Promotion goes to neighborhood level

Mayor David Holt discusses proposals that have become part of the MAPS 4 projects during a meeting with a civic group earlier this year. Chris Landsberger | The Oklahoman

MAPS 4 promotion goes to neighborhood level

Oklahoma City deploys neighborhood leaders to promote MAPS 4

Ron Brewer, along with his packet of questions and information over MAPS 4, tucked into a booth at the Yale Theater to listen to Mayor David Holt speak last week.

Brewer said he had some skepticism, namely for the Chesapeake Arena and State Fair Park upgrades. Friends in the Rollingwood Neighborhood Association had told him they planned to vote “no” on the upcoming MAPS 4 vote Dec. 10, and he didn’t blame them.

But after nearly an hour of listening to Holt go through the potential impact of each project and answer questions from the audience, which was composed of members and partners of the Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma, he felt differently.

“I think he made a good argument. He changed my opinion,” said Brewer, former president of the Rollingwood association. “I can’t wait to go tell these people who want to say ‘no’ to rethink. I was on the rails because I think in some ways it has been poorly brought to the public, but because of what I heard, it is still another good, worthwhile MAPS project that I think is needed.”

This outcome is exactly what the city and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce are hoping for as they embark on the “Love Your OKC” campaign to promote MAPS 4.

Part of the campaign focuses specifically on neighborhood associations and local leaders, engaging them with speaking events and dinners with city council members, the mayor or members of the chamber’s speakers bureau and then deploying them back to their communities to spread the word.

“This is meeting voters where they are — in their own community — and sharing why MAPS 4 is so important,” said Evan Handy, the chamber’s campaign manager.

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Highlighting neighbor needs

Over 70% of funding in MAPS 4 is geared toward neighborhood or human needs, which will start to address issues like homelessness, mental health, criminal justice, sidewalks and transit.

So for the first time, the Neighborhood Alliance endorsed the package, director Georgie Rasco said.

“We typically are just providing nonpartisan and non-directional education and ask people to vote for the best for themselves,” Rasco said. “But this time we felt so strongly that the issues in this MAPS are so neighborhood friendly and that we may never in this city see another MAPS that is as neighborhood friendly as this is.”

Most neighborhood members are receptive to the pro-MAPS 4 rhetoric, said Ryan McMullen, part of the leadership team for the Paseo Neighborhood Association.

But since previous MAPS poured money into entertainment options, revitalizing the downtown core and renovating local schools, there has needed to be continued education on why a change in how MAPS dollars are used is a good thing, he added.

“As I engage with folks that perhaps live in higher-income neighborhoods in the northern parts of Oklahoma City, they recognize that this MAPS is a bit of a departure from what they came to expect,” McCullen said. “But there hasn’t really been negativity — it is just a matter of it being a different type of MAPS that the city was asking for this time. So it is an opportunity to take care of some priorities that had been historically neglected.”

Rasco said residents are slowly shifting perspectives from only being truly interested in what will directly benefit them or their neighborhoods to seeing the value in what would benefit their actual neighbors.

“I think they are starting to realize the good this MAPS brings to all of us, not just those that live in nice, organized neighborhoods that they work hard to bring nice things to,” she said, “but the things it brings to the neighbors that don’t have the opportunity to live in those nice neighborhoods. If we bring them services, maybe one day they will be able to live that dream.”

Spreading the word

Holt, at the event last week, said he hoped the “mayors of the neighborhoods” would be able to take away discussion points and implement them in conversations with those in their areas, focusing on creating urgency because the city has “no Plan B.”

“If you had 30 seconds with somebody, I would say, ‘look, this continues the 26-year renaissance that Oklahoma City has experienced,’” Holt told the over 100-person audience. “‘We want to continue the MAPS story. This extends it out to the whole city and ensures that all the residents experience the renaissance. It is not a tax increase but still covers four priorities — human needs, neighborhood needs, quality of life and jobs.’

“And then you can just walk away and say, ‘Dec. 10, vote yes.’”

Denyvetta Davis, president of the JFK Neighborhood Association, listened to the mayor’s advice and said she plans to continue education efforts for residents in her area over usual questions like “do I have to vote for all 16 projects at once?” to which the answer is yes.

“(The city is) using an excellent strategy, having community leaders that are helping to spread the word,” Davis said. “There is something in there for everybody, even if you don’t like all the projects. … But we still have to continue to educate. That is key to dispel any misinformation or misrepresentation that is out there.”

McMullen said his association will continue to discuss MAPS at its regular meetings and attend events around the city promoting the proposal. They may even go door knocking.

“By working with neighborhood associations and really being willing to talk to the different demographics, socioeconomic classes,” he said, “it provides city leaders an opportunity to really sell MAPS 4 and let folks know that if you didn’t feel like the previous MAPS really had something that directly benefited you, this MAPS actually does.”

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