The concept of creating and building progressive archipelagos—larger cities and towns where liberalism, diversity and intellectualism flourish—in typically conservative states has been around for some time.
Interconnected, progressive archipelagos can bypass or render insignificant the craziness of ultra-conservative state legislatures while embracing modernity and celebrating cultural advances, such as same-sex marriage. Progressive archipelagos create havens for artists and scientists, welcome progress and embrace equality. They offer leading edge medical services and promote healthy lifestyles. They are also extremely fun places to live and visit, with an abundance of cultural opportunities.
The concept is particularly important for Oklahoma, which is an “extreme” red state dominated by conservative ideology.
For many of us progressives, the relentless, bizarre news from the state Capitol makes us feel disconnected, politically useless and marginalized. Why even get involved in one losing cause after another? Why even attempt to argue rationally when such attempts are dismissed or ridiculed? Why even support an intelligent, deserving candidate for state office when her opponent will handily win using simple bigotry and other appeals to ignorance?
But we absolutely can build a progressive, Oklahoma City archipelago, a vibrant city that supersedes the silliness and extremism of the state Capitol and interconnects with other progressive cities in the nation. It’s immensely doable. It stares us in our faces.
That’s why the news that Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid, pictured right, is planning a run for Oklahoma City mayor in 2014 should be celebrated on the rooftops. Clang the pots and pans. Ring the bells. Hope has arrived. A new day is a coming.
Now is absolutely the time for progressive-minded people to come together to get something accomplished here at long last.
Shadid, a medical doctor now serving as Ward 2 councilman, has proven himself to be a visionary when it comes to a plethora of issues, such as urban sprawl, the city’s infrastructure, walkable communities and health. He embraces diversity and intellectualism. He encourages citizen participation like no other politician in the state. He’s not afraid to butt heads with or collaborate with corporate power brokers. He even won his council seat despite a concerted and disingenuous effort by them to impugn his reputation.
As a councilman Shadid has hosted amazingly well-attended forums on sprawl and transportation issues. I personally know him to be a tremendously considerate and intelligent man always ready to listen. He asks questions. You talk.
Shadid has not formally announced he’s running, and it’s unclear who else might run for the position, including current Mayor Mick Cornett, who would be seeking a fourth term. Now’s the time to tell Shadid you want him to run whether you live in Oklahoma City or not. Don’t hesitate. As Oklahoma City mayor, Shadid could do much to enhance the quality of life here.
In a Facebook post about his possible run, Shadid said:
It is no secret that I have been approached and have explored the possibility of trying to unite the people of OKC across the spectrum, rescue the MAPS program from a fatally flawed process, introduce honesty, transparency and public collaboration on an unprecedented scale, and add value to the city.
Here’s the deal: Progressives can and will win this election and make Oklahoma City a progressive archipelago in a red state that has lost its way in anti-Obama hysteria and extreme, conservative ideology.
It might seem late in the game to comment, but I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around all the state support for a legislative bill that will allow the wholesale slaughtering of horses in the state and the sale of their flesh to other countries.
The measure, House Bill 1999, sponsored by state Rep. Skye McNiel, a Bristow Republican, has passed both the House and Senate by clear margins and might even be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin by the time this is published.
At its core, horse slaughtering seems abhorrent, whether done here or in Mexico. Horses are domesticated animals with a long history of work toil and loyalty, enshrined forever in American mythology. We ride on their backs. They literally carry our loads. They express affection for us.
Horses, after all, are not raised for the consumption of their flesh, but as, in many, many cases, pets, just as important or even more important to their owners because of their work capacity as a beloved dog and cat. We wouldn’t allow the wholesale slaughter of dogs and cats here and the sale of their flesh to other countries, would we? Why would our country sell “meat” to other countries that is basically considered taboo for consumption here?
Somehow that logic, as simple as it is, has become marginalized or deemed extreme in what debate happened during the consideration of the bill both inside and outside of the legislature.
But the logic does get at the arguments in favor of the bill, which go like this: There is an overpopulation of horses in the country and many people here now sell their old horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughter houses. Allowing horse slaughter plants here in Oklahoma will actually make the process more humane, and, oh yeah, but don’t say it too loud, horse dealers and the new slaughter plant owners here can make some good change while expressing their compassionate humanity.
Of course, the central premise that slaughtering is the best way to deal with horse overpopulation is heavily flawed. There are a myriad of ways to deal with the issue through basic horse ownership regulations.
So Trigger becomes European lasagna, but it’s good for the state economy, right? That’s just how much free market principles have become distorted in this country.
McNiel has even conceded her family, which owns a horse auctioning business, will benefit from the measure once Fallin signs it into law. The McNiel conflict of interest should have drawn skepticism in itself and the bill should have been killed, but there was no substantial outcry from her legislative peers on the issue. Maybe other legislators might want to pass their own laws one day to enrich their own families.
So it, as it so often does, comes down to money. But that doesn’t take into account that horses are often given medications in their lifetimes that could render their flesh dangerous for consumption. State Sens. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat and Constance Johnson, a Forest Park Democrat, eloquently brought up this point in legislative debate, but the concern was pretty much brushed aside with the argument that government meat inspectors will take care of all that. The bill passed the Senate on a 32-14 vote.
Supporters of the bill never really effectively addressed three other issues. One issue is the special relationship “the horse,” as an iconic animal, has to Oklahoma’s ties to frontier history and the state’s significant contemporary horse industry. Just maybe Oklahoma is one state that should jump off the horse-slaughter bandwagon and let other states do the butchering. Another issue is the admittedly slippery slope argument that some of all that horse meat is going to end up in our own food supply. The third issue is that a recent poll showed Oklahomans are decisively against horse slaughtering here.
Vegans and vegetarians might just argue that this issue shows just why we should all stop eating animals in the first place.
The political calculation behind Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to lower the state’s top income tax rate from 5.25 to 5 percent seems simple enough.
The cut is relatively small so its impact on the state budget—a loss of revenue of around $100 million a year—is minimal on one level, and thus it hasn’t produced much pushback from state agency heads and educational leaders. It also doesn’t “pay” for itself through eliminating deductions or credits so no specific groups are protesting the cut based on their special tax statuses.
It’s a small, generic proposal that will allow Republicans to say they have, indeed, used their supermajority to cut taxes and are on a path, albeit slowly, to eliminate the state income tax altogether. Those who oppose the cut, such as myself, can cringe and think, well, it could have been worse.
But two issues muddy this simple assessment: (1) The cut doesn’t really do anything significant with the tax code, except reward the state’s wealthiest citizens with a tax cut. Why, for example, pass such a small cut without a serious overhaul or at least discussion by the governor of unneeded tax credits? Why do anything at all? The millionaires in this state aren’t openly clamoring for a tax cut. (2) The loss of $100 million in revenue a year comes after a period of state budget cuts that have left our educational institutions and agencies like the Department of Corrections woefully underfunded. It will still simply hurt.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute, using calculations from the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy, has shown that 43 percent of Oklahoma households wouldn’t even receive a tax cut under the plan. Meanwhile, the state’s top income earners would receive 25 percent of the overall cut. The overall average is just a $39 cut a year.
Only the top 1 percent of income earners, who would receive an average cut of $1,870, would get much of a break. Tellingly, state budget cuts or stagnation that could affect the other 99 percent of Oklahomans could wipe out any small tax cut. Higher college tuition, for example, would easily wipe out, say, a $4 annual tax cut for students making less than $18,200.
Note the 1 percent and 99 percent dichotomy, which has been used by protesters in recent years to complain about income inequality. Fallin’s tax proposal definitely favors the top 1 percent.
Fallin and members of her party make the argument that tax cuts spur economic development and that Oklahoma has to compete with neighboring states with no income tax or lower income tax rates. But that argument has never been proven empirically, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which points out, “interstate differences in tax levels, including differences in personal income taxes, have little if any effect on relative rates of state economic growth.” The state GOP argument is a sweeping generalization that masks the true intent to widen income inequality between the state’s wealthiest citizens and everyone else.
Fallin outlined her proposal in her State of the State speech, and it has been carried forward in House Bill 2032 by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, a Lawton Republican, and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican. The Oklahoma House has passed the bill, and it’s now under consideration in the Senate. Fallin’s plan appears to be gaining momentum, according to media reports.
Another tax cut plan, Senate Bill 585, advanced by Senate Republicans, would cut the top income tax rate to 4.75 percent, but its implementation would be delayed until 2015. It also tinkers with tax credits and deductions that its supporters claim make it revenue neutral, which is disputed by OK Policy.
It’s still possible that the supporters of the two plans, and supporters of even other tax plans or taxation philosophies, could argue themselves into another tax-cut stalemate, which happened last year. I hope that comes true.
The bottom line for both plans, however, is that Republicans want to lower taxes primarily for rich people and pay for it by limiting government spending. Widening income inequality is not sustainable as a GOP political policy as we’ve seen on the national level. State budget cuts, including cuts in education, have already reduced the overall quality of life here. What major corporations, besides oil and gas companies, will want to move here if our schools’ classrooms are horrifically overcrowded, our roads marred with potholes, our historic poverty glaringly apparent with even a cursory glance?
The major symbol of the GOP’s governance since its sweeping, historic victories in recent years remains the crumbling and erosion of the dilapidated state Capitol building, which Republicans refuse to repair. The loss of revenues caused by the tax cut plans offered up this legislative session would sink the state even further into its self-imposed exile from rationality. Watch out for the falling debris.