Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Stillwater News Press. Jan. 13, 2019.
— So far, a milder flu season
There’s always good and bad when it comes to flu season, but we’re much better off than we were this time last year.
Since the tracking began in September, there have been 13 deaths and around 330 hospitalizations. By the end of January 2018, there were dozens dead in Oklahoma and over a 1,000 hospitalizations.
The flu claimed tens of thousands of lives last year in America, and flu season extends well beyond February but the latest forecasts are much better than in previous years.
A big reason for that according to the CDC is that a less virulent strain has been more predominant in recorded cases, and vaccines have been better against it.
Hygiene and self-care are important, but as always, the best protection against the flu is vaccination. It should come as no surprise, that at least through November, surveys showed increased vaccination rates, by at least 6 percentage points, for both children and adults.
Of the 13 deaths recorded, 6 of those were in the northeastern Oklahoma region, which includes Payne and many of its surrounding counties. You can’t urge enough caution, and if you haven’t yet, you should still be vaccinated. You can protect yourself and others. Anyone over six months of age is encouraged to receive a flu vaccination.
Vaccination is simply the best protection against the flu.
We’re glad to offer this kind of good news, and we’re thankful that people are taking this flu season seriously.
Tulsa World. Jan. 14, 2019.
— Time to end the shameful federal shutdown
The partial federal shutdown is stretching into its fourth week, and the effects are starting to show.
Here’s an example that strikes home to many Oklahomans: State officials announced last week that they are delaying bids on 45 highway projects worth about $137 million. The shutdown prevents the state from getting to the federal portion of funding for new projects.
Because of environmental regulations, a delay of a few weeks on some projects can easily stretch out much longer.
Work on state bridges can’t start once nesting season begins for cliff swallows, a protected species that frequently makes its home on the underside of bridges. Nesting season runs from March to September.
So Oklahoma’s inadequate roads and bridges aren’t going to get fixed in a timely fashion because Congress and the president can’t do the fundamental jobs of keeping the government open. Think about that as you complain about potholes and dicey bridges.
That’s only one example of how the longest shutdown in U.S. history is starting to hurt the nation.
The Coast Guard and border patrol are protecting our nation, but their employees aren’t getting paid. Neither are air traffic controllers or airport TSA agents.
Children visiting Washington, D.C., find the Smithsonian Institution and the national zoo shuttered.
Craft breweries have beer stacking up in their warehouses because they can’t get new labels approved by federal agencies.
Some FDA food inspections have stopped. Hungry?
Employers can’t use the E-verify system to make sure the people they hire have legal status in the U.S.
CNN has put together a list of 70 direct effects of the shutdown. It’s a shameful failure of the American political system, and every citizen should be outraged.
It’s time for Congress and the president to stop the bickering and put the nation back to work. This is a solvable problem if only the best interests of the nation prevail instead of political gamesmanship.
The Oklahoman. Jan. 15, 2019.
— Stitt offers new direction for Oklahoma
In his inauguration speech Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt laid down a marker: Business as usual must end. Turning that vision into reality will require buy-in from legislators and the public, and Stitt will face obstacles to achieving his goals. Still, there was much to like in his words and Oklahomans should hope he succeeds.
It’s clear Stitt, a businessman and political outsider, has concluded Oklahoma’s persistent woes owe much to a calcified government system that resists and impedes change. He vows to be a disruptive force for good.
“We need to change how Oklahoma’s 400 agencies and commissions are comprised,” Stitt said. “Our current system gives agencies too much independence from the voter. They have the ability to ignore executive orders, skirt around laws passed by the Legislature, hide pockets of money, and protect their own interests by hiring lobbyists.”
Stitt said “this must change if we are going to move the needle.” He promised his administration would “get to the bottom of every tax dollar spent,” bring government “fully into the digital age,” improve efficiency, lower costs and maximize services. Officials at state agencies, Stitt said, must “understand that they exist to serve and to answer to the people of Oklahoma.”
Stitt has called for giving the governor true CEO-style authority, including the ability to fire agency heads when performance falls short. Legislative leaders have voiced support for those changes. That alone could improve performance, but Stitt’s call to further scrutinize agency spending and practices, and hold people accountable for results, represents change that should leave some agency officials nervous.
In his administration, Stitt said, “state government will live within its financial means.” That tacitly put the Legislature on notice that the practice of inflating government spending with one-time dollars, which contributed much to budget shortfalls in recent years, won’t be tolerated.
While vowing to improve government performance, Stitt also cautioned, “State government is not the sole answer to our problems.” When discussing education, he similarly noted that “more government money is not the answer alone.” In both instances, his chief point was to urge citizens to become more active in civic affairs, but those comments also suggest a break with the recent past. Too often, politicians have acted as though increased spending or new programs are automatically a sign of progress, even if no associated improvement in outcomes occurs. Stitt’s words suggest he views things differently.
He endorsed continued education and corrections reform, and vowed all decisions made in his administration would “come back to growth.”
“We are at our best when people are gainfully employed, when wages are improving, when people have freedom to innovate and access to opportunity,” he said.
Recalling words his father told him as a boy, Stitt said, “The future doesn’t just happen. You make it happen. So dream big.”
Stitt appears eager to make things happen in Oklahoma. The journey from reform idea to implementation can be a long trip filled with much frustration. But in his first steps in his first moments on the job, Oklahoma’s new governor seems headed the right direction.