COME Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council will have two new faces around the horseshoe. We welcome John A. Pettis Jr. and James Greiner to what is a usually harmonious but occasionally cacophonous process of governing a growing, increasingly diversified city.
Pettis and Greiner ousted incumbents to claim seats for Ward 7 and Ward 1. Gone are veteran councilmen Skip Kelly and Gary Marrs. Kelly's personal problems no doubt played a role in his defeat. Allegations of driving under the influence have dogged him; even had he won, Kelly might have had to leave office if a pending court ruling goes against him.
In Ward 1, the situation was different. Marrs is an outstanding councilman but was outworked by Greiner. At 32, the challenger has boundless enthusiasm for retail politics — knocking on doors, connecting with voters, projecting a positive attitude. This boundless enthusiasm will serve him well on the council and in representing the sprawling northwest Oklahoma City ward for the princely sum of $12,000 a year.
Overall it wasn't a bad day for incumbents here and in other parts of the state. Two Oklahoma City Council incumbents didn't draw opponents and automatically got another four-year term. Tuesday's results set the stage for an interesting mayoral race next year if incumbent Mick Cornett seeks another term and faces council maverick Ed Shadid, who appears set to make a run.
Tuesday's results are no indicator for what could happen in 2014. Shadid's appeal in Ward 2 is unlikely to translate to a citywide mandate. Then again, anyone who counted out Pettis and Greiner because they faced “popular” incumbents now knows that holding an office isn't a ticket to keeping it.
Great news from GE
“Our shingle is out today. We're hiring.” Those were the words of Mark Little, chief technology officer for General Electric, as GE announced that it plans to build a research center in the Oklahoma City area focusing on the oil and natural gas industry. This is great news for the metro — the addition of at least 125 well-paying, high-tech engineering jobs. These are the sorts of job every state covets, and Oklahoma continues to add them — the pending closure of Boeing's plant in Wichita, Kan., is expected to bring about 800 engineers here. The announcement by GE also underlines the ongoing importance of STEM coursework (science, technology, engineering, math) in our high schools and colleges, in Oklahoma and across the country.
Questions that matter
The aftermath of the Newtown shooting unfortunately included erroneous reporting from some media outlets. NBC, CNN and The New York Times all issued reports indicating that a rifle was found in the shooter's car or only handguns were used in the killing spree. Those reports were later proven false, but some people continue to believe a rifle was not used in the shooter's rampage and cite this “fact” when opposing gun-control efforts. But this detail is largely irrelevant. Whether done with a rifle or handgun, the killing of 20 children and six adults is a tragedy. The important questions to ask in any resulting gun control debate isn't what type of gun was used at Newtown, but whether proposed remedies are constitutional and whether proposed gun regulations would make citizens safer — or actually place them in greater danger by leaving them defenseless.
Raise the limit
Every year the U.S. government makes a certain number of visas available for highly skilled immigrants. Every year the demand far exceeds the supply. It's long past time Congress expand the cap. Presently 65,000 visas are given to high-tech companies that want to hire skilled workers from other parts of the world. Another 20,000 are available for foreign workers who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. university. The Homeland Security Department began taking applications Monday for this year's visas. Demand was expected to outstrip supply in just a matter of days. The Associated Press noted that political support has grown in recent years for proposals that would increase the number of available visas, and they're now a big part of immigration reform talks. Here's hoping the politicians get this one right — the more bright people we have working in America, the better.
An idea whose time has come?
After years of debating the idea, lawmakers are giving another go to legislation that would target those driving without insurance. Senate Bill 691 would prevent uninsured drivers from recovering any monetary damages after auto accidents. The bill passed the Senate 31-9 and just passed a House committee on a 10-6 vote. State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said the idea behind the bill is simple: “If you're not participating in the system that you're required to by law, then you shouldn't benefit from it.” A 2011 report from the Insurance Research Council says about 24 percent of Oklahoma's drivers were uninsured in 2009, the latest year of data. Yet those drivers can file claims on others' insurance, even as their own actions drive up the cost of others' insurance. We suspect most Oklahomans will like this bill. Perhaps this will be the year it finally becomes law.
Money well spent
Liberals often appear surprised that so many citizens are skeptical of the efficacy of government intervention in the economy. Apparently, many Americans pay attention to results while many liberals mostly focus on intentions. Consider the famed Obama stimulus plan. The Weekly Standard notes a government website has detailed the results of a stimulus grant awarded to Indiana University to study “Barriers to Correct Condom Use.” The study was to be “one of the first to examine under controlled conditions the role of cognitive and affective factors and condom skills in explaining condom use problems in young, heterosexual adult men.” The description alone will cause many to consider it a waste of time and money — and they're right. The study spent $423,500 and created no jobs whatsoever. Yet somewhere we suspect there are liberals who remain baffled that anyone would think this wasn't money well spent.
Out of focus, again
Rutgers University officials knew months ago that men's basketball coach Mike Rice had gone over the line in the treatment of his players. In November, the athletic director was given a videotape of Rice kicking players, throwing basketballs at them and using an anti-gay slur. The AD decided in December, with the school president's blessing, to fine Rice and suspend him for a few games. Only after the video aired this week on ESPN did Rutgers decide to act, by firing Rice. The athletic director, Tim Pernetti, needed to be shown the door, too, and finally he stepped down Friday. Originally it was reported Pernetti's job was safe because he had helped get Rutgers admitted to the mighty Big Ten Conference — thus securing additional millions in annual revenue for the school. Never let it be said that big-time college athletics programs don't have their priorities in order.
We've often scoffed at those who claim having to present identification when voting is somehow an unreasonable, monstrous burden. Given how often people have to show photo ID today for all sorts of activities, it's hardly unprecedented. In fact, many establishments selling beer and liquor now card everyone who enters — and we do mean everyone. Blockheads, a Manhattan bar recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, has a zero-tolerance ID policy. Senior citizens buying a drink have to show ID, just like a 21-year-old. A bartender at High West Distillery in Salt Lake City's airport once carded a 96-year-old customer. If retirees are able to survive an ID requirement to ensure the legality of beer purchases, why should anyone object to ensuring the validity of the voting process?