A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that only three states have a lower percentage of females in their legislatures than Oklahoma. Which means what, exactly?
To some, it means Oklahoma voters aren't as progressive as states that have a higher percentage of women in the legislature, such as Colorado and Vermont.
To others, it means Oklahoma is missing out on qualities women bring to the table that lead to things getting accomplished. “Things work better and more smoothly when there are more women involved,” state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, told Oklahoma Watch. “Compromise is more encouraged if more women are involved.” Those comments appear to be based on stereotypes contradicted by the records of many successful female politicians (see Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Pelosi, etc.).
We see the report as evidence only that comparatively speaking, not as many women in this state choose to run for the legislative offices. Oklahomans will vote for the candidate they believe is best suited for the job, regardless of gender. Heck, we had two women seeking the governor's seat in 2010.
Virgin was more on point when she said it's difficult to find women who are willing to run. When that begins to change, then the makeup of our Legislature will change, too.
Why not Oklahoma?
In January, Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, publicly invited gunmaker Remington to relocate from New York to Oklahoma following New York's passage of a ban on so-called assault rifles. Kirby suggested the company could receive Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act incentives and a five-year property tax exemption for manufacturers, and noted recent lawsuit reforms and potential workers' compensation reforms could make Oklahoma an ideal place for the business. Many dismissed the invite as a stunt, but maybe Kirby was on to something. A manufacturer of Colt rifles is now moving to Breckenridge, Texas. The CEO of Colt Manufacturing in Connecticut has suggested the company may relocate after passage of extremely restrictive gun laws. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry has reportedly sent letters to several gun companies, encouraging relocation to Texas. If that approach is succeeding in Texas, local officials may soon ask, “Why not in Oklahoma?”
During the debate over legalizing horse slaughter in Oklahoma, proponents argued that slaughter was needed in part to reduce the abandonment and starvation of old horses. Animal-rights activists were dismissive of those claims, saying there were alternatives to both horse slaughter and starvation, and implying the abandonment argument was a red herring. Sadly, evidence continues to mount making clear that mistreatment of horses is far too common. Near Wewoka, a woman has been arrested for animal abuse after officials found between 20 and 30 dead horses on her property, and another 64 that were malnourished. This is the second time Carolyn Vaughn has faced animal cruelty charges. Ironically, Vaughn claimed she was running an animal rescue operation. “Saving” those horses from slaughter didn't save them from either suffering or a miserable death. Horse slaughter may not be ideal, but was Vaughn's horse rescue mission really any better?
Two Oklahoma City schools have made TheBestSchools.org's list of the nation's 50 best schools. One school cherry picks students. The other is a charter school. Classen School of Advanced Studies and Harding Charter Preparatory High School both made the list. The website's criteria for rankings include schools' test scores, reputations with recruiting colleges, faculty quality and student satisfaction surveys. Classen is a public, magnet high school. Students apply/audition and must pass that screening process to attend. At Harding, a charter school, TheBestSchools.org notes, “Despite Harding's excellent reputation and rankings, there are no requirements as to which students can attend. There are no tuition fees or entry tests required.” Uninformed critics like to claim charter schools' achievements are based on “cherry picking” students. Harding's success disproves that claim. And while both schools deserve praise, it's worth noting that Classen, with its student-screening process, ranked 36th nationally. Harding ranked 23rd.
Fallin in good shape for 2014
Heading into the 2014 elections, Gov. Mary Fallin is the second-best positioned governor facing re-election in the nation, according to the FiveThirtyEight blog at The New York Times. Based on the three most recent polls, the blog places Fallin's job approval rating at 65 percent and disapproval at only 23 percent. Only one governor potentially running for re-election has a better net job approval. That may surprise some Democrats who hoped Fallin's rejection of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion would provide them leverage with voters. If anything, that decision may have helped Fallin. Even if her numbers dip, it may not mean much given Oklahoma's Republican leanings. Proof of that conclusion can be seen in Illinois, where Gov. Pat Quinn is the second-most unpopular governor up for re-election in 2014, yet FiveThirtyEight notes he “is still considered a favorite to win re-election” because of that state's heavy Democratic tilt.
700 and counting
Every dedication of a Habitat for Humanity home is special, because they offer hope and promise to the occupants. Some are milestone events, as was the case Wednesday when Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 700th house. The new owner of the home in Yukon is Lisa Sumner, who moved in with her two sons. “A few years ago I was put in a position to make a decision for my family, and it left me with two small children and no place to go that I could afford,” Sumner said. “Habitat has just been such a blessing.” An ecumenical Christian ministry, Habitat for Humanity partners with donors and homeowners (they help provide the labor) to be sold to low-income people at no profit with zero-interest loans. The central Oklahoma affiliate began in Oklahoma City in 1986, and CEO Ann Felton Gilliland expects the organization to reach 1,000 homes “in the twinkling of an eye.” Amen to that.
Nancy Zorn, 79, of Warr Acres used a bicycle lock to attach herself this week to a piece of equipment being used to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Hughes County. Zorn was jailed when she refused to leave. A group that opposes the pipeline quoted the woman as saying she couldn't sit still while “toxic tar sands are pumped down from Canada into our communities.” Zorn's hope was that she might inspire others to join the fight. She shouldn't hold her breath. Oklahomans strongly favor construction of the Keystone pipeline. They understand that building the pipeline means jobs, and that worries about pipeline safety are red herrings offered by anti-fossil fuel zealots. Zorn is left with a story to tell her grandchildren, but not much else. The pipeline is coming, and it should.