In The Know: June 6, 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 on In The Know, draft sections of Oklahoma’s water plan predict that the infrastructure repairs and improvements needed to meet Oklahoma’s drinking water needs will cost $87 billion over the next 50 years. Oklahoma will also have to navigate disputes over tribal water rights, growing demand for urban drinking water supplies at the expense of tourism and recreation uses in rural areas, and attempts by Texas to force the state to sell its water.

USA Today looks at efforts to roll back tax credits in several states, including Oklahoma. The Creek Nation chief said his tribe is under FBI investigation for distributing cigarettes without an Oklahoma tax stamp. Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County is struggling to provide hot meals to elderly Oklahomans in their own homes amid state budget cuts. Oklahoma County will pay a $1 million settlement over an inmate who died from injuries received during a struggle with jail guards.

Janet Pearson looks at the role of traffic planning in the growing number of pedestrian deaths in Oklahoma. Julie DelCour highlights problems of inadequate working facilities for the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau. Kim Henry explains why investments in early childhood education are important for economic development. Kurt Hochenauer praises Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater for his conduct during the Jerome Ersland case. In today’s Policy Note, state and local government job losses have topped half a million since the recession began.

Read on for more.

In The News

Supplying Oklahoma’s water needs will be difficult, costly

It is expected to cost $87 billion for improvements to meet Oklahoma’s drinking water needs over the next 50 years. That’s roughly 13 times Oklahoma’s entire state budget. That includes the money to build, replace and expand water plants, pumps, wells and water lines, but doesn’t include any new reservoirs that might be built. Figuring out a way to pay for those improvements is one of many challenges that must be overcome if Oklahomans are to continue to enjoy safe and reliable water supplies, according to draft sections of a 50-year water plan scheduled for release in 2012.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Tribal water rights complicate Oklahoma’s water planning efforts from NewsOK; Oklahoma’s 50-year water plan draws criticism from eastern Oklahoma lawmakers from NewsOK; Texas wants Oklahoma water from NewsOK

Cash strapped states look to roll back tax credits

Tough budget times are forcing state governments to rethink the tax breaks they grant. The Oklahoma Legislature has set up a special committee to review tax incentives there. A report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in October 2010 listed the cost of hundreds of credits and incentives. “It’s like a big Christmas tree,” says Larkin Warner, emeritus professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, who serves on the committee. “The legislators ought to take a hard look.”

Read more from this USA Today article at

Creek Nation chief says Tribe may be under FBI investigation

During the past year, federal investigators have conducted an undercover operation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, apparently looking into alleged tobacco kickbacks to Creek Nation employees, an official said. Creek Nation Chief A.D. Ellis said that a dozen FBI agents descended upon the Creek Nation headquarters in Okmulgee in April. The agents focused primarily on the tribe’s Trade and Commerce Authority and a tobacco warehouse once used to store and distribute Indian-made cigarettes without an Oklahoma tax stamp, Ellis said.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County helps elderly to live independently

Darlene Boozer has lived in the same home for 43 years and would rather die than have to leave it. Six days a week, volunteers for Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County bring her one hot meal a day. It’s enough help for Boozer, 85, who recently had a stroke and suffers from heart problems, to live on her own. Boozer is one of more than 1,000 elderly who receive meals from the program. But there are more out there who need meals, said Carolyn Roslik, project director for Mobile Meals of Oklahoma County, a nonprofit organization serving the Oklahoma City metro area. Financing the service is a challenge, and some 100 people in the area remain on a waiting list. Don Hudman, executive director of the Areawide Aging Agency, said state money for programs like Mobile Meals have been cut.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma County pays $1 million to settle lawsuit over jail inmate’s death

Oklahoma County in May paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit over an inmate’s death, court records show. County commissioners approved the settlement of the civil case in Oklahoma City federal court. It will result in a small tax increase for Oklahoma County property owners, officials said. The inmate, Christopher Beckman, 34, of Choctaw, died in a hospital May 28, 2007, two days after a lengthy struggle with jail guards in his second floor cell, just outside his cell and inside a 13th floor jail medical clinic.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Pedestrian dangers grow in Oklahoma

A federal study released in January verified what lots of us have been wondering: It’s getting more dangerous out there for Oklahoma pedestrians. Another study just released provides more details on how dangerous our streets and roads are. If you scamper across the street against the light, have to seek help because of car trouble, or have no vehicle because of personal circumstances, you could end up a statistic. That’s because the American emphasis on “traffic movement at the expense of pedestrians and other travel modes” has led to the traffic systems we have today, which try to “move as many cars through these areas as quickly as possible.” We’re still doing that in the Midwest. But there’s growing pressure to make our communities more pedestrian-friendly.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Juvenile justice in a sardine can

The records division of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau is housed in a double-wide trailer in the backyard of the aging, overcrowded complex at 315 S. Gilcrease Museum Road, near the banks of the Arkansas River. Several times a year wild animals invariably get trapped in some hidden recess in the trailer and die, causing bureau Director Brent Wolfe to clear the premises and temporarily house nauseated records’ staffers in the main building. Dead possums are the least of the bureau’s problems. Issues involving its work environment go far deeper and far wider and should have been remedied years ago.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Kim Henry: Early childhood education is economic development

Learning begins at birth, not kindergarten. More than 85 percent of the brain’s architecture is developed by a child’s third birthday. Low-income children often start out behind the curve. Many have a single parent with little or no flexibility in her schedule to initiate stimulating activities. Oftentimes that parent is herself lacking in education. For children who start out behind, the achievement gap between them and their peers continues to widen as they age – and it makes them more susceptible to social ills such as illiteracy, teen pregnancy and dropping out of school. That’s why groups such as Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities, or OKCEO – a partnership of Smart Start Oklahoma, the Potts Family Foundation and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable – are spreading the message that early childhood education must be at the forefront of economic considerations.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Okie Funk: Praise for Pater

Right after the Jerome Ersland case started making local headlines and leading local newscasts, I posted a piece here, titled “In Defense of Prater,” which argued Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater had no choice but to bring charges against the pharmacist. That piece, which also called for calm in the Oklahoma City community, was posted May 31, 2009. Ersland has now been convicted of murder and faces life in prison, and people here remain divided over his conviction, but this much is clear: As I argued before, Prater was right to bring the charges, and he acted with integrity in a situation fraught with political risk and overcharged emotions.

Read more from the Okie Funk blog at

Quote of the Day

Maybe most important will be the citizenry’s willingness to pay for the true value of water. It seems to me that we currently do not have that willingness.

Kyle Arthur, a member of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. According to new studies by the OWRB, improvements and repairs to state water systems are expected to cost $87 billion over the next 50 years.

Number of the Day


Average age of an Oklahoma farm operator, 2007

Source: 2007 Census of Agriculture

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

State and local job losses top half a million

Police, firefighters, nurses, teachers, bridge inspectors and agriculture specialists have one thing in common besides making the quality of our lives better.  They are part of a state and local government workforce that is losing jobs at a distressing rate. State and local governments laid off 30,000 men and women in May, and they have laid off more than half a million since the recession began. May was the eighth consecutive month—and the 27th out of the last 33—in which total state and local employment shrank. Why?  Not because we don’t need teachers and cops, but because the long, deep recession and its aftermath have deprived states and localities of revenue needed to pay salaries.

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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