The Norman Transcript


April 26, 2014

Let’s finish the job

NORMAN — The fate of the Native American Cultural Center and Museum may hinge on any change in leadership of the state House. As it stands, lawmakers have resisted efforts to pull money from the state’s unclaimed property fund to match with private donations to finish the center.

The state Senate approved a plan, but the House later shot it down. A local state senator says he doubts the business plan promoted by the center would stand up to much scrutiny, but he still thinks it needs to be finished. Organizers think the half-finished center at the crossroads of Interstate 40 and Interstate 35 will generate millions of dollars in sales tax from the growth of surrounding businesses.

If the question of a statewide bond issue to finish the museum were put to a vote of the people, it might lose if paired with the storm shelter question or one to repair the state Capitol. Oklahomans often vote their pocketbooks and three such bond packages might be two too many.

About $91 million has been spent on the project so far. Organizers say the $40 million from the legislature will be matched by $40 million in pledges from the city of Oklahoma City, tribes and others. It’s costing the state about $68,000 a month to secure the site.

Lawmakers are struggling with what to do with the center. We like the original plan to fund the museum’s completion out of the unclaimed property fund and turn it over to a state-run trust. As it stands, it’s an embarrassment that 150,000 cars pass by every day.

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