By Mike Carrels
Phoenix Staff Writer
Two citizen-driven initiatives have given a boost to the Oklahoma communities that implemented them.
Oklahoma City’s highly publicized MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects Plan) and Ardmore’s GAPS (Giving Ardmore a Plan for Success) saw significant improvements in each community. Those improvements started with community-driven ideas.
Brien Thorstenberg, director of business and economic development for the Port of Muskogee’s Business Development Office, is hoping similar successes can be realized here when AIM — Action in Muskogee — starts later this month. The planning event is a project of Port Authority to develop a community inspired implementation plan with accountability to improve Muskogee.
“Muskogee wants to move forward,” Thorstenberg said. “This gives a vehicle in order to get there.”
MAPS started in 1992 after Oklahoma City lost out on landing several businesses, which cited Oklahoma City’s quality of life as the deciding factor, said Roy Williams, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma City Chamber. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce proposed MAPS to improve the city’s economy and quality of life.
“That was the water in the face,” Williams said. “You got an image problem and a reality problem you’ve got to deal with.”
Voters approved a tax in 1993 for nine projects, including a downtown canal, a multipurpose area which now hosts the NBA’s Thunder and the Bricktown Ballpark.
Oklahoma City’s downtown now thrives, Williams said.
“You never really know what’s going to come from these things, but if you don’t open the window, you won’t get the opportunity if it presents itself,” Williams said. “No one built the arena knowing we’d get an NBA team. No one dammed the (Oklahoma) River knowing we’d host Olympic rowing trials. It’s strange how when you have some things, the opportunity comes, but if you don’t have them, if the opportunity arises, you’ll miss out.”
The project proved so successful, Oklahoma City voters have approved taxes three more times. The latest, MAPS3, started in April 2010 and ends in December 2017. It will fund eight projects and is estimated to raise $777 million.
In Ardmore, residents voted in favor of four quarter-cent taxes to improve the city’s quality of life.
Voters approved the $9 million Ardmore Convention Center, the renewal of the sales tax for economic development, improvements in city infrastructure and funding for two school districts schools.
Wes Stucky, president and CEO of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce and the Ardmore Development Authority, said getting input in all sectors of the community and from all walks of life was key to determining the vision for Ardmore.
“You can wish all day, but you have to come up with money to do it. And they found a plan,” Stucky said. “When the implementation involves taxes, you start losing some support, obviously. Certain segments are always anti-tax. And I’ve always said no matter what goes wrong, there’s always someone who said they knew it would. But this came from the citizens, and that’s the key of it.”
Taxes won’t have to be utilized for all projects, Thorstenberg said.
“There’s a lot of ‘low hanging fruit’ type projects that will be accomplished,” Thorstenberg said. “A lot of stuff can be accomplished without a tax issue. For example, there may be a developer who has land who donates it, and the city can provide the upkeep as a park.”
Reach Mike Carrels at (918) 684-2922 or mcarrels
Both projects started with community-driven ideas
By Mike Carrels
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