Blog

18 Oct
0

Cleveland County Blurring Election Procedure Ethical Lines

Noble- October 17th For immediate release:When a state candidate’s name appears on an official ballot twice it should raise questions of fairness and equality in our election process. House District 20’s current Republican incumbent, Bobby Cleveland, is on Oklahoma’s official ballot TWICE this November, and this apparently isn’t the first time he’s attempted an ethically questionable election ploy. According to a 2012 press release by the Oklahoma Democratic Party, “Republican candidate Bobby Cleveland needs to tell the voters what he pled to in order to receive a deferred prosecution, when he was caught voting twice in the same election, which is a felony under Oklahoma law. In order to receive a deferred sentence like he did, he would have had to submit a plea to the court.” Source: http://okdlive.wpengine.com/did-candidate-commit-voter-fraud/

Now Cleveland is blurring the election procedure’s ethical lines once again, his name appears as an elector for Donald Trump, and again as a candidate for Oklahoma’s State House of Representatives in District 20. Appearing twice on an official state ballot is an undue influence on voters, and a violation of the public trust. It is a deliberate act of confusion and persuasion perpetuated on Oklahoma voters who may not understand the complexities of our election laws. When voters aren’t clear whether they are voting for someone based on their capacity as an elector, or being misled into believing that a state candidate has an endorsement by a Presidential Nominee where none actually exists, it creates an environment of mistrust between our state election process and the people of Oklahoma

Unfortunately, Oklahoma law seems to permit this type of underhanded political maneuvering, but only for State Officials. “The electors for President and Vice President, hereinafter referred to as Presidential Electors, shall be registered voters of Oklahoma; provided, however, that no United States Senator or United States Representative or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be a Presidential Elector.” 26 O.S. Sec. 10-104.

This law shows that not only do our legislators know this practice is an undue influence on voters and a violation of our state’s duty to hold a fair and impartial election process, but that they are deliberately refusing to hold themselves to the same standards as United States Legislators.

This is the kind of voter exploitation that our state election board has a duty to prevent by keeping our election process impartial, fair, and free from corruption; however, after calling the state election board our office was told that this ethically questionable practice is historically consistent with previous elections.

Political party advantage on the ballot being excused because of historical consistency should never be the official position of the state agency charged with our last line of defense against political corruption. It is time to use our voices and our votes to send a clear message that this type of questionable conduct in our system will not be tolerated. We are urging concerned voters to call the election board and ask for a fair and impartial election process this November by asking them to remove elector’s names from the ballot.

The election board can be reached at:

Address: Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Phone:(405) 521-2391 Hours: 8AM–5PM

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11 Aug
0

Statement on Hillary Speech: Fighting for Working Families

[Oklahoma City, OK, August 11, 2016] Today in Warren, Michigan, Hillary Clinton spoke about her commitment to fight for working families and build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. This isn’t a new fight for Hillary Clinton; she’s been waging it her entire career and throughout this entire campaign. In her remarks, Hillary reviewed the economic plan she first outlined in Raleigh in June and specifically addressed a core question of the election: Which candidate will stand up for working families and address the challenges they face?

Clinton talked about what she’s heard out on the campaign trail, the challenges working families face today and reiterated her 5-point plan to build an economy that works for everyone not just those at the top, which includes:

  1. The largest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II
  2. Tuition-free college for the middle class and debt free college for all
  3. Rewriting the rules to ensure workers share in the profits they create
  4. Making the wealthy, Wall Street, and big corporations pay their fair share in taxes
  5. Reforming outdated laws to match how families live, learn and work in today’s
    economy

Hillary discussed her plan to create good-paying jobs within her first 100 days as president, by investing in infrastructure and manufacturing and helping small
businesses grow and hire. She also talked about the importance of strengthening
protections for workers from raising the minimum wage and defending collective
bargaining, to fighting for equal pay, expanding Social Security and lowering prescription drug costs. A plan that is in sharp contrast to elements of Trump’s plan – from trillions in tax breaks weighted towards the wealthy and corporations, to his reckless approach on regulation and immigration – which would result in serious harm to our economy and put the livelihoods of Americans at risk.

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29 Jul
0

Oklahoma CD 2: Primary Edition

Oklahoma Republicans have been subjecting our state to a lot recently- passing unconstitutional (and embarrassing) legislation, pillaging limited funds to patch up an ongoing budgetary crisis, four day school weeks. Republican mismanagement of our state is what motivated over 52,000 Oklahomans to vote Democrat in the primary for House District 2 this past Tuesday.[1] Compared to a Republican primary in the same District that saw turnout under 32,000, it’s safe to assume that Oklahomans are making a statement- enough with Republican dysfunction; it’s time to take back our state from rogue legislators and their special interests.

Joshua Harris-Till, a name you’re going to hear more and more, led the way with 31,652 votes, enough to both win the primary and overlap both of his Republican competitors combined. This result is telling; in such an unstable election cycle, Oklahoma voters are spurning the GOP, which has rapidly become the party of Trump and his politics of fear and chaos. Instead, they are turning to a Democratic Party that is alone in offering Oklahoma a chance at responsible stewardship and leadership with a vision.

Our state is teetering dangerously close to the fiscal cliff right now, and the response of our overwhelmingly Republican legislature this past session was to try to waste more taxpayer dollars on a special session to bring back a doomed, vetoed, and unconstitutional bill. Oklahoma lost over $400 million to oil and gas tax breaks last year, meaning that the GOP essentially paid the industry to make our state have more earthquakes than the rest of the continental US combined in 2015.[2][3] We have school districts closing, we have rotting infrastructure, and we have legislators who think a $28.5 million reflecting pool is a good idea.[4]  Oklahomans are tired, and we have a right to be; but instead of giving up, we need to get energized, and get voting.

[1] “Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District,” last modified June 20th, 2016, https://ballotpedia.org/Oklahoma%27s_2nd_Congressional_District_election,_2016

[2] “Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks exceed $400 million per year,” last modified May 5th, 2016, http://okpolicy.org/even-amid-energy-bust-oklahomas-oil-gas-tax-breaks-exceed-400-million-per-year/

[3] “Oklahoma has more earthquakes in 2015 than all of continental US combined,” last modified December 31st, 2015, http://www.koco.com/weather/oklahoma-ha-more-earthquakes-in-2015-than-all-of-continental-us-combined/37209902

[4] “State Capitol repairs to cost twice what was allocated,” last modified December 4th, 2015, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/capitol_report/state-capitol-repairs-to-cost-twice-what-was-allocated-archway/article_a72f9fae-48eb-5ca3-bcc5-e1f0e6161149.html

27 Jul
0

Mental Health and Gun Violence

In 1966, the US was in Vietnam, the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”, and 14 people were killed by a sniper at the University of Texas in Austin.[1] The following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke of how “senseless slaughter shocked the entire Nation. Yet, today, 13 months later, Congress has failed to enact a gun control law.” He referenced the 6,500 murders, the 10,000 suicides, the 2,600 accidental deaths that were enabled by lax gun control over those 13 months, saying that “a civilized nation cannot allow this armed terror to continue…the time has come for action.”[2] Fifty years later, fifty people have been killed in Orlando and there is outrage, shock, and learned helplessness.[3] It is learned helplessness to claim that American culture just doesn’t allow for gun control, to despair of ever passing the legislation needed to save some or all of the 89 lives lost to gun violence every day.[4]

Since his election in 2008, President Obama has delivered at least 14 speeches, 14 attempts to bring some sense to a nation reeling from senseless tragedy to senseless tragedy.[5] The first Ft. Hood Shooting, 2009; the Tucson shooting, 2011; the Aurora shooting, 2012: the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, 2012: the Sandy Hook shooting, 2012; the Washington Navy Yard shooting, 2013; the second Ft. Hood shooting, 2014; the Kansas Jewish community center shooting, 2014; the Charleston church shooting, 2015; the Chattanooga recruiting center shooting, 2015; the Umpqua community college shooting, 2015; the San Bernadino shooting, 2015; the Kalamazoo Uber shooting, 2016; the Orlando nightclub shooting, 2016. Did you make it to the end of that list? Did your eyes glaze a little, did you remember each and every one or did some of the names fail to ring a bell? Do you know how many have died in these 14 incidents alone? 174. That’s a large number, but there are larger ones. 869, for example, the number of people killed in the 126 mass shootings since the University of Texas shooting in 1966.[6]

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Mass shooting, public outrage, short memories- this rinse and repeat cycle must not go on. There is a discussion to be had over mental health- good, let’s have it, and while we’re at it we can discuss how to prevent the mass shootings that are NOT the result of a breakdown in mental healthcare. Mass shootings like those in Orlando or San Bernadino, which were the result of suspected terrorists legally obtaining the weapons used to perpetrate their heinous crimes.[7] It is pure insanity that segments of the GOP would rather levy a ban on all Muslims coming into the US than prevent suspected terrorists (many of whom are not Muslim) from legally obtaining the weapons that have been used to kill hundreds of innocent Americans.[8] The debate over mental health as the cause of mass shootings is misleading, intentionally designed to draw your attention away from the other factors that go into these shootings. Factors like the simple fact that these killers are being enabled by lax gun control laws. The majority of those who go on to commit a mass shooting obtained their guns through legal means, and to suggest that this should just be ignored because fixing mental healthcare will fix everything else is playing with fire, playing with lives, playing with the truth.[9]

The truth is that if mental healthcare were a true concern of those who eloquently defend their second amendment rights via the exploitation of the mentally ill, crudely stereotyping a vulnerable population far more likely to be victimized than to victimize, there have been plenty of chances to push a pro-mental healthcare agenda.[10] 14 times President Obama has been forced to address yet another mass shooting, and 14 times, these champions of mental healthcare have had the chance to show how their rhetoric can be translated into action, into results. This has not happened, and will not happen, because while there is an appalling and absurd willingness to sacrifice the lives of fellow Americans to keep America neck-deep in guns, there is no similar desire to actually address the consequences that such a selfish, lazy, short-sighted mindset produces. Perhaps these champions are fully aware that mental health is not the problem, and simply want to prolong the charade as long as possible before fabricating new excuses. Perhaps they are not champions at all, and are simply reading the teleprompter as they struggle to get through yet another press conference following yet another mass shooting. If this seems harsh, it is no harsher than the reality that we are living in, a reality in which people with mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, are either unable or unwilling to do anything about an epidemic that continues to claim 89 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters a day.

Mental healthcare is the problem? If so, we have a second problem- those too self-righteous to actually dirty their hands with solving the first problem. Unsurprisingly, useless pontification has served only to continue lining the pockets of the NRA and the gun manufacturers it has allied itself with.[11] However, isn’t it worth it to find out how we can actually curb this violence? There have been chances, many, too many, and mental healthcare has yet to show improvement as our mass shootings continue to increase in frequency and brutality. Let’s actually do something this time, and while we’re at it, let’s actually bother to find out if there is anything else we can be doing to save some of those 89 lives lost every day.

Does gun control scare you? Do you have nightmares about background checks, closed loopholes, suspected terrorists unable to buy hunks of metal used to kill fellow humans and fellow Americans? Because after Orlando, there will be 50 more families that have nightmares about lost children, absent parents, dead loved ones. No more second, fourth, or fourteenth chances, because we need to get this right now or see another mass shooting within months. Time is against us; we’re working with a timeline shortened every time our Republican Congress refuses to allow the CDC to research gun violence; truncated every time bought and paid for legislators fail to pass watered down gun control legislation that would expand online background checks or keep those on the terror watch list from buying guns.[12][13] Please, for the love of God and country and humanity, do not let President Obama make a 15th speech.

[1] “How Little Has Changed on Gun Control Since 1967,” last modified September 15th, 2014, http://time.com/3319341/obama-lbj-gun-control/

[2] “Letter to the Senate and the House Urging Enactment of Gun Control Legislation,” last modified September 15th, 1967, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28433

[3] “A night of terror,” last modified June 13th, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-orlando-nightclub-shooting-ticktock-20160613-snap-story.html

[4] “Key Gun Violence Statistics,” last modified 2016, http://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics

[5] “14 mass shootings, 14 speeches: How President Obama has responded,” last modified June 12th, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/06/12/14-mass-shootings-14-speeches-how-obama-has-responded/85798652/

[6] “The math of mass shootings,” last modified June 13th, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/mass-shootings-in-america/

[7] “How do you get denied a gun in Florida,” last modified June 14th, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36522570

[8] “Orlando Shooting Reignites Gun Control Debate in Congress,” last modified June 13th, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/terrorist-watch-list.html

[9] “How They Got Their Guns,” last modified June 12th, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/03/us/how-mass-shooters-got-their-guns.html

[10] “Study Shows Mentally Ill More Likely to Be Victims,” last modified February 25th, 2014, https://news.ncsu.edu/2014/02/wms-desmarais-violence2014/

[11] “How The Gun Industry Funnels Tens of Millions Of Dollars To The NRA,” last modified January 16th, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-industry-funds-nra-2013-1

[12] “Congress Still Limits Health Research on Gun Violence,” last modified December 8th, 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/08/458952821/congress-still-limits-health-research-on-gun-violence

[13] “Senate rejects gun control amendments,” last modified December 3rd, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2015/12/03/senate-democrats-to-force-gun-control-votes-in-the-wake-of-the-san-bernardino-shooting/

25 Jul
0

Oklahoma Republicans Have Failed Our Students

When I was in high school, I had a history teacher who imparted to me a fascination with America’s global legacy, and an English teacher who fully developed my infatuation with the written word. More than anything else, those two teachers were the driving force behind my graduation and subsequent jump to college. How many Oklahoma students lost the inspirational, motivational encouragement of a dedicated mentor when our public schools started last year short 1,000 teachers?[1] How many more suffered through a drop-off in educational quality when their teacher was replaced by one of the 842 emergency-certified substitutes last year?[2]

An education can be many things- an equalizer, an opportunity, a bridge between students and the world they encounter upon graduation. An education is a precious commodity, one that we as a nation have long since deemed an essential part of the American experience. Our students, our kids, our future doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, are slowly being deprived of that education by a Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature that seems to place more importance on corporate welfare for their oil and gas benefactors than the quality of education in our state.[3] How can legislators that style themselves as members of “the part y of business” be so adamantly opposed to funding the single most important ingredient for a healthy economy?[4] Our Oklahoman Republicans waste time passing unconstitutional bills so they can call themselves “pro-life”, while they fail to protect the educational rights of children already born, already here, and already struggling.[5]

It starts, as it always does, with money. Our legislature considers a student’s education to be worth only $8,851 per year- $1,893 less than the regional average.[6] We have a budget deficit of $1.3 billion, a huge number, yet for us to even meet the regional average for education funding we would have to come up with an additional $1.3 billion. That’s what it would take for Oklahoma to simply be middle-of-the-pack. Education funding for FY2016 is less than it was in FY2008, and from 2008 to 2015, Oklahoma students each lost 23.6% of their funding.[7] That’s why, in 2016, in America, in Oklahoma, we have schools operating on four day school weeks.[8] That’s a full day of education, childcare, breakfast, lunch, all lost. 4 day school weeks mean children leave school Thursday afternoon to wait until Monday morning for their next proper meal.[9] They mean that parents already struggling to make ends meet suddenly have to find a way to watch their kids on a work day. When five days of instruction is crammed into four, how much is lost in translation, lost to the inattention that comes naturally with longer days? How much are our students losing?

856 cancelled classes and 842 emergency teaching certificates. Nearly $2,000 less for every student to get the education they both need and deserve, 4 day school weeks. Those are the causes. The effects are the 75% of eighth graders scoring below proficient in Math, the 71% of eighth graders scoring below proficient in Reading, the 39% of Oklahoma college freshmen that need remedial courses.[10][11] In Oklahoma, students who are intelligent and motivated enough to go to college still have to overcome deficiencies in their educational instruction once they get there. Of course, those are the lucky ones, because the 84.8% graduation rate that Oklahoma had in 2013 meant that over 15% of Oklahoma seniors that year failed to graduate.[12] They failed because our legislature failed them, failed each of them 1,893 times. It is very possible many of them failed because Oklahoma Republicans have made a mess of our state academic standards, changing them three times in the last six years, affecting textbooks, tests, and curriculum each time.[13][14] Why are we hamstringing our kids, our economy, and our future like this?

It is clear to any rational observer that Oklahoma’s public schools are in dire need of attention, fiscally and academically. The logical response, the proper response, would be to allocate more funding, increasing education funding until our kids, and by default our state, are no longer being placed at a competitive disadvantage. The response of Oklahoma Republicans has been to push their conservative agenda down our throats. SB 609 was authored by Senator Clark Jolley last year, in an attempt to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a voucher system that would put 90% of a student’s per capita funding on a credit card to be used for private school tuition[15]. Never mind that school districts have fixed costs- repairs, infrastructural projects, capital expenditures- that don’t decrease when their funding does. Disregard the fact that there are a total of three private schools in the 16 Oklahoma counties where 30% or more of residents lack a high school diploma.[16] This is about school choice, about helping our kids- so say Oklahoma Republicans who fail to care about the 59% of Oklahomans who think education funding is of paramount importance, or the 65% of Oklahomans who oppose private and religious school vouchers.[17]

SB 609 died in committee, as did SB 1187, the “School District Empowerment Act” that would have exempted “empowered” schools from criminal background check requirements, state curriculum requirements, and academic content standards.[18] It’s unclear which bill would have made a worse law, but it is crystal clear that our kids dodged a bullet. They might not dodge the next one, though. Something has to be done, or it will be too late for the hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma students who are in the school bus as it goes over the fiscal cliff. How can you make Oklahoma Republicans put down the gun and take their foot off the gas? Vote for the 30+ educators who are running for state office this year.[19] Vote Democrat.

[1] “The Facts About Oklahoma Education,” last modified Spring 2016, http://www.okedcoalition.org/get-the-facts.html

[2] “Oklahoma teacher shortage: State board approves 157 more emergency certificates,” last modified September 25th, 2015, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/oklahoma-teacher-shortage-state-board-approves-more-emergency-certificates/

[3] “Oklahoma tax incentives for oil and gas continue to be debated,” last modified January 20th, 2015, http://newsok.com/article/5386354

[4] “The Effects of Investing in Early Education on Economic Growth,” last modified April 2006, http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2006/04/education-dickens

[5] “Oklahoma lawmakers approve bill to revoke licenses of abortion doctors,” last modified April 29th, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oklahoma-abortion-idUSKCN0XJ29I

[6] The Facts About Oklahoma Education”

[7] “Oklahoma continues to lead US for deepest cuts to education,” last modified October 16th, 2014, http://okpolicy.org/oklahoma-continues-lead-u-s-deepest-cuts-education

[8] “Four-day school week is a consequence of unwillingness to fund public schools,” last modified November 25th, 2015, http://okpolicy.org/four-day-school-week-consequence-unwillingness-fund-public-schools-capitol-updates/

[9] “Four-day school weeks,” last modified November 29th, 2015, http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/four-day-school-weeks-districts-weighing-benefits-but-hofmeister-says/

[10] Public Education in Oklahoma,” last modified July 2nd, 2015, https://ballotpedia.org/Public_education_in_Oklahoma

[11] “Diploma in Hand, Many College-Bound Students Must Backtrack,” last modified January 4th, 2016, http://oklahomawatch.org/2016/01/04/diploma-in-hand-many-college-bound-students-must-backtrack/

[12] Public Education in Oklahoma,” last modified July 2nd, 2015, https://ballotpedia.org/Public_education_in_Oklahoma

[13] “The price of Common Core repeal,” last modified August 29th, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/oklahoma-common-core-no-child-left-behind-waiver-110421

[14] “As Voting Deadline Nears, Battle Over Academic Standards Intensifies,” last modified March 2st, 2016, http://oklahomawatch.org/2016/03/21/as-voting-deadline-nears-battle-over-academic-standards-intensifies/

[15] “Bill Information for SB 609,” last modified March 15th, 2016, http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=sb609

[16] “List of private schools in Oklahoma,” last modified February 7th, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_private_schools_in_Oklahoma

[17] “Oklahoma Statewide Interview Schedule,” last modified March 7th, 2015, http://pos.org/documents/15114_oklahoma_interview_schedule.pdf

[18] “Bill Information for SB 1187,” last modified March 16th, 2016, http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=sb%201187

[19] Many Oklahoma educators plan to run for Legislature,” last modified April 13th, 2016, http://newsok.com/article/5491321

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