Top Stories

  • Growing use of telemedicine helps Oklahoma deliver mental health care

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Aug 1, 2014

    STATISTICS related to mental health in Oklahoma are discouraging. Turning them around is a daunting task. Telemedicine is helping make a dent. Oklahoma is a big state that can use more doctors in every field. Certainly that’s the case in mental health. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation placed Oklahoma among the bottom 10 states for the population’s access to mental health professionals (Kaiser found only one state, Rhode Island, with enough mental health workers). However, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services makes considerable use of video-conferencing technology to deliver services across the state. The agency oversees 141 telemedicine sites through its Oklahoma TeleHealth

  • Paul Ryan presents reasonable, conscientious plan to fight poverty

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 31, 2014

    U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan wants Washington to try something different to help Americans who live in poverty. His sensible welfare reform plan is one that conservatives ought to embrace. That doesn’t mean they will. The proposal unveiled late last week is revenue neutral, which helps explain why Democrats didn’t immediately dismiss it but also why some conservative groups that demand less government spending have been muted in their response. Ryan, R-Wis., would like to see 11 federal antipoverty programs consolidated into “Opportunity Grants” that states could use to fit their needs. Those requesting help would have to meet work requirements and could collect benefits for a set amount of time. Washington Post

  • Ethics issues muddled in Tulsa County DA race

    Published: Thu, Jul 31, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Supreme Court says state Rep. Fred Jordan is eligible to run for Tulsa County district attorney. This is an instance where the letter of the law may have been upheld, but citizens may reasonably suspect the spirit of the law is being violated. Article V, Section 23, of the Oklahoma Constitution reads in part: “No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any office or commission in the State, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his term of office…” Two of the three candidates who filed to run for Tulsa County district attorney are members of the Legislature: Jordan, R-Jenks, and Sen. Brian

  • Smart meter health, privacy claims out of sync with the truth

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 30, 2014

    OTHER than its love affair with Obamacare, it’s sometimes hard to tell what the AARP is for. We know all too well what the organization is against. It’s always against rate hikes sought by regulated utilities such as OG&E and PSO, Oklahoma’s largest providers of electricity. So it was no surprise that AARP is leading the charge against PSO’s plan to put smart meters on the homes of customers. PSO is seeking $3.11 per month from residential customers to recover the costs of installing more than 500,000 smart meters in its service territory, which includes the Tulsa and Lawton areas. AARP’s opposition is based primarily on the rate increase.

  • Medicaid expansion not a quick fix for mental health services

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014

    RECENT news stories that underscore Oklahoma’s poor mental health statistics have turned up the volume on calls for the state to expand Medicaid. Additional funding would certainly help, but it’s a stretch to suggest that Medicaid expansion is a panacea. Oklahoma has gotten where it is today as a result of legislators treating mental health with a shrug, year after year. In this respect Oklahoma is no different than most states, which also are scrambling for solutions. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from serious mental illness. Oklahoma has nearly 33,000 adults diagnosed with untreated severe bipolar disorder, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

  • Impact of term limits often overstated

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014

    TO critics, legislative terms limits have devastated Oklahoma’s political system by reducing institutional memory among lawmakers, generating high turnover and increasing the clout of lobbyists. New research by the Oklahoma Policy Institute undermines these claims. In 1990, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that limited lawmakers to serving no more than 12 years in the state House and/or Senate combined. The clock started ticking in 1992, so 2004 was the first year that lawmakers were forced out of office by term limits. OK Policy has collected and analyzed data on the years of service of Oklahoma legislators going back to 1978. Its findings will surprise many. In 1978, the average tenure

  • Rob Neu set to tackle major challenges in Oklahoma City Public Schools

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 28, 2014

    ROB Neu, superintendent of the Oklahoma City school district since July 1, is days away from the start of the 2014-15 school year. With any beginning there’s hope for the future. Neu’s refreshing attitude provides reason for cautious optimism. In a meeting last week with The Oklahoman’s editorial board, Neu discussed his efforts to address logistical challenges in the district as well as set aspirational goals. One immediate problem is the challenge of filling teacher vacancies, which recently totaled 148. Currently, individual principals oversee hiring. Neu plans to centralize hiring in a district human resources office and shift the primary focus of principals to instructional leadership. He also vows the teacher

  • With wind farms, property rights issues deserve careful review

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 28, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Corporation Commission is in the early stages of addressing a thorny issue: At what point does economic activity on one piece of property infringe upon the rights of neighboring property owners? At issue is whether the state should impose new regulations on wind turbines. This issue warrants careful review without a rush to judgment. For many property owners in rural areas, leasing their land to wind power companies provides additional income, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life. Few would condemn those who make money through honest means. In most cases, such leases would simply be viewed as a transaction that mutually benefits both parties. The problem with wind turbines, however, is that

  • Highway funding sure to remain a dominant issue in the years ahead

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 27, 2014

    A graphic image of fuel consumption by type of vehicle bears a strange resemblance to geological strata, from which the fuel originates. Layer upon layer, the graphic shows the dips and swells of fuel consumption starting in 1995, which was two years after federal fuel taxes were last increased. Fuel tax receipts relate directly to the dips and swells of road and bridge conditions because the Highway Trust Fund depends on the sediment of steady deposits, which in turn depends on gasoline consumption levels. The trust fund’s solvency is an ongoing issue, with layer upon layer of proposed long-term solutions, quick fixes and political posturing.

  • Compassion central to Oklahoma City's homeless strategies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jul 27, 2014

    MORE American cities are trying to alleviate problems associated with homelessness by passing ordinances that crack down on the homeless, USA Today reported recently. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty said that more than half the 187 cities it surveyed have laws that restrict or prohibit sitting or lying down in public. That’s a 43 percent increase since 2011. Laws that prohibit living in vehicles have increased by 119 percent. Dan Straughan, executive director of Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance, read the story and posted it to his Facebook page. Why? “Mainly to say the great thing about working in Oklahoma City on these kinds of issues is that we just don’t do that.” Oklahoma City has an

  • Scissortales: Oklahoma's three “national parks”

    The Oklahoma Editorials | Published: Sat, Jul 26, 2014

    MORE than 1.1 million visitors spent $17.2 million and supported 176 jobs at Oklahoma’s three national parks in 2013. Didn’t know Oklahoma had any national parks? We don’t, at least not by that name. The above figures from the National Park Service relate to NPS-affiliated sites in Cheyenne, the Sulphur area and Oklahoma City. The first is a national battlefield historic site, the second is a national recreation area and the third is a national memorial. Only the second comes close to being a park in the traditional sense. Every state in the nation except Delaware has an NPS-affiliated site, but only about half the states have an actual national park.

  • Study shows right to work aids economic growth

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 25, 2014

    IN 2001, voters made Oklahoma a right-to-work state and ended compulsory unionism as a condition of employment. Evidence continues to mount validating the wisdom of that decision. In a report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Richard K. Vedder and Jonathan Robe conclude that right-to-work laws “add demonstrably to the material quality of people’s lives.” The apparent benefits of right-to-work laws are many. The authors note people have been migrating “in large numbers” from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work states. Economic growth is stronger in most right-to-work states. Personal incomes increase after passage of right-to-work laws, even after adjusting for “the substantial population growth that

  • Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission must conduct its work properly

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jul 25, 2014

    IT never ceases to amaze us how many public bodies seem to have no apparent interest in abiding by, or full awareness of, the state’s Open Meeting Act. The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission provides the latest example. Lawmakers created the commission in 2013 as part of a badly needed overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system. This new administrative system eventually will replace a court-based system that’s been used for decades to handle claims filed by injured workers. The governor appoints, with state Senate confirmation, the three members of the commission. By statute, all three must have experience in the workers’ compensation field.

  • GOP in Oklahoma neglecting pocketbook issues

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 24, 2014

    A new Rasmussen Reports poll is getting attention because it shows incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin drawing just 45 percent support in her re-election bid. But a more important finding in the poll is that Oklahomans don’t feel good about the economy. Rassmussen found that just 15 percent of Oklahoma voters rate the economy as good or excellent, while 44 percent consider it in poor shape. In similar fashion, an Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey found Oklahomans are less optimistic about the economy than their national counterparts. There’s an obvious link between Fallin’s surprising standing and economic pessimism. Voters apparently feel Oklahoma’s political leaders have ignored dinner-table issues.

  • Pushing ahead with the work of educating Oklahoma's children

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jul 24, 2014

    THE debate over education reform doesn’t always capture the work happening at the community level to improve learning opportunities for children. We were given several reminders of that statement in recent days. There’s the story of Edgemere Elementary, which was once on the brink of closure but is now making a transformational change to improve the lives of students and families. Edgemere is the Oklahoma City school district’s first community school, with plans to provide extra services and support for families, aided by community partners. Sunbeam Family Services will provide a mental health counselor. Variety Care is helping the school set up a health clinic. Many more partners are in the pipeline to support

  • Gov. Mary Fallin looks to put distance between herself and Oklahoma schools superintendent

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 23, 2014

    MARY Fallin has never lost an election and is expected to keep that spotless record intact in November when she seeks a second term as governor. To be on the safe side, though, Fallin is putting as much distance as possible between herself and state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi. Barresi and Fallin have backed many of the same education reform ideas since the two won their respective posts in November 2010. Fallin has called repeatedly for ways to improve Oklahoma education. In her State of the State speech in January, she noted the importance of making sure third-graders are ready to move on when the time comes. “Too often, we set up children for failure by sending them on to higher grades without the reading skills

  • EPA regulations undermine 'clean air' rationale

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jul 23, 2014

    NEW “clean air” regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency have been rightly derided as part of the Obama administration’s war on coal. But a new analysis indicates those regulations are arbitrary. And it suggests, ironically, that some states are being punished for having already moved away from coal. Writing at The Washington Post, Philip Wallach, a fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, and Alex Abdun-Nabi, an intern in the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management, conclude, “States that have developed natural gas capacity are effectively penalized relative to those that have not, as the EPA expects them to achieve high utilization of their existing and

  • Oklahoma Democratic gubernatorial candidate's education plan doesn't add up

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jul 22, 2014

    POLITICS inevitably generates its share of flimflam, but campaign season puts it on steroids. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman’s “education plan” is the latest example. According to some analyses, Oklahoma funding for schools declined roughly $200 million between the 2008 and 2014 budget years, due to the national recession. Those analyses are misleading because they apparently don’t account for all sources of school funding. While education funding in the state budget drafted by lawmakers has fallen, schools also get hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked money provided outside the appropriations process. Also, the strong growth of local tax receipts, which are a major funding source for Oklahoma

  • Will push for legalization of pot aid Oklahoma U.S. Senate candidate's cause?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 21, 2014

    STATE Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, hopes to become Oklahoma’s next U.S. senator even as she’s hitched her political wagon to the cause of marijuana legalization. We’ll soon know if Johnson’s fellow Democrats believe marijuana is the path to renewed electoral success in Oklahoma. Supporters have begun gathering signatures to place the proposed State Question 773 on the ballot. The measure would legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana for personal use and legalize possession of three ounces for “medical” use. It’s actually the second marijuana petition underway. Another one, launched by Oklahomans for Health, would legalize marijuana for supposed medical use (although it defines “medical”

  • Dam safety is a legitimate component of public safety

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jul 21, 2014

    THROUGH the heat of brutal summers and the paucity of rainfall, the focus on dams hasn’t been the dams themselves but on what’s behind them. Water levels dominate any attention paid to lakes and ponds. When levels fall, worry sets in about the ability to supply water to cities and farmers, and to offer recreational opportunities. For some state officials and professional engineers, though, water level isn’t the main focus. It’s the dams. This is something the rest of us take for granted, especially when rainfall is normal or lower. It was far above normal 125 years ago this summer in Johnstown, Penn., site of the deadliest dam failure in American history.