Editorial: Relieve taxpayers of burden of Indian museum
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 7:07 AM
There will be another push in the upcoming Legislature to get taxpayer funding for the mothballed American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. Again the question is raised: How much is enough?
Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, is planning two bond issue alternatives to fund the completion of the project, which has been in some stage of construction for more than 18 years.
One calls for $40 million in bonds to match $40 million in private pledges. The other would authorize $32 million in bonds with instructions for fundraisers to raise private money.
Here's what taxpayers have funded already: Three bond issues for $63 million, $14.5 million in federal funds and $4.9 million and 250 acres of land from Oklahoma City.
Loveless and others claim that completion of the center would benefit all of the state through tax dollars raised. They expect it to draw visitors from around the world. One argument goes that Tulsa would benefit because visitors would come to Tulsa to visit the Oklahoma City museum. Really? That's a tough sell.
The museum has been plagued with problems. A bond proposal passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House. Then, Republican state Auditor Gary Jones released a critical audit. Jones said board members of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, whom the audit described as "lacking the necessary experience," chose the most expensive of six proposals for the facility. The cost was set at $169 million. However, the board had secured only $5 million in funding.
Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Oklahoma City, opposes the new bond plan, based on the failure of last year's proposal, the project's cost and the critical audit.
"We've sunk almost a hundred million dollars of taxpayers' money in this thing, and we've gone way beyond what we said we'd do," Aldridge said. "... It's time to go back to the drawing board and say, 'Time out! We can't continue on this path.' "
Oklahoma has a large American Indian population, and a museum of this nature in the state makes sense. It is, however, difficult to justify taxpayers doing any more than they already have. It's time to remove the burden of funding from the taxpayers and allow private groups, including the tribes, to step up and decide if this museum is worth funding and finishing.
Original Print Headline: Enough