The New Organization In Town
Although Raise Oklahoma was unable to collect the required number of signatures to put a minimum wage raise issue on the ballot, the organization did help mobilize progressives under a common, important mission.
Its spin-off group, created when the initiative petition efforts ended, is called Working Families Project, an organization that is sure to grow in political clout in the coming weeks.
Raise Oklahoma announced last week that it could not collect the 117,000 or so signatures it needed to put the measure on the ballot. The measure would have raised the current $5.15 minimum wage by $1 the first year, another $1 the second year, and then tie the wage to the Consumer Price Index. The federal minimum wage has not been raised in nine years, but eighteen other states, including Arkansas, have raised their minimum wage.
The U.S. Senate recently rejected a plan to raise the minimum wage to $7.25. It is immoral that our federal lawmakers vote themselves big raises while ignoring the needs of lower income people.
Raise Oklahoma announced on its Web site that it will resubmit the state question “in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the Working Families Project, is just the type of organization progressives need to unite people and get things done for regular Oklahomans. The organization announced it will fight for Oklahomans with ordinary means:
“Working Families Project will fight these issues that matter most to working people - increasing the minimum wage, a living wage, affordable housing, accessible health care, good government, clean campaigns and a better economy for Oklahoma.”
Sure, it is disheartening the group could not collect enough signatures, but progressives need to keep fighting here for the real interests of middle-class people. The GOP’s focus on cultural wedge issues has become tiresome in the face of stagnant wages and rising energy costs. Now is the time for more action, not less action. Get involved. Find your role in the drama and act now.
A link to an automatic, recorded political call from Mick Cornett’s 5th District U.S. Congressional campaign has been posted on the Democrats of Oklahoma Community Forum (Demookie), the state’s best political discussion board. In the call, Cornett, who is Oklahoma City’s suddenly-turned-religious-freak mayor, plays the Jesus card like a revivalist preacher. It is tragic this type of religious extremism continues to grow as a political force here on the prairie. What comes next from the right-wing religious extremists?
Bravo, Senate Democrats
How many more editorials will The Daily Oklahoman publish complaining about how the Oklahoma Senate Democrats stood up to the state’s power structure and got more tax breaks for middle class people and more money for education?
The newspaper’s obsession with the issue shows once again how it tries to spread the conservative mantra through rhetorical deceit.
It criticizes the $3,000 raise teachers received in the latest budget, for example, but it fails to mention how teacher salaries here are some of the lowest in the nation. It fails to mention that the teacher’s retirement plan is woefully underfunded or how skyrocketing dependent health insurance costs take a sizable chunk out of many teachers’ paychecks.
That’s the reality. Senate Democrats, by not caving to so-called budget compromises in a political year, were the ones acting in the vested interests of the vast majority of Oklahomans. They stood up for people who make this state work while politicians such as House Speaker Todd Hiett, a Republican running for Lieutenant Governor, did the bidding for the state’s wealthiest citizens.
Those Senate Democrats who fought for middle class families deserve our thanks and praise and votes.
The New York Times has taken some heat recently for publishing a story outlining how the Bush administration has tracked banking records of suspected terrorists. Both President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have attacked the newspaper publicly, saying the story in some way risked the nation’s security.
We should all commend the Times for standing up to this imperial presidency when it actually does so. If anything, the newspaper has erred in caution when it comes to stories that may damage the credibility of this administration. There is even an argument to be made that its fired and disgraced reporter Judith Miller helped the administration in its march to its botched Iraq occupation because of her inaccurate and sensationalized reporting about the country’s fictional weapons of mass destruction.
This nation needs a viable press that stands up to power and speaks the truth. Without such a press, as envisioned by the country’s founders, democracy fails. It is really that simple.
Anyone who has attended Oklahoma City’s Gay Pride Festival and Parade through the years knows just how much it has grown in size and stature.
This year that phenomenal growth was evident once again. Oklahoma City’s Memorial Park, the site of the festival, was jam packed on both Saturday and Sunday; one vendor even had to be turned away because there was simply no room. The parade route was 10 to 20 people deep in places. The thousands of people who attended and participated in the event—perhaps more than 40,000—represent a growing and formidable political power in the city.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was too busy spewing hatred against gay people and their causes in his Fifth District U.S. Congressional political campaign to even write a welcome letter for the festival’s guide. Cornett, a Republican, recently claimed credit in a campaign advertisement for reshelving non-sexual, innocuous gay-themed children’s books in the area’s public libraries.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of enlightened city leaders and politicians at the event. County Commissioner Jim Roth marched in the parade, for example. Democrat Andrew Rice, the frontrunner in his primary race for State Senate in District 46, marched in the parade with his wife, Apple, and child, Noah. One of his opponents, Rhonda Rudd, was there with her partner, Jayshree. Al McAffrey and Casey Davis, running for state representative in District 88, marched in the parade as well.
Those local leaders writing welcome letters in the festival’s guide included Roth, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, and Oklahoma City Council Members Sam Bowman and Ann Simank. The guide noted that Cornett did not respond to its request for a welcome letter.
Local organizations that promote diversity, peace and freedom of expression had floats in the parade. They included the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, the Oklahoma City Peace House, the local American Civil Liberties Union, the Mayflower Congregational Church, and at least one campus chapter of the Gay Alliance for Tolerance and Equality. Organizations working for AIDS prevention and awareness and sex education had floats in the parade as well. Many other local gay-rights groups were represented as well.
There will come a time when local politicians like Cornett will not be able to risk alienating the gay community and those who stand with them in their quest for true equality in our culture.
Take The Money And Run
According to news reports, Kerr-McGee was recently sold to a Houston-based company, and it will no longer have a major presence here, says its chief executive officer.
So let’s get this straight. We worship energy companies and other big corporations here on the prairie by giving them big tax breaks and naming every street and park and arena and stadium in the city after them because they give some of the tax cuts back in the form of philanthropic (aka publicity stunts) causes, and then one day they leave and that is it.
As I have argued before, when the last drop of oil and the last bit of natural gas is drawn from Oklahoma’s red dirt, the energy companies will be gone, and they will be a minor blip in the state’s history. They will be known as greed mongers in The Oil Age. The people who made millions from these companies and then used their money to buy political power will go down in history as corrupt, ugly people. As the environment collapsed, as the world ran out of fossil fuels, they did nothing but line their pockets with blood money.
Kerr-McGee is a perfect example of this. What will it leave behind of substance here? Not one damn thing. Oh yeah, Kerr-McGee leaves us the memory of the Karen Silkwood case.
Higher Ed And TABOR
The Higher Education Alumni Council of Oklahoma is sponsoring a TABOR forum at 2 p.m., July 7 in the Student Center at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma universities and colleges and their students stand to lose the most if a so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights measure is ever passed here. The measure would limit the state’s budget growth to a formula tied to population growth and inflation. An initiative petition that would place the measure on the November ballot has been challenged in the courts. Colleges normally get less funding in tight budget years—every year under TABOR—and students get stuck with much higher tuition. Meanwhile, there is no money to maintain the infrastructure of colleges and universities. Oklahoma already struggles with chronic underfunding for education.
Dr. Toni Larson, executive director of Independent Higher Education of Colorado, will be leading the forum. She experienced TABOR firsthand in her state before Colorado voters rescinded it because it had done so much damage to the state’s education systems, according to an Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future news release. The forum is open to those who support higher education. Pre-registration is requested by July 5. Call 405-848-1333 or email email@example.com.
The higher education community in this state, from regents to college presidents to professors to students, needs to unite on this issue regardless of what happens to the lawsuit. One gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, has said he would continue the fight for TABOR if he is elected.
The Oklahoman’s Hate Machine
The Daily Oklahoman published an unconscionable editorial this past week, criticizing state lawmakers for giving teachers a $3,000 across-the-board raise. It leaves you wondering why even a biased, right-wing newspaper would want to alienate those very people who could train and inspire people to read its product.
But then this is Oklahoma, the surreal graveyard of obvious contradictions.
Titled “Lawmakers cave to union demands” (June 22, 2006), the editorial argues the raises should have been distributed disproportionately to veteran teachers and that the Oklahoma Education Association’s “focus on money is out of control.”
What the newspaper fails to tell its readers is how Oklahoma teacher salaries often rank last or near to last in the nation. What the newspaper also fails to tell its readers is that our educational systems have been chronically underfunded for decades to the detriment of the state’s economic development and quality of life.
Instead, it talks about the OEA’s “clout” and Senate Democrats’ “refusal to be reasonable.”
It is absurd there is any question about increasing the overall wage structure for teachers here as much as possible whenever possible. The state spends tons of taxpayer money educating teachers who then leave the state and teach in places like Texas or New York or Nevada. (I personally know Oklahoma-educated teachers in all these states and more.) They leave Oklahoma because of low salaries and because the rich power structure in the state—the owners of The Oklahoman, for example—does not appreciate their meaningful contribution to our society.
The Oklahoman editorial page only gives lip service to improving the educational systems in this state. It wants to help keep people stupid here so it can continue its reign-of-terror as the worst newspaper in the nation.
Beauty And The Beast
Angelina Jolie presented a compelling case for ending the Iraq occupation in a recent television show that featured the actor’s efforts to help refugees in Africa and other places throughout the world.
Although the show did not focus on the disconnection between the type of work Jolie does for refugee victims and the occupation, it did bring to light a different philosophy in approaching geopolitics in today’s turbulent world.
Jolie’s philosophy is altruistic, inclusive, and hopeful. She has adopted two refugee children and plans to adopt another. She recently gave birth to a baby girl in Namibia, Africa. When she helps people in other countries, she sends a compelling message about our country, its democratic structures, and the American Dream.
Our current government under the leadership of President George Bush sends quite a different message to the world through its botched occupation of Iraq. It is a message of hate, intolerance, and death. It sanctions torture and physical violence, and it ignores suffering in places such as Africa.
Do you bomb and kill to create democracy and functioning governments or do you reach out and build bridges between cultures and people?
Life And Deatherage
The blog Life and Deatherage recently published an insightful post about The Daily Oklahoman’s news coverage of the state budget agreement. The post dissects the newspaper’s coded political leanings and doublespeak paragraph by paragraph. Check it out.