In The Know: July 18, 2011

In 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 on In The Know, the first story in an Oklahoma Watch series on immigration shows some US citizens with relatives in Mexico have been waiting 18 years to get their immigration requests processed. Oklahoma Watch also shared the stories of several immigrants’ long road to become citizens. After another Cherokee election recount, incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith was found to be ahead by 5 votes. Congress is considering a bill that would allow the Cherokee Nation to operate its own hydroelectric power plant on the Arkansas River.

Eighty-five percent of Governor Fallin’s appointments so far have been men. Several Tulsa neighborhoods have seen a rapid shift in demographics from predominately white to heavily Hispanic. Single-father households, grandparents raising grandchildren and same-sex partners raising kids are among the fastest-growing types of households with children in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma County jail is reducing its food costs and providing work for inmates with a 3-acre garden. OKC Central finds that while the I-40 realignment could avoid disruption from federal transportation cuts, the Core to Shore Boulevard is in jeopardy. In Today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows how better than expected state tax collections highlight the importance of the income tax. The Number of the Day is the percentage of the United State currently experiencing drought.

More below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma attorneys say road to immigration can be long, with many roadblocks

Americans who wonder why illegal immigrants sneak across the border rather than filing the paperwork necessary to immigrate legally don’t understand how difficult and lengthy the process can be, said Oklahoma City immigration attorneys. It can sometimes take years — even for people who have the special talents, skills or family connections, Stump said. U.S. residents who have relatives living in Mexico who have been waiting 18 years to have their immigration requests processed. “The lines are long and they do nothing but get longer,” Stump said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Immigration lottery: ‘I was lucky,’ one new US citizen says from The Tulsa World

Smith 5 votes ahead in Cherokee recount

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith finished five votes ahead of challenger Bill John Baker on Sunday in the tribe’s Supreme Court-ordered recount. The recount was conducted for evidentiary purposes only and is part of Smith’s appeal. It does not overturn the certified recount results from June 30 that named Baker the chief-elect by 266 votes. Initial unofficial results in the June 25 election showed challenger Baker ahead of Smith by 11 votes. Official results announced by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission on June 27, however, had Smith winning by seven votes.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Bill could allow Cherokee Nation to sell its own power

A quarter of a century after getting an exclusive right to build a power plant on the Arkansas River, the Cherokee Nation is ready to move on a $140 million, 30-megawatt facility. A 1986 law that originally granted the tribe the right to build the power plant on river land won in a court decision requires it to transfer the plant to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the electricity sold by the Southwestern Power Administration. “What we are offering today is that we will do the entire project,” Ross Swimmer, the tribe’s former principal chief, said. “The only way that it can be done is to have the Cherokee Nation actually design, build, own, operate, maintain and sell the power.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Governor tabs more men for state jobs

Oklahoma’s first female governor hasn’t brought a new wave of women with her into state government. Eighty-five percent of Gov. Mary Fallin’s appointments to state jobs, boards and commissions so far have been men, a Tulsa World analysis of Governor’s Office records shows. Fallin was more likely to appoint a Democrat to a state position than she was to appoint a woman. Fallin isn’t to blame for those statistics, said Sheryl Lovelady, director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. “(Governors) don’t appoint women because women don’t apply. It’s really that simple,” Lovelady said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Ethnic groups share neighborhood but remain separate

The 2010 Census confirmed what already seemed obvious – that several Tulsa neighborhoods have seen a rapid shift in demographics, going from predominately white to heavily Hispanic. Census maps reveal a distinct pattern, with Hispanic clusters along Interstate 244 and U.S. 169, where the Cooper Neighborhood sits east of the highway and between 11th and 21st streets. “There’s a self-imposed segregation,” says Kendall, who’s trying to teach himself a little Spanish so he can talk to his new neighbors. “I’m afraid we’re becoming two separate communities that share a neighborhood but never interact with each other.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Census 2010: The changing face of Oklahoma families

Single-father households, grandparents raising grandchildren and same-sex partners raising kids are among the fastest-growing types of households with children in Oklahoma. The traditional, nuclear family unit of husband, wife and kids accounted for more than 21.4 percent of all Oklahoma households in 2010. That’s down from 24.7 percent a decade ago. The number of nuclear family households fell 5.9 percent in the past decade to 312,372, according to an analysis of census data by The Oklahoman.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Inmate gardens sprouting savings for Oklahoma sheriffs

Perspiration drips from under Michael Lee’s cap and settles around the damp collar of his T-shirt. Still, working in the garden in 102-degree heat suits him better than sitting in an air-conditioned jail cell with 15 other inmates, he said. Lee is one of the inmates at the Oklahoma County jail helping transform nearly 3 weed-infested acres into a garden that will supply the jail with fresh produce. Sheriff John Whetsel said the garden is intended to be a money-saver for the jail’s food budget, while providing work for inmates who want to earn time off their sentences for good behavior.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

OKC Central: Could the Core to Shore Boulevard be in jeopardy?

Earlier this week, Gary Ridley at ODOT talked about how potential federal budget cuts could hamper completion of the new Interstate 40 south of downtown. I thought this was intriguing in light of news in prior weeks that the highway was running ahead of schedule (relatively speaking) and is set to open for traffic by mid-2012. So I called ODOT and discovered there is only one bid left, a $20 million paving job for the highway west of the Bricktown Canal, and it’s been advertised and responses are due soon. State statute requires that money be in hand before bids are advertised. Here’s the bottom line: the highway will open for traffic next year, but the boulevard, which is in the eight-year funding plan, could be delayed significantly.

Read more from the OKC Central blog at

Quote of the Day

It’s an antiquated system. It’s collapsing down around us. That’s why this country is losing its edge in the world’s race for the development of new technology.
T. Douglas Stump, an Oklahoma immigration attorney, on a US immigration system that can leave people waiting decades to have their applications processed.

Number of the Day

29 percent

Percentage of the United States that is currently experiencing drought; 12 percent of the country is in exceptional drought, the largest extent on record.

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor via CBS News

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Better than expected state tax collections highlight importance of income tax

State revenues—especially income tax collections—are beginning to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, but they still have a long way to go. At least 28 states have reported that tax collections for the just-ended fiscal year will exceed the amount expected when their budgets were adopted last spring. In 23 of those states, the improvement is driven by gains in income tax collections—a result of rapid increases in the incomes of wealthy individuals and corporations over the last year. (Aside from North Carolina, the exceptions don’t have a personal or corporate income tax or both.) The better-than-expected revenue picture could allow these states to reduce the spending cuts they have planned for schools, health care, human services and other areas.

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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