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OKC school board wise to pursue safe room policy

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: October 12, 2013

THIS week the Oklahoma City School board indicated support for a policy to add safe rooms to every school. Other districts across Oklahoma are likely to do the same and perhaps go even further.

The issue of storm shelters in schools has been on the front burner since the May 20 tornado in Moore that killed seven elementary school students. One state lawmaker is undertaking an initiative petition drive that will ask voters to approve a $500 million bond issue to fund school storm shelters and increased security.

Gov. Mary Fallin is cool to that idea. Fallin says she supports encouraging schools to beef up security by building shelters if needed, but that the decisions on how and what to build should be left to local school patrons.

We're in the same camp. State government has long held an important role in education, but it hasn't traditionally included infrastructure. That falls to local school districts.

The $500 million being proposed is a lot of money, but it wouldn't cover the amount needed to build a shelter in every Oklahoma school. Consequently, district help would be needed anyway. And if the $500 million could leverage a 3-to-1 match by the federal government, as advertised, it also would be accompanied by mandatory specifications and red tape that drive up the cost.

Oklahoma City's interim superintendent suggested the board develop a safe room policy. This is the way to go — a district assessing its needs and figuring out the best way to address them.

Wood for Woody

This house is not your house. After all, who would pay nearly $700,000 for a modest frame structure in Okemah? But this house was Woody Guthrie's house and some admirers want to reconstruct a building torn down decades ago because of its dilapidation. The reconstruction budget of $644,000 includes two years of operating expenses to keep the house open for tourists paying a call. Guthrie's reputation in his hometown of Okemah has been steadily growing from its rocky start when Guthrie was still alive and linked to leftist politics. Okemah hosts an annual celebration of the singer/songer. Downtown Tulsa is home to Guthrie's archives. Dan Riedemann, who restored Johnny Carson's boyhood home in Iowa, is behind the Guthrie home restoration project. Some lumber from the original home was kept and stored, so for some additional do-re-mi, the home restoration may actually contain some of Woody's wood.

Moving on

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is losing a good man in February when Col. Kerry Pettingill retires after 32 years on the job and three years as chief. Pettingill says that when he started, he was “just a kid from Mangum, Oklahoma, that wanted to be in law enforcement.” He'll leave after having directed the state's Office of Homeland Security and guiding the OHP's bomb squad. Pettingill, 55, also was instrumental in carrying out the expansion of the state public safety radio system, which has seen the number of radios more than double to roughly 25,000. Pettingill's retirement is a reminder that the OHP is understaffed and its ranks could thin in a hurry. The patrol is authorized to have 925 troopers but has about 770. Each year it loses about 30 troopers — and more than 220 are eligible to retire immediately.

Expensive lessons

Conservatives have long predicted Obamacare sticker shock for citizens buying individual policies. Now their claims are being proven true, as even Democratic Party supporters are learning. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura both supported President Barack Obama's election and his health care law. Then they got their insurance bills. Vinson, 60, will pay $1,800 more a year. Waschura, 52, will pay nearly $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. “I was laughing at Boehner — until the mail came today,” Waschura told the News, referring to House Speaker John Boehner's efforts to roll back Obamacare. “Of course, I want people to have health care,” Vinson said. “I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.” It seems even some Democrats are learning the very high price of a “free” lunch.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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