It’s Gusty in Tulsa

September 30th, 2004

You can tell Tulsa is getting serious about the centennial. They now have an official centennial cartoon. Gusty was drawn by television weatherman Don Woods as part of his job duties at KTUL.Gusty

Woods reported on Oklahoma’s weather for 35 years at NewsChannel 8. Gusty came about when a former station owner made drawing a cartoon a provision of getting the job.

Gusty himself is only 50 years old, and you can purchase an autographed print at his official website. Or help Gusty’s Goal as a street art parade to raise $1 million to benefit Oklahoma schools and non-profit groups in the Eastern half of the state. You go Gusty!

By the way, what is a “street art parade”?

Bad management breeds unions

September 30th, 2004

With a new state law going into effect Nov.1, some city leaders are nervous about giving up some of their dominance over city employees. Workers in cities with populations greater than 35,000 will have the right to form a union and negotiate grievances like city workers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Muskogee already do.

Lawton city manager Larry Mitchell acts confused. Mitchell says (NewsOK reg.req.) Lawton officials aren’t necessarily against employees unionizing, although the city denied employees’ request to organize in 2003.

Mitchell said Lawton employees have had informational meetings recently but haven’t asked for recognition.

Why would they ask again before Nov. 1?

It’s been my experience that bad managers tend to worry about unions a lot more than good managers. Employees who feel they’re being treated fairly don’t see the need for collective bargaining to begin with. If I was Lawton’s city manager, I’d be trying to remind workers how fair they are being treated – if he believes it to be true.

Gov. Henry a lightweight

September 29th, 2004

Facing a big problem of obesity among kids, Gov. Brad Henry admits he is no icon of health.

“I could be a poster child for what not to do,” Henry said. “I don’t eat very well. I don’t exercise any. At least I don’t smoke.”

The subject came up when Henry, a Democrat, was asked about Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee’s personal fitness campaign and the growing problem of obesity among school children.

Huckabee has lost 105 pounds on an exercise regimen and is passionate about the subject, Henry said.

“He’s got me excited about this and we are looking into emulating the same things that Huckabee has done,” Henry said.

Henry probably should consult a doctor first. He currently weighs 185 lbs.

One thing he can do is cut back on some of these awards.

American spoilers

September 29th, 2004

PBS has a special tonight about the struggle of third party candidates in America. Author and blogger Micah L. Sifry played a part.

This Wednesday night, in the only in-depth television coverage of the third-party scene that I know of this fall, PBS will air “Crashing the Parties,” a one-hour documentary produced by AWARD Productions and written by Darren Garnick.

I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t vouch for its analysis, but what I understand from Darren is that he spent several months traveling with each of these candidates and tried to give a fair portrait of what motivates each of them as well as their followers. I’m sure it will be interesting television (and a nice foil for Thursday night’s Bush-Kerry joint appearance, not to be confused with a debate.)

Crashing the Party broadcast tonight from OETA at 9pm.

The Partly Cloudy Day Fund

September 29th, 2004

STATE QUESTION NO. 708

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 23 of Article 10. This section involves the Constitutional Reserve Fund also known as the Rainy Day Fund. This measure changes the amount which could be spent from the Rainy Day Fund. The State Board of Equalization would decide if the taxes the state collects each fiscal year will be less than predicted. This is called revenue failure. If this happens, up to three-eighths (3/8) of the Rainy Day Fund could be spent. The total amount spent from the Rainy Day Fund for revenue failure could not exceed the amount of the funds shortage predicted by the State Board of Equalization. The Rainy Day Fund can be used now if the prediction about state tax collections for the current year is less than the prediction made the year before. One-half (1/2) of the Fund can be spent now if this occurs. If this measure passes, that amount would change to three-eighths (3/8). Money can now be spent from the Fund for certain emergencies. One-half (1/2) of the Fund can now be spent for these emergencies. This measure would change that amount to one quarter (1/4).

SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?

You want to belive that legislators can be trusted enough to restrict use of the Rainy Day fund for those unusual times of crisis beyond our control. But we all know better. Kids will be kids, and those rascals down at the Capitol can’t help but stick their hands in the cookie jar a little too much. The Rainy Day Fund should be called The Partly Cloudy Day Fund. From an analysis by Jim Campbell (pdf) of the Oklahoma Press Association Capitol News Bureau:

Prompted by the budget crisis of 2003 and near depletion of the so called Rainy Day Fund to help cover the shortfall, this state question reduces the amount that can be spent from the fund. It was referred to the ballot in House Bill 1249 of 2003 by Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Lindsay, and Sen. Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The proposed change also was part of a bipartisan budget agreement reached in April 2003. Instead of half of the fund that can be spent in case of a revenue failure, only three-eighths could be used for that purpose. Spending to meet certain emergencies would be rolled back from one-half to one-quarter.

The fund was established by a 1985 constitutional amendment to cushion against economic emergencies. Collections in excess of 100 percent of the certified amount for a fiscal year are deposited into the fund annually.

A YES vote is worth a try to discipline our legislative hooligans on spending.

(Hooligans sounds better than crap-heads, doesn’t it?)

Oklahoma defends exclusion of voters

September 28th, 2004

With some luck, Oklahomans will hold state legislator’s feet to the fire this next Legislative session when it comes to fixing the state’s draconian election laws.

The state’s current battle is over allowing a political party to open up its primary election to voters outside the party if they so chose.

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would decide a constitutional challenge to a state election law that allows a political party to invite only its own members and independent voters to vote in its primary.

…a U.S. appeals court declared it unconstitutional.

Oklahoma appealed to the Supreme Court.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Wellon Poe said the case involved “a matter of great public concern,”

What’s the great concern? That voters might actually be interested in candidates other than Democrats and Republicans? This action doesn’t mandate every party opening their primary system to non-party members, but only gives a party the option to do it.

Kudos to Libertarians for forcing this issue.

Purcell Gestapo

September 28th, 2004

Folks driving through the $2.5 million bridge construction project in Purcell have a decision to make; obey the traffic lights or run ’em. Either way it’s a gamble.

ODOT officials and law enforcement urge motorists to obey the traffic lights placed on the east and west ends of the construction areas on the bridge.

By motorists obeying the lights, traffic will move smoother and motorists, who in the past have ran the lights, might avoid getting a traffic citation.

Boy! What a bunch of hard-asses in Purcell. Obey the law and you might not get a ticket.

Political crime ring loose in Ardmore

September 28th, 2004

A gang of radical activists are terrorizing old folks in this sleepy little Oklahoma town by stealing campaign yard signs. The crime wave is spreading through neighborhoods in south Ardmore.

Mike McCumber, former Carter County treasurer, said more than 10 Kerry-Edwards signs were stolen from his southwest Ardmore neighborhood. He said signs for Democrats Brad Carson and Daron Henry were not taken. So far, no one has reported any thefts involving Bush-Cheney signs.

Well of course nobody stole any Bush-Cheney signs, they’re everywhere. Now Kerry signs, that’s a rare commodity.

Then again, thieves stealing only Kerry campaign signs may not be so bad after all. Have you seen some of his stuff? Would you want this across the street from you?

Not a funky white boy

September 27th, 2004

This could be a terrible blow to Norman’s reputation as a city of cultural tolerance.

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA — In a rare display of defiance, local white boy David McReynolds, 17, refused to play funky music when his racially eclectic group of friends requested it.

According to his friends, McReynolds adamantly refused their collective request for some funk citing “he just wasn’t feeling it”.

“I didn’t hear Dwayne complain when I complied with his ludicrous request to play a song about having hoes in different area codes. I didn’t hear Jason complain when I had my entire audience believing they were turning Japanese. And I sure as hell didn’t hear Carlos complain because . . . well, he doesn’t speaka very big English.”

It’s a shame people of color (and soul) mock white music taste, but they do have a point. Sure, I’m cool because I like Motown and Blues stuff, but really, most of my Caucasian cousins have got to lubricate their ears with something other than country western, easy listening and Zydeco.

I don’t get it. It’s so easy to tell good music from bad. Just look in the Bible.

Long term taxpayer debt?

September 27th, 2004

STATE QUESTION NO. 707

This measure amends Section 6C of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The amendment deals with the use of certain city, town and county taxes and fees. When authorized by law, cities, towns or counties can put these taxes and fees to use in three ways. The first use is specific public investments. The second use is aid in development financing. The third use is an income source for other public bodies in the area. The Legislature can authorize cities, towns and counties to direct the apportionment of these fees and taxes among or between these uses. The amendment allows these apportionments to be prospective. The amendment permits these apportionments to continue from year to year. The amendment permits cities, towns and counties to pledge certain taxes and fees beyond the current fiscal year and to pledge certain taxes and fees to repay some debts of other public entities.

SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?

NO!!!

But who can tell by reading the ballot language?

This is a big step in dismantling the state’s Constitutional protection from politicians passing long term business risks upon Oklahoma taxpayers. It all has to do with Tax Increment Financing or TIFs. Simply put, TIFs finance capital projects from the stream of projected revenue generated by the projects. They are needed in situations where bond writers feel there is too much risk for normal financing methods.

Supporters of this constitutional amendment will tell you there will be no increase in taxes with this proposal. Yet the whole reason for the amendment is to place all the financial liability on taxpayers.

Tax increment financing is obtained through a general obligation bond. This means that, should the project fail to generate sufficient revenue, the city is liable to pay any shortfall from its general revenue. In other words, the city is accepting a risk on the project.

To be fair, let’s listen to a proponent of SQ 707.

Wes Stucky, Ardmore Development Authority/Chamber of Commerce said, “Anyone who owns a home has to go through an extensive paperwork process to apply for a home loan. Once they get approved for a home loan they still have mountains of paperwork to sign. Imagine if they had to do that each and every year of their home loan. That would drive most homeowners crazy. That is our point in urging passage of this bill. Recipients of TIFs have to re-apply each year for their loans. It’s a messy bureaucracy and we want to streamline to process by only having businesses apply once and only once for this great economic development tool.”

One big difference here. Businesses can already get financing like homeowners and avoid annual paperwork if they want to assume the same risk as homeowners. Now if the city offered to finance homeowners with TIFs, so that their mortgage payments were taken from future taxes based on the appreciated property value, most homeowners would be more than happy to fill out papers every year. Especially with the condition that if assessed values don’t rise enough to make the payments, their neighbors would pick up the tab.

Currently, the state Constitution already allows these TIF liabilities for taxpayers, but only for the current fiscal year. The State Supreme Court has ruled that entering long term indebtedness for such reasons violates Article 10, which is there to prevent such wheeling and dealing by politicians influenced by business interests.

TIF supporters will say that Oklahoma should be run more like a business and be willing to take risks with taxpayers money. Businesses take risks because they want to make a profit. Businesses also incorporate to avoid personal risks if they fail. TIFs simply take the risks from bond holders and transfer it to taxpayers. I don’t trust politicians to saddle me with risks as it is now, let alone for periods in excess of one year.