Two lawmakers have sued to prevent $2 million in state funding from going to the Oklahoma Youth Expo, a private entity. They argue it is unconstitutional because no legislation specifically authorized the appropriation and because public money cannot be used for a private purpose. In past years, lawmakers voted on a specific appropriation for the show. This year, the appropriation was never unveiled publicly, nor was it specifically included in legislation. Many state senators were reportedly unaware that expo funding was part of the budget agreement negotiated behind closed doors by a handful of officials. The legal wrangling now underway is the logical outcome of a secretive budget process. The kids who show livestock at the expo are unfortunately caught in the crossfire. This shows, once again, why negotiations on spending billions of taxpayer dollars should be conducted in the light of day.
America's true pastime
Baseball likes to call itself America's pastime, a nod to its long history in this country. But let there be no doubt about the sport that most consumes us — it's pro football. After substitute officials botched the touchdown call at the end of the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game on Monday night, ESPN had its highest-rated SportsCenter telecast ever. The National Football League office received about 70,000 voicemail messages overnight. President Obama and Mitt Romney were asked for their reaction. Packers fan and Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan used the debacle to zing the president. “It's time to get the real refs, and it reminds me of President Obama and the economy,” Ryan said. “If you can't get it right, it's time to get out.” The outcry had an impact — by Wednesday night, the league and officials had reached a deal ending the lockout that prompted the need for replacement refs in the first place.
A shining example
When he came up with the idea, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan figured using nonviolent offenders to help clean areas of the county only made sense. The work helps offenders reintegrate into society and the county benefits from their labor. The program, called SHINE — Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere — is being noticed. It recently was named one of the nation's “Bright Ideas” winners by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University. And, Maughan says he has heard from several other counties and cities in Oklahoma and elsewhere that are interested in the idea. No wonder. Maughan estimates the county saves $1.5 million per year by keeping low-level offenders out of the county jail.
Another humble hero
We never cease to be struck by the humility displayed by those who have fought for this country. Jake McNiece, 93, made a career for himself as a postal worker in Ponca City. Before that, though, he was a paratrooper during World War II where he saw considerable action including at the Battle of the Bulge. This week he was named a knight of the Legion of Honor — France's most prestigious military award. McNiece led a patrol of paratroopers behind enemy lines hours before the D-Day invasion. He and his men destroyed two bridges and secured another to prevent German reinforcements from getting to Normandy. McNiece led a team of 18 — all but two died during the mission. McNiece's reaction to France's honor? “There were hundreds of other soldiers who were more deserving than I,” he said.