The Oklahoma People to Watch in 2011 (Tulsa World)

by: RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

The five people profiled here may not be household names, but expect that to change. Their roles in government, public policy and community affairs will have wide-ranging impacts in the year ahead.

[To see the full story and the profiles of Mana Tahaie, Preston Doreflinger, Roberta Preston and Denise Northrup, click here]

DAVID BLATT, director, Oklahoma Policy Institute

Not everyone agrees with David Blatt, but almost everyone agrees with his numbers.

The former Oklahoma Senate staffer’s analyses of state budget issues are respected by policy makers left, right and center; in a year of historic change in state government, both among elected officials and staff, Blatt’s insights could prove more valuable and influential than ever.

“We have worked very hard to preserve and enhance our credibility,” Blatt said. “We don’t put out inflammatory statements. We don’t want to be just dismissed as – I’m going to say it – liberals.”

By “we,” Blatt means “he.” The Oklahoma Policy Institute currently consists of Blatt and a tiny office near downtown Tulsa.

By “liberal,” he means the institute’s role as an advocate for low-income Oklahomans.

“Our purpose is really two-fold,” Blatt said. “One is to be a source of independent, credible information for a wide range of audiences.

“At the same time, we are guided by core constituents, and that leads us to promote different priorities.”

Those priorities, said Blatt, are the “fair and adequate funding” of social services and the “expansion of economic opportunity for all Oklahomans.”

Blatt himself is among the unlikeliest of Oklahomans.

A native of Montreal who earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. from Cornell, Blatt wrote his dissertation on black African immigrants in Paris. He wound up in Oklahoma, and ultimately Tulsa, when his wife, a Wichita native, landed a job at Oklahoma State University.

Blatt got a job on the Senate staff analyzing fiscal issues related to health and social services.

A few years later, he was hired as a policy adviser and researcher by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County. In 2008, his office spun off of CAPTC as the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Blatt said the institute is making progress. Another researcher is about to be hired, and people are paying attention to his work.

“We’re at the end of our third year, and we’re very pleased with the work that we’ve done,” he said.

The institute, Blatt said, is “filling a void” caused by the diminishing size of the Capitol press corps and of legislative staff.

“People are looking for new sources of information,” he said.

And Blatt is nothing if not a source of information.


Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.

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