The “Occupy” movement has been in hibernation, no doubt sitting out the winter instead of sitting in tents in the cold. How we’ve all missed the bear cub-like antics of these playful folks. And it was such a mild winter! Spring is here and the movement will no doubt awaken. Even so, its mouthpieces have spent the winter in cozy offices, keeping the keyboards fired up. One of them, YES! Magazine’s Managing Editor Doug Pibel, outlined nine strategies to give more power to the people. One of them is to deploy a battalion of lawyers to sue big corporations for everything imaginable. Perhaps Pibel doesn’t read another magazine called Forbes. Its annual richest Americans list always contains numerous lawyers. They are the 1 percent! Behind every budding anarchy scheme is a desire to further enrich the trial bar.
Oklahoma City’s renaissance is gaining national attention. Along with Indianapolis and Tampa, we’re featured as a U.S. city “joining the big leagues” in the latest issue of World magazine. Economic and quality-of-life factors contribute to this designation. Our state capital boasts a high level of entrepreneurial activity combined with low unemployment and a low cost of living. And let’s not forget our exciting young NBA team, the Thunder. The article, contributed by Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, contrasts the city’s previous perception with its growing energy. “Not long ago Oklahoma City was just another small city in flyover country, perhaps best known as the site of the deadliest pre-9/11 terrorist attack in U.S. history, the 1995 bombing of a federal building,” Dutcher wrote. Out-of-state scouts are taking notice of our potential. Oklahoma City, says Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson, “could represent the future of America.”
Photo provided by Cooper Ross
Heard the joke about the Chevy Volt? It was subjected to a battery of tests and all of them came out negative. The electric car, a darling of the fossil fuel-averse Obama administration, didn’t quite go the way of Solyndra, another administration flight of fancy, but it has been put in neutral. General Motors suspended sales after a rash of bad news over battery fires and slumping sales. Not to worry: America’s first plug-in vehicle is a hit in Europe, where it was recently named Car of the Year. “Battery-operated cars are electrifying environmentalists, progressives and award-givers,” noted the New York Daily News. “The only ones who aren’t juiced about them, it seems, are autobuyers.” The Volt is so politically correct that you can legally drive one solo on California freeway lanes restricted to cars with multiple passengers. Thus you can beat the fossil fuelers to any fire sales disposing of Solyndra’s assets.
NATE BEELER/THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Like the Oscar nominees they helped produce, state film incentive programs are in the spotlight. Of the nine films contending for best picture, eight got government financial assistance — five via state programs and three via tax credits to film overseas. The odd film out happened to be the Academy’s favorite, “The Artist.” Stateline.org has reported on the tension over disclosing dollar amounts of incentives for individual productions. Taxpayers desire transparency; the film industry values privacy. States jockey to be the most lucrative sites in which to film, and Oklahoma’s role in the contest is up for consideration. With a Legislature eager to trim the supporting cast of tax credits and exemptions, our state’s $5 million rebate program could join other incentives on the chopping block. Its effectiveness does warrant a review. The enticement hasn’t proved strong enough for a slate of stories set in Oklahoma but filmed elsewhere. The most recent episode: Kevin Durant’s upcoming movie, “Thunderstruck,” was filmed primarily in Baton Rouge.
Although we normally try to stay out of the turnpike rivalry with Tulsa, we had to chuckle at CareerBliss.com’s recent survey of the happiest and unhappiest cities to work. Oklahoma City ranked No. 3 among its annual survey of the happiest cities for work, trailing only Miami, Fla., and Worcester, Mass. On the other end of the Turner Turnpike, Tulsa ranked No. 4 among the unhappiest cities for work. The worst cities for work list was topped by New Haven, Conn., followed by Dayton, Ohio, and Milwaukee. According to the website, thousands of employees in the happiest cities say they’re most satisfied with the people they work with, the way they work and the work that they do. Employees in the unhappiest cities want to see better growth opportunities, compensation and company culture. Tulsa, however, surpassed Oklahoma City in average salary, according to the website. Tulsa’s average salary was listed at $56,170 and Oklahoma City’s at $54,323.
One consequence of the Great Recession has been a lowering in construction costs. Tell that to New Yorkers. This week, auditors looking into the new World Trade Center said completing the tower will cost $14.8 billion — a stunning 35 percent more than the last estimate of $11 billion in 2008. Auditors said the Port Authority, which owns the site, has “insufficient cost controls and a lack of transparent and effective oversight” of the project. No kidding. Contrast that with construction of the Devon tower in Oklahoma City. The estimated cost was $750 million when the building design was unveiled in 2008. Now? “We have not revised that figure,” spokesman Chip Minty said.
Above: World Trade Center, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo)
Left: Devon tower, Feb. 1, 2012. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
When managing a tight budget, cutting unnecessary expenses is a good place to start. House Bill 3111, filed by state Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, would end the state government’s role in collecting dues for labor unions. Currently, state agencies and school boards use automatic payroll deductions for Oklahoma Public Employees Association membership dues and Oklahoma Education Association contributions. While processing the payroll deductions doesn’t cost the state millions, bank drafts and automatic credit card charges are two alternatives with zero cost to the state. “This modernizes state government and takes advantage of the advances in financial technology that will allow unions to continue to collect dues in an efficient manner without the State of Oklahoma paying to be the middle man,” Hickman said. Taxpayers should appreciate the prospect of anything free, and we hope this effort to join the 21st century finds favor with legislators.
A single adult with one child needs a “living wage” of $16.74 an hour in Oklahoma County, where the state’s Democratic Party organization is based. The party touts itself as “a voice for workers’ rights and respectable wages, at both the state and national levels.” So how much does the party pay its own employees? The lowest wage at party headquarters is $11.63 an hour, which is more than the “living wage” for a single adult but considerably less than the rate for a single adult with one child. Also, in a list of 22 occupations, only three are typically compensated at a lower rate than the party pays. The party seeks to offer “competitively-priced options” for employee insurance. Not only is there a disconnect between what the party pays and what it thinks others should pay, but it seems to like competition in the health insurance field — something that its all-out support for Obamacare doesn’t jibe with.
The criticism continues to roll in over President Obama’s decision last week scuttling (for now) construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile pipeline would move crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and would produce thousands of jobs along the way, including here in Oklahoma. In a memo to employees, Bill Klesse, CEO of Valero Energy, shared the statement that the company had issued to media after the decision. The statement called rejection of the plan “absurd” and said the administration’s policies would force companies such as Valero (which has a refinery in Ardmore) to buy more oil from sources outside the United States and Canada. It also said the decision “throws dirt into the face of our closest ally and largest trading partner.” In an aside to his employees, Klesse said the administration’s decision wasn’t about pipelines in potentially sensitive areas of the country. Instead, “This is politics at its worst.” Well said.
Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
The story of bankrupt solar company Solyndra keeps getting worse. Solyndra was an administration darling when the company opened — an example of green technology at its best. That attitude was reflected in a $535 million loan the government provided in 2009, despite indications that things weren’t going well. Solyndra eventually went belly up last year. But the waste continues. KCBS television in San Francisco recently filmed workers tossing new glass tubes used in solar panels into trash bins. The station reports that Solyndra paid at least $2 million for the specialized glass. According to court documents, the bankruptcy trustee said the glass was of “inconsequential value” because the cost of storing them was greater than their value. An employee for the company in charge of selling Solyndra’s assets said they did a thorough search for buyers, with no takers. But KCBS says the tubes weren’t included on the list of assets put up for sale at two auctions last year. The owner of a Las Vegas warehouse, who already was reselling Solyndra solar panels, told the station he would have bid on them. Maddening.