Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
The Oklahoman. Sept. 1, 2019.
- Program to help traumatized kids expanding in Oklahoma
The roots of a program planted last year by the Oklahoma City Police Department are spreading to other law enforcement agencies, to the benefit of Oklahoma school children dealing with trauma.
The program, called “Handle With Care,” was begun in West Virginia and aims to give kids who are exposed to trauma the help they need to recover and succeed in school. The need is great. Oklahoma leads the nation in the percentage of youths up to age 17 who have experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, which are tied to many physical and psychological problems. Oklahoma City Superintendent Sean McDaniel said recently that students in his district “have challenges unlike challenges anywhere else.”
The police department began its Handle With Care training in August 2018, partnering with the fire department and the school district. The Midwest City Police Department later adopted the program, working with the four school districts that have schools in the community (Mid-Del, Crutcho, Choctaw-Nicoma Park and Oklahoma City).
The reach is expanding, as The Oklahoman’s Darla Slipke reported recently. The sheriff’s office in Cleveland County recently partnered with the Noble, Lexington and Little Axe school districts. Other law enforcement-school district collaborations are underway in Edmond, Norman and Stillwater.
The goal is to inform school officials when a student has been through some sort of trauma, such as witnessing domestic violence or the arrest of a parent. When officers or firefighters encounter children in these circumstances, they email the school district with the child’s name and age or school.
School officials then know to monitor the student and provide extra care as needed. Responses vary depending on the circumstances, but knowing there is an issue is paramount.
The Oklahoma City school district received roughly 80 referrals last school year. The police department has worked to ensure more consistent notification, and this year the district has already received notifications for more than two dozen students.
Before Handle With Care was implemented, there generally was little follow-up with the children involved. That’s changed.
“If we do this right where a notification will result in follow-up care,” said Deputy Oklahoma City Police Chief Paco Balderrama, “long term it can result in a lower prison population, higher graduation numbers, a lower number of individuals on drugs and alcohol.
“Long term, it can have a lot of positive results, but it starts with that initial notification.”
Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson told Slipke his deputies support the program because they see the potential to produce healthier children. “They know that these kids are going to possibly need some intervention in the future,” Gibson said, “but oftentimes they’re just left having to walk away at 2 o’clock in the morning, so this gives them another tool to go beyond the call to help these kids.”
It’s a worthwhile pursuit, one we’re glad to see expand the way it has.
Muskogee Phoenix. Sept. 1, 2019.
- Governor’s government overhaul lacks diversity
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administrative overhaul of state government has resulted with the appointment of more than a dozen new agency heads during the first eight months of his first year in office.
It’s a power play that should surprise nobody, because it was a frequent topic during Stitt’s 2018 campaign. Lawmakers facilitated the move by granting - right out of the gate - the governor greater authority to hire and fire at will the chiefs at the state’s five largest agencies.
But these moves must be monitored closely - the governor has demonstrated a willingness to go beyond what the Legislature authorized and use sharp elbows and shoulders to try and shove others aside. Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson, a model public servant for nearly four decades, is the latest example of such tactics.
Stitt’s moves have caught the attention of political observers for another reason: He has filled the top positions in some state agencies with business people who have no prior experience in state government or no background in the field for which they are responsible. The governor defends his decisions, saying voters hired him “to bring in a fresh set of eyes across state government.”
While there is nothing wrong with getting a fresh perspective, it seems there is something important lacking when it comes to the governor’s appointments. There appears to be little diversity among those he nominates and appoints - most of his appointments have been drawn from a pool of white businessmen.
There is value in diversity and different perspectives, both of which are vital when finding solutions to persistent problems. But the governor seems intent to tune out those voices and fill these state agencies with some “good ol’ boys” of his own.
Tulsa World. Sept. 3, 2019.
- Tulsa World editorial: Tulsa Zoo to get better access, exhibit support with city package
The Tulsa Zoo is projecting an uptick in annual visitors from the current 637,000 to more than 1 million by 2025. This kind of jump means more congestion in parking lots and in lines to get into the zoo.
The $693 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package takes aim at that problem with $6 million to provide patrons with better parking facilities, improved entrances and continued support of its new Lost Kingdom exhibit.
The 4½-year city tax package is a renewal of bonds and sales taxes originally approved in 2013. It does not increase tax rates.
About 67% of the package that goes before voters on Nov. 12 is focused on bond-funded transportation improvements, especially streets and bridges. That’s an appropriate recognition of the top priorities of most Tulsans.
Most of the remaining third - funded with continuation of temporary city sales taxes - is designated for quality-of-life projects throughout the community, efforts to bolster neighborhoods and city-supported institutions.
It’s not surprising that the Tulsa Zoo is among these projects. It’s popular with city residents and tourists but needs city support if it is to continue to grow and thrive. The 85-acre zoo at Mohawk Park is owned by the city but privately managed by the nonprofit Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. The move to private management came in 2010 when the city was struggling with budget issues, and the zoo nearly lost its accreditation.
Since then, the zoo has made significant strides, including the development of a 20-year master plan, completion of the Sea Lion Cove, creation of the Mary K. Chapman Rhino Reserve and the opening of the Robert J. LaFortune WildLIFE Trek that focuses on animals around the world.
Among the most notable successes is the opening of the Lost Kingdom two years ago. The interactive complex has a naturalistic architecture for habitats of rare Asian animals, including snow leopards, Chinese alligators, Komodo dragons and siamangs.
The Tulsa Zoo is a place of learning and wildlife conservation; it’s a family destination, and it brings tourist money to our city. The city’s zoo is worth the city’s financial investment.
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