Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tulsa World, March 7, 2013
School-safety plan less than expected
The Oklahoma Commission on School Safety has released its recommendations, including a new security tip line, mental health training for school staff, and a new state institute that would undertake training, research and other duties.
While the panel's efforts are certainly appreciated, the fact the recommendations are far less extensive than proposals discussed during its deliberations is glaring. The estimated yearly price tag for the five recommendations - only about $1 million in new spending - lends credence to the suspicion that the panel must have scaled back its final plan in the wake of the likelihood a more comprehensive plan wouldn't fly. It's too bad the recommendations were watered down, if, indeed, that happened.
After the December killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Oklahomans were prepared, even eager, to improve school safety.
And the panel early on seemed to feel the same. Among promising strategies discussed were armed guards in schools; changes in legislation that would make it easier to detain persons deemed possibly dangerous, and a new system of professional teams that would seek to find possibly dangerous people and address their needs.
Instead of these more effective strategies, the commission called for: a mental health "first aid" training pilot program; new state laws consolidating and requiring safety drills; a local firearms reporting requirement; a statewide school security tip line, and the new institute.
The institute would require about $500,000 initially, and the mental health training would cost about $245,000, according to Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, chairman of the commission.
Lamb predicted that the program would be well-received by legislators, and he's probably right about that, since the price tag is so negligible.
Lamb also said the recommendations would lead to the creation of an "Oklahoma standard" for dealing with the challenges of school security. He's right about that, too. But will it prove to be an effective standard, a model other states will want to emulate? Doubtful.
Acknowledging the state's fiscal limitations, Lamb admitted there was "more that we wish we could do."
Of course, more could have been done if lawmakers didn't automatically turn a deaf ear to new spending proposals. But as long as our leaders want to do everything on the cheap, we're going to get what we pay for.
The Oklahoman, March 11, 2013
David Prater should rethink prosecution plans
David Prater has demonstrated bold, courageous leadership as Oklahoma County district attorney. Time after time, Prater has refused to take the easy way or the politically expedient way.
But in refusing to back down from his intention to prosecute members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for alleged Open Meetings Act violations, Prater seems unwilling to take all the considerations into account. Prosecution benefits no one in this case — not the board, not the state, not Prater.
When Prater considered the case of pharmacist and robbery victim Jerome Ersland, he looked at the evidence and determined that Ersland crossed a line in executing a robber whom Ersland had already felled. A jury agreed with that evidence; Ersland was convicted of murder because Prater weighed the matter and made the hard but correct call.
Now Prater may be crossing a line of his own in pressing for charges against board members who've made meaningful, substantive attempts to correct deficiencies. What is gained from prosecuting the men and women who perform a difficult task, month after month, essentially as volunteers? Does prosecution send a message that hasn't already been sent?
More importantly, consider the chill this would create when openings on this board (and others) come about: Board members acting in good faith to fix what's broken are then charged with a crime?
When Prater discovered violations by board members, the board moved quickly to change its procedures. Prater demanded the resignation of the five members as a condition for not filing criminal charges. They refused.
The standoff has reached a critical juncture. Short of filing criminal charges, we implore Prater to take a hard, objective look at the ramifications of his decision. Have the board's remediation efforts not been sincere, productive and forward-looking?
What does it profit the state for members of this board to take a perp walk?
Muskogee Phoenix, March 10, 2013
TSA wrong to roll back safety steps
Dropping our guard again can't become the legacy of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The Transportation Security Administration's decision to let passengers carry pocketknives on flights unnecessarily rolls back protections designed to keep 9/11 from happening again.
Terrorists used simple box cutters to take over planes and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
Now the TSA will allow smaller pocketknives — blades less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide — on planes.
Small blades can be sharpened into deadly weapons.
At least that was the fear when pocketknives were banned in the first place.
Those blades are just as deadly now as they were in 2001.
The TSA policy aligns the United States with international standards and allows the TSA to concentrate on more serious safety threats, the agency said.
The TSA may believe those knives and small bottles of shampoo or lotion are harmless. But terrorists have hidden explosives in tennis shoes.
Criminals and terrorists count on people letting down their guard because they don't like the inconvenience of being diligent.
Many of the things that are banned for carry-on are acceptable to be in luggage kept in the plane's cargo hold.
Anyone who is surprised by having a pocketknife seized has not been paying attention for the last 12 years.
You don't stop brushing your teeth because your dentist says you don't have cavities.
Keeping potential weapons off planes is not a violation of passengers' rights.
Keeping terrorists off planes is an affirmation of passengers' rights.