If you drive a vehicle or ride in one consistently in this area it should come as no surprise that a new report claims the Oklahoma City area has some of the worst roads in the country among larger cities and that its drivers pay more in car repairs because of it.
A new report by TRIP, an organization that focuses on road surface transportation issues, claims the Oklahoma City area ranks fourth worst in the nation among larger cities for annual car maintenance at an average of $782 per vehicle because of poor roads. Overall, the report ranks the Oklahoma City area tenth worst in the nation among cities its size when it comes to roads “with pavements that are in poor condition and provide a rough ride.”
Here’s the report, which makes this overall claim:
Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, increasing the frequency of needed maintenance and requiring additional fuel consumption.
Again, the fact a report claims the Oklahoma City area has some bad roads is no real surprise, and the solution is fairly easy: Build better roads and maintain them more thoroughly. But that probably simplifies a local problem that has extremely specific causes. Here are just three of those causes:
(1) Urban sprawl in the Oklahoma City area has to make it more expensive and difficult to maintain roads here. Oklahoma City has the third largest land area in the nation among cities at 621 square miles. That means the city has to maintain a lot of roads.
(2) The city doesn’t have an efficient public transportation system, along the lines of New York or Chicago or San Francisco or even Dallas, which would reduce road traffic and road repairs. Some of that, of course, is linked to urban sprawl and sheer costs, but a good portion of it is political. The Oklahoma City area needs light rail and transportation hubs. There IS a way to do it, but it will take money and a shift in attitude about public transportation.
(3) Oklahoma City continues to invest a lot of money in its entertainment district, and that has improved the quality of life here, but has that focus in recent years led to the neglect of the city’s basic, lingering problems, such as its bad roads? Maintaining roads isn’t as exciting as some other projects, but it’s vitally important.
All these negative reports about Oklahoma City or Oklahoma, in general, can give anyone here a numbing case of reportitis and each one needs to be considered on its own merits. The overall takeaway is that Oklahoma City and its surrounding suburbs need to do better when it comes to basic road maintenance, which could make a major impact on the quality of life here. But the underlying causes need attention as well.
One of most pressing issues about Oklahoma’s recent earthquake swarm is whether wastewater disposal injection wells are to blame on some level for the dramatic increase in seismic activity.
But there’s a much more important question, and it’s one that produces the most anxiety. Are all these recent earthquakes here in central Oklahoma a prelude to a major seismic event that could cause massive damage and even lead to the loss of life?
What we know for sure is that since 2009 there have been more than 200 earthquakes in Oklahoma with a Richter magnitude of 3.0 or above. We also know that in just the last seven days there have been more than 100 earthquakes of varying magnitudes. So far today, as I write this, there have been seven earthquakes, though none of them have reached the 3.0 magnitude level.
Another thing we know is that researchers are beginning to make a link between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells used in oil and gas drilling, which have increased in number as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become more widely used in the energy industry. The injection wells could cause instability in rock layers, according to the scientists.
Leave all that aside for a moment, if you can. Does all this seismic activity mean we’re heading for a big earthquake and is there a method to determine when it might hit?
The Daily Californian, the student-run newspaper at the University of California in Berkeley, dealt with this same question in 2011. In that year, a series of smaller earthquakes along the Hayward Fault, which runs right under the university’s campus, led to speculation among researchers that it could be signs of a pending major earthquake, according to the newspaper. So far that major earthquake has yet to happen, although researchers say a major event along the fault is now past due.
The bottom line: Scientists can only predict in larger chunks of time when it comes to earthquakes, and there’s no accurate way to pinpoint a particular year, much less a day and time for a major earthquake. Another takeaway, according to the article, is that earthquake swarms do not relieve pressure that might lessen the magnitude of major seismic event.
If you’re like me, you’re probably shaking your head, thinking it’s somewhat unbelievable we’re even dealing with the issue of earthquakes. Aren’t our tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards and droughts enough extreme natural occurrences for anyone to handle? How much more can one place sustain and remain viable?
Some public officials are urging everyone to get earthquake insurance for their homes here, but that’s not much help if your home comes crashing down upon you. The suggested method of what to do if you’re inside a building during an earthquake is to drop, cover and hold on. Get to the ground, get under a table or other piece of furniture and then hold on to a table or, say, desk leg until the shaking stops. Earthquake experts warn against trying to get outside because of falling debris.
All of this might not necessarily apply to Oklahoma, and it may well be an exercise in futility to use California examples when considering what’s happening here underground. Perhaps, we’re not anywhere close to experiencing a major earthquake of a magnitude of 7.0 or even above. (The earthquake near Prague in 2011 had a 5.7 magnitude.) But it’s time we start talking about what we need to do if a big earthquake does hit central Oklahoma.
It went under the radar probably because it was so predictable, but U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last week, which passed the Senate on a 64-32 vote.
The act, known as ENDA, would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people because of their sexual or gender orientation. It’s a much-needed and well-supported law that protects people. The measure now goes to the House, but it’s quite probable that Republican leaders won’t even allow a vote on the issue.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn didn’t vote on the measure because he’s getting treatment for prostate cancer, but we can presume he would have also voted against it. In 2004, he bizarrely claimed " . . . lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?" How could anyone think that story was true?
Oklahoma, as we all know, is not one of the gay friendliest states in the nation, at least in terms of its law prohibiting same sex marriage and the archaic, sometimes bizarre positions of some of its conservative politicians. But it has become difficult to believe as the years go by that even the most anti-gay politicians, such as Inhofe or, say, state Rep. Sally Kern, don’t realize how extreme their positions seem to people outside Oklahoma or how out of touch they are with younger people.
All this raises the question of whether politicians here can continue to win votes based on anti-gay rhetoric. Gov. Mary Fallin, for example, has recently rather publicly and dramatically refused to allow the state to process military benefits for same-sex couples legally married in other states, but will such over discriminatory stances continue to win votes here in the years ahead? I don’t think so. Fallin, Inhofe, Coburn and Kern are on the wrong side of history.
Even Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett once used his opposition to same-sex marriage as a major campaign platform for a political race. Does he regret taking that position now? Is he going to use that position again in his mayoral reelection campaign?
There’s no mistaking that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community has become more socially accepted in our culture over the last two decades or so. Same sex marriage, for example, is now legal in 14 states and Washington, D.C. The Illinois Legislature just passed a bill legalizing same sex marriage and the governor there is expected to sign it soon. There remain obstacles to full equality, true, and that’s why there’s a need for bills like ENDA, but it’s obvious the national trend is towards more acceptance and tolerance, not less. Surely, even people like Fallin and Inhofe know that.
Here’s Inhofe’s somewhat bland statement about his ENDA vote:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act infringes on a matter best left to the states. Existing laws across the nation already provide protection for unjust workplace discrimination. This legislation only exposes employers to excessive, costly litigation for the statue's vague requirements on employers. What Congress should be focusing on right now is our stagnant economy and that starts by getting the federal government out of the way so businesses can competitively grow and innovate.
Note the states’ rights reference, always the default GOP position, and the claims about the potential for litigation, which is simply dancing around the issue and holds no meaning. Let’s don’t forget that Inhofe said on the Senate floor in 2006: “I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.” That’s simply a terrible thing to say. It’s a hateful remark that demeans not only gay people but also anyone who has ever been married and then divorced. Yet Inhofe’s recent statement on ENDA carries none of the loaded language he used before about gay people.
The Senate’s somewhat bipartisan vote to pass ENDA shows again how much Inhofe remains an uncompromising ideologue. Unfortunately, as we've seen over the year, the Republican leadership in the House is just as uncompromising, and ENDA may not even get a vote, which it deserves.