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Plans gain momentum to use Oklahoma City's stimulus funds

Plans gain momentum to use Oklahoma City's stimulus funds

This article first appeared in the Okahoman
Published: April 1, 2009


Contrary to popular belief, government is not always slow on the draw.

On Feb. 17, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the economic stimulus package. In a month since, the governments in the greater Oklahoma City area have developed a plan to receive $33.67 million of the stimulus funding.

This portion of the package will be devoted to improving transportation infrastructure that will benefit more than 30 municipalities in central Oklahoma.

The pie has been baked, so put aside the arguments behind the strategy and motivation for the bill, and consider the real beneficiaries. Local governments need the funding, and will spend it wisely and quickly.

For the past few weeks, elected officials and staff representing nearly every municipality in the region have met to conceive a unified process to efficiently implement the funding. Criteria established at the federal level made meeting the deadline a challenge. Priority was placed on projects that were "shovel ready,” meaning they could be ready to go by summer.

Another consideration was equity and balance. Most of the stimulus funding will be assigned in proportion to a city’s population. But all incorporated communities in the central Oklahoma transportation planning area, regardless of size and population, would receive at least a minimum allocation if they submitted an eligible project.

Accountability and transparency were key to the discussions. There will be a structured process in place to ensure all parties are allocating your tax dollars in a proper and responsible manner. There also will be monthly updates and follow-ups.

Discussions were spirited, but I’m proud to say that our region came together, compromised and reached an agreement that fits the needs of all of the communities involved. We feel like we have a plan that will allow our cities to start rebuilding our roads as soon as possible.

John G. Johnson is Executive Director of Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. E-mail him at acog@acogok.org.

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