The MAPS movements are some of the most successful programs in Oklahoma City, as they span from improving overall downtown to the most recent improvements in MAPS 4 affecting the metro as a whole. MAPS 4 attacks the issues of homelessness, mental health, and family justice, to name a few of its sixteen-part improvement to the city we know and love. Aside from the low voter turn out, MAPS 4 was a success for Mayor David Holt’s administration. Holt describes how “in the past, it has not always been quite this transparent and quite this engaging. [Apart from the low voter turnout] the people who are still engaged expect a higher level of transparency and a higher level of influence over the decisions being made.”
With the use of a website dedicated to the program, social media, and in-person appointments, Holt and his council were able to gain public input easier than ever, which “ultimately whittled the list down to 16 things.” Holt points out that only a few things are truly needed to get into MAPS: “A clear necessity, strong council support, or some sort of organized group in the city that is advocating, which is basically the same way that anything happens in the democratic process.”
Holt chuckles as he makes the realization that “just one person sending in an idea would be nice, but [it] doesn’t really have any traction or history in the community, meaning that it wouldn’t make the final cut… [while] those sixteen things all sort of held their own in that process and so ultimately we put together a package that included them all[.]”
Like any process involving the public, there were those who chimed in last minute trying to put in their two cents, but Holt reminds that “if you cared you had every opportunity all along the process to be heard…every single person who wanted to could speak, which is why [the council meetings] took twenty-six hours.” Holt not only laughs at the incredibly long amount of time these meetings took, but attributes the time taken for inclusivity to the creation of “this very inclusive process… where ultimately they still had the ability to say yes or no.”
Something that sets MAPS 4 apart from the others is the focus on “neighborhood and human needs like transit and parks to domestic violence[.]” Holt recognizes how MAPS 1 and 3 solved the need for downtown development and entertainment facilities, but declares that “we didn’t have that crisis anymore.” MAPS 4 built upon a public outcry for better mental health services, better neighborhood parks, and a stronger metro area in general. MAPS 4 had a greater public involvement than any of its predecessors and also reached higher success rates “partly because the people created it so they should like it” and partly because “it shouldn’t be a shock that the public would embrace their own work.”
Although MAPS only takes ten percent of the budget, it has been “that extra that makes a difference to the way we see ourselves and the way the world sees us,” as Holt described it. Unlike the Better Streets, Safer City project, which takes care of improving our streets and those who work to keep them safe like the police force, MAPS gets to give our city those little extra things that really improve us on all levels. From the beginning, the MAPS programs “dug us out of such a hole in 1993 that we couldn’t have anything but tremendous improvement just by doing something.”
These programs and their successes were built out of necessity, and they continue to solve any crisis that dare faces our city. In addition to solving any challenge that comes our way, like education in MAPS 2 or domestic violence and animal abuse in MAPS 4, these programs threw us into “the world of professional sports.” Additionally, the mayor noted that the Thunder basketball team is truly the “cherry on top” of influential programs to our city.
With all the progress that MAPS has made over the years, many still ask: Is there more for these programs to do? MAPS can only be decided on the need of the city and public at the time. Even though nothing is for certain, Holt reminds that “the brand is so strong, and it is such a great recognizable way that the public trusts to invest in ourselves.” Not only do the MAPS programs physically improve our city, but they emotionally improve the people within it.