In The Know: August 23, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled the tribe can expel about 2,800 Cherokee freedmen, who are descended from slaves formerly held by Cherokees. Two workers fired by DHS over the death of Serenity Deal blame a flawed child welfare system and say they are being targeted for their public criticism of the agency [Journal Record subscriber only link]. The OK Policy Blog explores the causes of Oklahoma’s black-white unemployment gap.

The agency that retrains disabled Oklahomans to return to the work force is implementing a waiting list for the first time in two years. Two more candidates make it six Republicans vying for the Congressional seat currently held by Dan Boren. Democrats do not yet have any announced candidates. NewsOK writes that lawmakers are right to call for the release of video footage of a state trooper charged with second-degree rape. On August 31, UCO will host a lecture by Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times journalist and author of the book, “Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves.”

In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that since welfare reform fifteen years ago, the program’s role in supporting low-income families has declined dramatically. The Number of the Day is the manufacturing jobs added to the Oklahoma economy between June 2010 and 2011, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total non-farm jobs added.

In The News

Cherokee Nation court terminates freedmen citizenship

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court reversed and vacated a district court decision in the freedmen case Monday, immediately terminating the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 non-Indians. The 4-1 ruling states that because a 2007 referendum that amended the Cherokee constitution to exclude freedmen descendants from tribal citizenship was conducted in compliance with the tribe’s laws, the court does not have the authority to overturn its results. Claiming a lack of jurisdiction for either court, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court also terminated all temporary injunctions in the case and instructed the district court to dismiss the lawsuit. Cherokee Nation District Judge John Cripps had ruled in January in favor of the freedmen descendants, citing an 1866 treaty between the United States and the tribe that granted equal rights to the freedmen – former slaves who had been owned by Cherokees.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

DHS workers blame budget saving policies for girl’s death

Five-year-old Serenity Deal died because of a flawed child welfare system and a practice model that sought to balance the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ budget by forcing children out of protective custody, two workers at the center of the controversy charged Monday. In their response to a pre-termination notice, the attorney for state DHS child welfare workers Jennifer Shawn and Randy Lack said both workers were being singled out because of their public criticism of the agency. “It is clear that despite their limited involvement in the reunification of Serenity Anne Deal, Ms. Shawn and Mr. Lack were singled out for termination,” Oklahoma City attorney Pete Serrata wrote to DHS area director William Wilson. “Moreover it is clear from the fact that OKDHS has failed to reprimand any of the supervisors, county directors or area liaisons who personally reviewed and approved the case that the proposed notices of discharge are solely the result of Ms. Shawn and Mr. Lack’s internal criticism of policy violation in Lincoln County and their public criticism of the department’s policy.”

Read more from The Journal Record [subscriber only] at

Oklahoma’s unemployment gap: Why the labor market isn’t colorblind

Part One of this series examined the stubborn persistence of the unemployment gap between black and white workers. Despite decades of improvement in social, political, and economic status, black Americans are still unemployed at twice the rate of their white counterparts, a ratio that hasn’t changed since the 1940s. Why aren’t black workers achieving employment parity? Researchers point to two factors: (1) the high incarceration rate among blacks, especially black men; and (2) discrimination in the hiring process. Oklahoma incarcerated 25,476 people in 2010, 30.5 percent of whom were black. Since only 7.4 percent of the population of Oklahoma are African-American, there are more than four times as many blacks in the prison system as there are in the state’s general population. This is an even larger disparity than the national average, where three times more black people are incarcerated than their population would predict.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Program for disabled Oklahomans implements waiting list for new clients

The agency that retrains disabled Oklahomans to return to the work force has implemented a waiting list for services for the first time in more than two years. People with the most severe disabilities and those now being served will not be affected by the change, but new clients whose disabilities are at the lowest level will have to wait for openings before they will be served, said Michael O’Brien, director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. The agency isn’t out of money, and current clients shouldn’t be anxious about their services continuing, he said. “There are people who will have to wait, but we’re serving more people than we have in a really long time,” O’Brien said. In federal fiscal year 2011, the agency served 26,631 Oklahomans – a 31 percent increase from 2009 levels. State funding to the department was cut 1 percent last year. That resulted in a loss of $1 million when lost federal matching funds are figured in. In the two previous years, the agency’s budget was uncut.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Republican field grows for Dan Boren’s Congressional seat

The field of Republican candidates vying to replace Oklahoma’s only Democrat in Congress continues to expand, as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a former state legislator have taken steps to enter the race. Dakota Wood, of Claremore, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, announced his candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District last week, while former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, of Edmond, said he was forming an exploratory committee. There now are six Republicans who have either announced as candidates or formed exploratory committees, while Democrats have seen their top two prospects for replacing Rep. Dan Boren decide against making the race.

Read more from NewsOK at

NewsOK: Lawmakers right to encourage release of former trooper video

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is refusing to release videotape of a traffic stop made by a trooper who has since resigned and faces second-degree rape charges. State Rep. Randy Terrill says the OHP is wrong not to turn over video footage, sought by The Oklahoman and others, of a June traffic stop by Patrick Venable. Venable is accused of having sexual contact in his patrol car with a woman he had stopped on a suspicion of drunken driving. In denying the request, OHP cited a state Open Records Act exemption pertaining to patrol car video, and Venable’s rights as a suspect given that the video is likely to be evidence in his criminal case. The latter seems a stretch. How is it that dashboard camera video of civilian suspects — those involved in chases, or who assault officers during stops, or who stumble around during sobriety tests — seems to find its way into circulation without a second thought, yet releasing this former trooper’s video is a bridge too far?

Read more from NewsOK at

Upcoming Event: ‘Too Big To Fail’ lecture with Andrew Ross Sorkin, August 31

The University of Central Oklahoma’s College of Business will host Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves. The lecture and book signing will begin at 10:30am in the Nigh University Center Constitution Hall on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. The book delivers a behind-the scenes account of how domestic financial problems developed into a global crisis in 2008. It spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was nominated for the BBC’s Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. The Economist, The Financial Times and BusinessWeek named Too Big To Fail one of the best books of the year. Andrew Ross Sorkin is a leading voice about Wall Street and corporate America and New York Magazine described him as “the most famous financial journalist of his generation.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Quote of the Day

This affects all of us native Cherokees. At any time, the tribe could decide to institute a blood quantum, which would automatically disenroll many of us.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons, on the Cherokee Supreme Court decision that the tribe can expel 3,000 descendants of slaves formerly held by Cherokees.

Number of the Day


Number of manufacturing jobs added to the Oklahoma economy between June 2010 and 2011, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total non-farm jobs added (28,300).

Source: Oklahoma Employment Security Commission via NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

TANF at 15: How well does it provide support for low-income families?

President Clinton signed the 1996 welfare law 15 years ago today, creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. We’ll present a series of posts this week that provide a closer look at how welfare reform has played out over the last 15 years. Today’s post focuses on TANF as a source of income support for poor families. TANF’s early years witnessed unprecedented declines in the number of families receiving cash assistance — and unprecedented increases in the share of single mothers working, especially those with less than a high school education. But since then, nearly all of the employment gains have disappeared, and TANF caseloads have responded only modestly to increased need during this deep and long downturn. As the following charts make clear, TANF remains an important source of income support for a small, but vulnerable group of families. However, because relatively few families receive TANF and benefits are very low, TANF plays a much more limited role in helping families escape poverty or deep poverty (i.e., income below half the poverty line) today than AFDC did.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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