Just two weeks after our friends at the Tulsa World looked at the financial disclosure forms of state politicians, the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity issued its latest state rankings on the subject.
In the latest rankings, Oklahoma joins 19 other states with failing grades. The surprise, at least to me, is that Louisiana topped the rankings. I guess all those scandals in years past have led to some real reform in the Bayou State. Washington and Hawaii were the only other states to earn an “A.”
Here in Oklahoma, the state Ethics Commission has done a pretty good job of putting campaign finances online. And we’ve compiled their lobbyist gift data into our own searchable database. But the personal financial disclosure forms of elected officials remain stuck on paper in the commission’s files in the basement of the Capitol.
However, the Legislature has turned down Ethics Commission requests for increased funding to place the reports online in a searchable format, Hughes said.
Additionally, Hughes said an estimated 4,800 disclosure statements are filed with her office. The statements include income and asset data for agency heads, deputy directors and certain state employees in addition to lawmakers and other elected officials. Members of the public serving on certain boards fill out a similar form. Placing all the filings online would require hiring additional staff, Hughes said.
Hughes said her office attempted to add more stringent reporting requirements for financial disclosure, but such rule changes have been turned down by the Legislature. The current level of financial disclosure essentially remains the same as it was when the law was enacted about 1978 by the Legislature, she said.
Luckily, the World has taken the time to input the information from the forms of the 149 state legislators in Oklahoma. You can check out their database here.
The number of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. will reach more than 89 million by 2050, more than double the 39 million today , the U.S. Census Bureau said in its latest population projections.
Now, less than 8 percent of the world’s population is 65 and older. That will increase to 12 percent in 2030 and 16 percent by 2050, according to census projections.
“This shift in the age structure of the world’s population poses challenges to society, families, businesses, health care providers and policymakers to meet the needs of aging individuals,” said Wan He, demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division.
China and India will continue to be the world’s most populous countries by 2050, but India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country in 2031, according to updated rankings.
Here’s a closer look at the U.S. projections:
|Midyear population (in thousands)||439,010||266,557||295,561||325,540||357,452|
|Growth rate (percent)||0.8||N/A||0.9||1.0||0.9|
|Total fertility rate (births per woman)||2.0||N/A||N/A||2.1||2.1|
|Crude birth rate (per 1,000 population)||13||N/A||14||14||13|
|Births (in thousands)||5,672||N/A||4,138||4,470||4,726|
|Life expectancy at birth (years)||83||N/A||N/A||79||80|
|Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||4||N/A||N/A||6||5|
|Under 5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||4||N/A||N/A||7||5|
|Crude death rate (per 1,000 population)||10||N/A||8||8||9|
|Deaths (in thousands)||4,263||N/A||2,447||2,728||3,088|
|Net migration rate (per 1,000 population)||5||N/A||3||4||4|
|Net number of migrants (in thousands)||2,055||N/A||978||1,387||1,576|
Following on from today’s story about the costs and practices surrounding the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s video cameras, I’ve got some more background as to how the in-dash footage became closed to the public.
Before the Legislature exempted the patrol’s audio and video from the Oklahoma Open Records Act in 2005, anyone could buy a copy of a video for $25. Here’s the part of the legislation that was removed:
E. The Commissioner and any other officers of the Department as the Commissioner may designate are hereby authorized to prepare copies of videotape recordings which are not exempt law enforcement records, as prescribed in Section 24A.8 of Title 51 of the Oklahoma Statutes, when held as records of the Department, and deliver upon request to any person a copy of a videotape recording, for a fee of Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00) for each copy. Any monies collected by the Department pursuant to this subsection shall be deposited to the credit of the Department of Public Safety Revolving Fund.
According to Mark Thomas of the Oklahoma Press Association, one of the reasons DPS asked the legislature to remove that part of the law followed a request from a reality TV production company for every video of every trooper on every shift. The agency couldn’t fulfill that request and asked for the change in law.
Of course, the agency also had recently lost a court case on the subject. Here’s the story from our archives:
Highway patrol ordered to stop withholding tapes
By Nolan Clay
Thursday, March 3, 2005
Edition: City, Section: NEWS, Page 6A
A judge has barred the Oklahoma Highway Patrol from keeping videotapes of traffic arrests secret.
The ruling Friday came after an Oklahoma City attorney complained about a new restriction on the release of such videotapes.
“They don’t want these videos out. … They use any excuse that they can, even bad ones,” said attorney Stephen G. Fabian Jr., who specializes in drunken-driving cases.
Fabian has used the state Open Records Act to gather hundreds of videotapes from police departments and the patrol.
“We continue to find that many officers make up evidence and exaggerate their testimony about the events. These tapes are extremely important to a citizen who is wrongly accused,” he said.
The attorney sued the state Department of Public Safety in January after officials refused to release a videotape of a drunken-driving arrest. Officials said the attorney had to get the driver’s written consent first.
Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich struck down that requirement as unlawful.
The Department of Public Safety said it was trying to prevent identity theft. An attorney for the agency told the judge the videotape had “personal information” that must be kept private under a federal law.
The department’s attorney said the videotape revealed the vehicle’s tag number and the driver’s image, address, full name and license number.
The attorney also said the driver in the videotape admits to “dipping Skoal” smokeless tobacco. The attorney said that “could be interpreted as ‘medical information’ that is considered protected ‘highly restricted personal information.’”
Meanwhile, if this issue comes up during the next session of the legislature, advocates for changing the law might have an ally in a former state commissioner of public safety. Bob Ricks, now the chief of police in Edmond, said he understands why DPS needs to keep the video footage out of the public realm — at least for a short time.
“Once a situation is over, I don’t have any hesitancy releasing those types of materials,” Ricks told me last week. “But initially you need to protect the information until an administrative or internal inquiry is over. Our policy in Edmond is we are prompt to release those things that don’t appear to be concerned with an administrative inquiry. You’ve got protect the rights of all involved, but I also believe in the First Amendment and getting information to the public as quickly as possible.”
For more on highway patrol video policies in other states, check out the Tulsa World story here.
Outlying suburban counties in Oklahoma’s metro areas have grown faster than the urban core areas since 2000, according to the latest analysis from the Census Bureau released today.
In the Oklahoma City metro area, the outlying McClain and Cleveland counties showed the most growth. Both grew by more than 13 percent since 2000. The picture was similar in the Tulsa metro area, where Rogers County grew by more than 17 percent.
(The Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas each contain seven Oklahoma counties. The Lawton metro area consists solely of Comanche County. Two other Oklahoma counties–Le Flore and Sequoyah–are part of the Fort Smith, Ark., metro area.)
See the spreadsheet below for the latest Oklahoma estimates.
Nationally, the census said outlying counties of metro areas saw their population increase 13 percent, compared with an 8 percent increase for the central counties of metro areas.
Among the other highlights from the report:
- Outlying counties as a whole grew more through net migration than through natural increase (defined as births minus deaths). Nationwide, the average annual rate of net migration for outlying counties was 12.5 per 1,000 population compared to a 4.8 per 1,000 average annual rate of natural increase. Central counties followed the opposite pattern, with a larger proportion of their growth attributable to natural increase (6.6 per 1,000) than to net migration (3.6 per 1,000).
- Outlying counties grew faster than central counties in each of the three most populous metro area size categories — including those metro areas with April 1, 2000, total populations of 5 million or more, those between 2.5 million and 5 million, and those between 1 million and 2.5 million in population — as well as in metro areas with populations between 250,000 and 500,000.
- Among the nation’s nine census divisions, the Mountain Division (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) experienced the highest percentage growth in its metro area population at 20 percent.
The fallout from the British Parliament expenses scandal has crossed the pond and landed squarely in Congress.
The Wall Street Journal published a story over the weekend about how hard it is to review the office and travel expenses of members of Congress. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has asked the chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives to publish members’ expenses online. On her blog, she released a copy of the letter:
… For well over 100 years the United States House of Representatives has compiled and published, on a quarterly basis, a public Statement of Disbursements documenting the expenditures of each Congressional, Committee, Leadership, and administrative office. This publication provides an accurate accounting of the manner in which the House and its Members and officers spend all of the funds appropriated for the conduct of official business.
In the past, this publication has been made available in the Legislative Resource Center or by purchase from the United States Government Printing Office. However, this means for publishing material does not allow all interested parties to review the information contained in the reports. Consistent with my goal to increase transparency and ensure greater accountability to the public, please take all steps necessary to ensure that the quarterly Statement of Disbursements be made available online free of charge to the public and on a suitable House website.
Several organizations, such as LegiStorm and the National Taxpayers Union, already take parts of the published books of expenses and enter them into databases and spreadsheets. But it’s a cumbersome process, as this humorous video from the National Taxpayers Union shows:
What I hope is that when the House does put its expenses online, they put it in a machine-readable format (such as .xml, .csv, .xls) that can easily be brought into a spreadsheet or database for analysis. Posting a PDF of the book would be counterproductive. And we’ll have to wait and see if the U.S. Senate follows suit.
UPDATE (6/4/09): The Wall Street Journal reported today that U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has asked Senate officials to publish that chamber’s expenses online:
Separately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) said Wednesday he would introduce a bill requiring the expense records be posted online in the Senate, as well. Such disclosures are “something that we will take a look at,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.).
The FBI released its preliminary report yesterday on violent and property crime in the United States in 2008.
Overall, reported crime was down 2.5 percent from 2007. But in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the incidents of violent crime rose.
Much of the conventional wisdom out there holds that when the economy sours, crime rises. But how does that explain the increase in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, both of which have been fairly insulated from the worsening economy in other parts of the country? (For what it’s worth, business magazine Forbes last year declared Oklahoma City as one of the nation’s most “recession-proof” cities.)
I came across a recent series put out by the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. In the March issue of their FedGazette, bank researchers and economists looked into the relationship between the economy and crime:
The matter is complicated, at least somewhat, by findings from economic theory and empirical research. Though some research supports the conventional view of rising crime during economic downturns, a closer look at theory finds a more complex story, and empirical studies over the years haven’t found as solid a relationship as one might think between economic downturns and criminal activity. Many other factors are at play, from demographic changes and shifting cultural norms to legislative initiatives and technological innovation. Thus, forecasting crime trends—like predicting the weather or the economy—is an uncertain venture.
Researchers have different theories on the links between crime and the economy:
… Similarly, economist Philip Cook at Duke University recently examined the course of crime rates in urban areas of the United States in recent decades and concluded that “the statistical evidence presented here indicates that [the 1990s crime rate] decline, like the crime surge that preceded it, has been largely uncorrelated with changes in socioeconomic conditions.”
Others, like University of Missouri-St. Louis sociologist Richard Rosenfeld, future president of the American Society of Criminology, continue to hold that macroeconomic conditions do indeed have a strong influence on crime rates. “Crime rates are likely to increase as the economy sours,” Rosenfeld wrote in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece in March 2008, which warned Angelenos “to brace themselves for more crime to come.”
But other scholars, including political scientist James Q. Wilson, former chair of the White House Task Force on Crime, are less certain. Almost a year after Rosenfeld predicted a rise in L.A. crime, Wilson wrote an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, noting that during 2008, crime had fallen in the city “at a time when the economy was reeling and unemployment was rising.”
Whatever the case, it helps to put the most recent FBI stats in context. The FBI itself cautions about drawing comparisons among cities:
Figures used in this Report are submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. The efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual agencies.
Here’s the FBI preliminary stats for Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman. The full report, along with the stats of other Oklahoma cities, will be out later this year.
And if you’re still curious, another source of crime information is the National Crime Victimization Survey by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. It surveys people (rather than police departments), and its numbers are usually higher than the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. That’s because residents sometimes don’t report crimes to their local police departments.
The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio had a very interesting story on Sunday about the uneven disclosure of public records by athletic departments at the country’s largest universities.
Here’s an excerpt:
Across the country, many major-college athletic departments keep their NCAA troubles secret behind a thick veil of black ink or Wite-Out.
Alabama.Cincinnati. Florida. Florida State. Ohio State. Oklahoma. Oregon State. Utah. They all censor information in the name of student privacy, invoking a 35-year-old federal law whose author says it has been twisted and misused by the universities.
Former U.S. Sen. James L. Buckley said it’s time for Congress to rein in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which he crafted to keep academic records from public view.
A six-month Dispatch investigation found that FERPA, as it’s commonly called, is a law with many conflicting interpretations. And that makes it virtually impossible to decipher what is going on inside a $5 billion college-sports world that is funded by fans, donors, alumni, television networks and, at most schools, taxpayers.
The paper also includes a searchable database on its Web site so you can look up NCAA violations, university information and their responsiveness to records requests by the Dispatch.
ESPN’s bloggers picked up the story, too. Here’s the take from their Big 12 blogger.