In The Know: Stitt reaffirms opposition to statewide mask mandate | Hofmeister: ‘Not acceptable’ that school districts don’t require masks | More

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.

Oklahoma News

Virus spike that closed Stillwater schools prompts state push for precautions, but no mandates: Gov. Kevin Stitt came to Stillwater on Tuesday to urge residents to take precautions to reverse a local spike in COVID-19 cases that shuttered local schools after only two days. Stitt acknowledged that communities in Oklahoma that have instituted face mask mandates have succeeded in keeping numbers of new cases down. But despite a White House recommendation for a statewide mask mandate based on Oklahoma’s ongoing circumstances, the governor reiterated he “does not believe” in the appropriateness of such a measure and will leave mandatory restrictions up to the judgment of local officials. [Tulsa World]

Hofmeister: ‘Not acceptable’ that so many school districts are failing to require masks: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said on Tuesday that she considers it unacceptable that a sizeable number of Oklahoma school districts have declined to require masks as they reopen for in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Lawton’s Census Week: The impact on education: Filling out the 2020 Census to reflect Lawton’s population will help our students for years to come, both within Lawton Public Schools and Cameron University. If information submitted to the Census does not reflect our true numbers, it could cause some problems down the line. [KSWO] Representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau in are in town for the City of Lawton’s “Census Week” as part of their final push to get everyone in Oklahoma counted in the 2020 Census before the drop-dead date of Sept. 30. [Lawton Constitution]

State Government News

Zumwalt named director of Oklahoma unemployment agency: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission on Tuesday announced that interim director Shelley Zumwalt has been named executive director of the agency. [AP News]

State: COVID-19 not enough to invalidate voting laws on absentee ballots: The presence of COVID-19 while casting a ballot is now just part of the “usual burdens” of voting and any changes to mail-in absentee ballot validation rules now would cause “chaos” in the electoral process, state officials argued to a judge. Rather, the state claims a judge should deny an injunction request from two Democratic Party groups on grounds Oklahoma’s absentee voting ballot verification laws are unconstitutional. [Tulsa World]  Editorial: Governor’s executive order protects voters, but more is needed. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

McGirt fallout: Federal judge denies request to reconsider release of suspect in 1990s rapes: A Muskogee federal judge on Monday denied prosecutors’ request to reconsider his ruling ordering the release of a man suspected of committing several rapes in the 1990s, but the Muscogee (Creek) Nation signaled willingness to pursue its own case against him. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma State Parks: No, antifa didn’t rent out a campground in Norman: Oklahoma State Parks on Tuesday debunked what was a building online conspiracy theory that an antifascist group was planning to appear at a state campground. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City tries, once again, to fix police oversight: On Aug. 11, approximately 40 leaders and representatives from various corners of the Oklahoma City community gathered in a giant, socially distanced circle in the Cox Convention Center for the first meeting of the mayor’s Law Enforcement Task Force. [NonDoc]

David Prater takes stand in day two of judge’s trial: During his testimony on Tuesday in the second day of a trial before the state Court on the Judiciary that could result in a judge’s removal from the bench, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said he believes Judge Kendra Coleman violated the state code of ethics and denied that his office was out to get her. [NonDoc] The district attorney said he asked her to step down from criminal cases and filed a judicial complaint against her because she had not disclosed all her 2018 campaign donors for multiple months. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Police Chief: Violent crime up but reforms being implemented in challenging 2020: Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin says violent crime is up in the city. Franklin called a news conference Tuesday to give some of TPD’s stats. He said compared to the same period in 2019, homicides in 2020 are up 14% to 19%, and assaults on officers are up 40%. Franklin said domestic violence calls involving strangulation are also high, though this year’s 446 so far weren’t compared to last year. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • ‘Violence towards officers’ not a hot topic, Tulsa Police chief says, but ‘real to us’ [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa County commissioners approve more money for rental assistance: The Tulsa County Commissioners approved another $3 million for the Tulsa Housing Authority’s rent assistance program, according to a news release. The second installment comes after applicants sought nearly that much in relief in the program’s first week. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Devon Energy sheds more employees: Devon Energy confirmed Tuesday it has again reduced its workforce. The energy giant based in Oklahoma City did not disclose how many employees were laid off or whether they were given the option to leave, like in a voluntary buyout scenario. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Reform advocates urge colleges and universities to stop asking prospective students about their criminal histories: Prospective college students should not be asked up front about their criminal histories, reform advocates told an Oklahoma House of Representatives panel on Tuesday. OK Policy Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade said the state’s offender population represents a largely untapped potential source of skilled workers at a time when employers are crying for them. [Tulsa World]

General News

Ground game: Horn and Bice seek votes in a diverse district: In what is expected to be one of the most competitive congressional races this year, Kendra Horn and Stephanie Bice will be seeking votes across a diverse district. [The Frontier] U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs freshmen House Dems, marking shift [AP News]

Woman, 105, leads lawsuit seeking reparations for 1921 Tulsa massacre: A group of Oklahomans, led by 105-year-old woman, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday demanding reparations for the 1921 Tulsa race massacre which saw white mobs burn down a thriving black neighborhood and kill hundreds of people. [The Guardian] Nearly 100 years after white mobs slaughtered Black residents and destroyed a prosperous Black business district in Tulsa, survivors of the massacre and descendants of the victims filed a lawsuit against the city and others on Tuesday, saying they must be compensated for the losses they endured. [New York Times]

  • Success of new Tulsa Race Massacre reparations lawsuit hinges on state’s nuisance law, attorneys say: By arguing that the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre created a “public nuisance,” the effects of which still haunt north Tulsa’s Black community, the parties behind a new lawsuit believe they finally have found the key to achieving reparations. [Tulsa World] Damario Solomon-Simmons, part of group of attorneys representing nine plaintiffs, said the lawsuit seeks to right an almost 100-year wrong by obtaining justice from the government they said created the “nuisance,” then profited from massacre victims’ misery for decades. [The Oklahoman] The Massacre was one of the most heinous acts of racial terrorism committed in the U.S. by those in power against Black people since slavery. [Black Wall Street Times]

OKC Thunder: Organization announces voter registration drive inside arena: On Tuesday, the franchise announced that, inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, it would play host to “voter registration drives every Saturday from Sept. 12 to Oct. 4, leading up to the Oct. 9 deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.” [Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“It’s so much more than a tourist site — it’s a crime scene. Until Tulsa does right by Greenwood, this district will forever be a crime scene.”

-The Rev. Dr. Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, the only structure in Tulsa’s Greenwood district that was not destroyed by the white mobs during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre [New York Times

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s voting-eligible population who participated in the March 3, 2020 presidential primary.

[Source: United States Election Project]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Universal Voting: Your questions, our answers: Requiring everyone to vote — no matter their education level or political affiliation — will better represent popular will and lead to a far more representative system of governance. [Brookings Institute]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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