In The Know: September 7, 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 a packed crowd of more than 500 people attended an OKC community meeting on urban sprawl. Bob Waldrop summarized several of the meeting’s presentations. Tulsa and OKC both exceeded federal ozone standard this year, which could put them on the EPA’s dirty-air list. The Oklahoma Water Resource Board made 10 recommendations for how to finance the more than $80 billion Oklahoma needs for water infrastructure over the next 50 years.

Union and Jenks school districts have challenged the constitutionality of a law that allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private schools. The Cherokee freedmen descendants are asking U.S. courts to restore their voting rights before the Cherokee Principal Chief election in two weeks. Senator Jim Wilson is renewing his challenge to Senate redistricting, which he says was unconstitutional gerrymandering. This Land Press describes the conspiracy of silence over the Greenwood District in the years after the Tulsa Race Riot.

Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections for August were 15.2 percent higher than the same month for the previous year. The OK Policy Blog spoke with Chad Wilkerson, the Oklahoma City Branch Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, about economic conditions in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s average high school ACT scores ranked near the national average, though they varied widely between schools. Superintendent Barresi said weak gains in ACT scores show a need to concentrate more on core subjects.

In today’s Policy Note, The Policy Shop shows why some political leaders are pointing to the wrong culprits to explain weak job growth. Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally on students’ average ACT math score.

In The News

Oklahoma City tackles urban sprawl

A crowd of more than 500 people left a community meeting Tuesday about urban sprawl in Oklahoma City well-versed in the city’s sprawl-related problems, but solutions were in short supply. Ward 2 city Councilman Ed Shadid, who organized the meeting, said its purpose was to be the first step in finding those solutions. “It’s about defining the issues, defining the scope of the problem and bringing it to the public,” Shadid said. “Then we can let them process it, draw upon their individual experiences and then engage the city with their ideas.” A panel of Oklahoma City government department heads and an academic from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture spoke to the crowd at the meeting, and the crowd filled the Oklahoma City Marriott’s Grand Ballroom to capacity. Oklahoma City is the third-largest in the U.S. in land area at 621 square miles, City Manager Jim Couch said. But it’s the 31st-largest by population, according to the most recent U.S. Census.

Read more from NewsOK at

See also: 600 people crowd Ed Shadid forum from

Tulsa, OKC exceed EPA ozone standard

Punished by record-breaking hot weather this summer, Tulsa exceeded the ozone air quality standard 24 times, according to Indian Nations Council of Governments records. That compares to just twice the Tulsa area topped the standard during the entire 2010 season, according to INCOG figures. Tulsa joins the Oklahoma City metro in recording high ozone readings. Oklahoma City is also in probable violation, said Scott Thomas, air quality program manager for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in Oklahoma City. According to the current standard, a violation occurs when the number of particles in the air is greater than 75 parts per billion during a three-year average – from 2009-2011. Tulsa has a 76 ppb average and Oklahoma City’s is 77 ppb, making the two metropolitan areas eligible for what the Environmental Protection Agency refers to as nonattainment status. When areas are labeled nonattainment, they are placed on the so-called dirty-air list.

Read more from The Journal Record [subscriber only] at

Ten ways OK can finance clean, reliable water supplies

Oklahoma needs about $38 billion to meet the drinking water infrastructure needs for the next 50 years. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s estimate — which uses 2007 dollars and is adjusted for projected inflation — was released last week in a draft of the department’s comprehensive water plan. The OWRB found that the state’s current financing programs aren’t enough to meet the projected costs of drinking or wastewater infrastructure projects. Wastewater infrastructure improvements are expected to costs $43 billion (in 2010 dollars) over the next half-century. In its draft plan, the OWRB made 10 recommendations to ensure that publicly owned water and wastewater systems “the financing opportunities necessary” to secure clean, reliable water supplies.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma at

Union, Jenks file lawsuit over private school voucher for special-needs students

Union and Jenks school districts have a filed a lawsuit in state court to challenge the constitutionality of a law that allows the use of public funds to send special-needs students to private schools. In a petition filed in Tulsa County District Court Friday, the lawsuit names as defendants the parents of special-needs students who alleged in a federal lawsuit in April that the districts refused to provide scholarships last year for their children to attend private schools. The school districts also are asking the court to declare Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act — or House Bill 3393 — and its subsequent amendments in HB 1744 unconstitutional and invalid.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Cherokee freedmen descendants ask court to reinstate voting rights

A group of freedmen is asking U.S. courts to restore their voting rights – in time for the Chief’s election in two weeks. The freedman voted in the first election – but as of now – cannot vote in the new election. The issue of what to do with the freedman dates back to the civil war and it’s more unsettled now than ever. The freedmen, descendents of the tribe’s slaves, finally lost their citizenship last month after four years of legal arguments. The Cherokee Supreme Court approved the tribe’s vote to expel the freedmen, even though their citizenship was established by treaty. The Cherokee nation argues only the tribe can define a member and for them – it’s a simple question of having bloodline back to the members on the Dawes Roll.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Okla. Senator renews redistricting challenge

An Oklahoma lawmaker asked a district judge Tuesday to block a new state Senate map from taking effect because he maintains it is unconstitutional based on political gerrymandering. Sen. Jim Wilson of Tahlequah filed an application for a preliminary injunction in Oklahoma County District Court, asking District Judge Lisa Davis to prevent the new Senate boundaries from taking effect. “When the Senate hires a political consultant to draw the district lines, that pretty much tells you the lines weren’t drawn to protect cities or counties or the interests outlined in the constitution,” said Mark Hammons, Wilson’s attorney. “The rationale for these districts is to get people elected or to get people beaten.” Wilson, who is term-limited and cannot run again, described his legal challenge as “an exercise in good government.”

Read more from this Associated Press article at

A conspiracy of silence

In the scorching summer of 1921, nearly 40 blocks of the black community of Greenwood were burned to the ground by a white mob. Thousands of Tulsans were forever affected by the destruction. Hundreds of lives were lost and many homes and businesses were destroyed. As the ashes cooled on America’s “Black Wall Street,” its citizens rebuilt Greenwood without the promised funds owed to them. Tulsa County commissioners denied all moneys from outside sources, vowing to take care of its own citizens, but never following through on their promise. The first commission had made plans to provide reparations to the riot victims but was quickly disbanded and reformed. The second commission sought to move blacks out of Greenwood entirely. For decades, the events from those atrocities were kept dormant, but were tightly whispered from the lips of those who dared to tell. The white community did not talk about race war because it left a stain on the fabric of the bustling oil capital. The black community did not talk about the massacre because those who committed the unpunished crime were still alive. Additionally, and unfortunately for the residents of Greenwood, the growth of Ku Klux Klan activity increased after the so-called riot. In this environment, the conspiracy of silence was born.

Read more from This Land Press at

Oklahoma gross revenue shows gains in August

Oklahoma’s economy last month sizzled nearly as much as the state’s triple-digit temperatures, despite growing concerns of a worldwide slowdown, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Tuesday. Ken Miller State treasurer Gross revenue collections in Oklahoma grew at a double-digit pace, Miller said. Gross state collections for August were 15.2 percent higher than the same month a year ago. Collections in June were 15.5 percent higher than for the same period a year ago, and collections in July registered a 6.8 percent growth. Miller said gross collections during the past 12 months totaled $10.37 billion, the highest level since July 2009, when 12-month collections totaled $10.4 billion.

Read more from NewsOK at

Interview with Chad Wilkerson: Oklahoma economy still looking ‘pretty solid’

Continuing high unemployment rates, weak economic growth, and stock market volatility are all contributing to concern and uncertainty about the national economy. But how’s Oklahoma faring in these turbulent times? I recently spoke with Chad Wilkerson, the Oklahoma City Branch Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City about conditions in the Sooner State. This is an edited and abridged transcript of our conversation on August 24, 2011. David Blatt: How would you characterize the current state of Oklahoma’s economy? Chad Wilkerson: I would say things are still pretty solid for us. We’ve had fairly solid job growth over the past year. Unemployment’s down to 5.5 percent, and in some parts of the state… it’s less than 5 percent. However, I think that measure may be overstating the degree to which we’ve recovered from the recent recession. There’s been a fairly sizable number of people drop out of the labor force in the last couple of years. This has been interesting me of late because of the fact that Oklahoma’s unemployment rates are down to a level that many economists consider full employment levels, 5 – 6 percent. But if the same share of the adult population was looking for jobs today as in 2007, our unemployment rate for the state would be a little over 8 percent.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma high school ACT scores rank near the national average

Oklahoma’s graduating class of 2011 scored close to the national average on the ACT college entrance exam, but student performance on the exam varies greatly by school, according to data released Monday by the Education Department. Seniors at the Oklahoma School for Math and Science had the highest average ACT score in the state with a 31.4, while at the bottom of the list is a small alternative high school in Oklahoma City for at-risk students with an average score of 13.7. The four-hour long multiple-choice exam is scored on a scale from 0-36. It has become synonymous with college acceptance for Oklahoma seniors. A high score can mean entrance into the university of their choice and more scholarship money, while a low score can tip the admission’s scale toward a rejection letter. The average score among all Oklahoma high school seniors on the ACT is 20.7. That is close to the national average on the exam 21.1 but well below admissions standards for the state’s two largest universities.

Read more from NewsOK at

See also: Superintendent: Oklahoma ACT scores show need to focus on core subjects

Quote of the Day

They hired a political consultant and came up with a political result.
Mark Hammons, attorney for Senator Jim Wilson, who is asking a judge to stop Senate redistricting from taking effect because he says it is based on unconstitutional gerrymandering.

Number of the Day

Oklahoma’s rank nationally on students’ average ACT math score, 2011
Source: ACT

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Wrong culprits: What’s NOT stopping job growth

With unemployment above 9 percent, creating more jobs is an urgent priority for the United States. But it is difficult to have a sensible debate on how to spark job growth given the myths and misinformation that surround this issue. Specifically, many political leaders and analysts wrongly point to three culprits in explaining weak job growth: government regulations, the new healthcare law, and taxes. None of these explanations hold up under closer scrutiny. In 2007, the average unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. That figured doubled by 2009, to 9.3 percent, not because of any major changes in regulation – since none occurred – but because of the financial crisis. Today, most economists agree that the main reason that companies aren’t hiring new workers is the lack of consumer demand. More generally, regulation is not a major determinant of employments levels – which have fluctuated over the past half century in ways divorced from regulatory trends.

Read more from The Policy Shop 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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