2012 – elections, trash and wildfires

January 3, 2013

Here are some capsules of the major news stories that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma and America in 2012.

January

Fighting a BA casino

State officials are supporting an effort by Attorney General Scott Pruitt to look into the legality of Kialegee Tribal Town’s proposed Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow.

State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, has requested an official opinion after hundreds of residents signed a petition to stop the opening of the casino.

The casino has not opened.

Garbage switch draws protests

As an unelected board prepares to make dramatic changes in trash service in Tulsa, opponents of the switch are unveiling new objections.

The Trash Board  signed a contract that switched twice-a-week pickup customers to once a week and issued city-owned carts. More than 80 percent of Tulsa’s residential customers have used their own trashcans for decades.

Some Tulsans are opposed to the idea of the city or a trash service providing carts, which could have locator chips. These “ultra-high-frequency” tags, serial numbers and bar codes are intrusive.

Lawmakers target state income tax

Twenty-three members of the Oklahoma House are sponsoring legislation to lower the tax burden for Oklahomans.

A coalition of state lawmakers has filed legislation to phase out Oklahoma’s personal income tax in such a way that the state would have the lowest overall tax burden in the continental United States.

The lawmakers said their proposal, while still a work in progress, would phase out the personal income tax in a responsible manner over 10 years and would not necessitate raising other tax rates or cutting funding to core services currently provided by state government.

February

Oklahoma Wesleyan professors are tops

CBS Money Watch ranks the professors at Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville as best in the nation for the second year in a row.

State funding for Zink Dam?

State lawmakers are taking another look at a $25 million bond issue for Zink Dam in Tulsa that they originally authorized in 2009. In 2009 legislators were told the $25 million bond project would be matched with $50 million in federal funds.  Proponents compared the Arkansas River improvements to those made in Oklahoma City along the Oklahoma River, and claimed a projected economic impact of $2.8 billion and 9,450 new jobs.

However, the federal funding was never approved and the project has never moved forward.

Rick Santorum campaigns in Tulsa

On the heels of victories in three states, thousands of supporters showed up to see former Sen. Rick Santorum in a campaign town hall in Tulsa on Feb. 9.

Santorum, who faces Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination, did not disappoint his conservative supporters in Tulsa.

“The Left is about the death of reason,” Santorum told the crowd at the Mabee Center on the ORU campus. “I believe this is the most important election in your lifetime, no matter how old you are.”

Pruitt sues to stop casino

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to halt construction of an Indian casino in a residential section of Broken Arrow.

The lawsuit, submitted in the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeks to stop the tribe and construction company Florence Development Partners from  continuing construction of the proposed Red Clay Casino, citing the tribe’s failure to get federal approval of a lease for the property. The  absence of lease approval and lack of jurisdiction over the land violates  the state compact’s requirements for Indian gaming, Pruitt said.

Gingrich campaigns in Tulsa

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain told Newt Gingrich he could simplify his campaign speech down to five numbers: $1.13, 4.2 percent, 11 million, 2/3 and four.

Gingrich was in Tulsa for a campaign stop at ORU and he said he asked Cain what those numbers stood for.

Cain said $1.13 was how much a gallon of gas cost when Gingrich was speaker of the House. He said 4.2 percent was the unemployment rate and 11 million was the number of new jobs created during Gingrich’s tenure. The two-thirds number represents that two out of every three people on welfare went back to work and the four stands for the number of years America balanced the budget while Gingrich was speaker.

March

Closing the Tulsa Postal Center

In order to save expenses, the U.S. Postal Service will close its Tulsa processing plant and move the mail sorting to Oklahoma City.

Under the “efficiency plan,” all of the first-class mail in Tulsa will be trucked to the Oklahoma City plant – the only one in the state – and processed and then trucked back to Tulsa and delivered. Postal officials admit it will add days to the time it takes to deliver first-class mail. The plan calls for slower delivery time and raising postal rates.

Personhood petition drive begins

Pro-life groups in Oklahoma gathered to support a constitutional amendment that would affirm that life begins at conception.

Personhood Oklahoma and their pro-life partners held a rally at the State Capitol to kick off a signature drive to submit an initiative petition to force a statewide vote on the amendment.

In order to force a vote, the petitions must have 15 percent of the votes cast in the Nov. 2, 2010 statewide election, which is about 155,000 signatures. The campaign is hoping to have 200,000 signatures ready within the 90-day petition drive deadline, which started on March 1.

Santorum wins GOP Oklahoma primary

Republican Rick Santorum won the Oklahoma primary March 6 as the top three GOP candidates garnered more votes than President Obama in the Democrat primary.

Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, got 34 percent of the vote while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (28 percent) barely edged former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (27 percent) for second and third place. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul was fourth with 10 percent of the vote.

Guardsmen return from Afghanistan

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to U.S. soil, after being deployed to Afghanistan for more than eight months.  The deployment was in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with soldiers of the 45th IBCT serving in both Afghanistan and Kuwait.

April

Japan supports the Palestinians

Author Daymond Duck, a speaker at the Mid-America Prophecy Conference here, pointed out some striking events that support his view that assaults on Israel come with dire consequences.

On April 7, 2011, according to a statement by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Japan, the government expressed its “disappointment” over Israel’s approval of 945 new housing units in Gilo of East Jerusalem.”

On Feb. 28, 2011, Japan gave the Palestinian Authority $2,650,000,000 yen to build a wastewater plant in Jericho to solidify claims for a separate Palestinian state and to push back Israel from the West Bank, Duck said.

Shortly after Japan actively began support of the Palestinians and criticism of Israel, it was hit by the worst natural disaster in its history, Duck said.

Danny Manning hired as TU coach

Tulsa is trying to take its basketball program to a higher level with Kansas’ Danny Manning. this will be his first head coaching assignment.

Manning, 45, completed his coaching tenure as a University of Kansas assistant coach with an appearance in the NCAA Final Four.

Tulsa GOP Senators draw opponents

Some state senators will face unexpected opponents from within their own parties while only one race emerged for Tulsa County offices as the November election takes shape.

Three Tulsa state senators – Republicans Mike Mazzei, Dan Newberry and Brian Crain – will face opposition from candidates within their own party.

GOP kills personhood bill

Republican leaders in the Oklahoma Legislature have killed a pro-life bill without even allowing a floor vote on the measure. The Oklahoma House and Senate are controlled by Republican leaders who run for re-election under a GOP pro-life platform that promotes the sanctity of life. One GOP lawmaker said the personhood bill was killed because the State Chamber of Commerce instructed the GOP leadership to do so because the chamber didn’t want any negative national publicity.

May

Supreme Court kills personhood petition

Just days after Republican legislative leaders killed a bill that grants person status to unborn children, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has squashed an initiative petition that would have put the issue to a vote of the people.

A “conservative” Legislature and a “liberal court” are denying pro-life Oklahomans the chance to protect unborn children, one spokesman for petition group said.

The petition drive started in March and it had to collect 155,000 signatures by the end of May.  The justices voted 9-0 that the petition violated the U.S. Constitution and that it had to be killed to avoid a “costly and futile election.”

Councilors ok trash rate hike

Residential trash rates will jump from about $13 to up to $34 a month according to a new rate schedule approved by the Tulsa City Council.

Most Tulsans will have their service reduced from twice a week pick up to once a week and will see their rates increase dramatically in October. Customers can order twice a week pick up – but it will be costly – up to a third higher than once a week.

Fallin signs open carry bill

Oklahoma joined 25 other states as Gov. Mary Fallin said she would sign an open-carry bill (Senate Bill 1733) that would allow someone with a concealed-carry permit to openly carry a gun. The bill also lets a property owner openly carry a handgun on his land with no permit required.

Drug testing for welfare recipients

Governor Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 2388, requiring the state Department of Human Services to screen adults for drug use who apply to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (welfare). If the applicant refuses a drug test or is found to be using drugs, they would be denied benefits.

GOP fails to deliver state income tax cut

With the 2012 legislative session closed, Republican leaders have failed to deliver on a promise to cut the state income tax to spur economic growth and curtail the growth of government.

Fallin and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said that there would be no tax cuts this year.  “It has become very clear to me… that we are not going to be able to find common ground in the House and Senate,” Fallin said.

June

Supporting homosexuals

Add the Tulsa Drillers, the Tulsa Shock, the Camp Fire Girls and the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce to groups that financially support homosexuality in Tulsa.

Each was listed as a sponsor for the “gay pride” activities last weekend. Organizers claim this event is the longest in the nation for “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” supporters.

New superintendent at Mingo Valley Christian

Joel Staggers sees Christian discipleship as a way to prepare students for a world filled with opportunities to go astray.

On June 1, Staggers began work as the new superintendent of Mingo Valley Christian School, a nondenominational Christian school affiliated with Memorial Bible Church.

Water and sewer rates to rise

Mayor Dewey Bartlett and all nine city councilors have agreed to raise water rates by 7 percent and sewer rates by 9 percent on Oct. 1. The Council unanimously agreed to increase the rates and talked about voting to raise rates every year for the upcoming years.

An average family will pay about an extra $50 a year for water (homes using more than 12,000 gallons will see an increase of about $75 a year).

For the past five years, water and sewer rates have increased by almost 5 percent a year (water) and more than 8 percent (sewer).

Weatherman Don Woods dies

Beloved retired weatherman Don Woods – who was famous for his cartoon character Gusty – passed away last week at age 84. Woods began work at KTUL as Tulsa’s first meteorologist in 1954. He retired in 1989.  He was famous for drawing a cartoon of Gusty during each newscast.

Bridenstine defeats Sullivan

Lt. Cmdr. Jim Bridenstine defeated U.S. Rep. John Sullivan in a stunning upset in the 1st District race in the Republican primary. Bridenstine will face Democrat John Olson and Independent Craig Allen in the Nov. 6 general election.

Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony beat fellow Republican Brooks Mitchell in the GOP primary. Since no Democrat filed, Anthony wins another term.

July

County has drought burn ban

Tulsa County Commissioners passed a burn ban in Tulsa County effective immediately until July 16 at which time commissioners will consider an additional burn ban.

 The resolution prohibits outdoor burning in the county including controlled burns and bonfires. Emergency management officials have been surveying area fire departments and the results, along with the weather forecast, determined that conditions were appropriate for a burn ban according to the guidelines for extreme fire dangers set out in state law. The penalty for violating this burn ban is misdemeanor charge with a fine of up to $500.00 and/or imprisonment for one year.

Rep. Ritz: nullify Obamacare

Rep. Mike Ritze says there is a simple solution to the unpopular Obamacare law that was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The State of Oklahoma could nullify it.

House Bill 1276 by Ritze got passed in the Judiciary Committee 12-4 but the Republican leadership in the House wouldn’t bring it to the floor, Ritze said.

Citizens try to stop chloramines in tap water

A group of citizens has started a petition drive to convince city leaders to stop using chloramine in Tulsa’s tap water.

Victoria Clark is hoping to get thousands of signatures to deliver to Mayor Dewey Bartlett, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority and the City Council to stop the change in water treatment that began in July.

In a letter to Curt and Victoria Clark, Clayton Edwards, director of the Water and Sewer Department, defended the city’s use of chloramine.

“The conversion to chloramine provides more equitable public health protection for all of the City’s customers by reducing the concentration of trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAA5) to below the maximum contaminant level (MCL) at all locations within the distribution system,” Edwards wrote.

August

Millions support Chick-fil-A

Homosexual activists call for a boycott of Chick–fil-A  (a Christian company) because the CEO supports biblical marriage. Instead, Americans line up for hours to patronize the restaurants in support.

Wildfires strike Creek County

Families devastated by the weekend wildfires west of Tulsa were assessing damage in the wake of one of the worst fire disasters in state history.

Parts of Mannford and Cushing had to be evacuated Saturday because of the raging fires and Turner Turnpike between Tulsa and Oklahoma City was closed temporarily because of smoke.

Gov. Mary Fallin toured a 50-plus-mile-long fire line Sunday to assess damage. The entire state is under a burn ban. On July 30, Fallin declared a State of Emergency for all 77 Oklahoma counties due to extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

3/4 of $1 billion tax is set

Tulsa chamber officials got their wish and Tulsa County voters will decide the fate of a gigantic county sales tax increase – $748.8 million – on Nov. 6.

A vote on the proposal was approved by all three Tulsa County commissioners even though there may not be a comprehensive list of the projects by the time of the vote. Specific projects will not be on the ballot. It is a new county sales tax that will be used primarily for municipal projects. The new tax would be also more than $200 million larger than the original Vision 2025 county sales tax (estimated $530 million) enacted in 2003. The new “temporary tax” would go through 2029.

The proposal calls for a $50 million “slush fund” or “closing fund” to give to companies it prefers to entice them to relocate or expand in Tulsa.

Officer demoted for avoiding mosque event

Attorneys representing Tulsa Police Captain Paul Fields filed a motion in an Oklahoma Federal District Court for entry of a partial judgment in his favor on the issue of liability.

The federal lawsuit involved the disciplinary action taken against Captain Fields after he refused orders to attend a Mosque event because it conflicted with his Christian faith and had nothing to do with any official police function.

He also told his superiors that he would not require any of his subordinates to follow the order if they shared similar religious convictions.

Thousands sign anti-chloramine petition

Tulsans Against Chloramine, a local grass roots group, sent a letter to city officials with a petition with thousands of signatures of people opposed to the switch from chlorine to chloramines in tap water.

The petition states, “We, the undersigned, are asking you for a moratorium on the use of chloramine in drinking water in Tulsa until more studies are done regarding the acute and long term effects of chloramine and its byproducts as well as the impact on our homes, aquatic life and watersheds.

September

Fire destroys TSAS

Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school, has relocated to another vacant public school after a Sept. 5 fire destroyed the former Barnard Elementary building – a location leased by TSAS in August.

 “This is a sad day for the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences community,” said administrator Eric Doss. “The fire at 2324 E 17th Street has been devastating.”

$20 million for the zoo

Mayor Dewey Bartlett said Tulsa would get $158 million in new taxes from the new tax ($748.8 million total). Bartlett wants $20 million dollars for the Tulsa Zoo, a city-subsidized operation controlled by a private board. The zoo has been criticized for its display of overtly religious symbols – including the Hindu god Ganesh at the elephant exhibit, pagan deities in the rain forest exhibit plus African gods. No Christian symbols are allowed at the zoo and the theory of evolution has a prominent display.

Bartlett wants $55 million to build up the low-water dams on the Arkansas River. River development was promised when voters passed Vision 2025 in 2003 but almost no work has been finished. Bartlett wants $8 million for a whitewater project for rafters and kayakers. He claims the state will add $25 million to that fund but that is being challenged in the courts.

October

Opposition to  tax grows

A coalition of Tulsans have joined to fight the proposed new $748,000,000.00 county sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The group is called Citizens for a Better Vision. It includes four former city councilors – Republicans Bill Christiansen and Jim Mautino and Democrats Maria Barnes and Roscoe Turner. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, founder of the Tulsa 9.12 Project, and J.B. Alexander, chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, are part of the effort.  Republican Senate candidate Dave Bell (a Republican) and City Council candidate Twan Jones (a Democrat) are part of the effort. Radio talk show host Eddie Huff (KFAQ) and Erik Zoellner and others are part of the grassroots effort to defeat the new tax. The Tulsa County Republican Party, The Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, Tulsa 912, OK-SAFE and other groups voiced opposition to the new county sales tax.

November

OU copes with loss to No. 1 Notre Dame

After a devastating loss to Notre Dame, the Oklahoma Sooners must regroup and travel to Ames, Iowa – home of the Cyclones and huge upsets.

Stoops listed reasons why the Sooners fell short against Notre Dame. He came close to blaming the loss on the officiating.

“Going back through reviewing Notre Dame, kind of like I said after the game, compliments to Notre Dame who played an excellent game to win it,” Stoops said. “In the end, they made some key plays in order to win. They only had one penalty and no turnovers and were able to win that way. We were just on the wrong side of some judgment calls that, in the end, in a tight game, they are part of the game. Those take some momentum away.

County tax increase defeated

In Tulsa, both portions of a proposed $748,000,000.00 increase in county sales tax went down to defeat, according to reports on Nov. 6. Proposition 1 of Vision2 was a .310 percent sales tax increase beginning in January 2017 and continuing for 13 years. Proposition 2 was a.290 percent increase in sales tax beginning in January 201 and continuing for 13 years. This would have created a new .6 percent county sales tax within Tulsa County that would begin Jan. 1. It included a $53 million slush fund to give taxpayer money to private companies.

Obama re-elected

Republican Mitt Romney carried Oklahoma but lost the election as Barack Obama was elected for a second term.

Republican newcomers Jim Bridenstine (1st District) and Markwayne Mullin (2nd District) were easily elected to the U.S. House.

2nd Annual Tulsa Christmas Parade

Plans are going smoothly for the Second Annual Tulsa Christmas Parade on Dec. 8 at the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center on 71st Street just east of Highway 75.

Last year’s parade was a huge success with 106 floats and a crowd estimate of up to 25,000.

“It’s going great,” said Josh McFarland, one of the organizers of the event. “Tulsa made a statement last year and we once again have our Christmas parade.”

Thousands of Tulsans were upset and disappointed the downtown Christmas parade was renamed the Holiday Parade of Lights to strip references to Christian faith from the annual parade.

Fallin says no to Obamacare

Gov. Mary Fallin solidified Oklahoma’s fight against Obamacare this month by announcing that Oklahoma will not pursue the creation of a state-based exchange or participate in the Medicaid expansion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

“For the past few months, my staff and I have worked with other lawmakers, Oklahoma stakeholders and health care experts across the country to determine the best course of action for Oklahoma in regards to both the creation of a health insurance exchange and the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” Fallin said.

December

No legalization of marijuana in Oklahoma

Despite a federal law against marijuana possession, several states including Colorado and Washington passed state laws decriminalizing pot. But it won’t happen in Oklahoma in 2013.

State Rep. Mike Ritze, a physician, said the issue is dead for the upcoming February session of the Oklahoma Legislature. Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, was urging an interim study of the issue to conclude that marijuana should be legalized for “medicinal use.” Ritze said marijuana causes more medical problems than it alleviates. A vote to legalize marijuana in Arkansas almost passed on Nov. 6. It failed 51-49 percent.

State Supreme Court strikes pro-life laws

The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck another blow to the pro-life movement by overturning two laws restricting the killing of unborn babies.

The court ruled against a law that requires pregnant women receive an ultrasound at least an hour before their abortion and a statute that restricted the use of certain possible abortion-inducing drugs.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court, in separate decisions, said the laws violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case. The court also determined that lower court judges were correct in their decisions to halt the laws.

Judge dismisses mosque suit

A policeman who was demoted and transferred after refusing to order subordinates to attend a religious event at a mosque had his suit against the city dismissed in federal court.

Capt. Paul Fields would not order policemen under his command to attend an “appreciation day” at the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s mosque on March 4, 2011, because he believed it violated their civil right to freedom of religion.

The judge threw out the case because he said Fields himself was not ordered to attend but was ordered to tell others to.

The “appreciation day” included a prayer service and other religious activities designed to foster acceptance of the Muslim religion. After initially ordering attendance, police officials made the event voluntary after Fields protested. He was subsequently suspended a total of 80 hours without pay and temporarily transferred for insubordination.