• School funding mistake produces politically induced amnesia

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    A multidecade mistake may have cost some schools millions of dollars. Yet some education officials, normally eager to assign blame, appear unable to do so now perhaps due to some politically induced amnesia. Under the funding formula for common education, state aid is slightly reduced for districts with substantial local property tax collections. This is done to provide a more equitable combined allocation. A 1992 law says such offsetting should not occur for a portion of tax collections on commercial and agricultural properties where the assessment ratio exceeds 11 percent. That hasn’t happened.

  • Low voter turnout in Oklahoma doesn't mean democracy is 'broken'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Dec 22, 2014

    EXTAORDINARILY low voter turnout in the November elections remains a subject of concern among some policy experts. Oklahoma Policy Institute executive director David Blatt takes the issue particularly seriously. “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our democracy is broken,” Blatt said in a news release accompanying rollout of an OK Policy report that examines reasons for the lack of voter participation. The report identifies a range of possible reforms to promote increased engagement in the future. The assessment somewhat inflates the severity of the problem. Low voter turnout is hardly to be celebrated, but neither is it indicative of a “broken” democracy. For that matter, high voter turnout doesn’t

  • Oklahoma mental health agency doing good work, but much more needed

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 21, 2014

    Lawmakers should note that funding is being well spent

  • Obama-style nation-building leaves much to be desired

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 21, 2014

    The world is no safer, and the U.S. is mired in slow growth

  • ScissorTales: Downtown Oklahoma City continues to shine

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Dec 20, 2014

    THE Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer summed things up pretty well in his weekly column Tuesday: “These are heady days for downtown.” Indeed they are. The city’s core is bustling during this holiday season, and there are bigger things ahead — specifically, five high-rise towers to be built in the near future. Lackmeyer reported Sunday that Hines, a Houston-based company, wants to build a 27-story office building at Sheridan and Hudson. Plans were presented this week to the city’s Downtown Design Review Committee. Meantime, Chicago-based Clayco is planning a 25-story corporate headquarters for OGE Energy Corp., and a 26-story residential tower next door. Clayco also intends to build a multitenant office tower and

  • Oklahoma Supreme Court slams brakes on gaudy attorney fees

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    Amid the many rulings handed down this week by Oklahoma Supreme Court was a stinging rebuke of an attempt by plaintiffs’ attorneys to exorbitantly fatten their pockets. The court’s opinion should be required reading for law school students. The court struck down a Pottawatomie County District Court judge’s finding that attorneys in a class action against Volkswagen of America Inc. should get $7.2 million in fees. A Shawnee law firm was involved, along with firms in South Carolina, Ohio and Florida, in a case that never went to trial and sought compensation for Volkswagen Jetta owners over front spoilers that would catch on curbs or wheel-stops.

  • As poll shows, most Americans OK with interrogation practices

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    ALTHOUGH this revelation may shock some activists, a new poll from the Pew Research Center shows strong support for the CIA interrogation methods that were recently portrayed as torture in a report issued by U.S. Senate Democrats. But news out of Pakistan this week shows why Americans remain supportive of using harsh methods to thwart terrorism. In the aftermath of 9/11, the CIA was authorized to use tough interrogation methods in limited circumstances when seeking information on potential terrorist attacks. Those methods included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and chaining prisoners to walls. That move wasn’t controversial at the time (it actually had strong support from many congressional

  • Latest texting concern has some real legs

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    For the past few years we’ve tapped an endless number of keyboard keys trying to make the case that Oklahoma needs to stop letting motorists text and drive at the same time. So far, lawmakers have hit the delete button on the idea. So this remains one of just six states that allow texting while driving. As Oklahoma lags, other government bodies are jumping ahead to the next big safety issue involving mobile phones. It’s texting while walking. Yes, distracted pedestrians pose a safety risk to themselves by their inability to realize that doing two things at once isn’t always a good thing. Stateline.org reports that pedestrian injuries due to cellphone use are up 35 percent since 2010.

  • Selective outrage evident over police shootings

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

    JUST as winter follows autumn, political exploitation inevitably follows tragedies. It happened after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Moore tornadoes, the Newtown school shootings — you name it and politicians and/or special interest groups will exploit a tragedy for political gain. It’s occurring now with two high-profile exonerations of white police officers who took the lives of black criminals this summer. What happened in Missouri and New York has not only unleashed protests. It’s also spawned maneuvering among politicians and policymakers to not let a tragedy go to waste. The Missouri case again exposed the polarization of the races on how they view law enforcement. It also led to claims that local police

  • Gradual improvement seen as a result of Oklahoma school grading system

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

    IN the time since Oklahoma started issuing A-F letter grades for individual school sites, some administrators and teacher union officials have decried the effort, saying the system is arbitrary and implying that schools can do little to improve their grades. New data released by the state Department of Education rebuts those claims. In Oklahoma, schools needing the most intensive help to raise student achievement are labeled “Priority Schools.” Generally, these are some of the state’s most academically struggling sites. The state Office of School Turnaround partners with Priority Schools to help develop plans of improvement and also provides resources and support services.

  • Road funding merits protection from Oklahoma lawmakers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 17, 2014

    NEXT year’s state budget picture is getting clearer — and not in a good way. A tight budget year likely lies ahead. State Finance and Revenue Secretary Preston Doerflinger has predicted “a flat budget at best” and perhaps “some slight reductions at agencies” based on revenue trends. Because lawmakers tapped many one-time sources of cash last year, they essentially start out in a hole this year. House Democratic Leader Scott Inman says legislators face an effective shortfall of around $400 million. Thus, to increase spending in one area, lawmakers will have to make cuts in another. Some officials have been giving lip service to enacting teacher pay raises and increasing school funding this year.

  • Until personal behavior changes, Oklahoma's health outcomes will not

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    SOME state agency jobs are difficult and never seem to get any easier because of funding woes. This is certainly true for Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton. And for Terri White, who runs the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. And some agency jobs are hard not just because of funding but also because of poor lifestyles. This describes the job of state Health Commissioner Terry Cline. Oklahoma has long been in the bottom 10 states as measured by health outcomes. Gains have been made in recent years, but it always seems to be a case of taking one step forward and two steps back. Too many Oklahomans are taking too many puffs on cigarettes, a prime reason why the state’s

  • Oklahomans are right to oppose federal spending increases

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Oklahoma got nearly $38 billion in federal payments in the 2013 fiscal year. On a per capita basis, Oklahoma’s share of U.S. government payments ranked in the middle of the 50-state pack and was actually slightly below the U.S. average. Nonetheless, such reports inevitably lead liberal critics to claim voters in conservative states such as Oklahoma are “hypocrites” for opposing increased federal spending even as federal funding goes to their state. Those arguments are bogus. For one thing, conservatives don’t oppose all federal spending. Defense spending, in particular, receives strong support.

  • Bond issues offer responsible way to address Oklahoma infrastructure needs

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    PRESTON Doerflinger, Oklahoma’s secretary of finance, said a few things recently that lawmakers should heed when they begin their work during the 2015 legislative session. In speaking to The Oklahoman about the state budget year ahead — it figures to be difficult once again, particularly if oil prices remain low — Doerflinger said that issuing bonds are a good vehicle to funding some needed projects. “Bonds are an appropriate way to fund some of these projects to free up money for some of these other areas,” Doerflinger said. Those aren’t the words of a tax-and-spend liberal. Doerflinger is solidly conservative by any yardstick. He’s just as concerned as any member of the Legislature about the state being

  • In Oklahoma, falling oil prices no cause for Christmas cheer

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 14, 2014

    WE started an editorial in late August by asking, “Whither oil prices?” Knowing what we know today, perhaps we should have said, “Wither oil prices?” Not that long ago, as ISIS forces were advancing on Baghdad, the price of the international benchmark Brent crude oil hit $115.71 a barrel. There was talk of an oil price shock triggered not only by unrest in the Mideast but economic growth forecasts in China and political instability in Africa. The assumption was that prices would continue to climb. That was the summer of 2014. Winter oil prices? On Monday, Morgan Stanley analysts predicted 2015 Brent prices could go as low as $53 a barrel.

  • Oklahoma abortion doctor's case highlights need for oversight

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Dec 14, 2014

    ABORTION-rights supporters often claim that clinic regulations represent a “war on women.” But the arrest of an abortion doctor in Warr Acres demonstrates that, without oversight, some individuals working in the abortion industry are capable of exploiting and harming women to an astounding degree. Dr. Nareshkumar G. Patel was arrested last week for fraud after investigators found he was telling women they were pregnant when they weren’t, and then giving them abortion-inducing drugs. An undercover operation has been ongoing since June. Three women, posing as patients, separately visited Patel’s clinic over the course of several months.

  • ScissorTales: Not much effort needed to predict U.S. House results

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sat, Dec 13, 2014

    AN election reform advocacy group can’t tell us who will be elected president in two years or even who the Republican and Democratic nominees will be. But that same group is confident in saying it already knows the outcome of 2016 elections for more than 85 percent of U.S. House seats. “Whole regions of the country are politically dead.” That’s the blunt statement of FairVote, whose agenda includes letting 16-year-olds vote, keeping voters registered even if they haven’t voted in years and passage of a “right to vote” constitutional amendment. FairVote says 373 of 435 House districts are “so deeply entrenched” for one political party that the incumbents have already won the next election if they choose to

  • Oklahoma education review needs broader focus

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 12, 2014

    Recent online survey one-sided

  • In farewell remarks, Tom Coburn leaves his U.S. Senate colleagues with much to think about

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Thu, Dec 11, 2014

    Tom Coburn gave his farewell remarks to his U.S. Senate colleagues Thursday. As you might expect, Coburn, R-Muskogee, gave those in the Senate chamber plenty to think about. Coburn, who is leaving office with two years remaining on his second six-year term, became emotional at times during his 30-minute speech, as when he mentioned at the outset “the great privilege that has been granted to me by the people of Oklahoma.” Another time came when he mentioned his father, whom he said wouldn’t recognize this country if he were alive today.

  • Oklahoma City protest of officer-involved shooting misguided

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 11, 2014

    “STOP the killing.” This was among the messages on signs carried Tuesday by protesters upset about an officer-involved shooting a few nights earlier in Oklahoma City. Ire over police behavior that’s prompted protests and marches in other parts of the country has apparently found its way to the metro. Yet it appears that local protesters are reaching in this case. The shooting Sunday night of Jerry Nowlin by two police officers came after Nowlin failed to immediately pull over during a traffic stop. He pointed a firearm at police once he finally did exit the vehicle. The weapon and drugs were found at the scene. These details were provided by the police department and thus are tainted in the view of the protesters.