Frank Keating had visited the state Capitol only once before he got his own office there, arriving in 1973 as a freshman member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He vacated his last Capitol office 30 years later, as a two-term governor.
In between 1973 and 2003, a lot of good things happened to Oklahoma and a lot of good things happened to the Capitol building. Many good things are still happening to Oklahoma. But most of what's happening to the Capitol is bad. “It looks like a crime scene,” Keating says.
The crime is years of neglect compounded by months of inertia on what to do about the deteriorating Capitol and how to pay for it. The sensible solution — a bond issue — has been rebuffed repeatedly by Keating's fellow Republicans.
“The state Capitol in 1973 was a granite block ... whose bland interior was as inviting as the bilge of a warship: grim and colorless,” Keating said in a letter to The Oklahoman. “Gray was its brightest color. Its rooms and corridors were largely devoid of any art.”
Things changed. State Sen. Charles Ford of Tulsa commissioned paintings by Oklahoma artists for the Senate side of the Capitol. Keating, governor at the time of Oklahoma's Centennial in 2007, led the drive to finally put a dome on the building. Blighted areas near the Capitol were rehabilitated.
“Now look at it,” Keating wrote. “In 10 short years, that extraordinary building is ringed by orange cones, papered with warning signs, an eyesore to proud Oklahomans. It's an embarrassing genuflection to the ‘Grapes of Wrath.'”
The solution? “Fix it! And fix it now. There is no greater priority,” Keating says. “The building is a statement of who we are: a free people in a free republic. However we vote and wherever we live doesn't matter. We need to fix Our House. Oklahoma's history demands it.”