• Lawmakers must not back down from Oklahoma Capitol repair

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 26, 2014

    AFTER years of talking about the need to repair the Oklahoma Capitol, the process is finally nearing a point of action — actual repair. This is good, although long overdue, news. Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction has been selected to perform up to $25 million in repairs to the Capitol’s exterior. The contract won’t be officially awarded until early next year, after the state receives proceeds from a $120 million bond sale. That delay is just one of many encountered as officials have sought to advance repair efforts in recent years. The biggest impediment has been state lawmakers’ unwillingness to fund repair.

  • Complaints about Land Run re-enactments are overwrought

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Dec 26, 2014

    OKLAHOMA City School Board member Bob Hammack has it right on the district’s decision to find alternatives to 1889 Land Run re-enactments. “This is political correctness run amok,” Hammack said, “promulgated by a handful of people who certainly don’t represent the majority of Oklahomans who are very proud of our history.” Where school matters are concerned, the majority opinion sometimes doesn’t matter: Look at what happens when a student is offended by the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • An eternal light, burning bright on a midnight clear

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 25, 2014

    NO man ever spoke like him. He came from out of nowhere, or so it seemed. He had no national name recognition, no family connections, no rich uncle. Yet he built a coalition that remains today. He was enormously popular at times, but scorned and criticized at others. He was plain spoken, spoke from the heart, hardly took time for his own needs, needed little and provided much. He pulled unspeakable joy out of the bellies of the downcast yet stuffed self-righteousness down the throats of the sanctimonious. He turned the tables on convention. He cast out false assumptions, sickened the establishment and established hope for the sick. Were he with us today, in the flesh, liberals would love his compassion but

  • Oklahoma lawmaker's hiring proposal has potential to add to bureaucaracy

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Dec 25, 2014

    THIS qualifies as a sentence we never expected to write, but a Republican legislator is worried that government is too streamlined. Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has filed legislation to make it harder for statewide officeholders to fill positions at the agencies they head. At best, this legislation is an over-reaction to an isolated incident. At worst, it facilitates legislative micromanagement that will render agencies even less responsive to public needs. Under Standridge’s bill, agencies led by statewide officeholders would face a hiring freeze from the time of candidate filing until the start of the officeholder’s next term.

  • After getting green light from judge, Oklahoma must get future executions right

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    A decision by a federal judge in Oklahoma City has the state Department of Corrections moving forward with preparations to execute a man on Jan. 15. It will be the first execution carried out in Oklahoma in nine months — if it happens, which isn’t a certainty. Attorneys for 21 death row inmates who sued the state plan to take Monday’s ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. It’s unknown how soon that court might take up the case, which stems from the mishandled execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. In that instance, Lockett didn’t die until 43 minutes after the execution began. In the time before the blinds to the execution chamber were closed, Lockett could be seen writhing on the gurney,

  • Ruling regarding uninsured drivers is a loss for Oklahomans

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

    TRIAL lawyers sometimes stretch hyperbole to the breaking point, but it takes a special kind of chutzpah when one of them suggests that he’s doing us a favor by financially rewarding uninsured drivers. In 2011, the Legislature passed a law banning uninsured drivers from collecting so-called “pain and suffering” damages if they’re in an accident. The law did allow those drivers to recover actual damages, such as property damage, medical costs and lost income. In short, an uninsured driver who gets T-boned at an intersection will be paid to replace his car, compensated for any resulting hospital bills, and made whole for time away from his job.

  • How long before Oklahoma City abortion doctor gets sanctioned?

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

    There may come a time when Naresh Patel isn’t allowed to practice medicine in Oklahoma. That time isn’t now, however, which has some officials angry. It’s easy to see why. Patel, 62, operates an abortion clinic in Warr Acres, where he was arrested earlier this month after allegedly providing abortion-inducing drugs to three undercover investigators posing as patients. None of the three was pregnant. Patel allegedly conducted ultrasounds, told the women they were expecting, gave them RU-486 pills and charged them $620 each. Last week Patel was charged with three counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, and with a felony racketeering charge.

  • 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.