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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

December 18, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Stillwater News Press. Dec. 16, 2018.

— Good hire by Gov.-elect

Congratulation to Payne County’s Blayne Arthur. Her appointment to be the next Secretary of Agriculture for the state of Oklahoma was one of Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt’s first acts is his new role and it was a wise choice.

Arthur will be Oklahoma’s first female in that cabinet position, but the selection, to us, is kind of a different twist on identity politics. We look at it as a nod to rural Oklahoma, which overwhelmingly helped carry Stitt past Oklahoma City’s Mick Cornett. Arthur has been looking out for rural Oklahomans and working for their interests for more than a decade.

We often go overlooked in the big picture. We’re called “fly-over” states. Our values can seem backward to some. We’re used to having our views ignored. Speaking strictly from the Payne County perspective, it’s nice to have one of our own in such an important position.

Outside of the usual political rhetoric, it’s a wise choice because Arthur has the professional background and a lifetime of farm work behind her to give her insight into multiple aspects of Oklahoma farming. She understands ag from an operations, consumer and policy standpoint and has worked for two different Secretaries of Agriculture. She has played a role in molding future farmers, and she understands Oklahoma’s great need to diversify its industry. Arthur wants to make plans that will help entrepreneurs, and she wants to expand our brands internationally.

It was a slam dank. It’s easier to stay grounded because she has deep rural roots. And we know she’ll make sure others won’t forget about rural farmers, because as she says, “People gotta eat.”

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Tulsa World. Dec. 18, 2018.

— A major decision! Big 12 wrestling stays in Tulsa

Tulsans should celebrate the decision by Big 12 wrestling to keep its championship in Tulsa through 2024.

It’s a credit to the hard work by the Tulsa Sports Commission, BOK Center and other city leaders for proving Tulsa is a player in the sports hosting world.

Oklahoma remains a force in amateur wrestling at the collegiate and high school levels. Oklahoma State University is currently ranked No. 4.

To have a championship event held in the state is an appropriate and good fit. Tulsans have worked hard to be that site.

For Tulsa, this means thousands of visitors coming to the city. They will be spending money in restaurants, hotels and stores, with some making their way to places such as Gathering Place and Guthrie Green. We think they’ll like what they find here and will want to come back.

The BOK Center successfully hosted the annual March event in 2017 and 2018, leading to confidence for agreeing to a longer contract. The two-day tournament attracts about 4,000 people per session.

The announcement is emblematic of the progress the city has made to compete for big-draw events and the economic development they produce.

The BOK Center will be the site for the first and second rounds of NCAA men’s basketball for the third time next year. It has hosted the Bassmasters’ championship, considered the Super Bowl for bass fishing, and continues to feature the Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough series.

This is what voters envisioned when they approved the Vision 2025 package that included the $178 million BOK Center, which opened a decade ago. The naysayers said it wouldn’t work — that you can’t buy prosperity. The naysayers were wrong.

The BOK Center has become an anchor for downtown development and served to increase Tulsa’s profile nationally.

To borrow a term from the wrestling world, the Big 12′s decision to stay in Tulsa is a major decision, and we welcome it.

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The Oklahoman. Dec. 18, 2018.

— Strides being made on untested Oklahoma rape kits

For those who have been victims of sexual assault, Oklahoma’s effort to address its backlog of untested rape kits has no doubt been a long and difficult slog. Progress is being made, however.

Attorney General Mike Hunter, whose office recently assumed authority over a task force that spent about a year studying this issue, announced last week that the panel has approved a priority listing for testing of the kits.

The kits are forensic exams used to collect evidence from sexual assault victims. A statewide audit ordered by the governor’s office in 2017 identified more than 7,000 untested rape kits in law enforcement agencies statewide, something Hunter and others have rightly called unacceptable.

The task force has worked to come up with the best way forward, recommending such things as using a standardized rape kit statewide and requiring law enforcement agencies to submit their kits for testing within 20 days. These require action by the Legislature, which should give them due consideration.

In the meantime, the task force has created three categories of backlogged kits that should be tested. In each category, preference will be given to the most recent cases.

Highest-priority kits include the following criteria: They fall within the statute of limitations; the suspect is unknown; the case involved violence or forced involvement; a child is involved; there is potential the suspect is a serial or repeat offender; the victim is a senior citizen or has diminished mental capacity; multiple suspects are involved; charges have been filed or are pending.

Second-tier priority includes these criteria: The case is within the statute of limitations; the suspect is known or the case involves a date rape; the prosecutor declines charges; the victim is uncooperative; there is no accusation of rape or sexual assault; the victim and suspect say intercourse occurred.

Kits with the lowest priority are those involving cases that are beyond the statute of limitations.

Kits that won’t be tested include those where the victim hasn’t reported to law enforcement and those where the victim has asked that the kit not be tested.

The attorney general’s office will work with law enforcement and prosecutors to evaluate untested kits and determine their priority listing.

Going hand in hand with this development is the news the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which tests the kits, is implementing a kit tracking system that should be up and running in February. The system will allow victims, medical professionals and law enforcement to track the status of rape kits during their testing.

“Our goal is for there to be no more ambiguities in the system and with the continuous progress being made, we are well on our way to achieving that outcome,” Hunter says.

Additional work remains on this important project, but these steps are noteworthy and encouraging.

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