The citizens of Choctaw have been shortchanged by the state’s Centennial Commission. That’s according to State Sen. Cliff Aldridge who said the list of projects approved by the Commission has left him questioning the fairness of the selection process.
“Choctaw requested funding for only two projects. The city requested $194,000 for a veteran’s memorial and they also requested funding for a commemorative centennial clock just like the ones requested by other cities,” said Aldridge. “They didn’t get a dime for the memorial, and were only given $15,000 for the clock when other cities requesting the same clock were given $20,000. This isn’t right.”
The Midwest City Republican said he had been involved in numerous discussions with Commission Executive Director Blake Wade over the past 18 months about the planned Choctaw veteran’s memorial. Aldridge said at one point, Wade had discussed running a separate piece of legislation to fund eight memorial projects, but that did not come to fruition. Out of the eight memorial projects, only two were on the list released by the Centennial Commission last week.
However, Aldridge noted that in reviewing where the Centennial Commission members are from, he found their communities seemed to receive greater funding than some areas that had no citizens on the panel.
“For example, Durant, Lawton, Pawnee, Ponca City, Ada, Frederick and Guthrie each had local business or community leaders on the Commission and all received tremendous sums of money for local projects,” Aldridge said. Among the projects funded in those communities:
- Frederick: $125,000 for a Centennial Square and a Pioneer Village.
- Guthrie: $200,000 for a “Centennial Celebration.”
- Ada: $150,000 for restoration of an amphitheatre.
- Durant: $100,000 for Fort Washita.
- Ponca City: $500,000 for a Standing Bear Park project.
- Pawnee: $75,000 for the Pawnee Bill Ranch.
- Lawton: $600,000 to restore the original Lawton High School, the National Army Museum and the rehabilitation of the Matty Beal Home.
“The people of Choctaw have worked hard to complete this veteran’s memorial. County Commissioner Jim Roth has helped with the parking lot, but we were really counting on centennial funds for what is undeniably a very worthy project—especially in an area of the state where there are so many armed services members,” Aldridge said.
“Midwest City did not receive a fair shake either,” Aldridge added. “They had requested $136,000—their only request—to complete the second phase of the Mid-Del Art Studio Center. They only received $15,000.
Aldridge said he intended to speak to the Centennial Commission about the slight, but questioned whether anything could be done at this point.
“I think it is very appropriate for us to celebrate Oklahoma’s one-hundredth birthday. But I think our priorities are all wrong when we’re not funding a project to honor the lives of the men and women who have made this celebration possible in the first place,” Aldridge said.