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ScissorTales: Law on Oklahoma City's side in water fight

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: February 2, 2013

COMPLAINTS by lawmakers about release of water from Canton Lake remind us of disgruntled heirs carping over an aging parent spending their inheritance.

Oklahoma City is exercising its legal right to take water from Canton to replenish local lakes drawn down by lack of rain. This is a bridge too far for Canton Lake and northwest Oklahoma partisans — just as the city's use of southeast Oklahoma water has been.

“Where is their water conservation plan?” asked state Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher. He blamed the Canton transfer on a planning failure. Actually, it's a routine move to rebuild levels at Lake Hefner after months of below-normal rainfall. Oklahoma City waited to make the change until Hefner got quite low and even delayed the transfer until a recent rain made the North Canadian riverbed more suitable for a transfer. That in itself is a conservation plan.

Conflicts over water between urban and nonurban areas are age-old, but the law is clearly on Oklahoma City's side. Just as it's everyone's right to spend money instead of saving it for another's inheritance, the city is doing what's in the best interest of the people who pay local water bills and who must adopt their own conservation plans to save money and to obey rationing restrictions whenever they're imposed.

Meantime, billions of gallons of water have been flowing into the Red River because the state lacks the political will to turn this wasted treasure into cash by selling the water to urban areas in North Texas.

No laughing matter

In a monologue this week, Jay Leno noted that Subway Restaurants had apologized to customers who may have been served foot-long subs that didn't measure 12 inches. “Is that how fat we've gotten in this country now — where we're threatening legal action if our subs are an inch too short?” Actually, yes. In New Jersey and Chicago, the sandwich chain is the subject of lawsuits over not-quite-foot-longs. Plaintiffs want $5 million in damages and hope to have their claim declared a class action. Meantime in California, two people who read Lance Armstrong's autobiography have filed suit claiming Armstrong's denial of using performance-enhancing drugs was fraudulent and false advertising. They're also seeking class certification. Lawsuit reform, anyone?

A passing grade

Given the many instances of state and local officials ignoring or trying to work around Oklahoma's open record and open meeting laws, we braced for the worst when the Sunshine Review posted its website transparency report card this week. But the news was actually pretty good. Oklahoma got a grade of B-minus, not bad considering no state graded better than a B-plus. Sunshine Review looked at government websites for states and their largest counties, cities and school districts, and measured available content against a checklist of information it believes all governments should provide. Oklahoma received Bs for state and county websites, a C for city sites, and a D-plus for school districts. That last grade is disappointing but not unusual — Sunshine Review said only 20 percent of school district websites nationwide warranted at least a B.

Why punish victims?

We've noted before that human trafficking is a growing problem in Oklahoma, due in part to having three major interstate highways in our state. The issue arose again recently in Tulsa when a prostitution bust turned up several women claiming to have been kidnapped, held against their will and forced into prostitution. Police are investigating those claims, but in the meantime one of the women has been arrested on a complaint of soliciting prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church or school and is being held on a $1,500 bond. If that seems unfair, state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, agrees. She's filed legislation to allow expungement of law enforcement and court records of any prostitution conviction incurred by a victim of human trafficking. That's an idea legislators should seriously consider. It makes no sense to punish victims for the crimes of their abusers.

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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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