Story by Tanner Pipins, Assistant Multimedia Editor
Making history as the first LGBTQ+ Oklahoma City Councilman, James Cooper, 36, was elected to serve the residents of Ward 2. Cooper, a middle school teacher and trustee of Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority board, secured the seat after obtaining 53 percent of the vote, nearly triple the amount of his nearest contender.
Ward 2 is home to more than 64,000 people and a few of Oklahoma’s fastest growing spots. The Paseo District, Uptown 23rd and the Asian District are a few of Oklahoma’s historic districts Cooper will serve.
After running for the same position in 2015, Cooper’s vision to honor the legacy of Metropolitan Area Projects persists. MAPS was the improvement program approved by OKC’s voters in 1993. The vision was voted to be paid for by a temporary 1-cent sales tax. After its 66-month long period, the tax collected over $309 million. This money later went on to build the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Civic Center Music Hall and other projects. After the approval of MAPS, other improvement programs like MAPS for Kids and MAPS 3 contributed to the further growth of Oklahoma City.
Inspired by the initiative, Cooper plans to reconnect OKC, improve neighborhoods by adding sidewalks, crosswalks and lampposts and strengthen the city’s bus system.
“With Ward 2 and OKC better connected, we’ll set the stage for commuter rail reconnecting,” Cooper said. “I want all who call OKC home to have access to walkable neighborhoods, reliable public transportation and quality education.”
With the potential of MAPS 4 in the near future, Cooper envisions areas that can improve with financial backing. According to Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance, there were nearly 5,000 homeless citizens during 2018. Cooper sees this as an ongoing problem that needs to be resolved. “For too long we’ve put Band-Aids on issues when it comes to this: Mental health, addiction and homeless services,” Cooper said. “We can work with organizations and successful non-profits to address these issues before it’s too late.”
As for the current MAPS for streets extension, the temporary extension will expire on April 1, 2020. Based on previous elections, the next one to extend the 1-cent MAPS sales tax is expected near December 2019.
Until then, the mayor and city council would like to hear from the general public how they would like to see the money implemented. The city council asks residents to submit ideas that will benefit the city moving forward. Submit thoughts and ideas at okc.gov.
The 15th Street News is a student publication at Rose State College.