The OKC GO Bond: A financial Confederate Memorial

Next Tuesday OK Citians will vote on the 2017 General Obligation Bond which will authorize expenditures of nearly one billion dollars over the next 10 years for hundreds of City infrastructure projects.

To cut immediately to the chase —

  • About 69% of that near-billion dollars can be identified to geographical areas of the City.

Of that 69% ($670,449,000 in project budgets plus interest and underwriting fees and etc):

  • 77% is allocated to the west side of town, and
  • 21% is allocated to the east side of town.
  • The missing 2% represents projects that could not be identified with a specific geography since they are for the city as a whole or outside the city limits (mostly drainage).

The NE section of town is mostly African American in its population. The SE section is very diverse, but the one component common throughout most of that area is abject poverty.  For the past 18 years, wearing my Catholic Worker hat, I have been busy organizing deliveries of food throughout the City’s low income areas, and the worst of the worst in terms of poverty is on the SE side.

Let’s not mince words here: this general obligation bond is a financial and legislative CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL.  

A budget is a moral document as well as a financial document.  This billion dollar, ten year proposal continues the long-standing Oklahoma City standard of leaving people behind for the wolves of life to devour because of their race and economic status. Just as the Confederate Memorials maintained a false narrative of white superiority and the Lost Cause, this budget maintains the supremacy of those who have and takes from those who have not in order to make that possible.

And then there’s the subsidy for sprawl.  The largest of the 13 or so bond propositions is the streets and sidewalks, coming in at $418,150,000.  My analysis suggests that 1/3 of that total is effectively a subsidy for sprawl.

SE and NE get a pittance (less than a million) for “street enhancements” (i.e. decorations), while $28 million is allocated west side.

West side gets about $17 million for sidewalks, east side gets $1.45 million, all NE, SE gets ZILCH for sidewalks.

There is nothing for libraries in the SE area — because, as it turns out, there are NO LIBRARIES in SE OKC.  Del City and MWC are the only libraries in that direction, but if you look at a map of the library locations, there is a big “library desert” on the SE side of town, arguably an area in desperate need of free public library services.

For parks and recreation, 70% of the dollars go west, and 30% go east, but most of those east side dollars are for one project — improvements to the Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, which is not exactly a neighborhood oriented project.

We can do better than this!  

But to do that, first we have to do an intervention with the City government, and the best opportunity for that is next Tuesday’s election.  So here’s my proposed intervention on behalf of social, economic, and racial equity in the way our City invests in its infrastructure, so that we leave no one behind.  Let’s give the City a chance to do the right thing.

Vote YES on these propositions. They are all for common goods:

  • Prop  — Civic Center
  • Prop 8 — Transit
  • Prop 9 — City maintenance facilities
  • Prop 12 — Police
  • Prop 13 — Fire
  • Quarter cent sales tax for police, fire, and city operations.

Vote NO on these propositions.   Note that this does not  mean we won’t eventually have a bond proposal for these issues, because all of these issues are important. But its important that we start right now to develop a better and more just and equitable system for the allocation of City resources. If we say “yes”, then we can’t make any progress on these issues FOR ANOTHER TEN YEARS!

  • Prop 1 — streets, sidewalks
  • Prop 2 — bridges
  • Prop 3 — traffic control
  • Prop 4 — economic development (this proposal borrows $60 million so the city can write phat welfare checks to politically well connected businesses. Not one penny will help any micro-entrepreneurs start part time jobs that could grow into full time businesses. Not one penny will help local entrepreneurs create local jobs.).
  • Prop 5 — Parks and recreation
  • Prop 6 — Libraries
  • Prop 10 — drainage
  • Prop 11 — downtown arena
  • “Temporary” one cent sales tax. This is the so-called MAPS extension, but unlike the GO Bond, this doesn’t come with a list of projects.  So while they are likely to spend the money for streets, sidewalks, and trails, we don’t know where the money will be spent.  But a clue to the geographies of the MAPS spending is found in the GO spending, since its pretty much the same people making the decisions. I expect that, absent an intervention from the voters in the form of a “no” vote on this extension, the east side will once again get the short end of the stick.

Yes, I show my work!  Below are links the spreadsheets I created.  I have checked and rechecked the math, but feel free to notify me of any arithmetic error you find. I downloaded all of these spreadsheets from the City’s website and then organized them to make this analysis.

 

      Percent of that category’s budget
Streets/Sidewalks West $332,720,000 80%
  East $85,430,000 20%
Traffic Control West $22,030,000 89%
  East $2,790,000 11%
Bridges West $18,565,000 23%
  East $5,530,000 77%
Parks/Rec West $86,456,666 70%
  East $36,983,333 30%
 
Drainage West $37,535,000 64%
  East $5,500,000 9%
System $15,400,000 26%
 
Libraries West $18,485,000 86%
  East $3,025,000 14%
 
Grand total West $515,791,666 77%
Grand total East $139,258,333 21%
Grand total these projects $670,449,999
Total GO Bond $967,000,000
Percent of the total GO
Bond of these projects 69%
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