I stumbled across this while searching for state contracting regulations at the Oklahoma Department of Central Service’s website. (Click the image for a larger version.)
Wow. The state’s buying depleted plutonium. Sounds like a great story, right?
Well, after clicking on the supplemental attachments list, I got a picture of some folks in party hats:
So, this clearly looked like a prank. But I made a call to the department just to check. It turns out they are testing a new bid solicitation system and have been training their employees for the last several weeks on how to use it.
Long story short: That plutonium bid solicitation was just a test and shouldn’t have been available on the public portion of the DCS website. It has since been pulled down.
I still think it would have been a great story.
Dr. Joey Senat, associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, has compiled some recent violations of the state’s Open Meetings/Open Records Acts in Oklahoma. Read more at the FOI Oklahoma blog.
(Full disclosure: I’m among the board members at FOI Oklahoma.)
I’ve added some links to this slightly extended and updated version of Sunday’s story on Senate redistricting:
BY PAUL MONIES
Some fast-growing suburbs of Oklahoma City and Tulsa won out in the latest legislative redistricting process that largely protected incumbents in the Senate.
For the first time, the Senate will have a district focused on the fast-growing Hispanic population. The Capitol Hill neighborhood on Oklahoma City’s south side will be part of Democratic Minority Leader Andrew Rice’s downtown district.
Redrawn boundary maps released in the closing weeks of the Legislature will have political implications in elections for the next decade, redistricting experts and lawmakers said.
“This is not a map that was drawn for the convenience of Democratic incumbent lawmakers, but there’s nothing illegal about that. This is politics,” said Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma. “You used to have a lot of senate districts come into the suburbs and pick up population and keep the rural lawmakers in place. The polarity has totally flipped now. All these districts are being pulled so deeply into the suburbs that suburban voters can dominate them.”
Republicans command majorities in the House and Senate, but differing approaches to the mapmaking in each chamber were evident last week as the plans were first considered.
At one point, Democrat Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, jokingly suggested senators could find a mentor in the House to resolve problems with the Senate map.
“In the House, people sat down and worked it out,” said Democrat Sen. Tom Adelson of Tulsa. “In the Senate, the Republicans seemed like they wanted to jam the boot in your neck.”
Adelson and Sen. Tom Ivester of Elk City were among two Senate Democrats who saw their districts change drastically under the new Senate map. Several Democratic senators in the northeastern part of the state also saw major changes.
But the moving of incumbents wasn’t limited to Democrats. In all, three GOP senators no longer live in their districts: Sen. Jim Reynolds of Oklahoma City; Sen. David Myers of Ponca City; and Sen. Rob Johnson of Kingfisher.
Myers, who is term limited in 2014, said he has no complaints. His mostly rural district lost more than 9,800 residents in the last decade.
“There’s just no way you could maintain that many senators in my rural area,” Myers said. “Since I was term-limited, who do you think they picked on? But I’m not unhappy. It’s a good district and will give me a chance to see some new folks in the next few years.”
Reynolds takes office as Cleveland County treasurer in July, so a special election will have to be held in District
33 43 under its current boundaries. In 2012, the district will move south to McClain and Stephens counties.
Adelson’s District 33 shifted from a mostly downtown Tulsa area to one in the southern and southeastern GOP suburbs. His house was placed in Republican Sen. Brian Crain’s redrawn district.
Adelson, who considers Crain a friend, said he plans to run for reelection in Crain’s District 39.
“I think I could compete,” Adelson said. “Some of those precincts have good Democratic numbers.”
Ivester’s district flipped from the southwest to one stretching from western Oklahoma to Canadian County. It now includes Republican Sen. Rob Johnson’s house in Kingfisher. Johnson plans to move to his redrawn district, which now includes parts of Edmond.
Long odds for Democrats
Senate Democrats said they knew they faced long odds in getting districts redrawn to their liking. But Adelson said the hiring of a GOP political consultant poisoned the process. Karl Ahlgren was paid more than $127,000 for his redistricting advice to the Republican leadership since spring 2009, according to Senate financial records.
“Redistricting is political by nature, but at least people have had some modesty about it in the past,” Adelson said. “Their people were not interested in preserving the voice of Oklahomans, they were interested in increasing the Republican market share for personal benefit.”
Ahlgren’s firm, AH Strategies, ran the campaign of Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who defeated Adelson in the 2009 mayoral race.
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, the chairman of the Senate Redistricting panel, said the process can be emotionally charged.
“This is probably the most personal thing we do in the senate,” Jolley said.
Ahlgren has had a succession of consulting contracts with the Oklahoma Senate under current and former Republican leaders. Ahlgren, a former assistant secretary of the senate, also worked for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles.
“As such, his knowledge of Oklahoma and the local communities of interest was valuable to the process,” Jolley said. “Members of both political parties consulted with Mr. Ahlgren and any allegations that Mr. Ahlgren actually drew lines are simply false. Lines were drawn under the direction of senators directly to the technical staff.”
The Senate spent $165,500 on redistricting in the last three years, said Jarred Brejcha, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman. That included Ahlgreen’s contracts, software and payroll for other employees.
In the House, former Republican Rep. Larry Ferguson served as an informal advisor to the redistricting process for “historical context” but was not paid, officials said. Including software, payroll and travel, the House spent $175,000 on redistricting since August 2010, said John Estus, spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele.
Because any new map must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act to protect minority representation, that’s the first place mapmakers start, Jolley said.
“We had to draw those districts before we could do anything else, and we had to draw around those districts and that resulted in some funny looking maps in Oklahoma city and Tulsa,” he said. “That made the process more difficult but at then end of the day we’ve got maps that make sense that I believe the majority of members of both parties hopefully will support.”
The Senate map largely preserves Oklahoma City Sen. Constance Johnson’s District 48, a seat long held by an African-American. Still, Johnson said Friday on the Senate floor she wasn’t happy with losing part of her district to fellow Democratic Sen. Charlie Laster of Shawnee. Johnson said she may explore filing a lawsuit over the Senate plan.
In Tulsa, Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre’s District 11 lost more than 11,000 people since 2000. To retain the majority-minority status of that district, additional Hispanic precincts were moved in. McIntyre does not plan to run for reelection.
Rice said creating a new Hispanic majority-minority district in Oklahoma City isn’t yet a requirement under federal law. But he said Senate redistricting leaders wanted to be ahead of the demographic changes on the city’s south side. Rice gave up several urban neighborhoods in his current District 46 to make that happen.
“It’s sad to lose them, but I’m excited to get new parts of downtown and the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which has such a rich history and is evolving in interesting ways,” Rice said.
Rice said his hope is that part of town could eventually be represented by a Hispanic senator.
I’ve uploaded a new interactive map of the Senate’s redistricting plan released this afternoon.
Also, here’s the data, courtesy of Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Senate Redistricting Staff.
On the map, zoom in to see if your house has moved into another senator’s district.
If you see any errors or omissions, let me know.
Below is a what’s called a tree map showing the budget appropriations by agency under the agreement released yesterday. It was done using the free data visualization tool created by IBM called Many Eyes.
Basically, the tree map compares the whole amounts appropriated by agency from what it received in FY 2009 and what is proposed under the agreement for FY 2012. The intensity of orange shading shows an increase, while the intensity of blue shading shows a decrease. The size of each rectangle is proportional to its share of the overall budget appropriation.
You can click on each rectangle to get a summary of each year’s amount and percent change. As you can see, pretty much every agency has suffered cuts over the last few years, with the exception of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Commissioners of the Land Office and the state Election Board.
To use it, you’ll need to unzip it and have access to a GIS program such as ArcGIS or QGIS. Or you can set up a free account at GeoCommons. They have some good instructions here. To make this kind of map more useful, you’ll need to add some information to it, such as demographic information or voter registration information. (I’m working on adding some of that data in GeoCommons, but can’t promise it will be up very quickly.)
Meanwhile, redistricting over in the Senate has been a little more contentious. But here’s hoping they follow the House’s lead on transparency and release the data behind the plan they’re working on.
Click for map
I had a great time on Saturday down at the Skirvin Hotel for the first CityCampOKC, part of the second day of the Gov 2.0a conference. CityCamps have been in several other cities for the last couple of years, but this was a first for Oklahoma.
This was my first “unconference,” a loosely themed and loosely organized day of like-minded people coming together. Basically, the agenda is set by the participants, with help from the unconference facilitators.
After introductions, we wrote some discussion topics on yellow stickies that our facilitator, Oklahoma City’s Zach Nash, put on the wall. Since we all were interested in the intersection of government and technology, some of the topics weren’t a surprise.
The first session split into two groups, one for open data in local government and the other for website design.
I was more interested in the open data side, since much of my job involves requesting and analyzing publicly available government data. We grabbed our list of topics from the wall and got to the discussion.
We had a good mix of city officials, developers, entrepreneurs and activists at the open data table.
I was a little leery that we would be able to cover the eight or so topics on our list. But after reading each sticky note, the conversation just started flowing.
Of course, open data is not just data provided by government agencies. Increasingly, engaged citizens are creating their own data sets that can be used by developers and hackers for “mashing up” on maps, smartphone apps and data visualization.
A number of state and city government have launched open data websites in the last few years, including Oklahoma earlier this year. But the challenge is showing what can be done with that data.
Gov2.0Radio’s Adriel Hampton talked about the datasf.org website and how the city of San Francisco has compiled some of the apps using open data into a showcase page. Other cities or states are sponsoring competitions with small cash prizes for the best app using open data.
The challenges posed by both government-provided data and citizen-generated data are similar. The data needs to be accurate and timely. If it’s provided by citizens, there needs to be a process for collection and peer verification. If it’s provided by government, there needs to be a easy way for users to report errors in the data.
Still, at the end of the day, the data needs to be useful to the public. Among some of the other ideas discussed:
- Breaking down the bureaucracy inside city government so departments can freely share data without turf wars.
- Harnessing existing platforms like See Click Fix or Open 311 to get the public to report problems with city services.
- Providing APIs (Application Program Interfaces) so city governments can provide feeds of city data to the public without much extra manpower or effort.
- Explaining the value of open data to city decision makers. Some suggestions included informal “citizen advisory panels” for leaders to ask for additional explanation from local data users and developers.
On the other side of the room, participants discussed how to best redesign or begin websites for city government. Among the models mentioned was the recent collaborative redesign of the federal government’s Federal Communications Commission website. Other topics included:
- Getting elected officials involved in the redesign process.
- The website as the new face of city government and how it’s just as important as the customer interactions with trash pickup or pothole repairs.
- Is the city website ever really “done” and the importance of continual improvement.
- Creating a sustainable fee structure for online services that can help support website development.
- Keeping track of city website redesigns at GovLoop.
- Using open source tools like Drupal to power new local government website services. (Also see FirmStep.)
- Translating technical language into what people’s needs are in their communities. Ideally, all this technology should just make it easier, not harder, for citizens to engage with their local governments.
After lunch, Adriel Hampton gave a short presentation about his new company, Nation Builder, and how to take advantage of online tools to organize community members. (More on that later.)
The last session of the day was a discussion on how local governments can reach out to underserved communities. Among the key points:
- Don’t forget about local libraries being key points for outreach.
- Community building using Neighborgoods.org, an online swap-shop for neighbors and friends.
- Don’t force people to use a smartphone for city services. Not everybody can afford one. People will use the easiest thing available to them.
- If you have a Twitter account, don’t forget to embed its feed on your website.
- Using SMS text alerts or QR codes for additional information about city services.
- Reaching out to non-English speakers in the community.
- Providing closed-captioning for online video.
- Using savings from paperless/online billing for targeted outreach in other areas of city government.
But here in Oklahoma, so far all the public has seen from the redistricting efforts of the state House and Senate are some static PDF maps dealing with congressional redistricting from the House. The Senate hasn’t publicly released any maps.
Transparency has been the big buzz word this session. But all the redistricting work has gone on behind closed doors.
A new House map is expected to be unveiled Friday.
Oklahoma should join other states and release the data and the geographical files, typically called shapefiles, for all to see.
Here’s what Texas offers:
Florida goes one better, and lets the public draw their own maps using a tool called MyDistrictBuilder.
Here’s why the data is important: With the map shapefiles, you can layer other important information like voter registration and demographic information on top of each redrawn district to get a fuller picture of the represented areas. The Texas Tribune put out some good maps earlier this week doing just that.
Today is the deadline to register for the Gov 2.0a conference here in Oklahoma City.
This is the second year of the conference on open government, technology and citizen engagement. I attended last year and was very impressed with the lineup. This year’s lineup looks equally (if not more) impressive.
The conference starts Friday morning at the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. It continues throughout the day and concludes with several keynote speakers Friday evening, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Tom Walker of i2E; and Hillary Hartley of NIC Inc.
On Saturday, the conference splits in two. One part, Mash-It-Up Camp, is geared more toward a tech audience. The other event, City Camp, will cater more to a government and community audience. My job straddles both worlds, but I plan to be at City Camp on Saturday.
For more on the Gov 2.0a conference, just check out their website. The conference is organized by a great group of local folks: Sid Burgess, Derrick Parkhurst, David Glover, Lindsey Coster and John R. Wood.
The Legislature has two big jobs this year: balance the state’s budget and redraw the boundary lines for Congress and the state Senate and House.
So far, it’s been fairly quiet on the redistricting front, at least publicly. But behind the scenes, you can be sure there’s a lot going on.
The “easy” part–Congressional redistricting–is on its way to completion. Unlike a decade ago when the state lost a seat, the congressional plan was easier this year because Oklahoma stayed at five seats. The House approved a congressional redistricting bill earlier this week. Here’s what the proposed map looks like, according to House Bill 1527: (click for larger version)
A closer look at the map shows there are not a lot of differences between the current congressional district lines and the proposed changes. Essentially, the state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren in the 2nd Congressional District, now gets Marshall County on the Texas border and
gives up gains some suburban Tulsa territory in Rogers County. There also are some changes to Rep. Tom Cole’s 4th District and Rep. James Lankford’s 5th District, mostly around Tinker Air Force Base. Rep. Frank Lucas picks up more population in fast-growing (and solidly Republican) Canadian County, courtesy of Cole. Around Tulsa, the 1st District’s Rep. John Sullivan picks up a little territory to the west in Creek County.
If you want to try making your own map, check out the free site, Daves Redistricting. Without any nods to current allegiances, politics or the Voting Rights Act, I made my own quick-and-dirty version of congressional redistricting. I had one requirement for my map: each district had to stay within the county lines.
My take: It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Even with all the tools available on Daves Redistricting site, I managed to leave out about 900 people, who have effectively been disenfranchised by my map. (A court would surely throw out my plan!) Also, I have Lankford’s 5th District (yellow below) with about 10,000 more residents than it should have. Ideally, each congressional district should have 750,270 people, according to the latest Census data. Lucas’ 3rd District is in purple, Cole’s 4th District is in red, Boren’s 2nd District is green and Sullivan’s 1st District is in blue.
Here’s my map: (click for larger version)
Under my map, all of Oklahoma and Logan counties are now in the 5th District. Boren’s 2nd District moves westward on its southern section, picking up Ardmore. Cole gets all of Canadian County and Pottawatomie County. Lankford gets the so-called “Tinker Notch” in Oklahoma County. To replace the loss of Canadian County, Lucas takes in population north of Tulsa and in northeastern Oklahoma.
For some more Oklahoma congressional redistricting options, check out this message board for political map junkies.
Lawmakers now have about five weeks left in the session to complete the harder redistricting task for the state House and Senate. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has an update on that here.
The main things to watch for in legislative redistricting are how they will redistrict seats with declining rural populations and which seats are held by term-limited lawmakers. Oklahoma Watchdog has more on that here.
You can also try your hand at redrawing legislative districts at Daves Redistricting. I haven’t tried that option, yet, but it doesn’t seem like an easy task. Each new House district should have about 37,142 residents. Under House rules, you’re allowed to deviate from those ideal numbers no more than plus or minus 3 percent, or about 1,100 people. Ideally, each new Senate district should have 78,153 residents.
For more on redistricting in general, check out the following sites:
- Oklahoma House of Representatives Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures Redistricting
- U.S. Census: Redistricting Data
- Redistricting the Nation
- Election Data Services
- Brennan Center for Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting
- The Redistricting Game