Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Will the OK Legislature Blow Off the Native American Center in OKC?

Two Former Governors,
One Democrat, One Republican, Hope Not

Will the Oklahoma Legislature let this masterpiece-in-progress die, mid-stream, in its tracks? In the above video produced by the Chickasaw Nation and published a couple of days ago, two former governors, one Democrat (Brad Henry) and one Republican (Frank Keating), say NO, that would be a wrong course to follow.

But, with the changing of the guard in Oklahoma State Legislature during the past several years from democrats to republicans, governmental sponsorship of projects relating to culture and the arts have had an increasingly hard row to hoe.

Nothing demonstrates this difficulty more vividly than the earlier-promised partial state funding of the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum (AICCM) in Oklahoma City. Notwithstanding the support of current Republican Governor Mary Fallin, in spring 2011 the controlling committee members of the Oklahoma Legislature's House & Senate refused to allow further funding to even come to a vote. Overall, funding is from multiple sources which I'll explain later.

But, without the state legislature doing what it earlier committed to do, is the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum doomed?

David F. Allen expressed his thoughts at OkcTalk.com. About himself, David says,
I was born and raised in South Oklahoma City, graduated from the University of Oklahoma with Bachelor of Architecture. I am currently living in SW Houston. However, Oklahoma and to be more exact, Oklahoma City has always been home to me.
About the above video and the project, David wrote,
        That was a very well done video, and it captured several key things that will (I hope) 1. Raise awareness of how significant a facility this really is. 2. Showcases its integral nature in relation to the Downtown renaissance. 3. Address the fact that there is a real economic as well as intangible cost that will be realized simply by failing to complete a project that has this type of visibility and unique cultural significance, paid for with immense public investment. Failing to complete this sends the unintended message of instability could very well give developers pause before pushing forward serious plans in the area. 4. Completion of the project allows for the continued momentum in the growth and development taking place downtown.

        It was nice to see many of our leaders of the past who recognize the intense detrimental impacts of this project being left to flounder in the shadows of downtown. There is no hiding this place, it is right down the river from the Oklahoma River rowing courses and will be a source of national and international exposure for good (if completed) or ill (if not) The landform and striking architecture of the buildings will draw attention unto itself, so there will be no way for OKC or Oklahoma in general to hide this unfinished project. So we may as well realize that the unfinished project could cost us far more in losses due to the negative PR that we will get, for the negative perceptions that will be reinforced or taken away from this if not completed, such as: That we do not value our history, that we can't live up to what we have been advertising, issues of race and the list goes on and on ... the biggest issue is that we will not be able to control the way the rest of America or the world for that matter, will take this and run with it.

        This project IS critical to get completed because we are too far along for us not to! We have used it as a feather in hats in many of our chamber videos that have been at major development conferences (and anywhere else we can get them played) showcasing Oklahoma and its capital city. Even the cost of shuttering it for a while and then at some future point dusting off the plans and completing, will cost far more as there will be significant cost increases anytime you demobilize the site and then have to start back up, plus the costs of labor and materials and on and on and on ...

        The decision to build this facility was made long ago and there is nothing that can undo that, those dollars are spent. The costs of not completing it are incalculable, even from a fiscal responsibility standpoint. If you ordered dinner at a nice restaurant and your date has eaten half of hers already, and you then realize that you do not have the money, you have to work out a way to pay it, or be prepared to wash the dishes. But one thing is for certain, even if you begrudgingly wash the dishes, yes you have met the obligation, but the date that you were hoping to go well is over. Feel free to insert developers, corporate relocation candidates, or large group events/meetings seeking a venue, etc. into the role of the date in the analogy.)

        You can be assured that there are many very key people who are keeping an eye on our state and city with interest, watching for us to support our claims of being world class or waiting for us to falter. The fact that we have run into budget issues on the project does not doom nor define us, however how we respond to the challenges that face us do. So do we just try and brush this one under the rug and wait until some casino decides to pony up the money for the land and facility and then become the laughingstock of the nation? Or do we work to identify a viable solution to deliver a promise that was begun a long time ago and let the expense finally mature to the point that it can begin having a positive economic impact in our area. There is no doubt that this will become every bit, if not more renowned than the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

        It is my hope that in years to come we will recognize this moment for what it is, a pivotal one that had lasting and unimaginable economic impacts on our city.

        The rowing venue is one of Oklahoma's most currently relevant venues for increasing international exposure for something (other than the Thunder.) of permanence and place. When there are significant races being held here, the network camera crews will be looking for shots to showcase its location and this is immediately adjacent to the course!!!! Even in Europe there is a familiarity with the plight and issues of the Native Americans on this continent. You cannot buy this type of public advertising that will be a boon to tourism in our city and state.

        We must finish this project.
The video below shows the promise ...

More to follow ...


Anonymous said...

As a furloughed state employee, I do not want any more state money thrown at this money pit. It shouldn't have been funded by the state to begin with.

Mike N. said...

Sadly political cronyism and hucksterism got us way too deep into this bog. I wish they had never turned the first spade of dirt on this boondogle. If it was such aa good idea let the tribes fund it.

That being said we are to far into this not to finish. HOWEVER not one penny of taxpayer money should fund operations. PERIOD!!!