The Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System is a bad news-good news-bad news story.
The bad news: The fund, previously rated among the nation’s worst-funded, saw its unfunded liability increase last year. The system is now only 54.8 percent funded; its unfunded liability grew from $7.6 billion to $8.4 billion.
The good news is that the system is still expected to eliminate its unfunded liability in 22 years, thanks in large part to a law requiring full funding of benefit increases.
The bad news: That projection relies on 8 percent market growth on investments each year — something that hasn’t occurred recently and may not occur for some time. In fact, this year’s decline is tied to investment losses in 2008 and 2009.
Lawmakers have done much to improve the system, but its future and the long-term security of teachers remains uncertain without broad national economic recovery.
In just three months, voters in Oklahoma County could be asked to approve a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to build a new jail.
The head of a committee formed to plan the adult-juvenile complex says the vote could be held as early as March. The price tag is roughly $350 million.
County Commissioner Ray Vaughn says if the plan is approved, officials would look for enough land to build a sprawling one-story complex. The current jail, opened in 1991, stands 13 stories and was the subject of a harsh critique by the U.S. Justice Department five years ago. Most of the problems outlined in that report have been addressed, but Sheriff John Whetsel says some deficiencies can only be fixed with a major remodeling or a new jail.
The present jail is a problem, has been for a long time. A March election doesn’t allow much time to convince the public to pay for a new one, but then, there’s probably no perfect time to make such a request.
Best of times: The Tulsa University Golden Hurricane will play Saturday for the Conference USA football title, capping a 9-3 season.
Worst of times: TU’s athletic director may not be at the game.
Ross Parmley was suspended Tuesday just hours after joining Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in a celebration of the football team’s success. The FBI said Parmley is an “admitted gambler” involved with an Oklahoma City bookie now under investigation.
Parmley has been AD for less than a year — much longer than the 74 days TU President Geoffrey Orsak served before getting fired in September for undisclosed reasons.
It’s been a rough year for TU’s administration, but the team deserves plaudits for its success on the field. At least one Oklahoma university has a shot at conference football championship this year.
We wrote this summer in praise of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s disaster relief ministry. At the time, members of the group were awaiting a possible call to help victims of wildfires in Colorado, after previously spending two weeks there providing laundry services.
After Superstorm Sandy wiped out portions of the East Coast last month, Oklahoma Southern Baptists again answered the call. They were honored this week with a key to the city of Middletown, N.J., after serving more than 64,535 meals over a period of weeks.
That’s a lot of food, but the convention’s mobile kitchens are well-equipped. The largest can produce 25,000 per day, and the other, smaller units are able to prepare 3,000 to 5,000 per day.
A proclamation from Middletown officials read: “Thank you for bringing warm smiles, hot meals, and enduring friendships at a time when we needed it most.” Oklahomans should be proud of this group’s good deeds.
Here’s another one for President Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” file.
As a mother of four, North Carolina native Brandi Tysinger-Temple started sewing clothes for her children and eventually sold extra items on eBay, then on Facebook. Response was strong and the business grew. From its humble origins in a spare bedroom, Lolly Wolly Doodle today fills a 19,000-square-foot facility and employs more than 100 people in Lexington, N.C.
The business has more than 375,000 Facebook fans. In a town with an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent, Lolly Wolly Doodle is creating jobs the old-fashioned way — by identifying a consumer need and meeting it, not through the crony capitalism too often promoted by Obama.
Tysinger-Temple’s success is an inspiration to those who still believe in the American dream, and a rebuke to government planners who think they know better.
Hostess is attracting suitors for its signature brands, plants and other assets. When news of Hostess’ pending demise broke last month, thousands of Americans mourned the loss of the Twinkie and other Hostess products. But brands, like factories, can be bought and sold.
The Twinkie may live on with a different baking company. Will it taste the same? Remains to be seen. Other famous brands that are likely to survive under new ownership include the Ding Dong, Donettes, Sno Balls, Ho-Hos, Chocodiles and Zingers.
We’re worried, though, that another Hostess staple may be too generic to find life after bankruptcy. It’s those miniature fruit pies that (at least in the minds of mothers who pack school lunch boxes) are healthier than other Hostess offerings. Will someone please pluck the fruit pie from the Hostess tree and plant it in another orchard?
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff is looking for reasons not to disclose how Fallin made the decision to return a $54 million federal grant last year after originally accepting it. Right or wrong, such maneuvering leaves the impression she has something to hide.
The Oklahoman sought emails from the governor’s office through an open records request. Fallin’s legal counsel rejected the request, citing executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. He said releasing such emails would hinder the ability of policymakers to have productive internal discussions.
But an expert in Oklahoma’s open records laws says once a personal note or memo becomes a recorded conversation or directive, it isn’t personal anymore. And executive privilege isn’t an exemption under Oklahoma law.
A 2009 opinion from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office was clear: “Emails, text messages, and other electronic communications made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, the expenditure of public funds or the administration of public property, are subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.”
Fallin and legislative leaders accepted the $54 million grant to establish a federal health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Only after getting blowback from fellow Republicans did Fallin do an about-face.
The taxpayers who paid for the grant and who would have used the exchange deserve to know more about what went down.
The state Supreme Court this week said a proposed $25 million bond issue for the Zink Dam in Tulsa was unconstitutional because it essentially was a gift to the city. State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, who had challenged the plan, said he hoped that “in the future … policymakers will pay closer attention to the state constitution.”
But Anderson’s concerns are for naught, at least as they pertain to bond issues.
The Republican-controlled Legislature has made it abundantly clear it wants nothing to do with increasing the state’s bonded indebtedness. As a result, proposals to use bond issues for truly worthwhile projects, such as repair of the Capitol and construction of a new state medical examiner’s office, have been rejected.
With the GOP adding members in the House and Senate with this year’s elections, that sentiment isn’t about to change.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates of Oklahoma County are banking on a little holiday cheer to help the children CASA serves.
On Giving Tuesday, which arrives Nov. 27, one of CASA’s board members will match any gift made to the organization through its website (www.okcountycasa.org/light-of-hope) or by phone (405) 713-6612. This is the first year for Giving Tuesday, a national event that seeks to use the momentum around the holidays and direct it toward giving.
“We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, so why not Giving Tuesday?” says CASA’s development coordinator, Emily Mapes.
All proceeds will go toward serving the abused and neglected children CASA represents in court. This organization does great work, and this effort merits support.
Ken Qualls’ zealousness cost him his job.
Qualls was a Piedmont police officer until a few weeks after he cited the mother of a 3-year-old boy for public urination because the youngster tried to do his business in the family’s front yard.
The ticket issued Nov. 4 was amended to contributing to the delinquency of a minor — something prosecutors, we’re glad to say, refused to pursue. Such citations are generally reserved for adults who help teenagers buy beer or provide them with illegal drugs. In other words, for those who really do contribute to the delinquency of a minor.
News of the tinkling ticket spread far and wide and produced a storm of protest. On Nov. 16, Qualls was given his pink slip by the city manager.
Qualls’ attorney says the firing was an overreaction caused mostly by embarrassment. But the sentiment of Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson in backing her city manager is likely shared by many: “I will not defend stupid.”