Oklahoma City is experiencing a huge downtown boom, but its infrastructure has not kept up: roads, sewers, and parks are in dire need of improvement, and growth on the outer edges of the metropolis has been stretching available funds away from the city center. As a major General Obligation (GO) Bond and a temporary penny-sales tax approached a renewal vote this year, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (OCKMAR) joined the city in promoting meetings to help craft new bond proposals to shore up critical infrastructure and provide a much-needed infusion of support for the police and fire departments. With a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant, OCKMAR helped get voters to the polls for the special election, and those voters overwhelmingly supported the bonds that would strengthen their city and protect its future property values.
While Oklahoma City voters have traditionally renewed their support of the GO bond and the more recent penny sales tax extension every decade or so, what made this round of municipal funding so successful was a completely new approach by the City Council, explains Gary Jones, OKCMAR’s Government Affairs Manager. “In the past, major players on the council staff would put together their best guess at a proposal that would win public support. What was so smart this time,” he reveals, “was that the council put a lot of effort in to finding out what the community wanted and needed, before the proposal was put on the ballot.” Between town hall events, a city-wide survey and numerous exploratory meetings, he says, by election day, there was already a high level of community buy-in, and no serious opposition to the fifteen line items proposed.
As a member of the Board of Advisors of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, OKCMAR had been involved since the early stages, over a year ago, when the city began figuring out where to make its investments in infrastructure. Several OKCMAR members worked closely with their council members to develop the ballot proposals, and two testified in support before the Council. On behalf of the coalition called Citizens for a Better OKC, created to support the ballot proposals, OKCMAR secured an Issues Mobilization Grant to fund a direct mailing to targeted voters; OKCMAR also opted to add its entire annual Corporate Ally Program allotment to the cause. Because this was a special election, says Jones, the concern was that people might not bother to vote.
But, vote they did: On September 12, in addition to renewing the GO Bond and the temporary penny-sales tax that were up for renewal, Oklahoma City voters authorized the city to collect an additional quarter-cent tax on every $100 in purchases, to be used to enhance the municipal police force and fire department. The three bond initiatives approved by the voters will go a long way toward improving infrastructure and the viability of neighborhoods throughout the city, says Jones. “It goes without saying that not just the quality of life, but the future of property values are directly tied to those improvements,” he notes. “We are very proud of the REALTORS®‘ role in this success for the city, and grateful for the overwhelming support from the REALTOR® Party that made it possible.”
To learn more about how the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® has forged a role for itself in crafting municipal funding priorities and getting them approved at the polls, contact Gary Jones, Government Affairs Manager, at 405-841-5322.