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Why Place Matters: Data on health, housing and equity

by | November 5th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

The variables that affect our individual health are too many to name or measure.  Genetics and behavior are strong determinants for most of us.  For some, mere chance can lead to contracting a deadly virus or suffering chronic pain from an accidental injury like a fall or a car accident.  Less understood and attended to is the way our health is determined by our ‘place’ – the houses, streets, neighborhoods, cities and small towns that we live and work in everyday.

I recently presented research on how place affects health to an Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign (OHEC) meeting   OHEC is a network of individuals and organizations working to broaden Oklahomans’ understanding of how socio-economic and racial inequities impact health.  Using American Housing Survey data for Oklahoma City, the presentation highlights how the built environment of the city and differential access to public services affect household and neighborhood health.  Click here to view or download the presentation.  Here’s a snapshot of some of the data points and their relation to health outcomes:

  • Water leakage, plumbing and sewage problems, and the accumulation of trash/litter 

Unsanitary houses and neighborhoods are unsafe for children, they breed infection, and they discourage the play and exercise that we all need to stay fit.  Leaky structures harbor mold, which can exacerbate existing illness and/or spawn a variety of nasty ailments.

  • Proximity to commercial, institutional, industrial zones or major highways and roadways

Air pollution from major traffic corridors, large stretches of commercial parking lots, and industrial operations exacerbates asthma and respiratory conditions, particularly for the very young, old, or already sick.  Constant daily exposure to noise and air pollution taxes your immune system, triggers a stress response, and frustrates mental health and wellbeing.

  • Access to safe drinking water, fresh groceries, and complete kitchen facilities

Being able to buy and cook nutritious food is the cornerstone of good health – particularly for infants and young children. 

While the results reveal differences in the environmental quality of individual housing units and neighborhoods, they also offer much broader lessons on how the construction of our community at large implicates health.  Many of our individual choices and behaviors are heavily mediated by factors beyond our control.  Health care, outreach, and education have benefits that are limited by physical components of our built environment.  Last and certainly not least, these results also reveal the lasting material effects of housing and neighborhood segregation by race and income. 

In The Know: Chesapeake reports $2 billion loss due to low natural gas prices

by | November 5th, 2012 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Chesapeake Energy Corp. reported a third-quarter loss of more than $2 billion due to low natural gas prices. A survey of businesses found signs that another economic slump may be developing in the Midwest and Plains states, though North Dakota and Oklahoma were expected to continue expanding due to prosperity in the energy industry. 

Local ballot propositions to be decided tomorrow include a $25.1 million sales tax issue for parks in Moore, the Vision2 sales tax extension in Tulsa County, and a vote on whether to allow single-drink liquor sales on Sundays in Payne County. A new poll found that Vision2′s quality-of-life Proposition 2 appears to be headed to victory in Tuesday’s election, while the fate of Proposition 1 with its airport industrial complex upgrades and deal-closing fund is uncertain.

The Tulsa World and Okie Funk criticized backers of SQ 766 for running a misleading campaign. The OK Policy Blog showed that opponents of SQ 762 are making false claims. Janet Pearson wrote that racial discrimination still lingers in Oklahoma, despite claims by opponents of affirmative action. See more on all of the state questions at OK Policy’s 2012 State Questions page.

The New York Times wrote an editorial criticizing Oklahoma’s new open carry law. Oklahoma’s new method of grading K-12 school effectiveness has drawn criticism from OU professors. The Number of the Day is the percentage of offenders released from prison without supervision in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, an infographic by the New York Times outlines all of the possible swing state paths to victory for the Obama and Romney campaigns.

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The Weekly Wonk: November 4, 2012

by | November 4th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week at Oklahoma Policy Institute, we explained why claims from opponents of SQ 762 are false and misleading.  Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson wrote on the OK Policy Blog that State Question 766 is an example of the Legislature’s lack of understanding and unwillingness to be problem-solvers.  You can find information and resources about all of the state questions on the ballot at our 2012 State Questions page

As we wait on Congress for a permanent fix to the internet sales tax loophole, we detailed the actions that Oklahoma can take immediately to create a more level-playing field for our local brick-and-mortar businesses.  We posted an upcoming event, ‘Navigating the Changing World of Consumer Credit, hosted by the Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition.

OK Policy analyst Gene Perry was quoted in a Governing magazine article about managed competition for public contracts.  Our Director David Blatt wrote in The Journal Record about the decisions voters will face on election day.

Policy Notes

Numbers of the Day

  • $1.3 billion – Amount allocated to the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) in the first quarter of FY 2013, exceeding estimated collections by 1.7 percent
  • 7 – Number of states that doubled their rate of obesity over the last 15 years, including Oklahoma
  • 22 percent – Percentage of children in Oklahoma who live in neighborhoods with poorly kept or dilapidated housing, compared to 15% nationally in 2007
  • 28.6 percent – The average property tax cut for telecommunications companies if State Question 766 passes.
  • 77 – Number of counties won by Roosevelt in 1936 and Nixon in 1972, the first time each party swept Oklahoma

Opponents of SQ 762 are making false claims

by | November 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, State Questions | Comments (2)

To find more about all of the state questions on the ballot in November, see our 2012 State Questions page.

Oklahoma is the only state that requires the governor to approve every parole. Removing the governor from the parole process for less serious, non-violent offenses has been a recommendation of multiple major studies of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, including a 2007 audit by MGT of America, the 2008 final report from the Oklahoma Academy Town Hall, and this year’s Justice Reinvestment initiative.

Last year, Governor Fallin signed a bill into law that would have made this change.  However, an attorney general’s opinion determined that it would require a constitutional change. This change was sent to a vote of the people in State Question 762.

Governor Fallin supported SQ 762 until just recently. On October 16, Fallin announced she was reversing her position in a statement which argued: “It appears State Question 762 would define non-violent offenders only by their current offense and would not mandate the consideration of past violent behavior.  Since taking office, I have denied parole for 437 offenders, who would be considered ‘non-violent’ under the terms of State Question 762, keeping them off our streets and out of our communities.”

The governor’s rationale for changing her position has major flaws. First, the implication that the parole board does not consider past violent behavior of offenders is false. When offenders come up for parole, the board is provided a “jacket” that details their entire criminal history. They read letters or hear testimony from crime victims, as well as from those who wish to speak on behalf of the offender. The governor does not have access to any information that is denied to the parole board. She relies on the same documents and testimony to approve or reject their decision.

Second, rejecting parole for these offenders is not going to keep them “off our streets.” The vast majority of these offenders will be released at some point, with or without parole. As seen below, a big effect of denying paroles is that more offenders are being released without any supervision.

On the other hand, increasing paroles for lesser offenses will both save taxpayer dollars and improve public safety. Well-managed parole systems have been shown to reduce crime recidivism, since offenders are given supervision and assistance reintegrating into society.

Oklahoma’s district attorneys have been another vocal opponent of SQ 762. For example, district attorneys Greg Mashburn and Tim Harris were quoted claiming it would take the governor out of the process for child pornographers and those who abuse a vulnerable adult in a nursing home. This is not true. The offenses covered by SQ 762 do not include any of the “85-percent crimes” that require an offender to serve at least 85-percent of his or her sentence before being eligible for parole. Paroles for those convicted of child pornography, abuse of a vulnerable adult, and aggravated drug trafficking (defined as possession of large amounts of illegal drugs) will all continue to require approval by the governor if SQ 762 passes. Click here for a full list of the offenses that would not be affected by SQ 762.

District attorneys, who should know better, are spreading falsehoods about what SQ 762 would do. The governor has presented a rationale for changing her position that makes little sense. Both are examples of a tragic pattern in Oklahoma, where sounding “tough on crime” is deemed more important than doing what’s shown to be more cost-effective and better for public safety.

In The Know: DHS commission votes to close residential centers for developmentally disabled

by | November 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the DHS commission voted to close Oklahoma’s two residential centers for adults with developmental disabilities, located in Enid and Pauls Valley.  The Enid News and Eagle reported that the Commission denied an Enid senator the opportunity to speak and has not given alternatives to closure full consideration.  

Hobby Lobby asked a federal judge to block a new requirement that insurance plans cover emergency contraception.  The Oklahoma Farm Bureau endorsed State Question 766.  The OKPolicy Blog has highlighted concerns about the impact of SQ 766 here and here.  Oklahoma City Police answered frequently asked questions about the new open carry law.  

Veteran’s Affairs unveiled new driver’s licenses, designed to honor and identify the state’s veterans.  Governor Fallin met with an Israeli ambassador to discuss how Oklahoma energy companies could help develop natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea.  The Tulsa World Editorial Board urged the legislature to sufficiently fund the Department of Corrections, or already productive investments in fledgling reform initiatives won’t be effective.

In today’s Policy Note, a factsheet from the International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics outlined over a decade of scientific research behind growing expert consensus that emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy, harm a developing embryo, or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.  The Number of the Day is the amount allocated to the state’s general revenue fund in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.  

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In The Know: Lawmakers demand state return Youth Expo funds

by | November 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that lawmakers suing the state for appropriating funds to the Oklahoma Youth Expo sent demand letters to state officials, insisting that the money be returned.  Gov. Fallin issued a statement reminding Oklahomans about exemptions and exceptions to the new open carry law.  

Students at the OU Health Sciences Center started a nonprofit mobile grocery store to provide healthy food to low-income areas.  The OK Policy Blog explained how untaxed Internet sales disadvantage local business – and how the state could remedy the problem.

Rep. David Dank argued that a major state tax cut won’t happen without serious tax reform.  The U.S. Dept. of Education is investigating a parental allegation that an Oklahoma high school senior, who reportedly failed the state’s new graduation test, was denied reasonable accommodations for her disability by the State Dept. of Education.

In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog explains the ramifications of Congress letting the Farm Bill lapse.  The Number of the Day is the number of states that doubled their rate of obesity over the last 15 years.

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Upcoming Event: Navigating the Changing World of Consumer Credit

by | October 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Oklahoma City Branch will host their 2012 Financial Education Conference, ‘Navigating the Changing World of Consumer Credit‘ on Wednesday, November 7.  The event provides financial educators, advocates and teachers throughout Oklahoma information on the changing landscape of consumer credit with a focus on exposing common misunderstandings and deepening knowledge about credit and debt.  

The program focuses on understanding the history, context and provision of consumer credit in the U.S and sharing information on new programs related to credit building and debt management.  Speakers include Gail Hillebrand, Associate Director of Consumer Education and Engagement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Nick Bourke, Director of the Small Dollar Loans Research Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts.  Click here for the program’s agenda.

The conference will be held at the Moore Norman Technology Center, South Penn Campus in Oklahoma City.  Register online or contact Annette Phillips at 405-270-8404.

Online Sales Tax: While Rome burns and Congress fiddles, states can act

by | October 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

The problem of untaxed Internet sales is gaining new prominence.  As we wait on Congress for a permanent fix, there are actions that Oklahoma can take immediately to create a more level-playing field for our local brick-and-mortar businesses.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has estimated that Oklahoma state and local governments are losing $200 million every year when people buy products online and don’t pay the required tax. The ability to sell goods tax-free creates a significant competitive advantage for online retailers over the brick-and-mortar businesses in our cities and towns. According to former Governor Brad Henry, the jobs of more than 170,000 Oklahomans – more than 10 percent of the state’s workforce – may be at risk. Governor Henry is a member of the Bipartisan Policy Committee’s Governor Center, which hosted a recent forum on the subject in Oklahoma City.

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In The Know: US Supreme Court rejects Oklahoma personhood appeal

by | October 30th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that tossed out a proposed “personhood” amendment. Laws intended to reduce crime and control prison growth in Oklahoma and eliminate long lines at driver’s license exam stations are among nearly 100 measures set to take effect Thursday. Other new laws that take effect Thursday are listed here.

Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson writes on the OK Policy Blog that State Question 766 is an example of the Legislature’s lack of understanding and unwillingness to be problem-solvers. The Stigler News Sentinel writes that supporters of SQ 766 are playing politics with the truth. See links to more information about the six state questions here and OK Policy’s summary and analysis here.

NewsOK discussed a mental health re-entry program that shows a creative approach to corrections can work in Oklahoma. Many parents and teachers are saying the first-ever letter grades for schools don’t match their own knowledge or experience. The state auditor is accusing Oklahoma State Department of Education officials of spending funds from an unauthorized account to pay for expenses at State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s Innovation 2011 summer conference.

The Number of the Day is the average property tax cut for telecommunications companies if State Question 766 passes. In today’s Policy Note, Bruce Bartlett shows that if you take popular, broad-based tax deductions off the table, it doesn’t leave many loopholes to be closed to pay for a significant reduction in rates.

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Guest Blog (Wade Patterson): SQ 766 provides special treatment to some at the expense of others

by | October 29th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, State Questions, Taxes | Comments (1)

Wade Patterson

Wade Patterson is the Garfield County Assessor. For more information on State Question 766, click here

As the County Assessor for Garfield County, I’m afraid that the solution to the issue of taxing intangible property being presented to the voters in November has not been well thought out at the legislative level. Instead, it’s an example of what happens when one group gets special treatment.  If SQ 766 passes it will simply transfer the responsibility to pay the property tax bill to everyone that did not receive the same special treatment.

Last year, I served on the 21-member Task Force for Comprehensive Tax Reform, which was charged with finding a solution to the intangible property issue and making a recommendation to the Governor and Legislature. After the State Supreme Court ruled that intangible property was taxable, the Legislature created a temporary Business Activity Tax (BAT) to serve as an in lieu of tax until the Task Force could meet and make recommendations.  The BAT expires on December 31st of this year, so a solution needed to be developed so the Legislature could address the issue this session.

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