Yesterday afternoon while seeing patients I received a call from the Oklahoman newspaper indicating they had acquired a memo to consulting firms that morning and that they were going to publish the details on the internet in a couple of hours.
It is no secret that I have been approached and have explored the possibility of trying to unite the people of OKC across the spectrum, rescue the MAPS program from a fatally flawed process, introduce honesty, transparency and public collaboration on an unprecedented scale, and add value to the city. Hundreds of people have indicated a desire to help on such a campaign.
Such due diligence is not the same as filing and there are many moving parts not the least of which is substantial financial sacrifice and no declared candidates including the current mayor. If such an effort were to occur the contract between the people of OKC and myself would be unbreakable and sacred to me; the full narrative of that vision deserves additional reflection.
Over the next months and years many important decisions regarding our transit systems will be made. Jarrett Walker, esteemed transit planner and author of the book Human Transit and blog of the same title, is especially skilled at translating complex transportation planning concepts into language to which laypersons and policymakers can understand and relate. During the symposium, Mr. Walker will help explain the questions which need to be asked in terms of the local choices which lead to transit-friendly development, the process of fitting technology to a our particular community, the optimization of our existing bus lines and the development of a regional transit authority and a dedicated funding source for transit.
Also attending will be transit planning representatives of the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard whom are currently studying optimization strategies for the OKC bus system. Participants will have the opportunity to engage the consultants directly and share their feedback regarding the OKC transit system.
Sponsored by OKC Councilman Dr. Ed Shadid and the Alliance for Public Transportation
Please RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/123322544505795/
OKC Farmers Public Market, Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:30pm until 8:30pm 311 S. Klein Ave, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73108
The nature of revenue collection and expenditures for the OKC Zoo and the Fairgrounds is complex. Its complexity makes it ripe as a vehicle to create confusion and fear among the populace if discussion is limited to soundbites, brief quotations and limited research. My anecdotal experience suggests that a significant majority of taxpayers in OKC are not aware that 1/8 of every penny of everything bought in OKC goes to a fund dedicated to the zoo (the vote to institute the tax having taken place some 22 years ago (by a count of 13,844 to 11,469) ) currently generating a surplus of $6.5 million annually or that 6/11 of the 5.5% hotel/motel tax goes to the fairgrounds. That lack of awareness alone would make the subject worthy of discussion.
Let me start by emphasizing that I, nor I believe, any other city councilor, would favor any action which would jeopardize the ongoing operations of the zoo. Our strong public investment has created a world class facility and improved the health and quality of life of our citizens as well as improved our knowledge and appreciation of animals.
On December 8th, 2009 voters passed MAPS 3, a seven year one-cent sales tax to raise $777 million to pay for a convention center, a world class park, a downtown transit system, four senior wellness center, river and fairground improvements and trails and sidewalks.
The convention center was, by far, the least popular of the projects showing large majority opposition regardless of age, gender, political party, race or income. The Convention Center was presented as costing $280 million with its location to be at SW 4th and Robinson (the Core to Shore South site). That such placement would require moving an OG&E substation costing approximately $30 million was not publicly discussed during the MAPS 3 campaign. The City never performed a needs assessment study and instead relied solely upon one study, commissioned by the OKC Chamber from a consultant, Convention Sports and Leisure (CS&L , Mar ‘09), to estimate the economic development impact of such a center.
The CS&L study, which the OKC Chamber has refused to release to the public, made clear that such a project would need a roughly 650-room convention center hotel which would require public subsidies with a midrange of $50 million. The notion that the public would need to subsidize a hotel was not publicly discussed during the MAPS 3 campaign. Once MAPS 3 passed, a consultant (ADG) was hired to oversee implementation of all the projects by working in conjunction with a subcommittee for each project. ADG presented an initial timeline for implementation of the projects in March 2011 and then presented revised timelines of which moved up the convention center after protests were issued from the convention center subcommittee. A consultant (Populous) was hired by the City to recommend a convention center site location and after a four month process recommended the old Ford Dealership site (Core to Shore North).
As we approach the point of no return, many questions remain unanswered, including:
The Growth Ponzi Scheme
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We often forget that the American pattern of suburban development is an experiment, one that has never been tried anywhere before. We assume it is the natural order because it is what we see all around us. But our own history -- let alone a tour of other parts of the world -- reveals a different reality. Across cultures, over thousands of years, people have traditionally built places scaled to the individual. It is only the last two generations that we have scaled places to the automobile.
How is our experiment working?
OKLAHOMA CITY – As summer begins, officials in central Oklahoma will be closely monitoring air quality to try and maintain compliance with the Clean Air Act. Hot temperatures, calm winds and sunshine with no cloud cover are the ingredients for an ozone alert day in which citizens are asked to do their part to keep pollution down.
Motor vehicles are a prime contributor to air pollution. One of the best ways to improve air quality is to get people out of their single-passenger cars and into carpools and public transportation.
In lieu of offering bus rides free on ozone alert days, this year Metro Transit will be offering free rides on the third Friday of each month during ozone alert season, June through September. Any time on June 17, July 15, August 19 or September 16, on any route in Oklahoma City, METRO Transit bus rides are free for everyone.
For many years, Americans have grown increasingly isolated from one another. As outlined in Robert Putnam’s landmark book Bowling Alone, the amount of American’s person-to-person social interaction, (“social capital”) as well as our involvement in community organizations, has steadily declined since the 1950s. As our lives have become dominated by work, television and the internet. I believe there is a strong correlation between these events and the corresponding decrease in the number of Americans who report being happy in their lives in each decade since the 1950s.
I believe that social interaction with others, as well as being a part of something greater than ourselves through community involvement is ingrained in our genes. As social beings we are designed to function “as part of a herd” as my mentor, Dr. Billy Stout, frequently reminds me. Historically, it simply wouldn’t make sense in survival terms for mankind to live in isolation.
Procedural modifications are required to increase the amount of time that both the Council and the public are given to review and fully vet lengthy contracts with broad-ranged and long-standing implications for the city. Recent examples include the 36 page contract with the non-profit Alliance for Economic Development and the 42 page contract which outlines a 25 year lease of the renovated Myriad Gardens with the non-profit Myriad Gardens Foundation.
In these cases, as well as many others, lengthy contracts are posted online and delivered to councilpersons on Friday evening. In almost all cases, this will be the first time that councilpersons and the public have seen the wording of the contract and yet, the vote is expected to occur some three days later with only the Monday before the Tuesday council meeting available as a workday.
I have introduced a resolution which will be heard on Tuesday May 31, 2011 that mandates three public hearings before any such contract can be voted on by the council. I believe that allowing the public and council to digest and discuss the specific wording and implications of the contract is required prior to any vote. An outline of municipal counselor Kenneth Jordan's summary of the issues as well as how the three public hearing process would work is as follows:
Once again, the City of OKC was excoriated on the front page of a national newspaper for its public health shortcomings. On Monday, May 23, 2011, USA Today singled out OKC as it “lumbers in last in analysis of 50 U.S. Metro areas” noting that the study by the American College of Sports Medicine ranked OKC last “because of the residents’ personal health habits such as smoking and not exercising enough.”
OKC’s health epidemics are not only a cause for concern for the individual citizens involved, but also represent a real threat to the economic viability of our healthcare system and are an impediment to economic development. Roy Williams, of the OKC Chamber of Commerce, recently noted that the perception around the country of OKC’s pubic health shortcomings are the single greatest obstacle to company recruitment to OKC.