David Northcutt, chairman of the Democratic Party in Bryan County, recently issued a missive he described as “very much in the spirit of Christmas.” Apparently, those words have very different meaning to Northcutt. He attacks Republicans as sore losers, but then personifies the sour-grapes mindset.
Northcutt said President Barack Obama’s election was cause for Oklahoma Democrats to celebrate but “our celebrations were tempered with disdain” by the Oklahoma gains of the Republican Party, describing “feelings of anguish” as he watched Democrat candidates “fall to lesser opponents in Oklahoma politics these last several years.”
Northcutt rightly criticizes those who have called for secession after Obama’s re-election, but then lumps serious leaders like Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor in with them. Even prominent national Democrats have praised Ryan for tackling serious budget problems.
That Northcutt thinks avoiding fiscal catastrophe is equivalent to demanding secession shows why his party is struggling in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Republicans who typically oppose affirmative-action programs are nonetheless leading the way to greater diversity in state government.
Gov. Mary Fallin is the state’s first female governor. State Rep. T.W. Shannon will soon be the first black speaker of the Oklahoma House. And he just appointed the first woman to serve as House floor leader — state Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa.
Peterson is a staunch conservative noted for seeking to reduce and provide alternatives to abortion, but her resume also includes work on Department of Human Services’ reform and the battle against human trafficking.
More importantly, Peterson is known for her willingness to take the heat on tough issues. In 2010, she debated against a bill allowing open carry of firearms, warning its unintended consequences could include an increase in privately owned businesses banning firearms on store property. Peterson, a concealed-carry permit holder with an NRA “A” rating, noted that would effectively reduce the ability of citizens to protect themselves.
Although she supported subsequent versions of the gun proposal, that episode demonstrated her willingness to carefully critique issues and take a stand even in the face of heated opposition from interest groups. That’s a good quality for a floor leader, who largely determines what bills are heard on the House floor, and it speaks well of Shannon for appointing Peterson.
Citizens may not always agree with Peterson, but they will know where she stands and that she conscientiously weighs policy decisions.
We like the approach being taken by Marc Dreyer, chairman of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, on the issue of inmates being considered for early parole.
The board’s previous practice of not clearly indicating on its agendas which inmates were being considered for early parole or commutation resulted in a criminal investigation by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
Last month, the board discussed changing its procedures. This week, Dreyer said the board wouldn’t make any changes for several months, in order to allow folks plenty of time to register their thoughts. That’s a smart move.
Citizens can take Dreyer up on his offer by emailing comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailing them to Tracy George, General Counsel, Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, First National Center, 120 N Robinson Ave. Suite 900W, Oklahoma City, 73102.
The Oklahoma City School Board is losing an excellent member in Lyn Watson, who chose not to run for a second four-year term. Watson was professional and passionate about improving the lot of Oklahoma City’s public school students.
For a while it looked as though no one would run for her District 1 seat, but on the final day of the filing period, three people signed up. In advance of that, Watson said she had approached several people about running, “and for many people it’s a time issue and a commitment, and I understand that.”
Indeed work on a school board is time consuming and offers the potential for plenty of headaches for little or no pay. But the job is vitally important. That’s especially true for the Oklahoma City board, which oversees a district full of challenges.
Coming soon to a location near you, perhaps: Bridge repair that doesn’t inconvenience motorists for nearly as long as usual.
The state Department of Transportation is implementing a rapid bridge-building program on a project-by-project basis. Under this program, all or parts of the new bridge will be constructed no far from the original bridge, then moved over and assembled.
First in line is a State Highway 51 bridge that spans Cottonwood Creek west of Mannford. Normally this job would take nine months to complete and traffic would be diverted for the entirety of that. But under the rapid-building program, work will last six months and motorists will be redirected for just 21 days.
The rapid-building program is likely to cost more than traditional projects, but our sense is taxpayers will be glad to trade that for added convenience.
Debate has been vigorous regarding the design of a future downtown boulevard, and much more will be said before a decision is made.
The boulevard will follow the path of the old Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway. Should traffic move quickly along the new boulevard, to better help motorists get into and out of the city? Or should it move more slowly, and thus be more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists? How much will the end product foster retail and residential growth?
All these issues and more are being bandied about. The fact that about 400 people turned out this week to voice their concerns to designers — who tweaked an earlier proposal after earlier public feedback — is a sign of just how important the boulevard is to residents.
More public meetings are planned in the months ahead. Some are sure to be disappointed no matter the final design, but they won’t be able to say they weren’t included in the process.
Metropolitan-area clout is increasing in the Legislature, one of the predicted results of redistricting after the 2010 census. But the decline of traditional rural dominance of the state House and Senate was happening already.
Incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon is from Lawton. He’s named two Tulsans to key leadership posts. Another top job went to a Norman legislator. The Senate is run by a man from Sapulpa.
Recent House speakers have been from Shawnee, Tulsa, Harrah and suburban Creek County. Prior to that, speakers hailed from Okemah, Frederick and Stillwell.
The first speaker, “Alfalfa” Bill Murray, was from Tishomingo. Other early speakers included men from Cereal and Barlow, two towns that no longer make the map.
Despite declines in rural dominance, the last speaker who actually lived in Oklahoma City was J.D. McCarty. He left office in 1967 and was one of only four men from either Oklahoma City or Tulsa to be speaker.
Many of the schools that comprise the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association have to be smiling this weekend. As the football finals and semifinals got under way, only one private school (Oklahoma Christian, in Class 2A) remained standing.
The OSSAA member schools voted a few years ago to punish private schools by requiring their teams to move up one class if they reach the final eight in any sport three out of five years. This stemmed largely from schools such as Heritage Hall and Bishop McGuinness in Oklahoma City winning state titles in football.
Proponents of the rule change said something needed to be done to counter the advantages private schools have by being able to control their enrollment. Those advantages never seemed to be an issue when those schools weren’t as successful.
Certainly Carl Albert’s football team didn’t seem to have any issue with those private school advantages last weekend when the Titans walloped McGuinness in the Class 5A semifinals. If they beat Tulsa East Central on Saturday night, the Titans will win their 11th state championship. Clinton is playing for its 16th state title on Saturday afternoon in Class 4A.
Outrage? There is none. Nor should there be. Carl Albert and Clinton have built tremendous programs. Success — of all kinds — should be applauded, not demonized. And so we say, congratulations and good luck!