Thursday, January 19, 2012

Divisiveness: A means to a convention

The convention center boondoggle has to come to an end, or be reigned-in somehow, yet how do you reign-in something that we have no control over? The committee structure of MAPS3 virtually guarantees that there is no way to hold their feet to the fire when a convention center takes over and orders the other projects around. The individual sub-committees are made up of members hand-picked by Mayor Cornett, who by and large, is a part of this convention center cartel.

Then city staff appears to have a major, major, major role in shaping the public discourse. It was the timeline drafted by them and their consultants that moved rocketed the convention center from being the last project, as was promised during the campaign by the mayor and all MAPS3 campaign literature. That is all orchestrated by City Manager Jim Couch, whom you’d better believe wants this convention palace built, come hell or high water.

Civic activism often takes on many different shapes and colors. Oftentimes, truthfully, it’s a mere means to an end. A group has a goal, and then accomplishes its goal by whatever means necessary. That’s not what urban activists normally do. The group that is displaying “means to an end” motives and actions is the convention crowd.

These are the exact same people who came out with this ridiculous boulevard to be named “Oklahoma City Boulevard,” following Mayor Cornett’s brilliant PR suggestion (that’s sarcasm). Behind the scenes, Couch’s planning department is pushing for streetcar to follow the new boulevard. These people genuinely want the landmark corridor to come to fruition, as they understand how it would boost sense of place in our community. They want to create an active, attractive downtown.

But they want this convention center even more, and that’s going to inevitably be self-destructive to all these other goals. Deep into their power binge, they saw the opposition to putting the convention center on a high-profile tract of land adjacent to the new park, and decided to show just how powerful they really are by moving it to an even more high-profile tract of land. Check-mate, they say. This is the essence of self-destruction and immaturity.

If urban activists wanted to be immature, for example, they could shun Heritage Hills residents for the recent to-do over the Mercy redevelopment site, in which Heritage Hills preservationists had some major egg on their face. Yet, those preservationists are generally great believers in OKC and excellent people to have on your side. Yet, I don’t believe the urban activists will be as rash and immature as these oil execs and big-time lawyers calling the shots on this convention center. This is the break-down of an “Us vs. Them” dichotomy, which we all wish wasn’t emerging in this city, but let’s face it—it is, due to the divisiveness of these convention center interests and the “Momentum” that they’re drunk on.

That community togetherness and that formerly united civic vision for rebuilding our inner city IS the collateral damage of the convention center assault. How else do you get a city to prioritize a project that very few people wanted to pass in the first place?

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