Henry D. Irwin’s name didn’t make the Oklahoma history books, but in a presidential election year it’s worth a mention.
In 1960, Irwin was an example of what’s known as a “faithless elector.” That’s someone who pledges to vote for one ticket when the Electoral College meets and then breaks the pledge.
Irwin pledged to vote for the Richard Nixon/Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. ticket in 1960 when that Republican slate won in Oklahoma. Instead, Irwin voted for two non-candidates, Democrat Harry Byrd for president and Republican Barry Goldwater for vice president.
More than 150 instances of “faithless electors” have been noted through history; none has changed the final outcome of an election. Irwin reportedly said he just didn’t like Nixon, despite his pledge.
It was moot, of course, because an Electoral College majority chose John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson that year. Johnson’s election to the presidency four years later (over Goldwater) was the last time the state’s electoral votes went to the Democratic ticket.
This year’s improvement in student scores on state tests was the biggest seen in the Oklahoma City school district in 30 years. This was the first year seniors had to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a diploma.
No doubt, that helped motivate many who would have shrugged off the tests in the past. This is good news because it indicates Oklahoma’s reforms are having a positive impact on many students who aren’t college bound but still need a quality high school education to succeed in the private sector.
For example, work as an electrical contractor provides a good wage without a college degree. But the Independent Electrical Contractors of Oklahoma City has noted many high school graduates don’t qualify because they can’t do the high school math required!
We’re cautiously optimistic the new graduation requirements are reducing those shortcomings and increasing job opportunities for students of all backgrounds.
The heat wave/drought is an anomaly. It will break soon. In any case, this can’t be as bad as last summer. An El Nino will come to our rescue, just wait and see! Last year the heat broke around Labor Day and it started raining again in the fall. This will happen again!
Let’s face it. This is as bad as last summer, the one that broke all records. Relentless triple-digit highs? We’re used to that. But not to relentless 110-plus days.
Why us? Why is it hotter here than in Phoenix, in the “Valley of the Sun”?
We will accept these miserable summers as a tradeoff if the winters will stay mild and ice-free and the storms in spring and fall bring just rain and not hail and high winds. Also, we’d like it not to rain at all during the State Fair, except between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Also, no weather delays at OU or OSU home games.
We will get through this. By late October, we’ll all be enjoying the autumnal breezes and complaining (if only mildly) that it’s a bit brisk in the early morning or that the skies have been overcast for three straight days.
Bringing positive change to our state’s education system is no easy task.
Too often, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is seen as justification for continuing down the same path. Too few officials take the time for reflection and re-evaluation of current practices even after the original justification for the ways things are done is decades old.
Oklahoma’s education system was originally designed so that every child would be within walking distance of a school; today, we have cars and more people live in urban areas.
The Oklahoma City school district is now pushing for a seven-hour instructional school day that is no easy sell. As Superintendent Karl Springer noted, “It took us about 100 years to go from six hours to six hours and 20 minutes.”
Oklahoma has changed since 1907; our education system should, too.
Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate in June was 5 percent, the lowest among the nation’s 49 largest metro areas. That’s good news, even if the rate was up slightly from the 4.5 percent a month earlier. Considering the national unemployment rate continues to be a shade over 8 percent, we’ll take 5 percent.
On the other hand, a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows Oklahoma has the highest known rate of payday borrowing.
Thirteen percent of Oklahomans are using these short-term, high-interest loans to help make ends meet. That’s a higher percentage than any of the other 31 states that had data worth crunching.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission noted that the job market here remains very tight. For many Oklahomans, it’s clear that money does, too.
Tulsa-based Lufthansa Technik Component Services announced this week that it has tripled the number of people employed locally in the past year, and plans to add as many as 90 employees in the next few years.
This is good news, as was the recent announcement that Belgium-based ASCO Industries will open a production facility in Stillwater, investing up to $100 million and adding as many as 600 jobs by 2015.
While there’s a natural rivalry among Oklahoma communities, economic growth isn’t a zero-sum game. Job growth in Oklahoma City doesn’t come at the expense of Tulsa, and vice-versa. Our state can’t thrive if just one area thrives while most other communities struggle.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber has a goal to create 10,000 primary jobs at an annual salary of $50,000 or greater. The LTCS announcement brings the group that much closer to achieving its goal.
We have debated through the years whether Oklahoma should save time and money by doing away with runoff elections and instead going to winner-takes-all primaries. Ted Cruz’s victory this week in Texas is an endorsement of the runoff system.
In late May, Cruz lost by 10 points to longtime Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. Dewhurst came up just 5½ points shy of winning that election outright.
But in Tuesday’s runoff, Cruz throttled Dewhurst by a whopping 13 points.
Oklahoma has seen similar stories through the years. Most notable was Brad Henry, a long shot early in the 2002 race for governor. Henry survived the Democratic primary to make it into a runoff against better-known Vince Orza, won the runoff, then upset Republican Steve Largent in the general election.
Those second chances can make a difference, which is why runoffs in Oklahoma aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Nearly 80 Oklahoma towns have failed to file annual financial audits and are forfeiting more than $90,000 in gasoline excise taxes under state law. That’s unfortunate for several reasons.
Public confidence in government relies on transparency. When local governments repeatedly refuse to have their books audited, that’s cause for concern. Furthermore, most of the communities impacted are small towns where every dollar counts, so forfeiting fuel tax money has real impact.
Unfortunately, for many small communities the cost of the audit is greater than the cost of the financial penalty, so those towns are opting to take the hit rather than have their books examined.
We’re glad 87 percent of towns in Oklahoma are filing their audits, but wish the other 13 percent would join them. The challenges facing small towns are real, but balancing the budget by avoiding audits is poor public policy.