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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

May 21, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Norman Transcript. May 19, 2019.

— Community needs to embrace diversity in leadership positions

For Normanites who remember the awful rhetoric in our community in 2010 surrounding the Norman City Council passing a proclamation naming October Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, the recent Norman Pride festival was evidence that we’ve made progress as a community.

There are other signs — the number of women on our city council, for example. But while Norman has made tangible progress toward fulfilling its city motto of “building an inclusive community,” there remains a dearth of diversity in positions of power and leadership throughout Cleveland County and Norman.

Norman needs to embrace a diversity of leaders, from elected lawmakers to local city officials to nonprofit directors to civic group leadership. We as a community have to intentionally encourage people to run or apply for these positions who reflect a diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, income level, age, etc. Then, we need to support them.

We know representation is incredibly important — having a variety of perspectives to inform decision processes ensures more equitable decisions. It’s a safeguard against ignoring or marginalizing a portion of our community. And actively building a community that reflects our motto makes us stronger and healthier as a community.

We encourage individuals from underrepresented communities to run for office and apply for leadership roles, and we call on Normanites to support our neighbors who take up that challenge. A failure to do so means our city will drift backward instead of moving forward.

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The Oklahoman. May 19, 2019.

— Tough work faces OU regents

Not even a year after hiring its 14th president, the University of Oklahoma is in the market for No. 15. Finding that person may prove challenging.

The university is on firmer financial footing due to Jim Gallogly’s 10 months as president, and that’s no small thing. Gallogly, who recently announced his resignation, and his team found that the books were in bad shape, with the university nearly $1 billion in debt and expenses outpacing revenues by roughly $36 million per year.

The moves Gallogly took to address those areas — cutting programs, facilities and staff — worked. OU’s financial position is stabilized. But the moves also rankled feathers, even if the staff cuts (roughly 80 in Norman) were anything but draconian.

Gallogly also wound up in a public relations battle with the man he replaced, David Boren, who was highly popular during his nearly 24 years as president. Boren took issue with Gallogly’s criticism of OU’s finances, and later found himself the subject of a sexual harassment investigation by the university. The investigation is ongoing.

Gallogy’s tenure at OU also included some race-related incidents, most notably a video in January that showed two OU students wearing blackface. The two dropped out, but Gallogly’s handling of the incident was deemed insufficient by some students and faculty.

Gallogly implemented steps meant to improve OU’s racial environment. They included ensuring that the university has robust inclusion and training programs, and strengthening efforts to recruit more students, staff and faculty of color. But he remained a target for critics.

Indeed, two men who allege sexual misconduct by Boren and a former OU vice president are demanding an investigation into the university’s Title IX office, which deals with such issues.

The OU Board of Regents, which named law school dean Joseph Harroz interim president, will have to find someone willing to inherit these issues — and it will face considerable scrutiny along the way.

The two men mentioned earlier say the university must conduct a search “that includes all university stakeholders and will allow for a leader who has the skill, experience and capacity to lead our diverse institution and university community.” All university stakeholders. Where does that line begin and where does it end?

They also say OU must come up with a “democratic process by which OU students, faculty and staff” can ensure the regents are doing their work “ethically, responsibly and legally.”

The president of the OU Student Government Association has said the organization wants to ensure that undergrads and graduate students at all three campuses — Norman, Tulsa, Oklahoma City — are part of the search process. That process was criticized as lacking transparency when Gallogly was selected.

During his confirmation hearing, new regent Gary Pierson told a state Senate committee that he formerly viewed a regent’s job as mostly ceremonial. “There’s no longer time or need for that,” he said. “It needs serious people because there are serious issues.”

The work of choosing OU’s next president will prove his point.

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Tulsa World. May 20, 2019.

— Stitt promises Oklahoma solutions to health care problems. Here’s an idea — Medicaid expansion

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s people say he’s working on an Oklahoma solution to Oklahoma’s health care problems.

We await eagerly.

If Stitt uses the business metrics that he said would be his guide when he was a candidate for governor, it’s hard to imagine how he would turn away from available federal funding for improved health care coverage, a critical part to any Oklahoma solution.

At a state cost of 10 cents on the dollar, the federal government will fund health care for some 233,000 uninsured working poor Oklahomans. For partisan political reasons, the state has resisted the funding for years. Oklahoma taxes are paying for Medicaid expansion in 36 other states, but we get nothing.

Thus, Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.

Stitt says he will oppose an initiative petition seeking to mandate “Obamacare” Medicaid expansion if it survives a pending legal challenge.

Instead, he says he will present his own solution to the issue this fall — an Oklahoma Plan to deal with a broad range of health care issues, including coverage.

If that sounds familiar, it could be because we’ve heard it before. Gov. Mary Fallin promised an Oklahoma plan, which turned out to be using Medicaid expansion money to buy private insurance for eligible people and raise the cigarette tax $1.50 a pack for other health programs.

It was a good idea, but the Legislature ignored it. The state eventually raised the cigarette tax $1 (for schools) and did nothing about health care coverage.

Meanwhile, those thousands of uncovered Oklahomans still get sick and injured. When they do, they end up in hospital emergency rooms, where their costs are either written off — undercutting the financial stability of the hospitals — or get passed along to insured patients, who see the effect in their premiums.

If Gov. Stitt has an Oklahoma solution to the problem, let’s see it. Oklahomans are paying for better health care than they are getting, and they’re getting tired of waiting for the state’s politicians to do something about it.

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