Voters in northwest Oklahoma City’s Ward 1 have the chance to send an excellent public servant back to the city council by re-electing Gary Marrs on Tuesday. Marrs, 66, is in a runoff with James Greiner, 31. Those two emerged from a three-person race in the March 5 primary.
Marrs has given a lot to the community during his nine years on the council, and before that during his 30-year career with the Oklahoma City Fire Department, which included a stint as chief. Greiner is a fine, energetic young man whose willingness to serve in a time-consuming, low-paying job speaks well of his character.
Like the best members of the council, Marrs works not only for his ward but for the whole city. He’s mindful of infrastructure challenges in his sprawling ward but is eager to help MAPS 3 blossom and for the city to continue economic development efforts that help it grow. He’s earned another term.
Ward 7 incumbent Skip Kelly, 63, also faces a runoff. His opponent is John A. Pettis Jr., 30, in the northeast-side ward.
Turnout for the primary was extremely light. Council members are critical in deciding the city’s course. These seats are important. Voters in Ward 1 and Ward 7 should treat them as such on Tuesday by going to the polls.
Relief is on the way for those frustrated (or worse) by their experience trying to get a driver’s license.
This week the Department of Public Safety debuted its Inline Online system, which lets users go online to make appointments for the driving skills tests, learner’s permit test and ID cards. Appointments can be made from one to 14 days in advance.
This week it was available for three locations in the Oklahoma City area. It’ll expand to Tulsa next week and eventually to DPS’s other field offices.
The service is free for now. When it’s fully in place, there will be a fee that DPS says will be “nominal.” Our guess is parents and teens will gladly pay a few bucks to avoid the current nightmare that involves arriving at driving stations in the middle of the night in hopes of being able to take the test.
Cash reserves held by state governments are near the highest levels seen since 2008.
According to February’s certification, Oklahoma is on pace to have $660.8 million in its Rainy Day Fund by July, a record. Across the country, the National Association of State Budget Officers reports that state rainy day funds now equal 9 percent of general fund tax revenue. The policy question is whether to spend any of that money.
Gov. Mary Fallin has been reluctant to tap Rainy Day funds, saying we should “preserve that as much as possible.” Her views are echoed by governors in Michigan and Tennessee who want to add money to state savings, not spend it. In most states, special-interests groups argue the funds should be depleted to restore spending cuts made during the recession.
Policymakers must carefully weigh the merits of achieving short-term gains at the potential expense of long-term financial planning.
A murder charge may or may not slow the track career of South African double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
Pistorius is accused of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day. He says he thought he was shooting at a home intruder when he fired several rounds into a bathroom door.
This week a judge in Pretoria said that if Pistorius needs to leave the country to compete, he can do so (with some conditions).
His attorneys argued that Pistorius needs to compete in order to earn a living. A 2012 Olympian, Pistorius is a hero in South Africa. As the judge’s ruling shows, he enjoys all the benefits that accompany fame and fortune.
Oklahoma often gets dinged in government transparency evaluations, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that it performed well in a recent ranking.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s “Following the Money 2013” report, which rates states on online access to government spending information, has given Oklahoma an A-minus in financial transparency. That’s a major improvement from the C-plus grade received last year.
Oklahoma was one of only seven “Leading States” getting an A. And Oklahoma achieved that distinction in a cost-conscious way. To establish online access, Oklahoma had start-up expenses of just $8,600, using existing staff, and annual operating costs of just $3,600. In comparison, another state listed start-up costs of $2.2 million and annual expenses of $400,000.
Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston L. Doerflinger said he was pleased his office’s efforts have left Oklahoma “among the nation’s leaders.” Oklahoma voters should feel the same.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, has gone from being an unknown candidate in a crowded primary a few years ago to a national figure.
Evidence of his growing influence can be seen in a recent profile published in Roll Call, a newspaper dedicated to congressional coverage. The article notes Lankford’s role as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee has made him a crucial link between House leadership and rank-and-file members.
That will give Lankford — and therefore, Oklahoma — considerable influence over future debates on immigration, transportation, and education.
Lankford’s demeanor is credited with building good relations in Congress while remaining true to conservative philosophy. “I want us to be known more for what we represent and what we stand for than the volume with which we say it,” Lankford said.
Oklahomans can be proud to have a congressman who proves influence is not incompatible with humility and thoughtfulness.
In Colorado, the legislature is weighing a bill that would prevent farmers from “docking” — cutting the tails of their cattle. The bill would only let veterinarians perform the procedure, using anesthesia. Debate over the measure raged for hours in a House committee.
Animal-rights groups want to limit docking, arguing among other things that it causes pain and removes cows’ built-in fly swatters. The Associated Press reports that the few farmers in Colorado who dock the traditional way insist it isn’t cruel.
We’re reminded of the flare-up at our Capitol a few years ago over equine dentists, called teeth floaters. A law passed in 2008 included a provision that made teeth floating a felony. The arrest in 2009 of a rodeo cowboy who also worked as a teeth floater got lawmakers’ attention, and the next year the law was changed after lengthy and often heated debate.
Horses have been a high-profile issue this year, too, with sharp disagreement over whether to allow slaughtering of those animals to resume in Oklahoma. And of course the state endured a knockdown, drag-out fight several years ago over cockfighting.
Furry or feathered, animals have a way of getting lawmakers fired up.
Why should unclassified state employees have to resign in order to run for public office? They shouldn’t, and a bill by state Rep. Donnie Condit would change the law that now requires them to do so.
House Bill 1238 is headed to the Senate after winning easy approval this week in the House.
The current law “is especially hard on candidates who are not elected, but are now out of a job,” said Condit, D-McAlester. He said the fact current law takes effect at the time of filing instead of at the time of election was probably an oversight by a previous Legislature.
Perhaps, but it’s about time the change is made. Provided state employees who want to run for office don’t conduct their campaigns while at work, there is no compelling reason not to change the law.
Ten public bodies in Oklahoma were applauded this week for the transparency of their websites.
A national nonprofit called Sunshine Review included the 10 in doling out its fourth annual Sunny Awards, which honor government entities “that make transparency a priority.” The Sunshine Review looked at more than 1,000 government websites and graded them against a 10-point checklist. In all, 247 received an award.
Those in Oklahoma were: the cities of Broken Arrow, Enid, Owasso, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman; Oklahoma, Tulsa and Wagoner counties, and Edmond Public Schools.
Congratulations to the winners, and here’s hoping they have more company from Oklahoma next year.
Workers’ compensation reform is often viewed as an issue important to a sliver of Oklahoma’s business community, but a source of indifference for most citizens. A new poll suggests that this may no longer be the case.
A SoonerPoll.com survey of likely Oklahoma voters showed 72.5 percent felt changes should be made to the current workers’ compensation system with two-thirds believing the current system hurts Oklahoma businesses. Only 8.7 percent disagreed with a potential change to an administrative-based system.
An outright majority of Democrats surveyed agreed that shifting to an administrative system could be beneficial.
Because the poll was commissioned by the State Chamber Research Foundation, some will question its findings. But it’s not unreasonable to think most Oklahomans, having lived their entire lives hearing of problems with the current work comp system, have concluded it’s time to junk it. Lawmakers should take note.