Cuts to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol don’t seem to make sense

In a November issue of the daily Tulsa news(?)paper was a story the headline of which really caught my eye. It read: “Budget curtails troopers driving” with the byline showing Barbara Hoberock, a regular World reporterette, and datelined Oklahoma City. The sub-head then read: “Starting Thursday, OHP troopers can drive no more than 100 miles daily.

In the story, it was stated that the cost-cutting’ measures would take effect on December 1. Also stated was that normal mileage was 150 to 200 miles per day. Further, it was stated that the flight hours of the OHP aircraft have been reduced. All this in addition to a stated trooper hiring freeze, voluntary (retirement) buyout and not filling positions such as drivers’ license examiners. It quoted the Commissioner of Public Safety as stating these were necessary “to make it through fiscal year 2017.”

It seems to me that whenever there is a shortage of funds, the cuts are made immediately in the places which will most heavily affect the safety, convenience and well-being of the population. That means those of us poor citizens who, with our taxes, pay the costs. One wonders just what these self-serving bureaucrats are thinking, if they think at all about other than themselves.

A former Tulsa County District 2 commissioner once started a speech with: “The first duty of government at any level is the safety, convenience and well being of the population.” It seems obvious to me that there should be many other activities in the state  government (in this instance) where wasteful spending could be reduced – or eliminated entirely – that would not have an adverse effect on the citizen population. But no, at all levels of government the first thing that is done is that true services are cut. It is obvious to me that this is a deliberate ploy to induce said population, and their elected representatives, to come forth with additional funding.

The results of these stated cuts will be more deaths on the highways and turnpikes simply because the trooper in the area of a crash might have already used up his/her daily allowed mileage and so cannot respond to an emergency. Such could include just responding to a “crocodile” (tire tread) in the road which the trooper could remove in safety using his lights for protection. The removal is an emergency since other vehicles would cause crashes by swerving to avoid the obstacle or being thrown out of control by hitting it.

Incidentally, it is not universally known but in Oklahoma, if any serious problem is observed, it is possible to call “star 55” on the cell phone and be immediately connected to the nearest patrol station dispatcher. I’ve noticed in some other states that it is necessary to make an “800” number call to reach the highway patrol, or call “911” which would incur an unnecessary delay in reporting the incident. It has been necessary several times for me to use that number to report such problems, or actual crashes or spin-outs. It is really convenient, but it helps if the caller knows where he/she is by keeping track of the mile markers, that’s particularly present on the turnpikes, but also on Interstate highways.

Incidentally, it was reported that a recent trip by Governor Mary Fallin to New York to meet with President-elect (The Donald) cost the patrol about $9,000 because she used her state-owned aircraft. The pilots are members of the Highway Patrol, and the fuel alone was stated as $6,000. I don’t begrudgeher using the plane, since it probably saved as much as a whole day of her time, and her protection by the patrol is paramount and thus made easier.

It is hoped that the Legislature will take action next session to rein in some, or all, of the totally wasteful spending present in our state budget! Are you listening legislators?