Monday, September 11, 2017
Oklahoma City has enjoyed a tremendous renaissance over the last 20 years. And it all came from community support.
Because voters approved sales tax measures, including MAPS projects, we now have a world-class riverfront, fantastic baseball stadium, improved fairgrounds, updated schools and many other attractions.
Our community takes great pride in these new amenities and the economic growth they provide. Voters have shown they understand the importance of dedicated funding for things that make Oklahoma City a great place to live.
However, we haven't kept up in some areas, including public safety.
The population has grown by more than 200,000 people over the last 20 years, but the number of police officers answering high-priority 911 calls has stayed the same. Because of this stagnation, many police shifts barely have enough officers to adequately protect the city. And it now takes more than 8 minutes to respond to emergency calls, on average. It might not sound like much time, but imagine how long it would feel if you spotted a drunk driver. Worse, what if someone were trying to break into your home in the middle of the night?
When seconds count, the people of Oklahoma City need to know an officer can make it to the scene fast. Right now, a lack of funding means law enforcement can't respond as rapidly as we would like.
The current number of officers puts the public and police officers at greater risk. We must do more to protect our citizens.
On Sept. 12, voters have a chance to approve a permanent quarter-cent sales tax to help fund public safety. Voting yes will increase the number of police officers and firefighters in Oklahoma City.
If voters approve this vital measure, along with extending an existing sales tax to fund infrastructure, the sales tax will remain below the statewide average.
People won't notice much of a change in their personal budgets, because it will add just 25 cents when spending $100. But the public safety measure will generate an estimated $26 million a year for police and fire equipment, facilities and- most importantly- more police officers on the streets.
Oklahoma City's growth has amazed people around the world. Now, it's time for citizens to show they want to ensure public safety and protect police officers as the city continues to thrive. Please vote yes on Sept. 12.
John George has served as the president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police since 2012.