Tuesday, June 5, 2012

$384,227,000 down the drain

If you screw the park over for the convention center, that is the total dollar figure that city governance has flushed down the drain just to follow their convention center wet dreams. There is a reason that economic development is commonly abbreviated as E.D.

$384 million is actually just combining the revised CC budget and the park budget - two wrongs (two badly located projects) does not make a right, so with one project ruining the other (CC separating the Myriad Gardens from MAPS3 Park and effectively eliminating the C2S Harvey green spine) we can ostensibly conclude that these projects are together a waste of money and resources. A convention center on its own, and a new central park on its own would still be worthwhile projects. But back to my point, the $384 million does not include the $30 million for substation relocation that may likely end up going toward the CC hotel unfunded mandate.

$384 million is more than the entire MAPS1. Even the way-over-budget, in-the-end MAPS1 (and then consider the irony of current Public Works Director Eric Wenger being promoted every step along the way of our municipal "renaissance" despite every one of his projects coming in millions and millions over budget). Furthermore, $384 million could buy a lot of streetcar, or could pay for commuter possibly even light rail from Norman to Edmond. $384 million could pump a lot of energy into tech or make a lot of neighborhoods safer. But instead $384 million is going to be flushed down the drain because we think a convention center is the absolute highest use of the city's most important development site.

And about that "renaissance" - rumors are going around now that Chesapeake is selling Nichols Hills Plaza, which I first heard over lunch today with some friends (after City Council) and then saw again on OKC Talk. American Fidelity is vacating the center city for Britton & Broadway. The city was attracting younger, affluent demographics that went to work for Devon & CHK, but not much else, and could still do so much better in that department. It's easy to pat yourself on the back when you're riding a wave of prosperity (in this town, that means oil & gas doing well). But when oil is dropping and Chesapeake (the city's largest private employer) is in dire straits, and times could potentially get hard, who is going to lead??

Not this City Council, and not this Mayor. When the good times are over, and hard economic times are never that far away when you have STILL failed to diversify your economy just as has always been the case in OKC's history, leadership will have to come from this city's fledgling creative class. The people who have created prosperity where there was blight in places like NW9th or the Plaza District, or those doing it now in several other areas, have shown a level of visionary leadership not exhibited on the Horseshoe and what's more is they have done it without real backing from the city. deadCENTER is this week and is a perfect example of how the new creative class, while still small and fledgling, has thrived in OKC. 

That means that we may need a generation change in city leadership if nothing else works, particularly if public pressure can not work. How can you trust people who all seem to be patting each other on the back, refusing to face economic and planning realities, and are oblivious to the fact that this situation is fragile? As a child of the 90s I wasn't alive and aware for the preceding decade, but can anyone say this isn't the 80s all over again? I feel like the biggest disappointment in this city leadership is that they have either not studied city history or they have filed away the bad memories and won't go there again. The problem is those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.


Anonymous said...

Convention center probably seemed like a good idea 10+ years ago when it was first thought of as a project. Convention business nationwide is down, convention space is up and over built. The economics do not seem to make sense, so what is really going on. Can we just give the chamber 5 million bucks and spend the rest of the money on something else?

Joe said...

The convention center makes money. The other projects don't. On that basis alone, I am okay with the convention center 'forces that be' (Chamber junta as they get called by you and others) calling the shots for MAPS3.