COME Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council will have two new faces around the horseshoe. We welcome John A. Pettis Jr. and James Greiner to what is a usually harmonious but occasionally cacophonous process of governing a growing, increasingly diversified city.
Pettis and Greiner ousted incumbents to claim seats for Ward 7 and Ward 1. Gone are veteran councilmen Skip Kelly and Gary Marrs. Kelly's personal problems no doubt played a role in his defeat. Allegations of driving under the influence have dogged him; even had he won, Kelly might have had to leave office if a pending court ruling goes against him.
In Ward 1, the situation was different. Marrs is an outstanding councilman but was outworked by Greiner. At 32, the challenger has boundless enthusiasm for retail politics — knocking on doors, connecting with voters, projecting a positive attitude. This boundless enthusiasm will serve him well on the council and in representing the sprawling northwest Oklahoma City ward for the princely sum of $12,000 a year.
Overall it wasn't a bad day for incumbents here and in other parts of the state. Two Oklahoma City Council incumbents didn't draw opponents and automatically got another four-year term. Tuesday's results set the stage for an interesting mayoral race next year if incumbent Mick Cornett seeks another term and faces council maverick Ed Shadid, who appears set to make a run.
Tuesday's results are no indicator for what could happen in 2014. Shadid's appeal in Ward 2 is unlikely to translate to a citywide mandate. Then again, anyone who counted out Pettis and Greiner because they faced “popular” incumbents now knows that holding an office isn't a ticket to keeping it.
Great news from GE
“Our shingle is out today. We're hiring.” Those were the words of Mark Little, chief technology officer for General Electric, as GE announced that it plans to build a research center in the Oklahoma City area focusing on the oil and natural gas industry. This is great news for the metro — the addition of at least 125 well-paying, high-tech engineering jobs. These are the sorts of job every state covets, and Oklahoma continues to add them — the pending closure of Boeing's plant in Wichita, Kan., is expected to bring about 800 engineers here. The announcement by GE also underlines the ongoing importance of STEM coursework (science, technology, engineering, math) in our high schools and colleges, in Oklahoma and across the country.
Questions that matter
The aftermath of the Newtown shooting unfortunately included erroneous reporting from some media outlets. NBC, CNN and The New York Times all issued reports indicating that a rifle was found in the shooter's car or only handguns were used in the killing spree. Those reports were later proven false, but some people continue to believe a rifle was not used in the shooter's rampage and cite this “fact” when opposing gun-control efforts. But this detail is largely irrelevant. Whether done with a rifle or handgun, the killing of 20 children and six adults is a tragedy. The important questions to ask in any resulting gun control debate isn't what type of gun was used at Newtown, but whether proposed remedies are constitutional and whether proposed gun regulations would make citizens safer — or actually place them in greater danger by leaving them defenseless.
Raise the limit
Every year the U.S. government makes a certain number of visas available for highly skilled immigrants. Every year the demand far exceeds the supply. It's long past time Congress expand the cap. Presently 65,000 visas are given to high-tech companies that want to hire skilled workers from other parts of the world. Another 20,000 are available for foreign workers who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. university. The Homeland Security Department began taking applications Monday for this year's visas. Demand was expected to outstrip supply in just a matter of days. The Associated Press noted that political support has grown in recent years for proposals that would increase the number of available visas, and they're now a big part of immigration reform talks. Here's hoping the politicians get this one right — the more bright people we have working in America, the better.