EVERY new year brings resolutions, those well-intended vows that usually don't wind up amounting to much. For that reason, some counselors advise against compiling new year's resolutions because guilt follows when they go unmet.
We like that line of reasoning. As the new year begins, we're offering wishes instead of resolutions. What follows is a compilation of what The Oklahoman's editorial board hopes to see come to pass in 2013, here and elsewhere.
A wetter, cooler summer: Enough with the heat and drought! We thought 2011 was bad, and it was, but 2012 wasn't much better. There were fewer 100-degree days than the year before, but that 113-degree reading at Will Rogers World Airport on Aug. 4 was over the top. Oklahoma begins the new year with 90 percent of the state experiencing extreme to exceptional drought. What's needed is an extended period (or two, or three) of soaking rainfall. From our lips to God's ears!
Resolution of water lawsuit: As the year wound to a close, Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch said he was encouraged by the tenor of negotiations aimed at resolving a lawsuit over southeastern Oklahoma water. The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes filed a federal lawsuit against the state after the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in 2011 agreed to sell water storage rights in that region to the city of Oklahoma City. The city wants the water in order to meet future demand; the tribes claim ownership to the water. Early on, the dialogue was less than cordial. That's changed, Couch said last month. “Hopefully we can come up with a settlement that will meet everybody's needs,” he said.
Some fiscal responsibility: Republicans have a dominant hold on the Legislature. With that control comes responsibility, including a duty to ensure that state property is kept up. The Capitol building is crumbling, and the outdated, cramped state medical examiner's office is a disgrace. Lawmakers could take care of both problems by passing a bond issue. But they've refused to do because it would increase the state's bonded indebtedness. Better, they figure, to do nothing or try to come up with a pay-as-you-go scheme. It's long past time that GOP lawmakers do the right thing — the responsible thing — and pass a bond issue for these two projects.
Less obfuscation: Gov. Mary Fallin preached openness when she took office two years ago. She ought to follow up on that by releasing emails regarding her decision not to accept a federal grant to create a health insurance exchange. Fallin has cited executive privilege, which is a federal exemption to open record laws and is not in state statute. She also has mentioned the amount of time it would take to cobble together the large volume of emails. And Fallin has mentioned the need for advisers and others to be able to do their jobs “without it becoming the headline of the paper the next day.” All of which only extends the length of time media and others will wonder this: What was said in those communications that was so concerning to the governor?
Fewer DHS headlines: For several years, the woes of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have been good for generating copy at newspapers, but bad for numerous children in state custody whose abuse and even murder outraged state citizens. In November, voters chose to overhaul management of the agency, and a new director (now directly accountable to the governor) has been named. We hope any news the agency makes this year is based on signs of improvement, not a continuation of past tragedies.
Fewer surprises in the state budget: Following passage of the multibillion-dollar state budget in 2012, several lawmakers were surprised to learn what was in it. In particular, several expressed shock that they voted to provide $2 million to a private youth livestock show while cutting funding for state prisons by roughly the same amount. The appropriation wasn't listed in legislation or touted to the public; it was apparently the result of a deal negotiated in secret by the governor's office and legislative leaders. This year, it would be nice if the public and state lawmakers had some clue what the state budget actually contains before expending taxpayer funds.
Bustling Bedlam football: For the past three years, the outcome of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State football game has had huge ramifications on the Big 12 title race. We hope that continues in 2013. Along those lines, we also hope the injury bug that decimated OSU for much of 2012 passes the Cowboys by this year, and that OU fans don't have reason to belatedly appreciate just how important Landry Jones' quarterback skills were to their recent successes.
A continued strong state economy: Although the Obama economy has been tough on many Americans, Oklahoma has been blessed with economic performance far exceeding national stats. Our unemployment rate has consistently ranked among the nation's lowest and our state business climate has been one of the healthiest. That's due in no small part to our status as an energy producer. Here's hoping President Obama's EPA doesn't kill the goose that's laying golden eggs by overregulating oil and gas, and that Oklahomans continue to reap the benefits.
A graduation to remember: For seniors at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, we wish much pomp and circumstance come May or August or whenever their graduation day finally arrives. The important thing is they stick with school until they get a diploma. The spring semester will be one of great challenge for most of the senior class while the former principal stands accused of tampering with grades and attendance. The scandal left many students short of credits and tests they'll need to graduate. Some will be attending school as long as 10 hours a day in spring to meet graduation requirements. We sincerely hope they all make it to the finish line.
Civic involvement: In February and March, voters in Oklahoma City and the city school district will have the opportunity to consider whether the schools and city would benefit from new leadership. Three school board seats — including the at-large chairman seat — are on the February ballot. Filing for four seats on the city council will be later this month, with the primary election set for March. School board and municipal elections don't typically draw a lot voter interest. The future of Oklahoma City and its schools are linked and residents should take a keen interest in the elections, take the time to learn about candidates and then show up to cast a vote.
A little peace and quiet: In 2013, we wish for a year of calm before the coming political storm. It's not much of a stretch to predict that 2014 will be a year of robocalls, political ads and almost endless rhetoric thanks to the many state offices that will appear on the general election ballot. Coming off a contentious presidential election, Americans in general are tired of partisan rancor. A breather from the arguing would be welcome. Perhaps it's unrealistic to hope election-related politics in Oklahoma will stay at bay for a bit longer, but who said wishes had to be based in reality?