- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Journal Record, March 10, 2014

Ready for the next stage

Despite the best of efforts, Oklahoma City’s Stage Center is ready for the wrecking ball.

Stage Center, which opened in 1970, has been unoccupied and in disrepair since it flooded in 2010 and ownership reverted from the Arts Council of Oklahoma City to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

When the foundation decided to put the property on the market, a request for proposals went out from the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in case someone had a workable plan for the architectural icon. The only group to offer an idea imagined the building as a children’s museum, but found themselves long on heart but short on cash.

Tracey Zeeck, who led that group, concluded a children’s museum would have to find a different home. “The people who love the building seem to be the people who don’t have the money, unfortunately,” she said in July 2010.

Preservation Oklahoma and the Central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects have led the effort to save the building, holding that it is an important piece of architectural history.

But even local architect Al Bode, who oversaw construction of John Johansen’s design, acknowledged that the building’s flaws make it economically unworkable.

Downtown Oklahoma City is in the midst of a redesign that is attracting the retail and residential components that never materialized under the I.M. Pei plan adopted in 1965. No one discounts the design’s unique character. And if remodeling Stage Center for use as a museum, a theater, or other public space were economically practical, someone would surely undertake the job.

Sentiment for the theater runs high, but it is clear that no one is willing to pay for its renovation or upkeep.

John Ruskin said in his 1873 essay, The Virtues of Architecture, that, “We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it.”

That’s the problem with Stage Center. We may argue without resolution about whether it is pleasing and graceful, but its inability to do its practical duty is beyond debate.

It will be with a heavy heart, but it’s time for Stage Center to go. We deeply hope that the next structure on the site is as unique as its predecessor, but as useful as it is interesting.


Tulsa World, March 10, 2014

Proposal to discourage citation quotas for law enforcement makes sense

The Oklahoma Senate has approved a measure to discourage ticket quotas for law enforcement officers.

Senate Bill 1815 would prevent police from having citation quotas used in their performance evaluations. The proposal passed on a 35-1 vote and is pending in the state House.

Sen. Bryce Marlatt said he proposed the bill after state troopers complained that they were being evaluated based on how many tickets they wrote.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said troopers are evaluated on the number of contacts they have with the public. Contacts can include tickets, warnings or motorist assistance, but it’s easy to imagine how the line between the contacts and citations could get blurred in the minds of troopers and some of their supervisors.

The OHP hasn’t taken a position on the proposal, but Marlatt says troopers “overwhelmingly” oppose quotas.

We do, too.

Troopers, deputies and police officers are law enforcement officers, not cash cows. It’s legitimate and appropriate to make sure they are staying in contact with the public, but very different and wrong to push them to keep the stream of money from citations coming into the bank.

The discretion of law enforcement officers to take action short of citations is important to their reputation, morale and public safety.

This is similar to existing state law that discourages speed traps. If the public comes to think of a patrol car as a shark trolling for citation chum, we become a society living in fear of our guardians.

Ticket quotas are bad for law enforcement and bad for the community, and Marlatt’s bill deserves to become state law.


The Oklahoman, March 11, 2014

Oklahoma lawmakers should hold off on tweaking third-grade reading law

When Oklahomans finally know how many third-grade students will be retained under the state’s new reading law, no one will be happy. The number, whatever it is, will be heartbreaking. The number, whatever it is, will be far too many. The number, whatever it is, will be regrettable. Make no mistake, however, that children learning to read is no game of numbers.

Legislators originally passed the law requiring most third-grade students who score at an unsatisfactory level on the state reading test to be retained, to give students the best chance at academic success in later years. That’s still a valid reason. Yet so far this legislative session, lawmakers seem open to weakening the law. Two bills that add flexibility to the law recently passed a House committee.

No doubt legislators are under tremendous public pressure. The idea of retaining large numbers of third-graders is distasteful. Many of those likely to be retained undoubtedly started out school far behind their peers. But policymakers’ time would be far better spent focusing on why so many third-graders arrived there with poor reading skills and what needs to happen in the early grades to provide better support for students.

As many teachers have rightly pointed out, third-grade teachers don’t teach reading. That happens earlier - largely in pre-k, kindergarten and first grade. So while schools are doing triage to help as many as possible of this year’s third-graders to pass, the real deficiencies are likely in earlier grades.

Oklahoma City Public Schools expects as many as 1,200 students may not score high enough on the state reading test to advance to fourth grade next year. The district plans a summer academy just for those students in an effort to prevent retention. Some of those students also could qualify for one of the six “good-cause” exemptions. State education officials have said as many as half of the students who don’t score well enough on the state test may qualify for one of the exemptions.

The easiest course would be for lawmakers to relax the law. While it seems lawmakers forget that they aren’t really elected to make decisions like state songs and whether educators can say “Merry Christmas!” the people of Oklahoma haven’t forgotten they elect representatives to make tough decisions. Sticking with the reading law is one of the latter.

The biggest risk of weakening the law now is that it makes it easier to relax it in the future. Policymakers also are yet to see the full picture of the law’s implementation, so it’s difficult to know where tweaks might most be needed.

Lawmakers should hold off on tweaks until they know more about what is and isn’t working with the law. And they should instead focus those efforts on making sure they are setting up students, teachers and schools for success by providing the level of support necessary to help students arrive at third grade reading well and ready to learn.

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