Mayor Cornett calls for large central park, mass transit upgrades

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 7:00 am By: Brian Brus

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's time for Oklahoma City to take the next step in establishing long-lasting cultural changes by creating a large central park near downtown and improving the public mass transit system, Mayor Mick Cornett said Thursday.

While development in other major cities is being stymied by the economy, Oklahoma City is faring much better and should use the opportunity to show the country what a "big-league city" is capable of, Cornett said at the 10th annual State of the City address in downtown.

"While our momentum is still moving, and our position relative to the rest of the United States is strong, now is not the time to slow down," Cornett said. "From a quality-of-life perspective, there are two high-profile shortcomings, two areas that, if addressed, would dramatically further our ascension as a city where people want to live. The first is public transportation; the second is a centrally located, large public park."

Oklahoma City has earned attention lately for several good reasons, he said, including the planned construction of Devon Energy's skyscraper corporate headquarters, a citywide weight-loss initiative, the impending relocation of Interstate 40, and the acquisition of an NBA basketball team.

But one item rose above all others as the economy started slowing down, Cornett said: Forbes magazine citing Oklahoma City as the country's most recession-proof city.

"In a Golden Age for our city, while our economy is more than holding its own, while most of the rest of the country, in both the public and private sectors, is dealing with massive debt and in many cases bankruptcy, what do we do?" Cornett said.

"Other cities will cut back or raise taxes. They are, in many cases, going to close parks and stop investing in their infrastructure. Their progressive ideas about public transit and green initiatives will drop down the priority list," he said. "But we are not in that situation. ... There is every reason for us to take note of the economic calamity that is infecting much of the world, but there is no reason for us to stop what we're doing and change course."

Cornett came just short of declaring the launch of a MAPS-3 temporary tax issue initiative to pay for some sort of public transportation system upgrade - fixed rail, for example - a park in the so-called Core-to-Shore development zone north of the Oklahoma River, and a new convention center to attract tourism events.

In his 2006 State of the City address, Cornett kicked off a public survey to gauge initial response to the long-anticipated follow-up to the original MAPS, or Metropolitan Area Projects, and MAPS For Kids package of tax-funded projects. Feedback later that year revealed that residents overwhelmingly supported improvements in mass transit. Parks, recreation

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