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:
1. Will unions get their additional police and fire through a use tax?
2. Will we pick a better position for the convention center that doesn’t take it further away from Bricktown?
3. Will Mayor Cornett go down as the greatest mayor in city history?
4. Will Oklahoma City continue to be one of the best examples of a growing American city?