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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

OKC Schedules NBA Vote

NBA Logo

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.


Karen Day-Lyon said...

Doesn't it bother you just a little bit that "Cash Us" Clay is asking for a $100MM remodel to the Ford Center for a team that has not even been given permission to move, and may NOT be? If the Board of Governors of the NBA don't grant permission for the move, then what good will the renovation be?

And, if the team does move, you KNOW that Bennett will be demanding a new $600MM arena in five years or less, and he won't be wanting to contribute any ownership funds to that one either.

I'm a conservative Republican stuck in a horrendously liberal state, and I think it should say something to Oklahomans that tax and spend liberals don't want to have anything to do with public funding for Mr. Bennett's new arena proposal. All y'all should think twice before voting in the affirmative.

Lynn Green said...

As I said in my post there are MANY things that bother me about this proposal. You raise some good objections. There is no certainty that the NBA will approve this move, but without the vote they probably won't, or more likely, Bennett will withdraw his proposal. Whether or not a new arean will have to be built, no one can say, but that seems to be the trend.
However, I still feel that this is a good move on the city's part. It beats doing nothing which is what we used to do before MAPS.
I am a liberal without a doubt. I also am pragmatic.
Thank you for your response.

Karen Day-Lyon said...

Maybe Mr. Shinn will be bringing the Hornets back to your fair city, since the league is not happy with the Hornets' attendance since their return to Nawlins; thus eliminating the embarrassment that the Commish might be subject to for allowing a 40 year old franchise to be removed to a smaller media market. From what I have heard from friends and acquaintances in the OKC area, that might be preferable anyway for the local citizenry--since they followed the team so faithfully during their time there.

I guess one reason that I am not enamored of Mr. Bennett is the fact that he came into Seattle and told out and out tales about wanting to keep the team here, when he had no intention of doing so (see Aubrey McLendon's well publicized comments on the subject a few months back). Had he just told the truth from the very beginning, maybe he wouldn't be so vilified here now.

I can't argue with the community's wishes for a major league franchise of one league or another as a means of showing that OKC has "made it," but maybe there is a better way for all concerned. Good luck and happy holidays.