2009

MAPS 3, Broken Arrow, Newcastle - Oklahoma Elections on Dec. 8, 2009

Copied from the newsletter of Charlie Meadows OCPAC.


OKLAHOMA CITY - The polls will be open for anyone living in the city
limits of OKC to vote to extend one penny of the sales tax over the
next 7 years and 9 months for the MAPS 3 projects or see a significant
sales tax reduction. If the sales tax is reduced, the people and their
families can spend that money however they see fit rather than putting
it into the hands of city officials.

In the special e-mail which went out last Thursday morning, I tried to
just evaluate the projects and the lack of operational and maintenance
funds to keep them operational. I didn’t want to bring in the issues
with the police and fire unions opposing the projects because the
supporters of MAPS 3 have rather successfully “demonized” our police
and firefighters as simply being union thugs seeking leverage over the
city in contract negotiations. However, I want to address some of
those issues at this time.

While I don’t know that much about the issues regarding the firemen,
we did have the President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) speak
at OCPAC and I have a good grasp on their issue. First, you must
understand, the police have not asked for raises for any of their
officers, as they recognize the down economy.

They have been asking for additional officers for some time now. I
believe there are only 26 more officers on the force now than in 1982,
yet the city has increased in population from about 450,000 in 1982 to
today’s 550,000. Population increases put more strain on law
enforcement. Since 1982, with the rise in gang activity, several
officers have been pulled off the streets and assigned to a gang
activity task force. In addition, with the development of brick town
another large number of officers have been pulled off the streets and
assigned to that small area of OKC. If MAPS 3 passes, another large
number of officers will have to be assigned to the new park to keep it
from becoming crime infested, filled with the vagrant winos and drug
dealers. That will put even more pressure on police personnel.

The result is that fewer officers patrol the streets today and the
serious emergency response time has now dropped to over 10 minutes. An
outside entity was recently commissioned by the city which found we
were 200 officers short for a city of our size. I personally don’t
believe OKC needs another 200 officers, but we may need at least an
additional 60 to 80 officers. Of course that would require more

I believe the polling numbers are looking bad for the proponents of
MAPS 3, and as such they offered that the “special use tax” expected
to be generated by MAPS 3 could be used to increase support for public
safety. Traditionally, the use tax should be used for operational
expenses and maintenance expenses for the projects. The use taxes
won’t generate enough to expand public safety, and if used for such it
will cause even less funds to be available for maintenance and
operational expenses for the new convention center, senior wellness
centers, light rail system and etc.

Last Friday, the firefighter local president was on Mark Shannon’s
radio talk show and asked a very pertinent question. He suggested, if
the first MAPS was such a great economic engine, why has there not
been enough money to keep the level of police and firefighters up with
the growth of the city? Great question and let me suggest the reason
is that the city fathers frequently miss use tax receipts for improper
functions of city government as well as grant sweetheart deals for
their buddies, all in the name of economic development. The result is,
an insufficient amount of funds are available for the vital functions
of city government. Please let me explain.

In 2001 I was the morning host on a talk show and was suggesting that
all corporate welfare and redistribution of wealth in the name of
“economic development” was immoral and an inferior way to obtain a
vibrant economy. I still stand by that assumption today. The real
estate developer John Henry III twice asked me to address the OKC city
council about the deal the city was negotiating with the Bass Pro
Stores. I believe you are only allowed 3 minutes when you speak before
the council, so it must be concise and to the point.

The second time I addressed the council, which was the meeting they
decided to enter into the sweetheart deal with Bass Pro, I said
something like this: I believe it is only fair that the citizens of
OKC know that the way you have structured this deal, that for at least
the next 20 years, none of the sales taxes generated by Bass Pro and
none of the ancillary (sales taxes in the surrounding area) sales
taxes will be available to be used for vital city functions such as
police, fire, water, sewer, streets, parks and etc.. Those sales taxes
must be used to repay the loan to build the Bass Pro store (Bass Pro
was obligated to pay $825,000 per year on a $19 million dollar loan at
8% for 20 years). At that rate it takes 23 plus years just to pay back
the principle and that doesn’t include interest. The city was
subsidizing the loan with sales tax dollars for the parent company in
which at that time the Gaylord family had a 19% interest. In my
opinion, at that time I believe then Mayor Kirk Humphrey was little
more than the water boy of the Godfather, Mr. Gaylord. Then Councilmen
Larry McAtee and Mick Cornett went right along with the project.

The next deal of significance was the remodeling of the Skirvin Hotel.
Part of the financing to repay bonded indebtedness was the creation of
a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district. Meaning the property taxes
generated by the remodeled Skirvin wouldn’t be going to the county and
the sales taxes wouldn’t be going to the city, again sales taxes
needed to be used for vital city functions.

The next drain away for city revenues came when the Hornets
temporarily re-located to OKC. I believe at the request of some of the
same powerful corporations and people backing MAPS 3, the state
legislature passed a law exempting the tickets for professional
sporting events from being subject to sales taxes (previously we did
pay sales taxes on these tickets). Most individuals paying 20 to 50
dollars for a ticket to see a NBA game are not going to decide not to
purchase that ticket because of another 2 to 4 dollars in sales tax
costs. However, corporations purchasing hundreds of season tickets
didn’t want to pay those sales tax costs. Therefore we have another
source of sales tax dollars no longer available for city use.

As another point of interest, when the citizens decided to extend the
MAPS 2 tax for 15 months to up-grade the Ford Center and build a new
practice facility, everyone spending money in OKC is paying for those
improvements, except the people attending the games. They are exempt
for paying for the up-grades when they purchase their tickets. In
addition, the city allowed the owners of the Thunder to have their way
in such a sweetheart deal regarding the Ford Center and Practice
Facility. The lease was so low on the practice facility that is would
take over 100 years just to re-coup the cost of the facility (the
estimated cost to build the facility is less, so I don‘t have accurate
figures). In addition, while waiting on the new corporate offices to
be built inside the Ford Arena, the city paid for the class 1 office
space in one of the office building in downtown rather than the team
paying for their own office space. That money used to pay for the
Thunder’s office space didn’t go for the vital functions of city
government. Are you getting the picture of what I mean when I talk
about sweetheart deals for the good old boys.

The city has been so confident that the citizens will pass MAPS 3 that
they have already been buying properties in the proposed area of the
park. I don’t know where they got that money, but it isn’t being used
for public safety. Just another example of the mind set of the central
planners who control the city, to lure in a retail shopping center to
be located at I-40 and Council Road, the city has promised sales tax
rebates to the developers for a certain number of years. Do you think
those retailers will have an advantage over other retailers in the
city? These actions are immoral.

The bottom line is this. The first MAPS did generate new revenues, but
those revenues are ALWAYS insufficient to keep up with the insatiable
appetite of city leaders to give revenue away in the name of economic
development. Thus, the new revenues aren’t sufficient to provide for
the growing infrastructure costs and public safety demands for a
growing city. If MAPS 3 passes the temptations for supporting ever
more sweetheart deals in the name of economic development will abound.
The people in most areas of the city will never see their fair share
of the newly created revenues to be spent on infrastructure or public
safety expenses in their areas.

BROKEN ARROW - The Broken Arrow school board wants to saddle the
taxpayers with an additional $295 million in property tax debt. $10
million are for new school buses and are on a separate issue. I might
support that part of the issue, as long as they were purchasing the
buses, not leasing them, and as long as they operated on compressed
natural gas (CNG). I don’t know the what is being proposed, but the
fuel cost savings from buses operating on CNG would go a long way
toward paying for the buses.

Much of the rest of the costs are associated with building a large
number of gyms and according to our good friends at Americans For
Prosperity (AFP), the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce is to receive
$5.9 dollars from these property taxes. That would be a complete
misuse of taxpayer dollars, though I am not surprised by the effort as
greedy organizations are always trying to figure out way to get their
hands on tax payer dollars. To our Broken Arrow friends and members I
urge you to vote no and make the school board be more accountable for
properly funding needs in the district. Property taxes are the most
regressive tax known to man. They are totally insensitive to your
personal prosperity and they will cause you to lose your property if
you don’t pay them.

NEWCASTLE SCHOOLS - Proposition 2 is for $1 million for new buses.
However, proposition 1 is for $49.5 million which is huge for a small
to medium size school district like Newcastle. Much of that will go
for wasted efforts like an early childhood nanny state baby sitting
center, and then a lot of extras like a field house, wellness center,
up-grading sports facilities. These are things which for which people
should raise money through donations or through the sale of
concessions at sporting events. There may be some valid needs here,
but they should be on a separate and much smaller school bond.

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