Oklahoma House of Representatives keeps its options open on Oklahoma City's American Indian Cultural Center
In this photo provided by The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, the uncompleted center, bottom, is pictured with the city of Oklahoma City at rear, in this undated photo. After nearly 10 years and $90 million spent, the state’s attempt to build the tourism centerpiece – a Smithsonian-quality museum of native American culture -- has turned into a curious spectacle on full display before hundreds of thousands of motorists who drive by it every day. (AP Photo/ The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, Kimberly Rodriguez)
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has placed a legal advertisement, signaling possible legislation to breathe new life into the long-stalled project to complete an American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.
The advertisement says the Oklahoma Constitution requires publication of such a newspaper advertisement for four consecutive weeks whenever the Legislature contemplates a “special or local law.”
House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Monday the advertisement was placed because one of the options being considered would be to transfer the cultural center property back to the city of Oklahoma City. Such a transfer would amount to the sort of legislation covered under the constitutional requirement for a legal advertisement.
Hickman said no specific proposal to finish the project has emerged, but the ad was needed to keep lawmakers’ options open.
“We did discover in the last 10 days or so that if part of a solution would include transferring that asset to the city, it’s a special law or local law and the constitution requires publication in the paper for four weeks before you can even introduce a bill,” he said.
Oklahoma City Deputy Municipal Counselor Wiley Williams also said the ad appeared to be required by a constitutional provision that notice be published if the Oklahoma Legislature might consider “special” legislation as opposed to “general” legislation on a given subject.
“In looking at the language of the ad, the Legislature is leaving all of its options on the table,” he said.
The legal ad stated that legislators may consider a variety of options to finish the project, including:
Provide state funding, with matching nonstate funds, to complete the center.
Transfer the property back to the city of Oklahoma City.
Provide conditions or requirements to be met or agreed to by the city or others prior to such a transfer.
Terminate the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority as a state agency.
Provide for disposition of outstanding obligations of the authority.
About $91 million has been spent on the center along the Oklahoma River and Interstates 40 and 35. Another $80 million is needed to complete the state project. The state’s share of that would be $40 million, and the rest would come from matching funds from a variety of donors.
Oklahoma City deeded the land to the state for the project a decade ago. The city could seek return of the land if the state doesn’t finish the project.
Blake Wade, chief executive officer of the state agency that oversees the museum, said he hopes a way forward emerges.
“The speaker and his staff have been working hard,” Wade said. “I’m deeply appreciative of whatever they can do to make this a reality.”
Gov. Mary Fallin has been among those urging completion of the project.
“The governor supports a legislative solution and has made that clear to legislators on multiple occasions,” said Alex Weintz, Fallin’s spokesman.
Since the center isn’t finished, it doesn’t generate any revenue, but it costs the state $6 million a year in upkeep and bond debt.