Budget & Tax , Good Government

Ray Carter | January 14, 2021

OKC Mayor Holt ducks reparations questions from citizens

Ray Carter

More than six months after touting his leadership role in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt remains silent on whether he agrees with that group’s support for potential reparation payments for slavery and racial discrimination, a proposal that could cost up to $6.2 quadrillion.

During the United States Conference of Mayors’ 88th Annual Meeting, conducted online from June 22 to July 1, 2020, members of the organization’s executive committee approved a resolution declaring “that the United States Conference of Mayors recommends the establishment of the federal commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery as well as subsequent de jure and de facto discrimination against Black Americans through present day.”

The potential cost of such reparations payments could be staggering.

In 2019, Yahoo Finance calculated the potential cost of reparations “could reach as high as $17.1 trillion.” Also in 2019, Brett Arends, a chartered financial consultant and MarketWatch columnist, estimated the cost of reparations could total $16 trillion, which Arends noted is “about three quarters of U.S. gross domestic product, and slightly more than total U.S. personal disposable income for a year.” Another recent study by three college professors—"Wealth Implications of Slavery and Racial Discrimination for African American Descendants of the Enslaved,” published in the Review of Black Political Economy—estimated the cost could reach $6.2 quadrillion.

Holt’s office issued a release on July 2, 2020 announcing he had been named to the Conference of Mayors’ executive committee, although he apparently was not on the committee when the reparations resolution was discussed.

Holt did not respond to multiple requests for comment made last summer when the reparations issue first arose.

Documents subsequently obtained through an open-records request show several citizens also reached out to the mayor. The email address of those requests did not always clearly identify the sender’s full name and, in cases where first and last name were provided, anonymity was provided for this article.

One email stated, “As a concerned citizen of our great city, I recently learned that U.S. Conference of Mayors support $6.2 quadrillion in reparations payments to black Americans…Please tell me how you stand on this issue.”

Another citizen email included a link to a news story on the reparations resolution and asked, “What is your position on reparations? Were you a part of this ‘support’ from the U.S. Conference of Mayors?”

A similar citizen email asked Holt, “Is it true that you support this?”

Another citizen email stated, “It has come to my attention that you voted to pass a resolution in support of the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African/Americans Act (HR 40/S 1083). I am quite alarmed at this action. I am not aware of any effort by you or your office to determine if this has the support of the majority of Oklahoma City residents. I do not know for certain, but I feel strongly this is not the case. Issues of this magnitude should not have the support of the OKC Mayor without a long and lengthy discussion with the residents of this community. Please respond to let me know how you arrived at such a radical decision without the input of my fellow city residents and myself. If I am incorrect please respond anyway as I would like to know if such information is being reported incorrectly in national media sources.”

The records request produced no emails of response sent by Holt’s office. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs was able to contact three citizens who emailed Holt. All three said they received no response from the mayor.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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