Tuesday, January 5, 2010


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why MAPS Passed

A bitter global recession. Unemployment reaching 7.1 percent at home. Wind, rain and cold conditions on election day. Opposition led by the heroic people who protect us.

Like my college basketball coach used to say, “find a way to win.”

The third edition of MAPS found a way with 54 percent of the winning vote. It was a team effort, with voter turnout topping 30 percent – a high number for a municipal election.

So why was it so important to pass MAPS?

The MAPS brand has defined the last fifteen years of progress in our community and a vote against this MAPS would have slowed down recent momentum. Critics argued that money should be used for public safety, a valid request. Unfortunately for them, MAPS has never been about catching up, it has been about leapfrogging the competition.

Show me another community investing like this? It doesn’t exist.

Voters chose to look past current shortfalls and ahead to vote for game-changing projects that will impact a generation of residents. It was visionary, flawed in some respects, but worthy of our trust. The public relations, marketing, messaging and advertising was spot on. Kudos to the Chamber team who ran the effort.

Where did the opposition led by police and fire unions go wrong?

Opposition didn’t get their message out and they didn’t have enough money (outspent approx. 5:1). City officials tried to negotiate to meet their demands, but offers were rebuked. One observation, from a public relations pro at Saxum who supported, is that the union (perhaps inadvertently) woke up a business and Chamber community that may have taken MAPS passage for granted. The organized opposition actually united the “yes” coalition. Also, the union didn’t tell the truth in their messaging that did get out. They tried to promote the easy-to-sell “tax increase” message – false because the tax is already on the tax rolls and voters have liked the results from MAPS. They argued against the need for a new convention center (an admitted tough sell, but absolutely needed), but no one heard.

Passing this MAPS was about trust and momentum. Voters trusted city leaders, almost all of whom endorsed the initiative regardless of party affiliation. Secondly, the momentum of Oklahoma City is well documented and the perception that a “no” vote would harm our image as a growing, prosperous was accurate and a great message to play.

Now, we have a lot more unanswered questions:
Will unions get their additional police and fire through a use tax?

Will we pick a better position for the convention center that doesn’t take it further away from Bricktown?

Will Mayor Cornett go down as the greatest mayor in city history?

Will Oklahoma City continue to be one of the best examples of a growing American city?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A few thoughts about several issues:

On social media today: Be careful about talking in circles. When trying to make a point to clients about how few people they know, I ask how many contacts they have in their CRM (Outlook). They generally say, “about a thousand.” I then ask how many unknown numbers ring on their cell phone. They say, “very few.” A false sense of security can be achieved in social media circles by communicating key messages to a small, yet focused audience without other tactics. If you are going to talk in circles, however, social media is the place to do it for many reasons. Just understand it is not an all-encompassing tool – yet! This conversation could look different a year from now.

On Tulsa’s new mayor: Dewey Bartlett and Tom Adelson battled it out for the right to be mayor of Tulsa last week, along with Independent Mark Perkins. In the hotly contested election, Bartlett beat Adelson, a reverse from the state senate seat won by Adelson a few years back. We wish Mayor Bartlett the best. Tulsa has a ton going for it right now with the BOK Center drawing national acts, a strong small business and entrepreneurial community and downtown baseball (Saxum client, OneOK Field), a hallmark of great communities, just a few months away.

On the projected shortfall in Oklahoma state budget: We knew it could happen, but hoped things would improve. State revenue projections look like they’ll be off for the rest of this fiscal year and next. The legislature should work with agencies to cut as much as possible and then tap the Rainy Day Fund for the rest. In talking with a large school superintendent friend, he shared that this year’s budget, which is concentrated with teacher salaries, is already set. More cuts threaten core services. If the gap is partially covered this year, then he can make difficult hiring decisions next school year. Kudos if leaders of both parties can come together and work on this tough issue.

On MAPS: A good friend of mine is an OKC firefighter and was front and center at last week’s Not this MAPS press conference. As a big supporter for passing MAPS on Dec. 8, I am curious why anyone would oppose this initiative after the proven success of the past two decades of MAPS initiatives. I like the Oklahoman’s editorial from 11/17 explaining the opposition’s strategy. I understand the police and fire’s desire for more officers. Heck, I even think the city and chamber could have done more up front to quell this potential problem.

Representatives from each group did sit down last week and negotiate prior to the anti-campaign announcement. The city offered the police and fire everything they had requested, but it wasn’t good enough. There is skill in knowing when you won! The offer, I’m told, was rejected because the city did not cave on adding one more taxpayer funded union representative. Interesting.

MAPS, I believe, will pass, and then the political consequences will kick in. Maybe union bosses will wake up and realize the risk of fighting the city and chamber far outweighs the reward of defeating MAPS.