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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

November 13, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. Nov. 13, 2018.

— Teachers and activists not always on same page

During this year’s teacher walkouts, activists vowed to “remember in November.” The implied message was Republican candidates would face rough sledding. That didn’t happen. Republicans continued to dominate statewide elections and maintained supermajority control in both legislative chambers.

That said, education was a top issue and many educators successfully ran for office. But the activist groups making the most noise, including teachers’ unions, had little to do with those outcomes and sometimes stretched the truth to suggest otherwise.

In May, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, a group active on social media, issued candidate endorsements. The group labeled now Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt “dangerous for public ed” because he wanted to fund teacher pay raises without tax increases. The label clearly didn’t hurt Stitt, who receive a record number of votes for a gubernatorial candidate.

The group slapped its “dangerous” label on numerous Republican and Democratic candidates running for statewide and legislative offices, yet 13 of those candidates won, including Stitt, Sens. Marty Quinn and Mark Allen; Reps. Tom Gann, Sean Roberts, Chad Caldwell, Tommy Hardin, Todd Russ and Lewis Moore; and Reps.-elect Jim Olsen, Denise Crosswhite Hader, Jay Steagall and Ajay Pittman.

Several incumbents were declared “dangerous” after they voted for tax increases and teacher raises.

The Oklahoma Education Association touted the “Oklahoma Education Caucus,” a list of teachers or individuals otherwise affiliated with schools who were running for office. The union identified 60 general election candidates as educators, including 56 running for legislative seats. Fifteen of those 56 won election.

But in its 2018 election guide, the OEA’s Fund for Children and Public Education endorsed just five of the 15 winning teacher candidates. And several winning teachers opposed portions of the OEA’s agenda.

In its questionnaire, the OEA asked candidates if they would “oppose all” the following policies: authorization of new charter schools by the state Board of Education, education savings accounts, and even the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which provides a tax credit to those who donate to private-school scholarship funds for needy children.

Rep.-elect Toni Hasenbeck, a Republican and seventh-grade teacher at Elgin, rejected that demand, writing, “We must realize Charter Schools are public schools.” Rep.-elect Kelly Albright, a Democrat who teaches third grade at an Oklahoma City charter school, also declined to embrace the union’s anti-school choice position. Sen.-elect David Bullard, a Republican and longtime teacher from Durant, is another school choice supporter.

On the other hand, Reps. Donnie Condit and Karen Gaddis, two incumbent Democrats and former educators who received OEA endorsements, were ousted.

The OEA says 25 educators will serve in the Legislature. Four years ago, at least 20 legislators were former teachers, administrators or school board members.

The Legislature benefits from a diverse membership representing different backgrounds, including teachers. But it’s wrong to assume all educators walk in lockstep or parrot the views of teachers’ unions and activist groups, let alone owe their campaign success to them.

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Tulsa World. Nov. 13, 2018.

— What?! That’s right, the Kaiser foundation is going to pay people $10,000 to live in Tulsa for a year

The George Kaiser Family Foundation has come up with another bright idea — a bold and creative plan that is sure to catch a lot of attention.

The foundation — the guys behind Gathering Place, Guthrie Green and dozens of other innovative ideas that invest in Tulsa’s current and potential futures — and the city are rolling out Tulsa Remote, which will offer a $10,000 grant, free working space, discounted rent and more to talented people who will move to and work remotely from Tulsa for a year.

What?!

That’s right, Mr. Programmer, Ms. Entrepreneur, we’ll give you $10,000, and all the rest of that stuff just to telecommute for 12 months. No Austin traffic. No New York City crime. No Boston winter.

The underlying gamble is this: After 12 months, the young talent will grow to love Tulsa and the remote workers will want to stay here. In itself that’s not such a big payout — one more white collar worker in Tulsa — but its potential is fascinating. The program will create a pool of young, tech-savvy innovators and thought leaders who will think of Tulsa as home for at least a year, maybe more. Could we win the race to finding the next Bill Gates? Maybe we’ll create a cohort of smaller success stories — new Tulsans with new ideas instead.

There’s not a penny of public money involved. The funds for this effort are provided exclusively by GKFF, which is as it should be. It’s a gamble to see if we can win the hearts and minds of future leaders.

Obviously, the folks at the Kaiser foundation love Tulsa, and they’re willing to stake their own money on the chance that other people — strangers to the city now — will love it, too, if they just have a little incentive.

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Muskogee Phoenix. Nov. 13, 2018.

— TIF area shows growth

An annual report shows redevelopment efforts through an urban renewal project are providing financial dividends.

The development of Three Rivers Plaza has shown multiple positive trends.

The assessed value of the property within the area has increased nearly 240 percent from $808,260 to more than $2.74 million since 2015.

Annual sales tax collections from the area also have grown 204 percent from $302,210 to $918,176 since 2014.

Seventy-five percent of the revenue will be used to pay down debt taken on by the city of Muskogee to acquire land and make infrastructure improvements.

The city budget will see the full benefit of sales tax revenue and the county will see full benefit of property taxes when the Tax Increment Finance district expires in about 16 years.

The TIF district plan was used to help kick start economic development in the area across from Walmart on Shawnee Bypass.

The revenue will help continued effort to bring business and residential development in the area.

The area has changed dramatically and should continue to grow as the years pass.

It’s gratifying to see the TIF district perform as officials anticipated.

The urban renewal area has great potential for retail business and industrial growth. We also hope there will be a strong residential component in the future.

City officials and residents should be happy with the TIF district’s performance.

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