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Counterpoints: Some answers to arena questions

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: March 2, 2008
OKLAHOMA City residents will vote Tuesday on a plan that, if approved, would upgrade the Ford Center and give the city a chance to land an NBA franchise. It's a proposal we've supported since the mayor first announced the plan back in December, because we see it as an excellent way to continue the momentum that's been building here for more than a decade.

The question before voters is whether to use revenue from a 1-cent sales tax to overhaul the Ford Center and, if an NBA team is placed here, to also build a practice facility. Not everyone feels as we do — that this plan figures to be a real winner for the city — and have used any number of arguments to make their case. We thought we'd review some of those and offer rebuttal.

•This is a tax increase. Wrong. It would be an extension of a tax we're already paying to finance MAPS for Kids initiatives. This tax would begin Jan. 1, the day after the MAPS for Kids tax expires.

•Why not finance improvements with a bond issue, rather than a sales tax? Bond issues incur debt. The sales tax plan, like the sales taxes that funded MAPS and the bulk of MAPS for Kids, allows for a pay-as-you-go strategy with no debt.

•Only a small percentage of those who pay the tax will ever use the Ford Center or attend an NBA game. The same argument could have been applied to the original MAPS vote. Not everyone goes to the Bricktown Ballpark, walks along the canal, bikes along the Oklahoma River, visits the downtown library or attends trade shows at Cox Center. All these projects were made possible by the MAPS sales tax. Many, if not most, of the people who pay the existing tax don't have children in a public school built by MAPS for Kids money. Yet the MAPS projects and the new schools have spurred private investment and dramatically increased the quality of life.

•Let those who attend NBA games pay for the arena improvements. Hundreds of thousands of people attend all kinds of events at the Ford Center every year. And again, should only those who walk along the canal or bike along the river have paid for those improvements? Should only those who check out books at the downtown library pay for those upgrades? Should only those who drive on May Avenue every day repay bonded indebtedness to maintain that street?

•The Ford Center is a luxury. Improving it only six years after it opened is senseless. The city has many greater priorities, such as street repair. The Ford Center was part of the original MAPS proposal and designed in the early 1990s. It was built in a modest fashion to keep costs down. It's now 2008. Kansas City has a sparkling new arena.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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