Who Is Kidding Whom?

You may have seen that Tulsa City councilors are considering a proposed moratorium on grocery stores in Tulsa’s food deserts or better known as North Tulsa.

As the councilors see it and as reported in the newspaper, “The problem is that full-service grocery stores may be getting stifled out of the market in food deserts due to the prevalence of convenience stores that offer only basic food items without fresh produce.”

Tulsa’s planning director Dawn Warrick does not think a moratorium approach is the way to go and wants to find out how full-service grocery stores evaluate market conditions and if incentives might work for certain areas.

North Tulsa over time opened grocery stores only to see them closed.  This is not a difficult issue to understand.  In another newspaper article the caption read, “One Dead in shooting in North Tulsa Market.”  The story reads a 19-year-old man was killed in a possible drug-related shooting.  Unfortunately, these type stories are commonplace occurrences in North Tulsa.  Until people want real change to come about, the likelihood of an honest business wanting to move into that part of the community is remote.

You also don’t have to look very far to see why Tulsa is not moving in a positive direction.  We may think we are, but we are only fooling ourselves.

Two recent cases come to mind.  One is the closing of the Margaret Hudson Tulsa program amid financial problems from the loss of state and United Way funding.  Margaret Hudson is a program for pregnant and parenting teens.

The program has been in Tulsa for over 50 years and has served thousands of individuals.  With the Tulsa campus closing, the program will be run from Broken Arrow.  Unfortunately, in Oklahoma today, with almost total reliance on oil and gas revenue, funding from the Department of Education was cut as well as from the United Way.  Total loss amounted to $770,990.

In another example of poor planning on the city’s part, State Farm Insurance announced plans to close its Tulsa operations center.  The center opened in 1989 and the closing will cost Tulsa 530 jobs.

When the state or city does not diversify its employment base, the loss of jobs can’t be made up.  For years I have advocated opening a state or city industrial recruiting office outside of Oklahoma only to see the recommendation going nowhere.  We will never move ahead by ignoring the obvious. There is no ongoing effort to recruit new business to the state.  Our public schools are below average and if we allow school districts to adopt a 4-day school week, no reasonable family or business will relocate to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma high school graduates already must attend remedial classes before entering college.  Today, 40 percent of graduates attend math remediation.  How high will that figure grow if we eliminate one day a week of instruction?

One way to counter this loss of education time is to promote more charter schools.  In Oklahoma, charter school were authorized by the legislature in 1997.  Today there are 44 pubic charter schools in the state.  These schools are exempt from many standard rules and regulations.  The emphasis is on student performance and not red tape.  Many charters have longer school days, a longer school year and encourage students to even call their teachers after hours with school related issues.

Charter schools can help improve Oklahoma’s public education.  If education improves so does economic prospects and opportunity. Oklahoma does not need to lag behind.  Perhaps in next year’s election, new faces will appear who can move the state in a whole new direction.