ScissorTales: Will Oklahoma City's Stage Center be the next 'iconic' structure to come down?

Published: July 21, 2012
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“ICONIC” is a word overused by a profession (our own) that seems to find an iconic this or that on every block. Yet it's hard to otherwise describe Stage Center in downtown Oklahoma City, said to be an iconic piece of architecture that must be saved primarily because it's an iconic piece of architecture.

That it's not much else except an unused, deteriorating structure on a valuable piece of land is self-evident. No one has come forward to rescue this John Johansen-designed building that opened in 1970 and is featured in architecture textbooks.

The New York Times reported in April on a slew of Modernist buildings reaching middle age and showing signs of decay. Slapping the “iconic” label on such structures won't save them. That takes cash and determination, the kind that rescued the Skirvin Plaza Hotel but not the International-style Downtown YMCA building.

The Union Tank Car Dome, a spitting image of the Gold Dome at NW 23 in Classen, was completed in Baton Rouge, La., in 1958, in the heyday of geodesic dome guru Buckminster Fuller. Its unique design and links to a famous designer didn't save the dome. It was demolished in 2007 after years of disuse. Stage Center has reached that phase and could be next on the list of “iconic” structures to fall.

Here's the ironic mixed with the iconic: Stage Center was part of a downtown redesign plan that resulted in the demolition of historic properties that would surely be called “iconic” today.

A needed budget reform

We wrote this week that House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, was “vague” in a Tulsa World interview regarding a $2 million appropriation for a youth livestock show. That show's chairman is a major political donor, and the appropriation is drawing heat. Sears is typically frank and accessible to reporters. He deserves praise for granting interviews when ducking them would be easier. But we were disappointed Sears didn't simply identify by name those pushing for the $2 million. As we noted, the state's $6.8 billion budget is drafted in secret by just a handful of people — the governor, legislative leaders and the chambers' appropriation chairmen. If the budget were crafted in the light of day, relying on secondhand information and putting people like Sears in a tough spot wouldn't be necessary. Sears is a good guy wronged by a bad system — one that must be reformed.

As goes Kentucky?

This year Gov. Mary Fallin sought to slash the personal income tax to 3.5 percent from 5.25 percent by ending certain tax breaks. Beneficiaries of those breaks successfully fought off any change, but policymakers are expected to try again next year. Maybe they'll do better than Kentucky lawmakers. Stateline.org notes that tax reform has been an issue there for a decade with little to show for it. As in Oklahoma, closing tax breaks is in the mix in Kentucky, including generous exemptions for pension income and sales tax exemptions for accounting, legal services, dry cleaning, limousine rides, landscaping and country club memberships. Kentucky Democrats want to increase the income tax on the wealthy, while some Republicans want to eliminate it. In both states, beneficiaries of current policies have fought hard against change. Unlike Kentucky, however, Oklahoma Republicans can't blame the failure of tax reform on divided government; they run the whole show here.

A resounding no

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