The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 September 2007

Dueling letters

Specifically, letters to the editor of the Oklahoman. First, from the 5th of September, Mark L. Johnson writes:

If Oklahoma City doesn't demolish the rundown homes and businesses west of the downtown area, the city will return to mediocrity. A glorious downtown and Bricktown won't stand on their own for the future of Oklahoma City. I propose a series of taxes to build a city worthy of all who live here. Quality, educated people will never move en masse to Oklahoma City if a beautification project doesn't take place.

We need a greenbelt to the west of downtown. Statues of famous Oklahomans would fit well into such a park, along with fountains, vendors with food carts, a large swimming pool, etc. This could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. This would also help with the attempts by St. Anthony Hospital to beautify the area.

Today, by Dan Baker:

Mark L. Johnson (Your Views, Sept. 5) wants a taxpayer-funded greenbelt to the west of downtown Oklahoma City. He said this could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. I like greenbelts as much as the next guy and I can't imagine anyone fussing about a mere 2 percent being added to everything we buy so we can have more grass to mow.

While we're at it, we might even consider adding a 25-cent sales tax for better roads and bridges. That still leaves a whopping 73 percent that can be taxed for better education, entitlement programs, crime, saving the whales — you name it. I'd been wondering what I should do with all my extra money. Thanks, Mark, for this nifty idea!

For myself, I have a problem calling something a "greenbelt," or indeed any kind of belt, unless it's at least some semblance of circular; if you park some parkland west of downtown, it will indeed be green, but that doesn't make it a "greenbelt" until you wrap it around the rest of the area.

That said, I don't have any objections to some additional greenery west of downtown, though I'm pretty sure it can be done for less than the billion dollars Mr Johnson suggests: all the original MAPS projects, total price tag less than $400 million, were financed by a one-cent sales tax for 66 months. And more to the point, there is already development in the area: old buildings are being refurbished, new ones are going up. It's not an overnight process, but it is happening. A good start, I think, would be a new streetscaping for Classen between Reno and 13th, a rather depressing-looking zone.

On the subject of parkland in general, I think our most crying deficiency as a city in this realm is the utter lack of parks in new subdivisions: you've got winding streets and big houses, but not much else. Mayor Cornett is reportedly thinking about impact fees for new development; I suggest he push for a requirement for neighborhood parks.

As for having "more grass to mow," as Mr Baker points out: hey, at least we don't have to mow the North Canadian Oklahoma River anymore.

Posted at 11:28 AM to City Scene

"Return to mediocrity?"

I thought the whole point to OKC was mediocrity? Y'all don't need no fancy pants exceptionalism, right? You just need mid-sized corporations and tornado warnings, or something?

Posted by: Veronica at 1:49 PM on 8 September 2007