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Some wishes for the new year

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 1, 2013

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 The Capitol building is crumbling, and the outdated, cramped state medical examiner's office is a disgrace.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.

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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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