OVER the next few weeks, lawmakers will decide the near-term future of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. What they do — or fail to do — will affect its long-term future as well.
It's time for a decision on the AICCM. This decision should be to appropriate enough money this year and next year to match the $40 million that private donors have pledged in support of the project.
A world-class cultural center and museum will draw visitors from around the world. Smithsonian-owned artifacts now in storage would come out of the closet and go on display in Oklahoma. Nearly five cents of every dollar spent at the museum will be returned to the state in the form of sales taxes. That money will be distributed statewide.
For Oklahoma City, the benefits will be even greater. Local sales tax receipts will stay here. The AICCM's site on the south bank of the Oklahoma River will enhance the exciting river developments taking place to the west. Completion of the project will stimulate growth and redevelopment in south Oklahoma City.
The project has the support of all 39 federally recognized Indian tribes in Oklahoma. These tribes didn't initiate the project but they were asked to support it. They have, with donations and pledges totaling in the millions of dollars.
Yet the AICCM is idle today because of lack of funding to complete it. Its detractors say no more public money should be spent on the project. But money is already being spent to maintain and secure the site. Abandonment of the project would cost the state millions of dollars to dismantle the infrastructure and repurpose the site.
We admit to our prior ambivalence on the project. Nearly $100 million has been spent to date and it's not close to hosting the first visitor. A state that can't find the will to repair its deteriorating Capitol building has many challenges. A can't-do attitude, however, doesn't make dreams become a reality. It kills them.