My Priorities for Oklahoma City
Housing costs in Oklahoma City have risen faster than many residents' incomes can keep up with - and much of the housing being built doesn’t match the needs of our residents. This puts more residents at risk of housing insecurity and homelessness, exacerbating already existing street and couch homelessness. Oklahoma City has taken the important step of committing to Housing First - the idea that it provides more dignity to people experiencing homelessness and better utilizes public funds by providing places for people to live without preconditions and then providing support services to address their additional needs. However, the supply of affordable, decent, and safe housing does not match the need for Oklahoma City residents. We made an important step in MAPS 4 by including funds for affordable housing development, but we need to be doing more to ensure housing for all through continued public investment, zoning and code reform, and creation of tools like a Community Land Bank.
Improve Public Transit
Oklahoma City’s public transit system - EMBARK - is a vital service residents like me utilize to get to work, services, and recreation every day. The MAPS 4 investments in transit to implement new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines to cover south and east OKC as well as updating 500 bus shelters are a great win for our city and residents who rely on transit. We must keep up that momentum in prioritizing investment in bus service to improve the transit experience for current and new riders by upgrading even more bus shelters and providing maintenance, increasing bus frequency to 15 minutes, and extending more routes to run into the evening.
Implement Complete Streets
As someone who navigates Oklahoma City without a car, I know from experience how important getting around with a bicycle and on foot safely are for residents getting to work, meeting daily needs, and being involved in the community. When roads are not built with human powered transportation in mind, they wear down more quickly and are more dangerous for those both in and outside of automobiles. Oklahoma City will have an additional $87 million from MAPS 4 to invest in construction sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, as well as amenities like streetlights. However, Oklahoma City still ranks as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians and cyclists and we need to continue prioritizing safe streets for all users.
Reimagine Public Safety
In many public discussions about public safety, leaders routinely ignore what could be acceptable common ground - we use police officers to respond to many issues whose root causes result from lack of investment in mental health care, education, thriving wages and other forms of community support that make it difficult for people to meet their daily needs. Then, the responses we aggressively fund create a revolving cycle of surveillance and punishment for residents and neighborhoods that even further people from connection and wellbeing. It is past time we began investing in effective and proven methods to address issues that policing responds to but does not prevent - appropriate health response for mental health and substance use crises, violence prevention programs to address issues like gun violence, and investment in neighborhoods that promote connection and resources for residents and their communities to be safe and healthy.