Oklahoma County’s three county commissioners joined a bipartisan effort to present a $260 million bond issue to voters on June 28 to finally begin work on replacing our aging and inadequate county jail. .
There are four good reasons to vote yes on this proposal.
- First, the bonds will replace existing bonds that are redeemed, meaning there will be no tax increase for county property owners. Your mileage will remain the same.
- Second, a new county jail is essential to keep us safe. This is vital for the safety of those incarcerated and those who work there, but especially for the safety of the people of Oklahoma County. A burglar in jail cannot break into your car, home, or business. A thief in prison will not attack your grandmother. Jailed sex offenders pose no threat to your children or grandchildren.
- Third, every penny of the proposed $260 million will be spent transparently. The resolution calling for a vote on June 28 will also establish a citizen advisory council to oversee how and where funds are spent. This is in line with the philosophy behind the prison trust we established two years ago to oversee the operations and management of the prison.
- Finally, we must bear in mind that the federal Department of Justice has been monitoring prison conditions for a decade or more. It’s entirely possible that the DOJ could come down on us tomorrow with an executive order mandating an immediate tax hike and the construction of a new prison on their terms, rather than ours.
The total cost of the new prison was estimated at $300 million. Bonds on the June ballot will pay all but about $40 million of that total, which I’m confident can be made up from other sources. We are still investigating the possible use of federal pandemic relief funds, and will be in discussion with other jail users like Oklahoma County municipalities. Public safety grants may also be available. Given the public approval on June 28, I’m sure we can make up the remaining dollars.
There is no debate about the need for a new prison. Most local elected officials agree, and we are unanimous in our support for this bond issue. Now it’s your turn. I ask you to join us in voting yes for a safer Oklahoma County.
Brian Maughan is the Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners.