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OKC Mayor Talks Public Health And Infrastructure With 'CBS This Morning'

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OKC Mayor Mick Cornett. [CBS This Morning] OKC Mayor Mick Cornett. [CBS This Morning]

In our continuing series, American Voices, we take a closer look at Oklahoma City to see how national issues are playing out on the local level. During Republican Mayor Mick Cornett's four terms in office, Oklahoma City has created 100,000 new jobs and 9,400 new businesses. It's also invested nearly $2 billion in schools and infrastructure.

To help improve public health, Cornett, who's now running for governor of Oklahoma, put his city on a diet. His weight loss program helped citizens lose a collective one million pounds between 2007 and 2012.

Not only was it a citywide initiative, but it was also a personal conviction for Cornett.

"We had been placed on a list of the most obese cities in the country, and then I got on the scales, and lo and behold realized I was part of the problem," Cornett said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

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He ended up losing about 40 pounds, he said.

"I think people were just glad someone stood up and talked about health. It's a little bit invasive, and so I think the kind of unannounced strategy of our obesity problem was just to ignore it and hope it would go away," Cornett said. "I kind of forced a conversation about it. I said I don't know how we're going to fix this, but we've got to talk about it."  

For Cornett, the health issue was also tied to the infrastructure of his city.

"We had built a city where automatic traffic flows freely. It still does. We have relatively no traffic congestion. But there was a toll on our bodies that that infrastructure designed around cars was paying. It was hard to cross the streets. There weren't sidewalks in very many places. We didn't have enough jogging and biking trails. And so we've now implemented changes into the built environment to create a healthier city," Cornett said.

Cornett has also spoken to President Trump about how local governments can partner with the federal government on infrastructure.  

"That's what the president is looking for. He doesn't want the federal government to be the sole provider of infrastructure projects anymore. And so he's looking for local governments to come up with cities and counties and states and maybe even Indian tribes to kind of combine resources and look how we can invest in some higher levels of technology as it applies to infrastructure," Cornett said.

Cornett said Oklahoma City has been "creative" in how they fund infrastructure projects, starting with MAPS, the Metropolitan Area Projects, that began 25 years ago.

"Spend a penny on the dollar sales tax for a certain number of years and through time we've developed some confidence, we've done what we've said we're going to do, and it's allowed us to build a lot of infrastructure projects debt-free and on time," Cornett said.

None of their projects required federal funding, he said, though the city has received additional money from the federal government.

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