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Point: State must step up


Kirk Humphreys October 26th, 2011

“It looks like a Bulgarian veterans hospital.”

Gov. Frank Keating is prone to colorful speech, and his description of the dome-less Oklahoma state Capitol was no exception.

When Keating rolled out his plan to put the dome on the state Capitol and complete the original design of the great Oklahoma architect Solomon Andrew Layton, there was considerable skepticism. Many thought it would be impossible to raise the necessary funds. It had worked well for 80 years; why change it now?

But Keating pulled it off. Aren’t you glad he did? Today, Oklahomans take great pride in our beautiful Capitol dome and what it represents about our state and our people. We are resourceful; we are resilient; we are finishers.

The 1998 Oklahoma City mayor’s race revolved around the question “Should we build the downtown sports arena?” Some wanted to put the project on hold; others said we needed to finish what we started.

In the most important vote in recent history, the people of Oklahoma City decided to “Finish MAPS right!” by extending the sales tax for six months to provide the final $30 million to build the Ford Center.

Aren’t you glad they did? It would have been easy to say “No.” A compelling argument could have been made for the fiscal prudence of sticking with the original budget. Instead, the voters decided to finish what had been started. No longer would OKC suffer under the specter of “The Grapes of Wrath” or the failure of the oil bust. No longer would people feel they had to go to Dallas to shop, or for a good weekend, or for a job. The decision to finish MAPS right has resulted in the Thunder, Kevin Durant, the NBA Playoffs, the Devon tower, the new Myriad Gardens and a future for our children. We are resourceful; we are resilient; we are finishers.

Today at the junction of Interstate 35 and Interstate 40 stands the halfcompleted American Indian Cultural Center & Museum. Oklahoma has invested $67 million of the $91 million spent to date. Now we can finish the center with another $40 million from the state and $40 million from non-state sources. The center is owned and operated by the state, not the Indian tribes. To finish the project will require the cooperation and contribution of everyone: state government, the tribes, foundations, private businesses and individuals.

Mike Turpen says, “Oklahoma is the land of soil and oil and toil.” But it’s also the land of the cowboys and Indians.

Several years ago, the leader of the state House of Representatives called me and said, “OK, I get it now.” He explained that he had just returned from a trip to Germany and, when people learned that he was from Oklahoma, all they wanted to talk about was the Indians. Just as the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum portrays an important part of Oklahoma’s unique history, the AICCM will tell another vital part of our story: the role of the American Indians in the history of Oklahoma and their continuing influence today.

Let’s finish the AICCM. It’s not about the tribes. It’s about all of us. We are resourceful; we are resilient; we are finishers.

Humphreys, who serves with the AICCM Foundation and on the board of the Native American Cultural and Education Authority, was Oklahoma City mayor from 1998 to 2003.

 
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