Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oklahoma City

Today's Wall Street Journal has a big story about Oklahoma City's Revival. Subheadline: Ten Years after Bombing, Downtown Sees a Renaissance; No More 'Inferiority Complex.'

Greensboro residents will remember that Action Greensboro took members of our City Council on a tour of Oklahoma City a few years ago, looking for ideas to help us out of our economic malaise. Here's the Journal's assessment of how the Okies have fared:

. . . Oklahoma City's downtown is thriving. The Bricktown district is buzzing with night life, people are moving downtown, . . . and property prices are booming. Add to that two successful stadiums, a $52 million performing arts center, a $22 million central library, a "Riverwalk" type canal, a trolley, clubs and restaurants, and the downtown of the once-sleepy city of 500,000 is bustling. . . . Property values in some parts of downtown have grown by about 500% over the past 15 years.
Whew. All together, they spent $350 million. How did they do it?

Ahem. With taxes.

Oklahoma City voted itself a sales tax increase and then spent the money on a pile of local public works. That is, they spent it on themselves. According to the Journal, its investment led to $1.5 billion (yes, billion) being invested downtown, and more is on the way.

Sounds kind of like a libertarian nightmare, doesn't it? But if the libertarian dream is simply the private enjoyment of one's own property, it sounds pretty dull to me. I really enjoy public places like parks, libraries, greenways, and theaters, and don't mind at all paying for them.

I don't think that's anti-conservative; it's small government (a city) carrying out the will of the people on a local level.

Just something to think about.


Joe Guarino said...

David-- I agree. Conservatism is all about localities setting priorities and making choices. While we can't spend to the extent that taxation levels hinder job recruitment, what you are suggesting is far better than some of the black holes into which local units of government pour resources.

David Wharton said...

Joe, if you agree that it's conservative, then I KNOW it's conservative!

Anonymous said...

If this tax was ever imposed, here are my ideas as to spending the proceeds:

Do make bike lanes and paths.
Don't pump in music through speakers lining the streets.
Do put in benches.
Don't put in flags along streets in blaring colors with a cheesy logo proclaiming things like "Discover Downtown!"
Do add greenspace.
Don't add more parking structures.
Do plow down the overpass disconnecting Aycock from downtown and just put in an intersection like the one near the post office. Do we really need the 1 1/2 mile Murrow BLVD Raceway so other neighborhood's residents can expeditiously deposit their mail?
Don't add useless Gov't jobs paying $80,000 plus benefits for like downtown ambassadors.
Do buy the industrial land near the east and southeast of the library.
Do add a light rail loop from A&T through downtown to Guilford College down to Market St. and UNCG and back to A&T.
Don't spend $100,000 on a bronze Vick's VapoRub or Wild Irish Rose statue.
Don't spend $8 million on an opera house to be enjoyed mostly by people who have enough resources to enjoy things w/o subsidies.

lil'mopeep said...

Hey, Wild Irish Rose and Vapo-Rub have gotten me through many a long lonely night in "the Geeb."

I'd vote YES on bronzing those bad boys. Let's get some "Discover Your Self-Medicating Heritage" flags too!

Your ideas are right on . . .

Dan Lovejoy said...

The impact of that very well-spent $350 million is almost immeasurable. I work for a small university in Oklahoma City. When we take students to Bricktown from out-of-state, they tell us that we've completely changed their concept of the city.

We're getting students here on the north side because they see what's happening downtown. A rising tide truly lifts all boats.

Some of those students will stay in Oklahoma City when the graduate, get professional jobs, start companies, and have families. All that from some judiciously spent seed money.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 1 do's, but disagree with Anonymous 1 don'ts. We need to boost our downtown like the ones of big cities. We need to attract money, so it can be redistributed to the city through new investments and tax income which can be used to improve city schools and the 3rd world streets we have. If that means having an Opera House, then do it. If that means enhancing streets with flags, so be it. We need to attract culture and beauty to downtown.

The city is too spread out, and this is the trend for years to come. The architecture is so lame that all you see around is more of the same for miles and miles. Houses and apartment complexes only change their sq feet size, but they all look the same. It’s so sad when I fly back to the city and see the awful view from the airplane window. The city is so boring, that there hardly anything new, and it’s easy to get caught in the routine here. That’s why young people like me want to get out at the first opportunity we have. That’s why the city averages an older population and few educated people. (I’m not saying the education system is bad, but educated people try to seek a future somewhere else). The recent downtown development makes me dream of a better future in the city. Hopefully we'll get there!