Treat: Blake Wade’s comments completely out of
line for a state agency director
Treat today responded to comments made by Blake Wade, executive
director of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority,
regarding Senate opponents of a bond issue for the American
Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM). Treat said Wade’s
statements were completely out of line for a state agency director,
demonstrated sheer arrogance, and were a reminder of the good-old-boy
approach that Oklahoma voters have firmly rejected.
Wade’s comments came after the Senate General Conference
Committee on Appropriations approved a $40 million bond package
for AICCM on Tuesday.
The agency director is quoted in The Oklahoman, saying “I’m
going to go on the record right now and say I’m very sorry
for those three Senators, and I just hope they are understanding
about how these things work.” Wade further said “what’s
so shocking is these three or four Senators seem to be running
the whole show … this is just getting to be ridiculous.”
Treat said Wade was right about one thing.
“He’s right that this is the way it might have worked
when he was lobbying for bond issues when Gene Stipe and Mike
Mass ran things at the Capitol,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma
City. “Oklahoma voters have rejected that approach and
the leaders who enabled it. The days when power brokers could
blindly commit the taxpayers of this state to ever greater debt
without meaningful opposition are over. If lawmakers want to
remove the last vestiges of those decades of malfeasance and
prove to the people of Oklahoma that the days of irresponsible
leadership are over, they will defeat this bond issue.”
In a Tuesday press conference, Treat said Wade’s agency
was out of control, and provided figures highlighting the agency’s
waste and inefficiency. If Oklahoma City’s Devon Tower
had been built at the same cost per square foot as AICCM, Treat
said, the skyscraper would have cost $2.4 billion to build.
However, Devon will spend approximately $750 million to construct
Oklahoma’s tallest building.
“The sheer scope of the waste at this agency, and its
ultimate cost to the taxpayers of Oklahoma, is just shocking,”
Treat said. “The numbers underscore the need for a thorough
audit and consolidation of the agency under the Department of
Tourism and Recreation. I’m saddened that nothing has
changed at the agency after Blake Wade was brought in as executive
director. The vote on this bond issue will be a clear test of
principle, and whatever the outcome, Oklahomans will be given
a better picture of what their leaders stand for.”
Treat noted the state has invested more than $63 million in
the project, not including annual appropriations of $1.5 million
to support the agency’s staff. Once construction is complete,
the agency has expressed its intention to expand to as many
as 60 employees. The agency has also received approximately
$30 million in federal funds. Despite this, the agency has submitted
a plan to lawmakers suggesting it will take another $50 million
to finish building the museum, and a further $30 million to
On May 23, 2008, after the Legislature passed a second bond
for the project, an AICCM press release stated the $25 million
would “fund all of the building structures” and
that the agency would raise “the remaining $75 million
from private sources including American Indian Tribes”.
As of May 5, 2011, the museum had raised just $266,289.94 from
private, non-tribal sources since May 23, 2008.
Treat noted AICCM has since then raised approximately $40 million,
according to agency staff.
“If they are capable of raising $40 million in a matter
of months, imagine what they could have done to avert this disaster
had they only made the effort in previous years,” Treat
said. “This agency’s leaders have gotten exactly
what they wanted – a project that won’t benefit
the majority of Oklahomans, but for which all Oklahomans must
pay regardless of whether they want it or not. As lawmakers,
we have a responsibility to stop this.”
Treat also indicated he plans to submit an open records request
seeking all correspondence between the agency’s staff
and any lobbyists.