View Full Version : Mayor's State of the City Address

01-17-2007, 07:35 PM
I think this speech deserves its own thread. It will run over four or five posts. I'll comment at the end. Bolded words are from my own emphasis. From

2007 State of the City

Every January, the Mayor speaks to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce on the State of the City. The State of the City message looks back on recent accomplishments, updates the Chamber on current developments and looks ahead to the future.

Mayor Cornett delivered the eighth State of the City message on January 17, 2007.

Welcome to the State of the City for 2007.

If you live in Oklahoma City, feel free to pinch yourself. We’ve been a city for 118 years and we’ve had a history of good times and not so good times and I think it is clear that we’re in good times. 2006 was an incredible year. Our
economy is soaring. Unemployment is low. Schools are being built. New hotels and new housing units are being built downtown and in the suburbs. We have emerged into a regional center of destination tourism. At first glance, our biggest problem might appear to be trying to get 2007 to top 2006. But then you remember that it is our state’s centennial year, you remember the significant number of events that are scheduled in our city, and you realize we have every opportunity to make 2007 our best year yet.

A year ago, I stood before you during the State of the City address and discussed our top priority: the implementation of MAPS for Kids. It is our decade-long initiative to build new schools and provide our children with state-of-the-art technology. Let me report now on our progress. We’re in a phase where the focus has been on the high schools.

Frederick Douglass High School has now been open for a year. The new John Marshall High School opened this past fall with middle school students and will be used as a high school beginning in August.

U.S. Grant High School, our largest high school opened last week. I would love to invite each and every one of you down to see this beautiful school, but security issues being what they are, we can’t have 1,000 people showing up and saying that the Mayor invited us to come look around. So, take my word for it.

And construction is about to begin on Centennial High School near Britton Road and Kelly. It will open in the fall. The pace is quickening.

All in all, MAPS for Kids will rebuild or renovate 75 school buildings in the Oklahoma City Public School System. Meanwhile, in the classrooms, test scores are up. And financially, the School Board is consistently receiving clean audits.

When we started down this road, we set ambitious goals and expected big improvements. And while I suppose a critic could still find something to not like, our inner-city school system is significantly improved over where it was five years ago.

It is a work in progress but it is exciting to know that it is working and there is progress. To watch three new high schools open up in the past year has been thrilling to see.

One other effect has been a boom in the housing market in the school district. The Las Rosas neighborhood is a perfect example: new construction, and entry level housing in an area that has not had new development in decades. This would not have occurred without MAPS for Kids.

As mayor, I want to first thank the voters who helped pass MAPS for Kids back in November of 2001.

I also want to, not only thank, but ask to stand, the members of the oversight bodies: the Oklahoma City School Board, the Oklahoma City Council and the MAPS Trust. All members, please stand so we can show our appreciation.

And four additional individuals that have put much into this that are here today, please stand: School Board President Cliff Hudson, City Manager Jim Couch, Interim Superintendent Linda Brown, and Project Manager Eric Wenger. Let’s show our appreciation.

When executed successfully, government is not separate from the people. I note that when I hear citizens discuss the success of the original MAPS projects they use the pronoun “we.” As in, “look what we have accomplished since MAPS.” That’s the buy-in so necessary to moving forward.

I believe that elected leaders should monitor and judge their effectiveness by the pronouns their citizens use. Oklahoma City is moving forward largely because its citizens so identify with its success. Oklahoma City is our city. And its success is a reflection on what we’ve done. MAPS showed us what we could do for ourselves.

And MAPS for Kids is of course providing incredible progress for the capital needs of our inner-city school district, but it is also meeting the needs of the suburban districts. All 24 school districts that educate kids that live in Oklahoma City are receiving money from MAPS for Kids. The amount of money is based on the number of Oklahoma City kids that attend the schools, and the money is getting to districts all over the metro: Putnam City, Moore, Edmond, Mustang, Norman, Choctaw, Banner, Crooked Oak, Crutcho, Deer Creek, Harrah, Jones, Little Axe, Luther, McLoud, Midwest City-Del City, Millwood, Oak Dale, Piedmont, Robin Hill, Union City, Western Heights, & Yukon. Millions of dollars for eductation. This is what we are doing for our schools. This is what we are doing for our kids and our future.

Now that we have moved past MAPS and are making great strides in addressing our City’s educational needs through MAPS for Kids, we must continue to develop and nurture the same culture that has brought us this far. We must not be complacent.

In the wake of MAPS, and more than five years beyond the vote on MAPS for Kids, I am asked almost every day, “What’s next?” What are we going to do “next,” as in what initiative are we going to do after MAPS for Kids?

After hearing that question nearly every day for three years, you can imagine that I have a well-rehearsed response.

First of all, what we have to continue doing is making sure we execute the plan for MAPS for Kids successfully. MAPS for Kids is making an impact all across the city. Not only in downtown, but in your neighborhood and my neighborhood. And because its direct impact is spread across the city it is important that it succeed all across the city. Well, today I can report that it is succeeding all across the city. What city? Our city.

And because MAPS for Kids touches every neighborhood in Oklahoma City, I sense that we are getting that buy-in from the citizens that is so important. The original MAPS projects, because they were largely concentrated in our downtown area, also have had that feeling of ownership from the community. It is our downtown, our ballpark, our civic center, our sports arena, our convention center, our canal, our river, etcetera.

As we move forward, it is crucial that we continue to be ambitious, but that we also move forward together. That brings me back to the question I hear so often – “What’s next?” And today, with the collection of the MAPS for Kids sales tax ending next year, I’m ready to begin that conversation.

01-17-2007, 07:40 PM
First, understand that MAPS 3 is neither mandatory nor inevitable. We live in a great city made up of great people, and this will be a great city with great people with, or without, a MAPS 3 initiative. But, MAPS and MAPS for Kids have been so successful that I believe we owe it to ourselves to at least consider what more could be done to improve Oklahoma City.

Today, I am announcing the beginning of that discussion. Effective immediately, we have launched a website: MAPS 3 | Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett ( This website will help us facilitate a community-wide conversation that centers around two basic questions:

Do you believe the city should consider a MAPS 3 initiative?

And if you do, what would you like to see become a part of it?

We will accept feedback through May 15, so that gives everyone a four-month period to let us know your opinion. On the Web site, you’ll be able to attach pictures and drawings of your ideas. I urge people from all over the metro area to contribute. I especially encourage kids in our schools to send us some ideas and to remember to dream big.

If we’re going to do a MAPS 3, and notice I said “if,” then it needs to be because we have recognized needs and recognized opportunities and decided that this is the best way to approach them.

As mayor, I get asked from time to time a very basic question. “Mayor, what are you about?” And to the extent people insist on breaking my thought process down to basic principles, I answer the question this way: “I try to concentrate on two things: education and jobs.”

In 2007, we are committed to improving education through MAPS for Kids, and we are continually working to provide a community where the private sector can create jobs. We’re creating a city where people want to live, and as a result, job growth has been impressive. Listen to this - in the last three years, over 36,600 new jobs have been created in the metro area. That’s a net increase. Our economic development efforts, through the work of City staff working with the state’s Commerce department and the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, have resulted in a series of success stories. The chamber reports that in 2006 they helped 34 companies either expand or relocate to Oklahoma City, and that the average salary of those new jobs was $54,000.

Perhaps no example of Oklahoma City’s renaissance is more symbolic than the announcement this past year concerning MG Motors. In the past year MG motors announced they will operate their North American and European headquarters out of Oklahoma City. In an industry where product is gauged by how fast it goes from zero to 60, is there a city that seems to be moving from 0 to 60 more quickly than us? Now, recognize that this is the third year in a row we’ve welcomed a significant world-wide brand to our city. In 2004 it was Dell, in 2005, the NBA, and in 2006, MG Motors.

I’m confident that 2007 will provide its own success stories. Big companies are terrific. But we must also do more to empower the little guy with big ideas. We must break down the barriers that keep small companies from becoming big companies. We need to plant and nurture that entrepreneurial way of life. :) We need our residents and our young people first imagining, and then believing, that they have the potential to be their own boss. We need innovators. We need a next generation of ideas, a next generation of wealth, a next generation of job creators.

We have a choice. We can send a message that the road to prosperity begins with education. We can teach young people how to put together a business plan and teach them that there are no short cuts to prosperity other than hard work and determination. Right here in Oklahoma City, Tracy McDaniel of KIPP Academy teaches his students that there are no limits on their future, no matter where they came from. If a child grows up in this city believing that their best chance to live the American Dream is to join a gang or buy a lottery ticket, then we have failed.

One thing employers will tell you about people in Oklahoma city is that we work hard. That we appreciate the opportunity to turn honest work into honest pay. To keep that work ethic alive, we must be diligent in removing barriers that keep children from reaching their potential as Americans. Poverty is a barrier. A barrier that can be partially addressed one family at a time by creating one more higher paying job. Language can be a barrier. If you intend to live in Oklahoma City, you need to learn to speak English. Here in Oklahoma City, we are creating more classes teaching English to adults than ever before. These ESL classes are privately funded and I want to thank U.S. Cellular and the Latino Community Development Agency for helping us meet this need.

And the third barrier I want to mention is a lack of education. MAPS for Kids is a great start but I would encourage everyone, regardless of age to increase “your” education. And if there's a young person in your family, take the time to read to them. We can remove these barriers and when we do we'll have an even greater work force to offer the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

We also need to ensure that the next great idea has access to capital. We need to ensure that the next great idea does not die in a laboratory or in someone’s garage, or find funding elsewhere and leave the state.

Because of technology, new types of jobs are being created daily. Here’s something to keep in mind, right now in Oklahoma City we have over 10,000 kids in kindergarten. Some will grow up and find traditional jobs as doctors, lawyers, teachers or journalists. But two-thirds will work at jobs that have not been created yet. We need to make sure they have the education and the technology necessary to compete in the 21st century. The revolutionary approach of MAPS for Kids is helping to make that a reality.

01-17-2007, 08:04 PM
We are a city in which life revolves around getting into your car and going somewhere. Here’s a prediction, ask the typical resident of our community to go around the block. My guess is the first thing they will do is look for the car keys.

That dependence on the automobile is not all bad. Through the years, it has led us to create a great network of roads. That network of roads is the envy of many cities across the country and compared to other cities, we have very little traffic congestion. There is more good news. Generally, the cost of gasoline is affordable. That combination: free moving traffic and affordable gas are key ingredients in our quality of life. We are very mobile. We go where we want, when we want. In many of our peer cities, those days are gone.

But we are kidding ourselves if we think this is sustainable. Traffic congestion is going to increase. Fuel prices are going to increase. And there are other costs to our automobile-friendly lifestyles. Although we remain one of the largest cities in the country still in compliance with the Clean Air Act, that status is in jeopardy. The exhaust from the cars is polluting our air. In fact, 50 percent of our pollution comes from automobiles. Plus, our reliance on the car has created a sedentary culture. As a community, too many of us are overweight and the increased cost of healthcare weighs on our economy.

And by the year 2030, just 23 years from now, the number of senior citizens living in the greater Oklahoma City area will more than double. That is startling to me. Right now we have 110 thousand seniors; in 2030 we’ll have 231 thousand. How does that change our city? Well, in many ways, but to highlight just one, it will require us to have a better public transportation system. There are several other reasons to start getting serious about public transportation. I mentioned the quality of our air. There are also the issues associated with sprawl.

Affordable gas and our great network of roads has allowed people to live great distances from where they work, creating a sprawling metropolis that creates a host of inefficiencies for City Hall. City government is about providing services and it is costly to provide police and fire protection in a community that spreads out and lacks population density. In a community where people are so friendly, it is puzzling to me why we like to live so far apart from each other. We like our space. We also know that much of our sprawl was created by families in search of a better public education. It is important that we continue to address these problems. It is important that we have a vibrant housing market not only on the perimeter of the city but in the inner city as well.

As a city, we are addressing these issues. Through MAPS and MAPS for Kids, we are witnessing the creation of a market place in the inner city. People are choosing to live downtown. And we are building a nice system of bike paths. This year we open up 12 more miles of bike paths, including a path connecting Lake Hefner with Lake Overholser. But we are still a city that is sprawling in every direction and for a city our size we do not have enough bike paths. Yes, we have great plans but we are not building new bike trails fast enough.

Truth is, we like our cars and as long as the roads are clear and gas is affordable we are not likely to choose to give them up.

But we must prepare for a day when traffic is more congested and gas is more expensive. If you asked one of our typical, learned, residents to look at the city we’ve created and ask them to start thinking about a comprehensive plan for mass transit, their first reaction would probably be to have a heart attack. They would have a heart attack for two reasons. First, because adapting our sprawling community to mass transit seems so daunting, and secondly, because they spend so much time in their cars, they are out of shape and susceptible to heart disease. (:lol2: :congrats: :Smiley199 Guess we have to :busterbun:) )

But we do have great medical care and if we revive them, ;) we can show them the plan that we have created in the last year. In 2007, it is hard to justify large expenditures for public transportation. But the day is coming soon when we will have no choice, and we’re planning now.

There’s no question, we have designed this city for people who drive a car. But what you see in downtown Oklahoma City is the beginning of an urban shift to mixed use developments where people can live, work, shop, go to school and have recreational opportunities all within walking distance. In essence, we are building sections of our city where you could live without a car. That’s a good start because we know gas prices are much more likely to go up than they are to go down. We know that traffic congestion is more likely to increase. When you add in the census data showing that as a community we are growing older, we have every incentive to begin to get serious about public transportation.

Now, public transportation means different things to different people. There is inner city transportation around the core of downtown. There is commuter transportation that might get someone down NW Expressway or up Shields. And then there is the growing number of people that live in Edmond or Moore or Norman or Choctaw or any number of suburban cities who work in Oklahoma City. And there is certainly a tourism aspect to public transit. When you start sorting all of these opportunities into one idea, it becomes massive, it becomes complex, and it certainly becomes expensive. Over the past two years, we have completed an exhaustive, futuristic look at transportation in our community.

The plan includes four distinct methods of public transportation: Bus Rapid Transit, Commuter Rail, Downtown Streetcar, and enhanced Bus Service.

If you care to see the details, and I encourage you to look at them, they are available on the Internet. It is called the Fixed Guideway Study and the web address is: ( This conversation needs to continue, but this much is clear - public Transportation needs to be addressed on a regional basis, and the funding needs will require not only metro funding but state government funding as well.

In the coming years, we will need to accelerate the conversation and move into action. We cannot ignore our public transportation (revised from transformation) problems forever. The study and research is done. Now, we as a regional community need to be thinking long-term about implementation.

We live in a world that is changing rapidly. And it occurs to me that you can be for change or you can be against change but you better not ignore change. :hammer: Change can be rapid – you can pick up your remote control and change the channel. But you can’t change your world by remote control. If you want to change your world, you have got to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Ready or not, our city is changing. One big change is coming downtown. Interstate 40, as we know it, is moving several blocks to the south. This represents great change, but it also represents great opportunity.

The decisions we make concerning the land-use and the new streets will have lasting effects on our city. Our planning process involves taking a look at the impact the relocation of the interstate will have from the core of downtown to the shore of the Oklahoma River. That’s why the planning process is called Core to Shore.

We are half way through a nine-month study looking at the effects and opportunities created by the relocation of the Interstate. As you may have noticed, construction has already begun. Briefly put, a four-mile stretch of I-40 will move several blocks to the south, and the existing I-40 corridor will be replaced with an at-grade boulevard. We must ensure that the new boulevard is a special place, and we must realize the removal of the existing I-40 bridge will open up new areas for downtown development. Down the line we are going to need to build a new, or enlarge, our existing convention center. Where will our next sports arena be built? We also have an opportunity to create a large park and build new neighborhoods. To explore these issues, we have engaged an inclusive planning committee to consider the impact and the opportunities created by the relocation of I-40. Expect a report at mid-year.

The Oklahoma City community offers a wide variety of places to live. We’ve got it all. Oklahoma City is urban and suburban and as rural as one could possible imagine. Speaking of the suburbs, I want to thank you for supporting our efforts to revitalize the inner city. Thank you for realizing the importance of a vibrant city core. The plain truth is that you can’t be a suburb of nothing.:bright_id :congrats: And the quality of life in the suburbs is directly related to the quality of life downtown. We have many of the ingredients for a vibrant downtown already in place. And that benefits people throughout the entire community.

01-17-2007, 08:16 PM
We do have our shortcomings. Perhaps the largest, in my view, is the way we treat our mentally ill. Our largest mental health facility is the County Jail. Jail should not be our answer to mental health. There is a difference between being a criminal and being sick and we have chosen not to recognize or fund the difference. Our lack of concern for the mentally ill plays out not only at the jail, but also in many of our homeless shelters. Those shelters are not equipped to handle it. I understand this is more of a state issue than a city issue but we have funding issues at the jail and we have funding issues at our homeless shelters and it is unwise to spend more money at those facilities when we are not addressing the root of the problem. I hope that 2007 is the year that the state truly takes on the issue of a lack of funding for mental health.

And for the third year in a row, I would like to take time in this State of the City address to discuss the idea of consolidating some of the public safety components in local government. We have 14 fire departments in Oklahoma County. We don’t need that many. We have 24 school districts serving students that live in Oklahoma City. Those are obvious examples of duplication of government. It is inefficient and it is costing taxpayers in the metro, millions, and perhaps tens of millions of dollars a year. On a different front, we need to take a good hard look at the way that municipalities are funded in the state of Oklahoma. Some revenue neutral tax reform is in order.

And in 2006, for the second year in a row, your city council has placed a higher priority than ever before on street resurfacing. It is one of our top priorities.

There are several other issues that we are actively working on in at City Hall: literacy, gang intervention, homelessness, animal welfare, and energy conservation.

This past year has witnessed a series of very positive events, some of which I’d like to mention today. At the State Fair Grounds, improvements to our horse show facilities are paying huge dividends. Organizing groups representing different breeds in the equine industry are lining up to hold events in Oklahoma City.

Our effort to create a medical business district along NW 10th street has great momentum. Have you seen the number of properties in MidTown that have been purchased and scheduled for improvement?

Last spring we re-opened the Oklahoma City Tennis Center. It is now, once again, the premier tennis facility in the state and one of the best in the region. It is once again equal in quality to our public golf courses, which still offer a quality of play and a value that other cities simply cannot match.

How about that airport? The construction is complete. Business is up, we have more direct flights, and now we are expanding the parking opportunities.

Thanks to our state legislature, the Heartland Flyer continues to roll between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. The state also put considerable money into the Land Run sculptures. I’d like to thank the legislature and the Governor for all that they do for us.

And you can’t discuss current events without acknowledging the special relationship that this community has forged with the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets. Hasn’t it been wonderful? Yeah:cheerlead :rawr:

It’s been a great ride. And I think the world understands that we don’t want to get off. I will continue to work to ensure that we have our own NBA franchise long term.

As I said at the beginning, as good as 2006 was, it would appear that 2007 will be even better. In six weeks, we will host the largest sporting event in our city’s history. In that first full week of March, the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship will come to the Ford Center. It is already sold out. That same week, the Women’s Championship will be across the street, here at the Cox Center. These events have never been held outside of Dallas and Kansas City. I have assured the Big 12 Conference that this will be the best championship they’ve ever had. To help ensure that, I urge you to buy tickets and support the Women’s Championship at the Cox Center. We will be judged by how well we support the Women’s Championship. I am hopeful that we can break attendance records.

And when the Big 12 fans come to town they will see three brand new hotels downtown. The Colcord opened up recently, and the Residence Inn is about to open up along the Canal in Bricktown.

And 95 years after it first shaped our skyline, the Skirvin Hotel will re-open its doors.

The term miracle is overused. Having watched this situation evolve since the hotel closed in 1988, and now, re-opening the Skirvin, after it had been closed for 19 years, is a miracle. A lot of people deserve to share the credit, I want to thank our city staff for all of their hard work.

Our Oklahoma City Zoo is better than ever, and on March 10, they will open a new large exhibit dedicated to Oklahoma, entitled Oklahoma Trails.

The Oklahoma River has become one of the premier rowing venues in the United States, and the United State Olympic Committee intends to hold more events here in Oklahoma City.

Our downtown Skate Park is hosting national events.

A full twelve years after the bombing, the Oklahoma City Memorial is hosting more visitors than ever.

We have a number of world-class museums that continue to gain national attention. And it won’t be long before the American Indian Cultural Center opens its doors. It will play a significant role in our ever-increasing tourism business.

Live outdoor theatre is also coming to downtown. Significant improvements are being made to the facilities, and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park will open this summer’s season in the Myriad Gardens.

Proof that time flies: the first MAPS project, the AT&T Bricktown BallPark, opened in 1998. That means that this will be the tenth season for the RedHawks to play in the new stadium. They are taking great care of the facility and in September, they will once again host the Triple A World Series. A block away, the Blazers continue to be very popular, and the Yard Dawgz could very well contend for a league title this year.

One of our continued success stories is the NCAA’s annual Women’s College Softball World Series. Each year it is getting larger and larger national TV ratings. We have several large conventions coming to Oklahoma City in the next few years, including the Amateur Softball Association’s national convention.

But I imagine that 2007 will be remembered as the year of the State Centennial. Many of the events that we will enjoy have been in the works for several years. Blake Wade and Lee Allen Smith definitely know how to throw a party and in many ways 2007 will be a year-long celebration in this capital city.

I also want to thank Dorchester Capital for sponsoring today’s event. Clay Bennett, thank you for all you do for our community.

In closing, there are a few people I want to thank. January is a busy time at City Hall, and I think my family showed up today just to see what I looked like. Would you all please stand.

I know in addition to the City Council we have a number of city employees here today. Would you all stand, together with the Council, so we can show our appreciation. These ice storms have been brutal. Thank you for your work and know that I am proud of all of you.

I want to close this afternoon’s gathering by saluting and thanking the citizens of Oklahoma City who spend so much of their time volunteering for worthy causes. There are so many needs, and yet so many are met. As mayor, I am continually amazed at the way this community gives back: to the schools, to the churches, to children’s causes, to just simply helping out someone in need. It is inspiring to watch.

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.

The state of the city is stronger than ever. Thank you for coming today.

01-17-2007, 08:47 PM
It is so gratifying to have a mayor who understands Oklahoma City's deficiencies and has the political will to tackle them. He knows we have to work for the future. In a clear and unabrasive way, he laid a terrific argument for public transportation improvement. On top of inner city repopulation, trails expansion, economic diversification and entrepreneurship, and walkable environments, Mayor Cornett gets it. He is a friend of urban planning, which in this region, means a lot.