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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

May 14, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. May 12, 2019.

— Shooting’s circumstances were tragic, too

The recent shooting death of 17-year-old Isaiah Lewis in Edmond prompted criticism of the police officers involved. One activist said it served as another example that black lives don’t matter to law enforcement.

On the surface, the circumstances seem ripe for second-guessing — Lewis was naked and unarmed. Police have said one of the two officers on the scene fired a Taser at the young man, but to no effect, and that several shots were fired after Lewis reportedly assaulted the officers.

“Two grown men should have been able to take a 17-year-old,” said one person who attended a protest rally and march in Edmond.

We prefer to let the investigation run its course. Neither of the officers was wearing a body camera — the Edmond Police Department is issuing them throughout the course of this year — and that may make for a more time-consuming probe as investigators sort the details.

However, Edmond Police spokeswoman Jenny Wagnon has said the department’s use-of-force training “is initially hands on, and then to deploy a Taser.” After that, “firing the handgun is protocol if the first two are not successful,” Wagnon said.

The incident began when police were notified of a domestic disturbance. Two girls said they had been assaulted and needed help. Lewis’ girlfriend told police that Lewis had “flipped out” and was acting strangely after arriving at her house.

Several witnesses reported seeing Lewis running along a street stripping his clothes off. The teenager ran into a wooded area, then allegedly broke into a different house after being chased by police on foot. That house is where the shooting occurred.

The head of a local Black Lives Matter chapter said this case represents “the abject failure of the Edmond Police Department” to properly handle the situation and that she and others expect the officers to be held “fully accountable for their actions.”

We expect they will be. At the same time, this incident should serve to put a spotlight on the role that mental health and substance abuse issues may have played.

The police chief in Midwest City has estimated that 85% of the inmates brought to his jail each year have substance abuse or mental health issues. No doubt the figures are comparable statewide. Many police departments have Crisis Intervention Teams, made up of specially trained officers, to try to handle the flow of mentally ill offenders who come their way.

The problem is that the volume is so great, and Oklahoma doesn’t have the number of mental health professionals or facilities needed to get on top of it.

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown once lamented that, “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. . Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

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Enid News & Eagle. May 13, 2019.

— Legislation protects military needs without undue burden on Oklahoma wind industry

Legislation to protect military airspace from encroachment by wind turbine development is on its way to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk after being unanimously approved by the state Legislature.

We applaud lawmakers for passing House Bill 2118 and hope Stitt signs it into law quickly.

The military makes up a tremendous part of Oklahoma’s economy. In a 2011 report by Oklahoma Department of Commerce and Oklahoma 21st Century Foundation, the state’s five military installations had a total impact of $9.611 billion statewide in fiscal year 2010.

That was about 7.2% of the state’s economy.

Vance Air Force Base contributed $250.1 million to the state’s economy, according to the report.

Without a doubt, anything that hurts any of the military bases hurts Oklahoma as a whole.

Try to imagine Enid’s economy without Vance, or Altus without Altus AFB, the Oklahoma City area without Tinker AFB. That’s why this legislation is so important.

HB 2118 creates setback requirements for wind turbine construction to be clear of military training routes, runway approaches, drop zones and bombing ranges.

It is the latest in a string of legislation passed since 2017.

House Bill 3561, passed last March, prohibited “construction or operation of a wind energy facility, or facility expansion, from encroaching upon or having a significant adverse impact on the mission, training or operations of any military installation or branch.”

Senate Bill 1576, passed unanimously last April, added minor changes to HB 3561, and required agreement from the military for any planned turbine construction or an approved mitigation plan from the Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse before a wind energy facility may be constructed or expanded.

HB 2118 expands the requirements for wind turbine developers to have approval from both the FAA and Department of Defense, and requires any new construction “not encroach upon or otherwise have a significant adverse impact on the mission, training or operations of any military installation or branch of military as determined by the Military Aviation and Installation Assurance Siting Clearinghouse and the FAA.”

Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, said the legislation is “a good, easy legislation — it’s not a heavy permitting legislation, it’s just a good way to balance the needs of the wind industry with the needs of the military.”

That’s a key part of HB 2118. It doesn’t put onerous requirements on the wind industry, which also is an important player in Oklahoma’s economy.

Military needs can coexist with the wind industry in Oklahoma. HB 2118 helps ensure that.

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Tulsa World. May 14, 2019.

— Trump takes U.S. to the brink of a trade war, and the Chinese call his bluff

When President Trump tweeted a threat to more than double tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, we hoped it was, like a lot of Trump’s social media posts, as much bluster as it was reality.

Trump has had some success with social media brinksmanship, bending opponents at home and abroad to his will with sharp words and the potential for dire consequences. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy that no one has ever seen played quite so publicly by any U.S. president . before Trump.

The president’s complaints against the Chinese are legitimate. They steal our intellectual property and refuse to compete on a level playing field. But a huge portion of the U.S. economy relies on trade with the Chinese. No other president has repeatedly gambled so much to deal with the issue; and, we’ll note, none has had any success solving it.

Still, we thought, when we heard about the tariff threat, Trump won’t risk crashing the world economy. Surely, as we’ve seen in similar showdowns in the past, there will be some movement on the part of the Chinese, enough for Trump to justify declaring enough victory to back off tariffs and allow trade between the world’s two largest economies to continue.

The Chinese came to Washington and ceded nothing. Trump imposed the threatened tariffs and ordered more. Unless a deal can be struck, American consumers will feel the bite of the Trump tariffs as soon as Chinese goods currently at sea arrive in port.

Of course, China will retaliate, which will hit U.S. agriculture and manufacturers who rely on the international trade.

Neither side seems willing to back away, and here we stand ... on the brink.

As U.S. Sen. James Lankford pointed out last week, nobody wins a trade war. Consumers, investors and workers on both sides end up hurt. More momentously, the cause of world peace is set back as both sides accumulate grievances and lose economic incentives to avoid real war.

Trump’s habit of social media bluster got results initially, because no one had ever seen an American president behave that way; but its novelty is waning. Don’t make me shoot, Trump shouted, but the Chinese called his bluff, and now we all realize whose head the gun is pointed at.