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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

September 19, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Norman Transcript. Sept. 16, 2018.

— Oklahoma veterans deserve the best we can give

Recent reports about cuts in services at the Norman Veterans Center are deeply concerning.

The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs committed to providing Oklahoma veterans the best care available. But according to their families, services have been outsourced, medical staff have been slashed and there is significant turnover.

All of this is having a negative impact on the very individuals we should go out of our way to provide for. These men and women served our country in the most significant and sacrificial way possible, and we as a country and a state made a commitment to them.

Whether the findings of the state audit are factual or not, it’s clear there are some concerning things going on at the ODVA. These veterans’ spouses shouldn’t have to sit outside of the central office to demand proper services.

The ODVA staff, the state legislature and the governor should all be advocating for these individuals. But all the respect in the world to these spouses for taking the time and effort to stand up for their loved ones.

Veterans Centers across the state are supposed to be a shining example of Oklahoma’s commitment to veterans. They’re not supposed to be nursing homes. We can do better, and we call on the ODVA to do better.

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The Oklahoman. Sept. 19, 2018.

— Oklahoma City owes debt of thanks to Jim Couch

After 18 years as city manager and 31 working for Oklahoma City, Jim Couch is heading for retirement at the end of the year. It’s an understatement to say his impact on the city has been significant and will be felt for years to come.

Couch spent 11 years as water and wastewater utilities director, during which time he led an overhaul of the city’s water and sewer systems that resulted in the ability to serve more customers and a large drop in the number of citizen complaints.

He was named assistant city manager in early 1998 and placed in charge of the original MAPS program, which had been approved by voters in 1993 but was beset by complaints about cost overruns and the length of time it was taking for construction of the various projects to get underway. Couch’s work helped lead to a successful election in December 1998 to extend the original 1-cent sales tax for six months.

As The Oklahoman reported in October 2000, shortly before Couch became city manager, he “helped turn the public’s perception of MAPS from that of disgust to elation.”

The city hasn’t looked back, with voters approving MAPS for Kids in 2001, which spent roughly $700 million on improvements to schools across the city, and following that in 2009 with MAPS 3, whose $800 million worth of projects include a new convention center, a downtown park, senior health centers, and sidewalks and trails.

As the city’s longest-serving city manager, Couch was at the center of agreements that resulted in the New Orleans Hornets playing here for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina, and then the Oklahoma City Thunder setting up permanent residence at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Bringing the NBA to town has been nothing short of transformative.

His secured rights to water from Canton Lake, and played a leading role in negotiating a historic water agreement in 2016 with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes. That deal is meant to secure what Couch has called “generational water” for Oklahoma City, which will help the city continue to grow while giving the tribes oversight of water from their territorial lands in southeastern Oklahoma.

The Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer notes that Couch’s tenure also saw the restoration of the historic Skirvin hotel, which at one time was thought to be headed for the wrecking ball, and the recruitment of companies that have added thousands of jobs.

Mayor David Holt called Couch, 62, the best city manager in America and “absolutely one of the top five most important figures in this chapter of OKC’s history.” You’ll get no argument from us.

In Oklahoma City’s form of government, the city manager is essentially the city’s CEO — Couch oversees a budget of $1.56 billion and roughly 4,800 employees. It’s stressful and demanding work, and he has handled it with aplomb and humility.

Monday’s news gives the city about four months to find a successor. City officials will be hard pressed to find someone as capable as Jim Couch has been throughout his long tenure in the office.

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Tulsa World. Sept. 19, 2018.

— David Patrick, the senior member of the Tulsa City Council, dies at 67

We join many in mourning the death of Tulsa City Council Chairman David Patrick, who died suddenly last week. He was 67.

Services were scheduled for Thursday.

Patrick was the longest-serving member of the current council. He was first elected in 1996 and served a total of nine terms, representing northeast Tulsa’s District 3.

He announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking re-election.

Patrick ran the family’s auto service business, Patrick Auto Service, and also owned a number of commercial and residential properties.

As a councilor, Patrick was one of the good guys. He was known for his outlandish shoes and his practical solutions to thorny questions.

“While many Councilors would sit around the committee table trying to solve issues in complex ways, inevitably it would be David who, at the very end of the meeting, would raise his hand and offer up a perfect, simple, efficient solution that best met the needs of all parties,” Councilor Phil Lakin wrote in a Facebook posting. “More times than not, we would walk away thinking, ‘Geez, I really wish I would have thought of that.’ ”

Patrick was involved in some of the closest political contests in Tulsa City Council history. Despite that, he never dragged the political discourse down, but did his best to raise standards with a positive, optimistic message. His supporters knew him as a man who loved his city, loved his council district and wanted both to be better.

In 2014, when Patrick was running for his sixth term on the council, we said that he knew District 3 “by heart.” That was true in so many ways.

We send our condolences to the Patrick family. Tulsa will miss this humble, common-sense man who worked for years to make Tulsa a better place to live.

He will be missed.

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