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Friday, February 15th, 2019Last Update: Thursday, January 31st, 2019 08:02:19 PM

Sen. Loveless, New Pom Pom Leader for Indian Cultural Center

By: Charlie Meadows

Freshman state Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Mustang) had a column in the Oklahoman explaining his flip flop from opposition to supporting more funding for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM), becoming an "evangelist" for the project. Me thinks he has spent too much time in Blake Wade's wigwam hearing speculative forecasts like a $325 million economic boon for the state of Oklahoma -- balderdash. If this "Smithsonian-style" museum is ever finished, the only benefit to the state will be money spent in Oklahoma by people who come to Oklahoma specifically to see the museum, and I would suggest that amount of money will most likely be inadequate to pay the insurance, utilities, operational labor costs and costs for ever changing displays (remember, money spent at the museum by Oklahomans would have been spent somewhere else in the state and therefore is not a boost to the state).

In his column, Loveless states: "I've been dismayed in recent weeks by the "us against them' argument circulating in Oklahoma media and popular opinion. The AICCM is for all Oklahomans, not just for Native Americans or any single tribe. This will be open and benefit all Oklahomans and serve as a reminder of our beginnings and heritage. I am working to finish this project because of my core belief that it's important to know where you come from in order to understand the present and prepare for the future." Sorry Senator Loveless, but your emphasis upon history regarding this project is insulting. The taxpayers just borrowed a lot of money to build an new facility to house the Oklahoma Historical Society just about 3 miles North of this location which has the majority of its space dedicated to our Indian heritage. This is as it should be since the tribes and its members are such a very important part of our heritage.

He goes on to write: "One thing the critics have yet to mention is what their plans are for getting a return on the investment made for AICCM so far." So far the state has borrowed $63 million and the feds have kicked in an additional $16 million to get the boondoggle to now only needing another $80 million for completion. Mr. Blake Wade has lined up $40 million in matching funds other than state or federal dollars if the state will only borrow another $40 million to finish the project.

As a critic, I have in the past put forth a plan to finish the project. So far, the very wealthy tribes have put forth very little money to build this project. There are 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma. If each of them would cough up just a little over a million dollars to match Mr. Wade's work, the project could be finished without more state bonded indebtedness. Former Senator Kelley Haney, the liberal Democrat who got legislation passed to get this boondoggle started, recently complained that the tribes never get to tell their story from their perspective and it won't happen with this Museum.

Maybe those tribes could form a corporation and the state would just turn it over to them to run and reap the profits and use to promote each of their tribe's own locations and museums. The state would take its losses and remember to never do something like this again. Or, we could allow the tribes to build a casino next to the facility and share the profits from the casino among themselves, but they would have to pay the state back for its current costs to get the boondoggle to the current point of construction. Once open, the museum will most likely need a subsidy to keep the doors open, so a portion of the casino profits could be used to keep the museum from becoming a yearly drain on some jurisdiction of government. The state currently appropriates $1.5 million per year to support the 14-member staff in charge of developing the facility. Once construction is complete, the agency has plans to expand to as many as 60 employees.

Or, one more possibility. The real beneficiary for this Museum is the revenue coffers of the city of Oklahoma City -- as long as they don't have to put any more money into the project. They contributed some polluted land that cost almost as much to clean up as it was worth. They also provided nearly $5 million in other support for the project. The city could step up and pass a MAPS 3.5 or MAPS 4 project to finish the project and take ownership of their little baby. I would suggest they would never want to do such a thing, as it is unlikely the gate receipts will ever pay the expenses of the Museum, much less generate enough to pay for the construction costs or generate a profit.

Early on in Senator Loveless's column he suggests he is a "conservative Republican." Only time will tell if he lives up to that title, but support for boondoggles like this will work toward redefining him as a CINO (Conservative In Name Only). I will be contacting Kyle and see if he would like to come to our Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) weekly lunch, and perhaps bring Mr. Blake along with him, to present their side of the case for us to re-consider.

If you really want to see a successful tribute to the American Indian, travel to the black hills of South Dakota and see the Crazy Horse monument which is still under construction. It dwarfs our boondoggle by the river and already has a visitor center nearly the size of our boondoggle. Yet they have accomplished their greatness, without one penny of tax dollars from any level of government.

About Charlie Meadows

Charlie Meadows is the founder and former president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC).

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