Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money have been hard at work again on their latest book about Oklahoma City history. It’s title is “Cornerstone – The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City: 125 Years”
Here are some shots from the signing on Saturday at Full Circle Books.
To the surprise and obvious delight of the authors, several people mentioned in the history actually showed up to get a copy for themselves.
Here is a clip of Joe and Charlotte Dodson, founders of the Dodson’s Cafeterias on the South Side of Oklahoma City, telling about their involvement in the idea, funding, and eventual building of the Southside YMCA.
Having been in the Oklahoma public school classroom for 16 years, and many of those in the alternative ed classroom, I know that I am always looking for that one good thing that a student has done today. One will do. That’s it. We teachers are just wired that way.
And so it is natural for us to see one good vote from our representative or senator, praise them for it, and give them a pass on 10 bad votes that actually work against public education, especially in funding.
But to allow our legislators to use a one-good-vote approach and get by with it is a disservice to educational efforts in Oklahoma. It is also a disservice to the legislators. How?
Some may actually want to be more balanced in their voting, but in the absence of any other pressure, they are going to vote the way that lobbyists for those corporate interests tell them to vote.
So, the most cynical ones need to know that we are watching, and the earnest ones need to be able to point to our pressure as a way of holding off the corporate lobbyists.
Prepare for June 24th Primaries
There are several good ways to keep track of voting records when making your decision on how to vote in the upcoming primaries on June 24th.
Use the tools and general information on the website for the Oklahoma Policy Institute which has a track record of providing hard information on legislative matters.
The Bill Tracker tool on that website is an extremely good way to keep up with matters in the legislature when it is in session and for research in between.
Use the Bill Search feature on the web site for the Oklahoma Legislature.
Just using those tools alone will allow you to keep up with how your particular legislator voted in this last session.
One Vote In Full View, Another Gets in Under the Radar
Here is one comparison that is very important to seeing if your legislator is consistent in voting for public education and public services:
Public education and the children, parents, and teachers of Oklahoma achieved a big win on House bill 2625 – 3rd Grade Retention, authored by Republican Representative Katie Henke.
It originally passed 89-6 in the House and 43-1 in the Senate. The override of Gov. Fallin’s veto passed 79-17 in the House and 45-2 in the Senate.
During the debate, Representatives Henke, Casey, and Nolan wrote an opinion piece for the Tulsa World opposing automatic 3rd grade retention for students who did not pass the one-time, one-day test. Great!
But, lurking in the shadow of all that passion of the big win, and sliding in under confusion due to the same numbers being in this bill, there was House bill 2562 – “Gross Production Tax Cut”. Here is information provided by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
It would make permanent an incentive that had originally been given for horizontal drilling, and was set to expire next year. Now most drillers use that technique as a matter of course. After the expiration, the production tax would have moved back up to its original rate of 7%, which is the same rate used in neighboring states.
That bill, signed into law today by Gov. Fallin, offered a permanent tax break for Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry that is already flush with cash that they liberally spread around during races for the House and the Senate. It also deprives Oklahoma public services, like public education, of necessary funds in a completely manufactured crisis of funding for Oklahoma government.
The bill passed 61-34 in the House, and passed 23-22 in the Senate.
So, how did Henke, Casey, and Nolan vote? Henke was excused from the floor that day and Casey and Nolan voted against the bill. To me that’s a good example of consistency in voting. Way to go!
How did your legislators, representative and senator, vote on these two bills?
If they voted for the 3rd Grade Retention bill and the override of Fallin’s veto when the heat was on, good for them.
But, if they voted to give a big early Christmas gift to oil and gas donors in a bill passed at the very end of the session, then it’s time for them to hear from you. They voted to deprive public education and other services in Oklahoma of necessary funds in a time when Oklahoma’s economy is booming.
Some vets sacrifice their lives all at once on a battlefield. Those are the especially tragic situations. But other vets have made their sacrifice in increments for their country. Those are harder to identify and harder to appreciate. But on this Memorial Day it is especially important to remember those sacrifices, too.
It always stuns me to hear various media sources on Memorial Day referring to service members’ “losing” their lives for their country.
People “lose” their lives while trying to live and are surprised by death.
But, our service members who give their lives in service to their country – to us – are correctly referred to as having SACRIFICED their lives. It is their sacrifice to us all that they have risked their lives for the sake of our country’s mission. They have worn and flown our flag.
Some have made that sacrifice in an ultimate, terminal way on the battlefield and don’t come back home alive. Their lives have been given and the lives of everyone who they know are changed radically forever.
Others sacrificed in combat, were badly wounded, both physically and emotionally, and will spend the rest of their lives sacrificing over and over along with their families who will make the sacrifice daily of loving and helping with the healing.
On this Memorial let’s remember that now we have the largest group of returned vets ever in history due to four wars, three of which were the longest in American history: The Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War.
It isn’t enough to demand that the VA do everything that they can to serve and heal our vets who have given so much for us. Even more, we must fund that institution and fund other efforts to care for and help mend out returned vets. Arguments about the expense being too high from the party that sent us into two wars at once has stink to them that won’t go away.
The tendency is to think of those who have died on the battlefield as having sacrificed; but, those who did not as being just fine and no big deal. But their ongoing sacrifice must be remembered and addressed, also. We must take care of our veterans.
As Senator Bernie Sanders said while commenting about a veterans benefit bill that some argued was “too expensive” and was defeated in the Senate in February,
“If you think that it’s too expensive to take care of veterans, don’t send them to war.”
The most dangerous and damaging spin that the Republican Party inflicts upon the political process is presenting itself as the party of principles; but, their only two real principles are: protect the rich guys and send the rest of us to war.
As you listen to Republican politicians speak you will hear certain buzz words that sound familiar. They are actually code for something else.
“Liberty”, unless your exercise of it violates their racial prejudice or might cause them to lose money.
“Freedom”, for those who want to treat you however they want in public, at the company that they own, or in their neighborhood, where they think you don’t belong.
“Less government”, so that corporations can get by with anything that they want and eventually be the actual ones that we depend upon instead of a duly, democratically elected government.
“Freedom of religion”for those Christians on the extreme right-wing socially and politically. Christians who don’t ascribe to their particular kind of Christianity, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others will only be infringing upon the “freedom” of those who want to impose their religion on you.
“Free speech” for corporations and the rich who want to use their money to buy elections. However, according to them, this does not apply if you are liberal or even moderate. It does not apply to those who protest. It does not apply to those who go on strike. It does not apply to publications that oppose their ideology.
And what we hear the most on Memorial Day weekends:
“Supporting the troops” only when that means adding more money to the military budget so that contractors continue to get wealthy with the blood of the brave, patriotic young men and women who actually go to war.
This language only comes out when Republicans think that it’s time for conquests, like invading a country that has not attacked us and has a lot of oil, like Iraq.
In this opinion piece, penned by two Oklahoma Republican Congressmen, the headline is written as though they are standing up for men and women in the military, when they are actually arguing for more military spending on equipment and training, not medical care and benefits. Their campaign supporters, the defense contractors, will be happy to see this.
Indifference for Veterans
As we have engaged in longer and longer wars that are fought by the middle class and lower classes, actual support for real veterans has drained away. Those who have been torn apart and emotionally wrecked along with their families meet indifference in the GOP.
Budget talks stall and legislation is held up for veteran’s benefits because that’s when Republicans get very concerned about “the national debt” (it’s shrinking) and “the growing deficit” (it’s shrinking, too) and they argue that we can’t possibly afford it.
Do the sons and daughters of the rich go to war? No way. They are “important”. The idea is that they are smarter and more valuable and should not spend their time going to war and perhaps finding out first hand about the brutality of war. If they did, then they would be reluctant to send others to war later. And they mustn’t have that.
After all, when it’s time to go to war to steal another oil field or to gain control of another waterway or strategic pipeline intersection, they can’t have reluctance on the part of a rich person who has actually gone to war and has compassion on those who fight them.
Their positions of leadership have been bought and paid for with cash from the rich so that their generation can send someone else from the “lesser” classes in this generation to go to war again.
Time to Point Out the Only Two Principles of the GOP
Any time that you hear or see Republican leaders referring to their principles, just remember that there are only two, and they should be pointed out with gusto. All of us deserve more than their spin.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Oklahoma State School Superintendent Janet Barresi are all for parents having plenty of options to make choices for their children’s education, until they are not for it.
Fallin and Barresi experienced a ripping defeat in the overwhelming vote in both the House (79-17) and the Senate (45-2) to override Fallin’s veto of HB 2625. That bill, turned law today, allows parents, the teacher, and a reading specialist to come to a decision about promoting a child from the 3rd to the 4th grade.
A so-called reform law passed in a previous year took control of 3rd to 4th grade promotions out of everyone’s hands and placed it solely on a one-day, one-time standardized test. Never mind what that student had done during the rest of the school year.
So, after a day of lobbying hard outside of both chambers, the most votes that the Fallin and Barresi staffs could round up to support the veto were 17 in the House and 2 in the Senate. Oops.
Congratulations to the House, and the Senate for an amazing show of bipartisanship and reason.
First Governor Fallin’s office released an angry statement excoriating anyone who was for the bill, especially the representatives and senators who voted overwhelmingly to override her veto. It was the usual blah, blah, blah of “failing our children”, meaning that we are not punishing them enough for being on an IEP, or for being English language learners, or being poor, etc.
Then Barresi stole the show with her own statement that had this:
Today’s action is a pathetic and outrageous step back and returns us to a failed system of social promotion that has served the education establishment and little else. I applaud Gov. Fallin for her steadfast support of our children. Her veto was absolutely the right thing to do, and the legislature’s override of it was absolutely the wrong thing to do.
How dare we take the control of a child’s education out of the hands of a corporation that sells millions of dollars worth of tests to Oklahoma!
And then we gave it to parents and teachers and people who actually professionally know about the science of reading! Pathetic and outrageous!
But parental control has not always been anathema to Fallin and Barresi. In fact, they were stoked about it, until their corporate handlers told them this week to stay with the plan of blaming teachers and showing just how bad public schools were. That meant flip-flopping on that parent choice thing.
In three earlier posts here, here, and here I showed how Barresi was attempting to push through Senate Bill 573 claiming the virtues of expanding charter schools throughout the state as offering parents more choices to help develop a better education for their children. With great effort from a number of Oklahoma education bloggers, the OEA, education activists, and concerned parents, that bill was defeated, much to the dislike of both Barresi and Gov. Fallin.
If nothing else, this flip-flopping on parent empowerment in their children’s education shows that what is presented as a deeply held principle is really just pandering to corporate interests, which are very large in this Republican-dominated Oklahoma government.
Principles are good until they are not good for the big money donors, then their paid-for politicians will just have to find a new set of principles and act like they have never wavered from them.
Pathetic and outrageous? Yes, Fallin and Barresi really are.
Last night’s concert by Chelsea Cope at KOSU Radio’s Performance Space added to a growing list of their impressive monthly concerts by local artists. The Performance Space is a part of a new set of studios and offices for KOSU in the Hart Building on Film Row.
The concert was a part of the monthly Premiere on Film Row art walk that continues to catch on in a part of Oklahoma City that had sat dormant for some time. Classy old buildings that once housed the distribution part of the movie industry are becoming the center of art, music, and food for an area on the West side of downtown between Dewey and Shartel on Sheridan.
This event provides a variety of family friendly activities including music, art, food, and interaction among a good cross-section of people from Oklahoma City and surrounding suburbs.
KOSU’s concert series and their heavy involvement in this event shows an unusually high level of community leadership not often expected of public radio station.
KOSU now has become an integral part of downtown Oklahoma City life with their presence on Film Row.
This expansion into their Oklahoma City studios, while keeping their presence at OSU in Stillwater, came on the heals of their collaboration with The Spy FM, a radio station presenting various music genres that are not often heard on commercial radio or public radio. The Spy on KOSU specializes in local programing talent and local musicians. Check out their programing notes and listen either over the internet or on the radio at 91.7 Oklahoma City or 107.5 Tulsa.
You are interviewing someone for a job and their approach is “Hey, anyone can do this. You don’t have to be very smart to do this job”. Will you hire them? You’re a knucklehead if you do. They have already decided that the work takes no effort and isn’t really important. They will only waste your time, effort, and money.
Yet, over the last 20 years, Oklahoma voters have “hired” people with similar attitudes to fill public office. Should we even be surprised that they are wasting our time, effort, and money?
The Source of the Problem
Is it even possible for them to do a good job at running our state’s government when the core of their campaign was that “government is incompetent and won’t ever do anything right”? It’s not. Before their first day in office they are on a course of incompetence.
If they make government better or just simply work, they have proven themselves wrong. And just in case you don’t know much about politics, they don’t want to do that. Ever.
It starts with those in Oklahoma who vote. We have been campaigned into believing that the best person for us to “hire” at the polls is the one who knows the least, has the least experience at running anything, and promises to do the worst job that they can think of. Ridiculous.
Now if you are in charge of a large corporation that does not want any government policing of what you do, that’s a good deal. You will give big money to those candidates. That’s exactly what has happened over the years in Oklahoma. It has a multiplying effect in that once those incompetents get into office, your lobbyists can do all of their thinking for them, because…that’s right...they don’t know anything.
So, those politicians do what they are told. They better. There are no other options for them.
Cases in Point
The latest news is that State Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi is making plans to use money budgeted for activities and alternative education to pay for health care premiums promised to teachers because of funding that has not been provided by the legislature. Here’s today’s news brief about it from NewsOK.com.
Rather than do what a Superintendent elected directly by The People should do –confront the legislature– she is going along with the general incompetence of the Republican dominated legislature because the handlers who control all of them want, you know, “team players”.
Why can’t Janet Barresi run the State Department of Education like we elected her to do? She is a dentist and doesn’t know the first thing about running a classroom for a whole year, much less the entire public school effort for the state. And so, she has to follow orders of bigger corporate interests when they call. She has hired itinerant corporate education tools from out-of-state to fill top jobs just below hers because that’s what she is expected to do by those who paid big money to get her into office. She’s on the team.
Why can’t Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt do anything else but bring frivolous law suits against the Affordable Care Act at taxpayers’ expense of millions and not do much of anything else? He’s on the team.
Why can’t Gov. Fallin and the legislature stay out of the way and allow local towns and cities to set their own minimum wage if they won’t set one for the state? Why can’t they allow cities to run their own zoning ordinances? Well, even though they ran to keep big government off our backs, they create their own big government that controls us in ways that the rich and big corporate interests want us to be controlled. They are on the team.
Too Much Consolidation of Power
What early 1900s Progressives knew from experience in the century before was that The People have to keep big money from controlling every aspect of state government.
Bad government happens when it is possible for a few rich people to pay for a majority of legislative campaigns and the governor who installs lackeys throughout the executive branch. They, then, follow the orders of only a few rich people instead of The People. So, the Oklahoma Constitution calls for a large number of leaders in the executive branch to be voted on directly by The People rather than being appointed by the governor.
The problem circles back around to who votes and who we decide to vote into office. It’s people who run any government. If government isn’t working, replace those who are in charge of it.
But, those who actually vote in Oklahoma have believed the well-funded campaign line that government is the problem, and so we vote for people who don’t know anything. They then have no choice but to leave or follow orders from the lobbyists and handlers. In actual effect, we have a scenario that the writers of the Oklahoma Constitution thought they were avoiding.
The Key: More Informed, Motivated Voters Who Vote
For those of us who want reform it is a good thing that Oklahoma has put so much into making sure that voters can vote and the voting system has integrity. After all, if they believe that only certain Republicans will vote anyway, why not make it easy for them? What that really means is that we can bring change if we provide credible opposition and sound arguments. The key is getting out the vote.
It comes back around to us. How badly do we want to see change? I want it and if you are reading this, you probably want it, too. That’s why the June 24th primaries, the August 26th run-offs, and the November 4th election all matter. Put those on your calendar now and focus!
Yesterday’s showdown in the State House of Representatives over HB2625 and the widely circulated negative response from State Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi said much about where her loyalties lie, where the attacks originate, and what should be done next by teachers who teach, know, and love their students.
House Bill 2625 Passes
The current law gives extraordinary weight to a test given on one day at the end of the third grade and determines whether each student is retained or promoted to the fourth grade. Forget everything else that the student has achieved during the year.
The HB2625 was authored by Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, and is described in today’s report by The Oklahoman:
“Henke’s bill, as amended by the state Senate, would create a two-year window during which students who score unsatisfactory on the test could still be promoted if they can obtain the unanimous recommendation from a team consisting of the student’s parents or guardians, the student’s reading teacher for the past year, a reading teacher at the next grade level, the school principal and a certified reading specialist.”
It passed yesterday and is on Gov. Fallin’s desk waiting here action. She has until the day before the last day of this legislative session to sign it.
Barresi on the Attack
The latest of a long string of attacks was on May 9th when Supt. Barresi released scores and numbers of pass/fails to the media before local districts had the chance to talk to students and parents. Some superintendents were still waiting on the phone or the SDE website for scores when the media started calling about their scores. It revealed a zeal to openly attack public schools and shame those districts who did not do well, no matter what the social circumstances of their students. This account of the negative treatment of Crutcho Schools by KFOR in Oklahoma City because of that SDE PR stunt is only one example of the damage done by an outfit very focused on harming public schools.
Who sent Janet Barresi to the helm of the Oklahoma State Department of Education? It wasn’t the teachers. Several legislators have said that it is widely known among them that only around 30% of Oklahoma teachers voted in the last elections and others before that. More on that below.
Instead, Barresi was swept into office by a tide of anti-government, vote-against-Obama sentiment that was heavily funded by corporate interests and coordinated by ALEC and other national groups determined to take over state capitols across the nation for a small minority of the wealthiest people in America.
Who Owns Barresi?
The biggest turnout was from those voters who were mad about two things: having that black president in the first place, and that he was running again. They made sure to turn out the vote against him and just about everything and everyone who they suspected of not hating President Obama. The results showed an even more red state than in the 2008 elections. It had down-ticket impact on every other race in the election, including Barresi’s.
She will always be owned by the corporate interests that sent her to the SDE in the first place. That is a simple truth. The phone calls that she is sure to answer are from coordinators at Governor Fallin’s office, ALEC, and right-wing think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The rest of us will have to leave a message. They may get back to us this term. Or maybe not.
What are those interests? As I pointed out in a previous post, massive amounts of money have been thrown into the state by private charter school corporations who want to replace public schools with private corporate schools controlled by millionaires in other states.
Also, right-wing political interests that have little to do directly with education, funded by oil and gas corporations, and out of state shadow donors, want an anti-teachers-union superintendent who will vigorously oppose one of the last several effective unions still standing in the state. What better attack vector can there be than controlling the State Superintendent of Schools? It was a very brilliant and darkly evil strategy that did not consider the children of Oklahoma in the least. It was and still is all about the political win for right-wing domination of Oklahoma government.
So the question is this: Do we want a State Supt. of Schools who is influenced by donors who live out of state and, for the most part, are not even known or identified? Or do we want a superintendent who is selected through a wide, democratic process of primaries and elections and supported by Oklahomans who operate in the open and are openly identified?
Teachers and others committed to a truly public education for all of Oklahoma’s children, and controlled by known Oklahoma interests, will need to get out and campaign for the candidates that they believe will best meet that goal. But it means being involved in the political process.
You don’t like politics, teachers? I know. Most of us don’t. We just want to teach. But, the argument that I made in this post still stands. It’s not an option whether you are involved in politics if you care about the children of Oklahoma. You must get out and vote. You must be engaged at some level.
How do you plan on engaging in this process in this election year? There are only five months until election day. Time to get busy.
Sometimes it’s tough if you are a liberal and committed to a progressive political agenda while working in a red state.
The big question: Will I get fired by my conservative boss if I don’t hide my beliefs and political activities?
Having lived and worked in Oklahoma for most of my life, there have been plenty of times when I found myself navigating between the conservative political climate, the conservative political beliefs of my boss, and the conservative politics of clients.
From that experience, here are some ideas about how to keep your job without compromising your core beliefs:
1. Clearly separate your personal political activities and your business/work activities. You cannot be sloppy, lazy, or casual about expressing your political beliefs.
All social media activity must be clearly separated by different accounts in each platform.
Claim your associations in your profile on each personal account claiming that these are your personal ideas and do not represent your employer or clients.
Limit times during the work day for personal/political activity to obvious before-work, lunch-time, and after-work time periods.
2. Have a planned discussion with your boss about it.
Claim that you have particular political beliefs that are not do not represents the majority of the surrounding society.
Acknowledge that there are others who might disagree.
Commit to never start any kind of political strife at work. (More on that in number 4 below)
3. If you are in a position where you have clients, simply stay silent about politics unless the client has direct questions about your activities.
In most cases clients are focused on what they need you to do for them, not your beliefs about politics.
If they do want to know, then ask questions, too. Make sure that you are clear about their questions.
Only answer questions that they ask and add nothing more.
4. Do not engage in political activity, research, or reading on company equipment, spaces and time.
Remember, that space, equipment, and time belong to the company.
If you do engage in personal use of space/equipment/time, that gives co-workers or a boss who disagree with your political views a pretext for getting you fired without having to claim their true motives.
Be easy to get along with on all things, including political statements that you might hear from those who think “everyone” believes their right-wing ideology.
Set a goal to make at least two work friends with people who you know disagree with you. It’s good for the company, you, and your sanity to have people who see you as a person and not an ideology.
5. In your personal life, go ahead and openly support particular candidates that reflect your beliefs unless they are openly working against your company. It is actually easier to defend your support of a candidate than general political beliefs.
It softens the discussion for co-workers or a boss to ask why you support a candidate rather than why you believe certain abstract concepts.
If a boss is worth working for, they will not want to seem vindictive and unfair. Punishing you in any way for working to support a candidate will make them seem to be that way, and so they will be reluctant to do so.
Are you working for a conservative boss? How have you dealt with keeping a good relationship while standing for what you believe? Please do comment.
Did you like this? If so, you might find these previous posts to be helpful:
The ass-kicking that Democrats got in the 2010 mid-term elections was a direct result of not enough people on the left getting out the vote. Whole segments of people who voted for the Democrats and President Obama in 2008 simply stayed home 2 years later handing the House of Representatives over to the Republicans and seriously weakening the Senate. The result was the most obstructionist, unproductive, hateful, bull-shitty Congress in U.S. history.
So, it’s time for us right now to be very clear about what is at stake if we don’t get out the vote this year: The Republicans could win control of the Senate and keep control of the House.
If Republicans can do that, here is what they are planning:
Typically, those of us on the left get caught up in arguments and denials about such warnings arguing that surely no one would carry out such radical, destructive plans. That argument assumes a certain level of reason on the right that they just have not shown in a long time.
When was the last time that Republicans have NOT done the most destructive thing that many of us thought they would never do? About 20 years ago.