- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World, July 15, 2016

Three good ideas from We the People Oklahoma

Three proposals for local law enforcement changes put forward by the grassroots group We the People Oklahoma on Wednesday are certainly not radical. One of them makes complete sense and the other two are largely on target also.

The three proposals are:

- All Tulsa Police Department and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office policies should be online and accessible to the public.

- All law enforcement officers involved in shootings should have a blood test and a psychiatric evaluation immediately.

- All versions of law enforcement reports that are revised should be accessible.

We endorse the first idea without reservation. Making policies transparently accessible is in everyone’s interest. We’re not talking about revealing strategies to make life easier on bad guys, just a fair and open publication of the rules the police use to administer themselves. Officers, taxpayers and everyone else would benefit from such a move. Police Chief Chuck Jordan says the department is already working to make that idea happen.

We also endorse blood tests for police officers involved in shootings. We think those blood tests would only show something in the rarest of occasions, but if they ever do, it’s certainly important information for prosecutors and supervisors. As We the People Oklahoma leader Marq Lewis pointed out, such testing is routine in industry after significant incidents. Jordan says the department already has the authority to have officers tested if there is cause but that any broader testing would have to be negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police. We say the use of deadly force should be cause enough, and if that takes negotiations, so be it.

We aren’t completely certain what We the People means by psychiatric evaluations. We back strong psychological support for officers involved in deadly force incidents, and would say that officers shouldn’t be returned to active status if they refuse counseling or if their counselor doesn’t release them to duty. Jordan again says that such evaluations would require agreement from the FOP.

We also back the release of completed police reports, including supplemental reports. Police have become increasingly tight with the public on the release of those reports in recent years, and for no convincing reason. We don’t think draft reports should be made public because they are, by their very nature, incomplete, inexact and sometimes inaccurate to the intent of the author; but once a report is completed, it ought to be available to everyone.

Jordan says the department’s practice is only to release very limited portions of reports for “privacy reasons,” but we don’t think that is in accordance with state law or good practice. Anything truly private, such as the names of juvenile suspects or victims’ telephone numbers, can be redacted from reports that are released, but the public should have much fuller access to the reports filed by its police officers than currently is the case.

In November, We the People Oklahoma brought out a proposed set of reforms for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. We’ll say now about the latest set of ideas what we said then: The group deserves a great deal of public credit for its uphill fight for scrutiny of local law enforcement, and we find much to agree with in their plan for reform.

___

The Oklahoman, July 17, 2016

Oklahoma voters should note potential ripple effects of two state questions

The “elevator pitch” version of two state questions likely to go before Oklahoma voters this fall sounds appealing. But the potential unintended consequences of both measures are leading a growing list of community leaders to oppose them.

State Question 779 would add another percentage point to Oklahoma’ state sales tax rate, increasing it by 22 percent. The revenue generated would go to a wide range of broadly defined education causes, although teacher pay alone is highlighted by many supporters.

State Question 777, known as “Right to Farm,” would amend Oklahoma’s constitution to declare the Legislature cannot abridge citizens’ rights to “employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.”

Education and farming are popular causes in Oklahoma, yet both measures are drawing opposition from unusual quarters. City officials in Edmond are poised to become the latest group to formally oppose passage of both state questions.

In doing so, Edmond officials will join the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma, the City Managers Association of Oklahoma and the Municipal Clerks, Treasurers & Finance Officers Association in opposing the sales tax increase.

Why? Because the ripple effects of that measure’s passage could have severe consequences that impede civic progress across Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is the only state where towns, cities and municipalities rely almost entirely on local sales tax revenue to finance services including police, fire, parks and street maintenance. Oklahoma City’s renaissance, started with the MAPS improvements, relied on a local sales tax increase approved by voters.

But the average combined state-local sales tax rate in Oklahoma is already 8.77 percent, the sixth-highest nationally. If SQ 779 passes, Oklahoma will have the nation’s highest state-local sales tax rate. That’s astounding when you realize even states with no income tax would also have lower sales taxes than Oklahoma.

Once Oklahoma hits that point, city officials fear local sales tax initiatives will be much harder to pass, as will extensions of existing local sales tax rates. In short, things like Oklahoma’s MAPS improvements could quickly become a thing of the past. Even basic infrastructure projects may become harder to finance.

SQ 779 supporters claim it is a “comprehensive” plan. Yet the only thing comprehensive about it is that it throws money in all directions. Only around $245 million of $615 million generated annually would go to teacher pay. The rest would be divided among a host of K-12 programs, state colleges, CareerTech and early childhood education.

In 2010 another measure, State Question 744, went before voters. It called for increasing K-12 funding by at least $830 million annually. It’s notable that leaders of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University opposed that plan because it could have indirectly reduced funding for colleges.

Today, city and county governments are voicing comparable concerns about SQ 779.

Similar issues are being raised about the “Right to Farm” amendment’s unintended consequences. City officials worry the constitutional amendment is so broadly worded it could allow owners of large parcels of land within city limits to evade local regulation by proclaiming it “agriculture” land. They also worry the measure could inadvertently impede municipalities’ ability to obtain ample water supplies at reasonable prices.

The aforementioned are all valid questions that deserve serious scrutiny. Come November, voters should rely on more than bumper-sticker slogans to decide how to vote on these state questions.

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The Lawton Constitution, July 17, 2016

Commander, wife made lasting contributions to Lawton-Fort Sill

As the first Air Defense Artillery commanding general at Fort Sill, Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi and his wife, Elizabeth, have made major contributions to the Army and the community. After a two-year tour here, they will be leaving this week after a change of command ceremony 8 a.m. Thursday on the Old Post Quadrangle.

Maj. Gen. Rossi will be the new commanding general of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

We thank you both!

The ADA school returned to Fort Sill almost a decade ago, after Congress’ last round of the Base Re-Alignment and Closure process. Fort Sill is now home to the ADA and its educational mission.

The merger brought new weapons, war-fighting techniques and concepts for integration with the Field Artillery at Fort Sill’s Fires Center of Excellence. It was an outstanding move for soldiers, battlefield commanders and taxpayers.

In a Page 1 article today, Maj. Gen. Rossi notes that the future of the Fires force is its emerging war-fighting concepts. He notes the concepts are gaining a lot of traction and are in high demand. That’s good news for Fort Sill and Lawton.

Rossi has worked hard to showcase ADA history with an ADA Education Center near the Field Artillery Museum - which just expanded - to give visitors an easy-to-find, jointly located facility. The museum tour experience will give visitors a full understanding of the two combat arms branches that have a common history and how they contribute to the nation’s defense.

Rossi’s other emphasis has been post security which he tightened to protect the force and assets on Fort Sill. It has been successful in preventing access to bad actors while allowing civilians with a legitimate purpose to enjoy museums and other amenities.

Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Rossi, you are trailblazers for the ADA, being its first commanding general team here. You have brought new and different ideas, expanding our understanding of how the Fires Center of Excellence works. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

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