The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) has received much attention about state funding necessary to complete this project. As a conservative Republican, I was once skeptical about this project, its cost and what it would really mean for Oklahoma.
However, as my education process on this has evolved, I've determined that this is a much-needed economic engine for the state, and specifically my district. I've become a convert and feel like an evangelist on the project. The AICCM makes sense on many levels but the most vital to me is the economic impact it will have on the whole state.
Candidly, any elected official would be shortsighted if he did not want a Smithsonian-style museum in his district, one that represents and displays the core of the state's native beginnings and, by the way, would have an economic impact of more than $325 million. The streams of revenue going into the state could be used to pave highways, purchase smart boards for rural schools or build rural hospitals where we have a shortage of doctors.
For the cost of a cup of coffee for each taxpayer, we could reap the benefits of our investment — but only when the AICCM is open.
Never before have all 39 tribes joined to complete such a project. This only supports the necessity for the completion of the AICCM, which will allow Oklahomans to be a part of history together as one people from many beginnings.
I've been dismayed in recent weeks by the “us against them” argument circulating in Oklahoma media and popular opinion. The AICCM is for all Oklahomans, not just for Native Americans or any single tribe. This will be open and benefit all Oklahomans and serve as a reminder of our beginnings and heritage. I am working to finish this project because of my core belief that it's important to know where you come from in order to understand the present and prepare for the future.
The “us against them” mentality never benefits a society. It's working against the completion of a world-class facility right here in our backyard. Citizens of Oklahoma should stand together to support the completion of the AICCM, for the betterment of our state and for future generations.
One thing the critics have yet to mention is what their plans are for getting a return on the investment made for AICCM so far. Tourism is the third-largest sector of Oklahoma's economy. Why shouldn't we expand and capitalize on our potential?
We can't get any return on the investment until it's opened. Now is the time for leadership and for all Oklahomans to look beyond misconceptions and finish the AICCM for all Oklahomans.
Loveless represents District 45 in the Oklahoma Senate. The AICCM site near downtown Oklahoma City is in his district.