On March 4th, voters in Oklahoma City are set to vote on extending a "temporary" one cent sales tax. The sales tax was approved by voters to fund the highly successful MAPS project that revitalized downtown. Part of that process was used to build the Ford Center which housed the New Orleans Hornets for two years when that team was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The hope is that a Yes vote will convince the NBA that OKC is a legitimate location for an NBA franchise. Clay Bennett, the owner of the Seattle Supersonics and the WNBA team Seattle Storm, wants to bring the Sonics to OKC. Bennett, who heads a group of local investors in the Sonics, will make his proposal to the NBA owners group in April, a month after the vote.
Personally, I am ambiguous, but mostly in favor of this proposal. I do not like the fact that Clay, a rich man with deep ties to right wing politics, wants the citizens to build a facility for him so he can make more money. Here is someone who believes that government should leave his business affairs alone wanting the government to provide a home for his business. This is nothing but Corporate Welfare.
However, I also know that having an major league franchise would provide a big psychologial boost to the city and the state. Oklahoma has long had an inferiority complex. We have no major tourist destinations sites (possibly excepting Rt. 66). We had the experience of the Dust Bowl which still identifies us to some degree. Having an NBA team would to some degree put us on par with other major cities in America.
Besides, this, I feel that a legitimate role for government is to provide for the general welfare. Having an NBA team won't solve our problems of poverty, poor health statistics, and dysfunctional social services. At best, it will be a cosmetic improvement, but one should not discount entirely how much putting on makeup and new clothes improve how one looks and feels. In some cases, it can even make a body do something that goes beyond the dressings.
George Lynn Cross, president of the University of Oklahoma during the Bud Wilkinson era, was famous for saying that he wanted to create a "university his football team could be proud of". If we feel we can accomplish something as noteworthy as attracting a permanent NBA franchise, then we may also feel we can accomplish real change in how we live and act as Oklahomans.
I cannot vote for this since technically I live in The Village, a separate town within OKC, but I hope those who can will pass this proposal on March 4th.