In The Know: Gov’s pick for Native American liaison raises concerns from tribes | Cover-up alleged in Pottawatomie County jail deaths | Ed Dept. announces PragerU partnership | Capitol Update

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Investments in people can help make Oklahoma’s workforce competitive (Capitol Update): State Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn had a thoughtful Labor Day opinion piece published Sunday in the Tulsa World (and perhaps in other newspapers.) As Labor Commissioner, she is aware that we do not have the necessary workforce in our state. Keeping businesses open requires people to fill the jobs. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma kindergartens are now the least-vaccinated in the region: Oklahoma’s kindergarteners are now the least-vaccinated in the region. More than three years into the COVID-19 pandemic that scrambled perceptions of routine public health measures and attitudes toward vaccinations, Oklahoma now has the highest rate of exemptions from immunizations for kindergartners, according to state and federal data. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma among worst states for workers, report found: Oklahoma is one of the worst states for employees, according to an annual analysis from a global group that focuses on ending inequality and poverty. Oxfam ranked Oklahoma 44th in its Best States to Work Index. The organization considered wages, employee protections and right to organize in compiling its rankings. [Oklahoma Voice]

Cover-up Alleged in Pottawatomie County Jail Deaths: Pottawatomie County jail officials apparently defied state laws and a judge’s order when they concealed information on the unexplained deaths of seven vulnerable detainees. All seven people arrived at the jail with medical and mental health or substance use complications that required care. None of them made it home alive. Most of their families still don’t know why. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Wes Nofire tapped for Native American liaison role in Oklahoma governor’s office: Gov. Kevin Stitt says former Cherokee Nation tribal council member Wes Nofire will be “a bridge” between his office and the state’s tribal nations. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. who was just sworn in for a second term last week said the appointment was disappointing. [KOSU]

  • Oklahoma governor taps new Native affairs liaison as criticism from tribal leaders grows [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt taps Wes Nofire as Native American Affairs liaison [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Two nations, one goal: strengthening tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma: During their annual state of the nation addresses, both Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. say they’re focusing their efforts on strengthening tribal sovereignty. [KOSU]

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Launches Expansion of Juvenile Justice System: Principal Chief David Hill signed new legislation that creates the legal framework for implementing a ten-year strategic plan for juvenile justice on the MCN reservation. [Muscogee Nation News]

Health News

Nursing home industry concerned about new staffing rules proposed by Biden administration: Oklahomans are divided over new nursing home rules that the Biden administration says will bolster safety for residents by increasing the amount of direct care patients receive each day. Opponents argue that the rules would punish long-term care facilities and exacerbate an already existing health care worker shortage, while supporters contend nursing home reforms are sorely needed. [Oklahoma Voice]

Criminal Justice News

Acting chairman of Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board accused of unwanted contact in Episcopal Church: A woman has accused the acting chairman of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board of making unwanted physical contact with her last year. Edward Konieczny, a retired Episcopalian bishop, was appointed to the board by Gov. Kevin Stitt in January 2022. [The Oklahoman]

Lawyer says man shot by off-duty Del City officer ‘had his hands up’: Demetrize Carter, 43, was shot in the chest by an off-duty Del City police officer at a Choctaw high school football game where one student was shot and killed by a minor who has since been arrested. [KGOU]

  • Lawyer says officer at Choctaw football game shooting may have been ‘targeting’ man injured [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Is more affordable housing coming to downtown Edmond?: Homeowners from three different neighborhoods received letters from the city, letting them know about a new overlay proposal. This occurred ahead of a town hall the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency will host on Wednesday night to talk about Edmond’s lack of housing options. [KOCO]

Education News

Ryan Walters announces partnership between Oklahoma schools, PragerU Kids: Oklahoma state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters on Tuesday announced a “partnership” with a conservative nonprofit that produces videos for schoolchildren meant to counter what it calls “the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.” Critics have accused the company of spreading misinformation and downplaying topics ranging from slavery to climate change, and social media companies have flagged some of the group’s videos. [The Oklahoman]

  • PragerU ‘pro-America’ lessons encouraged in Oklahoma schools [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma Department of Education announces partnership with conservative online media company PragerU [KOSU]

Former Norman teacher targeted by Ryan Walters over QR code sues him for defamation, libel: A former Norman Public Schools teacher is suing State Superintendent Ryan Walters for defamation and other allegations. The suit filed last week stems from Walters publicly targeting the teacher last year when he was Secretary of Education and campaigning for his current seat. [KOSU]

Court sides with school board in lawsuit from parent tossed during public comment: An appellate court has sided with the Stillwater Public Schools Board of Education after a parent sued because he was tossed out of a meeting during public comment about the district’s bathroom policy. [Tulsa World]

TPS’ Monroe launches new volunteer initiative to get men on middle school campus: In an effort to get more role models and mentors in front of its students, a Tulsa middle school is seeking a few good men for its new volunteer program. [Tulsa World]

General News

Tulsa begins new 1921 Race Massacre gravesite search: Tulsa is moving ahead with a third excavation of gravesites from the 1921 Race Massacre. At a press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor G.T. Bynum was joined by State Archaeologist Dr. Kary Stackelbeck and Brenda Nails-Alford, a descendant of massacre survivors, in detailing the latest work of finding victims’ graves at Oaklawn Cemetery. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Search for Tulsa Race Massacre burials leads to Clyde Eddy site at Oaklawn Cemetery [Tulsa World]

Ongoing heat has Homeless Alliance seeking donations to help unsheltered people stay cool: Homeless Alliance leaders said that even with the end of summer in sight, temperature are still soaring into the upper 90s and low 100s, meaning they’re still consistently seeing more than 300 guests per day visiting the alliance’s day shelter. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum talks about mental health: ‘We’re in this together’ to help those in need: Mental illness has turned into a global health challenge, with cities across the nation looking to find ways to help address mental health needs in their communities. [Mayor G.T. Bynum Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman, OU coalition to announce plans for $1 billion entertainment district [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Some people believe social media more than they believe clinical experts, and that’s become a real challenge in our world for all kinds of things, whether for medical information or non-medical information.”

-Dr. Steven Crawford, a family physician and board chairman of the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families, talking about how misinformation has lowered the state’s kindergartner vaccination rates. [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


The vaccination exemption rate for Oklahoma kindergartners for the 2021-22 school year, which was up from 2.4% the previous year. Public health officials pay attention to kindergarten vaccination rates because they are an important indicator of community immunity and allow officials to better target health resources if a disease outbreak occurs. [Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

Small Multifamily Homes Were Disappearing. Now States Are Scrambling to Revive Them: Housing construction in the US has long focused on single-family homes and large apartment buildings, leaving a deficit of everything in between—sometimes referred to as “middle housing” by housing experts and advocates. While the number of new apartment building units recently reached the highest point in nearly half a century, the construction of denser alternatives to single-family homes made up just 1% of new housing units built in 2022. Legislators and advocates are pushing for that to change, arguing that middle housing could lower costs and alleviate a national housing shortage. [Bloomberg News]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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