Monday, March 3, 2008

If You Build it, They May or May Not Come

We’re voting again tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time anyone under the age of thirty just randomnly brought up the subject of a tax bill vote. I didn’t think anyone voted for those but school teachers and education students. But I have to say, I’m impressed with the activity this bill is promoting. However, as with the aforementioned tax bills, there seems to be a imbalance of information on the subject. So let’s examine just exactly how this will affect tax-payers and voters alike.

There are a good number of people who see only the benefits of this bill, because they think they will only be affected by the benefits. Without going into what makes a person believe that I should pay for them to get to watch the Sonics in person instead of on TNT, a good number of younger supporters of this tax increase (yes, it is an increase, contrary to the propaganda) do not own property and are not primarily responsible for the food in their home. But, as someone who does pay property tax and grocery tax, I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to provide you with entertainment.

“But,” you say, “you don’t watch professional sports, so you don’t have a stake in the ‘positive’ side of this.” Okay, that’s a reasonable statement. Let’s change perspectives here for a second. I’ve been waiting my whole life to see Celine Dion in concert. What if good-ol’ Mick Cornett came to me and said, “Hey, if we can tack on another $100 a year to your property tax and another chunk of change to your grocery bill, and we use that money exclusively to build a larger, prettier event center, we just may be able to get Celine Dion to come to OKC and headquarter here instead of in Vegas for six months or so. All you have to do is vote yes.” Would I be more inclined to vote for the tax then? No, and here’s why.

Surely nobody is naïve enough to think that the City of Oklahoma City is responsible and honest enough to actually use tax money for what they say they are using it for. (MAPS for Kids, anyone? Wine by the glass tax? The lottery? There is an unending precedent for us being told to give the state a blank check for one thing and then the money being used to pay for Lance Cargill’s trips to Europe.) Actually, I guess we are that naïve because we keep letting these people do this to us over and over again. We just can’t seem to learn our lesson.

Let’s say that, because it’s leap year and a full moon and the planets have aligned, the state will actually use this money as promised and renovate or rebuild the Ford Center into a bigger and “better” version of itself. This still does not guarantee any of the things that have been dangled in front of us like carrots. We have no guarantee that the so-called intended outcome – bringing a Pro Basketball team to OKC – will actually happen. It’s an empty promise. And even if it wasn’t, we don’t need this extra tax and these vague, open-ended improvements for that to happen.

We already know we can handle sport events of national importance. Take the Big 12 Tournament for example. Everyone loves the BIG 12 Tournament. But this upgrade is not necessary to keep the Big 12 Basketball Tournament coming back to Oklahoma City. This upgrade has nothing to do with hosting the tournament. It was not even a year ago, Oklahoma City hosted the Big 12 Tournament - and everything went great. "What we heard,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, "was there's no way they could not come back with the success we had.” What Mick DID NOT hear is that the Ford Center would need to be completely remodeled in order to host another Big 12 Tournament. The Big 12 did come back. The Ford Center was awarded the 2009 Tournament. No upgrades were required to get it. (See George Schroeder's entire article from May 25, 2007)

Parting shots:

This plan is NOT an investment. There is no economic return for the city. Even supporters of the plan had to admit that we need to look at this as an "expense" not an "investment" because there is no return for the city. The only one who gets a return is the NBA - which is odd, because they pay nothing.

The NBA does NOT make a huge impact. Television ratings for the NBA are at all time lows. Adding an NBA team does not do much towards making Oklahoma City "big league". Instead it adds Oklahoma City to the list of cities that have been extorted for public funds by a league with waning popularity.

The NBA business model REQUIRES public subsidies. This vote is just the beginning of the public expense. The NBA requires public subsidies as part of it's business model. When the public doesn't want to pay - the team threatens to leave. The only reason this ballot measure exists is because the Sonics failed to extort $500M from Seattle. The NBA is already demanding $121M from OKC. It won't be long before they come back for more and more public money. The pattern is clear. The public pays - the team profits.

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jeff said...

Your ethos is destroyed by the fact that you have always wanted to see Celine Dion. What can you possibly know ;)

Jaci said...

Hahaha....It was the first one that came to my head.