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– This is how you get things done. Two decades ago, Oklahoma City discovered it couldn’t lure companies because it lacked quality-of-life amenities. Throwing tax incentives at firms wasn’t enough.

The mayor wrote in the Huffington Post about what the city decided to do:

An innovative new program, Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), was developed through which we could invest in our community. The program featured defined capital projects that would be funded by a penny sales tax. The tax would have a start date and an end date and the projects would be paid for in cash, without incurring debt.

In 1993, the first MAPS vote proposed the construction of a 20,000-seat, indoor sports arena; construction of a 15,000-seat downtown ballpark; construction of a new downtown library; construction of the Bricktown Canal; development of a trolley transit system; development along the North Canadian River; and renovations to the Civic Center Music Hall, Cox Convention Center and Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

(snip)

As a result of the original proposal, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown, with its canals, restaurants and hotels, is the most popular and lively entertainment district in the region. The river — formerly a ditch that we had to mow from time to time — is now filled with water and hosts a world-class, U.S. Olympic rowing training center. The ballpark is home to the Houston Astros’ AAA team and the indoor sports arena is home to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the most successful franchises in the NBA and certainly the hottest ticket in town.

A second MAPS program funded school renovations. A third is remaking the downtown core. Oklahoma City now has a low unemployment rate and is considered an entrepreneurial hub.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, government partnered with businesses from 1976 to 2001 to build $200 million in cultural facilities. Charlotte has taken much of Upstate New York’s talent over the years.

Meanwhile in Rochester, the rebuilding of Midtown Plaza is painfully slow. A performing arts center hasn’t gotten off the ground. A downtown campus for MCC is at a political stalemate. Medley Centre sits empty. The Inner Loop is an underutilized moat choking off downtown. The aqueduct project is on the shelf.

Would you pay an extra penny in sales tax to rebuild our city? Maybe that wouldn’t work here, but these stories show where there’s a will, there’s a way.

– New York is not on track to get truly high speed rail. While Governor Andrew Cuomo touts high speed rail, the state is passing on speeds that would spur economic development.

Cornell researches have figured out why supermarket tomatoes taste bland.

It’s time for sweet corn! Alas, State Senator Mike Nozzolio’s bill to make sweet corn the official state veggie failed again.

This is great advice for coming up with the perfect password. 

3 Responses to Can Rochester Learn From Oklahoma City?

  1. July 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm lynn e responds:

    Sounds great.

  2. July 8, 2012 at 7:46 am Orielly responds:

    Its not the extra penny. Its the many pennies in taxes that are ahead of the penny. Oklahoma City pays what in taxes and sales tax before the penny? A lot less than us.
    That truth tells us that their government is already far less wasteful than ours.

  3. I have been to Oklahoma City and in my opinion it is one of the most underated cities in America. The last time I was there was 4 years ago so just before the NBA’s Thunder moved in and Bricktown as an entertainment district is fantastic! The city is modern but still with that smaller, midwestern, southern charm. It was great reading how they pulled this off.

    Unfortunately I think I have to agree with Oreilly. While a penny seems like nothing it can add up and cause more people to shop outside the county like at Eastview. The one thing I did like about the proposal is that it had a time limit. Our time limit would have to be short and strategic and the County would have to lay out specifically what that money would go to. The less controversial the better. For us here in Monroe County it would have to encourage job growth to keep young people here and raising families here.

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