Local news roundup for April 23, 2007

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Wherein I try to figure out what I need to talk about tomorrow morning on KFAQ:

Tuesday night at 7 p.m. the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the state of their lawsuit trying to stop Jenks and Bixby's deal with Infrastructure Ventures Inc. to build a toll bridge across the Arkansas River. The meeting will be held at Christ Church, 10901 S. Yale. The lawsuit suffered a surprise setback when Judge Gordon McAllister ruled that the 75-year contract between a trust established by the two cities and IVI was not a franchise. Will they appeal or give up and see if the city will step in?

Yard signs all around Woodward Park are advertising a website called stopthechop.net. The petition effort is working to save trees in Woodward Park which have been marked for removal when trimming of branches would be sufficient to protect public safety and the trees' health. One of our city's greatest but underappreciated assets is our canopy of trees. Seen from the air or a tall building, the extent and density of our urban forest is amazing. These trees reduce summer temperatures and cooling costs, improve air quality, act as a wind break, and improve property values. Councilor Cason Carter has taken some ribbing for his proposal to raise private dollars for an urban forestry program focused on city rights-of-way (there already is one for the city's parks), but I think it's a good idea. Expanding our urban forest and maintaining its health is important to the city's "curb appeal" and quality of life.

I also like Carter's proposal to amend the Tulsa City Charter to move city elections to the fall of odd-numbered years. It's a move I've championed for a long time -- it gives new elected officials time to find their feet before the budget process begins, and it helps grassroots candidates by enabling door-to-door campaigning in the summer and fall, rather than the winter when early sunset and inclement weather can interfere with a candidate's efforts to meet the voters.

The State Senate has yet to vote on whether to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of SB 714, which would have put Oklahoma taxpayers out of the abortion business. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, but pressure is on eight Democratic senators who voted for the bill to reverse and vote to sustain the veto. Oklahomans for Life is asking us (click to read the action alert in PDF format) to write the Democrats who voted for SB 714 and thank them for their past and future support for the bill. They provide a simple method to e-mail all eight of them at once via this address: Pro-LifeDemocrats@OkForLife.org

A bill designed to bypass anti-charter-school obstructionists on the Tulsa School Board passed the State House last week. SB 661 would expand which governing bodies could grant a charter to create an independently governed but publicly funded school. Cities of over 300,000 population and public universities could also oversee charter schools. The effort was led by Democratic State Rep. Jabar Shumate, who represents part of north Tulsa. His constituents are fed up with being trapped in sub-par schools, and they cannot afford private school tuition. One charter elementary school, the Deborah Brown School, serves the near northside, but the school board is unwilling to let them expand enrollment and unwilling to charter additional schools. When a student enrolls in a charter school, state funding (about $5,000) would follow him from his public school to his charter school.

While SB 661 has passed both House and Senate, there were some legislative maneuvers which mean that the bill is not yet able to go to the Governor. Shumate was the only House Democrat to support SB 661, the only Democrat to put the interests of schoolchildren and their parents ahead of the interests of the education union and the school board association. The bill passed with only 51 votes because a number of Republicans were absent. The bill had passed the Senate by a vote of 34-9 with bipartisan support.

Jeff Shaw also brings news of a hot dog vendor who set up shop next to the daily paper's building on Main Street. I don't know if I've ever heard of someone selling hot dogs in downtown Tulsa in my lifetime, although I've seen them crop up in front of Lowe's and Best Buy stores. (A long time ago, my grandfather would buy tamales from a man who sold them in downtown Bartlesville.)

Another good piece of legislation is waiting for Gov. Brad Henry's signature. SB 507 is a serious, comprehensive tort reform bill that bears a striking resemblance to the recommendation put forward in 2004 by the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs. The OCPA blog lists the key features:

  • $300,000 cap on rewards for non-economic damage;
  • Reforming joint and several liabilities rules (eliminate the ability to collect from defendants a award percentage that is much larger than the percentage at which the defendant was at fault);
  • Limits and uniformity on prejudgment interest;
  • Requiring expert testimony for medical liability cases;
  • Collateral source rule reform, (defendants can now take into account how much plaintiff has already been awarded from other sources); and
  • Strengthen evidence required in court to prove liability and negligence to be awarded punitive damages.
  • In the final Senate vote, the bill passed by a vote of 25-23, along party lines except for a lone Democrat, Susan Paddack of Ada, voting in favor.

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    2 Comments

    Dan Hicks said:

    Michael,

    What is the status of the Fire District TAX (SB-605)?
    I hope it is dead.

    Thanks!

    Dan Hicks

    Second Amendment said:

    The tree things is a better idea environmentally and for scientfically proven reasons than most people realize. They can't appreciate it until they have lived in an area without any. Barren, windy, dusty, hot, dry, and ugly.

    I think an old timer put it the best - "What are all those city folk going to do if there is a big attack on America? I know one thing, If there is an attack, I can live off my own land. I have enough trees, a water source and because of that there is wildlife, to stay alive."

    Makes a point.

    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 23, 2007 9:13 PM.

    Not dead yet was the previous entry in this blog.

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