It was a Thursday evening and my lovely wife, Suzanne, and I were sitting in the living room watching the news, and there he was: Mayor Mick Cornett, discussing an extension of the existing MAPS tax to make improvements to the Ford Center so we can lure the Seattle SuperSonics or perhaps even a different team to Oklahoma City.
Coming off an overwhelming victory for the city bond issue (seeing a whopping 7 people show up at the polls), city leaders are holding their heads high, ready to move Oklahoma City to the next level. Or, at least the Ford Center. The price tag? A mere $100 million or so. Chump change for a "city on the move."
My wife looked at me and said, "Ron, I know you're a big Sonics fan because you grew up in Seattle, but I work downtown and have no interest whatsoever in paying taxes to support a private sports endeavor. Shouldn't sports fans pay the bill?"
Excellent point, my dear Suzanne. Hunters, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts pay additional "fees" (read: taxes) to participate in their respective activities " why not have a level playing field? (Pun intended.) According to a report from The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, hunting and angling together is a $1 billion a year contributor to the state of Oklahoma. From the report:Sportsmen support more Oklahoma jobs than Integris Baptist Medical Center, Saint Francis Health System and St. John Health System combined (20,000 jobs vs. 19,500). Oklahoma sportsmen's annual spending equals the combined revenues of Continental Resources, SandRidge Energy and Diamondback Energy Services, three of the state's fastest growing energy companies ($1 billion). Oklahoma sportsmen spend more each year than the combined cash receipts for wheat and hogs, two of the state's top agricultural commodities ($1 billion vs. $950 million). Oklahoma sportsmen outnumber the populations of Tulsa, Norman and Lawton (602,000 vs. 574,000). The stimulus of hunting and fishing equates to an astounding $2.8 million a day being pumped into the state's economy.
When the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation needs revenue to improve quality wildlife habitat or to acquire new land for public hunting, those who participate pony up the cash through increased fees " and we do so willingly because we want to preserve the hunting, fishing and shooting sports traditions in Oklahoma. In other words, hunters and anglers put their money where their mouths are and don't depend upon taxpayer subsidies to make it happen (the whole Bass Pro Shops thing excluded, of course).
And, yes, when people participating in the shooting sports purchase firearms or ammunition, there are additional taxes they pay to fund various governmental programs such as the particularly delightful background checks.
So, here's the challenge: Will ball-sports fans be willing to step up as hunters and anglers have? How about a $1 fee added to Oklahoma RedHawks and Oklahoma City Blazers tickets to pay for renovations to the Ford Center? Will concertgoers to the Ford Center be willing to pay an additional $1 per ticket to bring the NBA to town?
Black is the host of WILD Oklahoma, the recipient of the 2007 Oklahoma Rifle Association's Mike McCarville Media Award, and a consultant living in Edmond.