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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

September 4, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Enid News & Eagle. Sept. 1, 2018.

— Disciplined nonviolence ended restaurant segregation in Enid

Martin Luther King Jr.’s thoughts on nonviolence remain relevant today.

King taught that social change can occur with courageous, nonviolent acts fueled by a sense of justice.

Despite temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. If words fail, nonviolent acts can persuade. It’s an empowering, healing sword that cuts through hatred without wounding.

In the summer of 1954, Bishop Phillip Porter Jr. and several other students went to Downs Pharmacy, at 120 N. Independence in downtown Enid, midmorning one day and sat at the lunch counter until afternoon. He said there were no threats or demands that they leave — they were simply ignored by the white counter staff.

Barbara Finley got her first chance to participate in a sit-in sometime between 1954 and 1958, when she and the late Robert Lee Finley, who she married in 1958, challenged segregation at the Don Paul Cafeteria, which used to sit at 227 W. Randolph in Enid.

Under NAACP adviser Clara Luper’s guidance, a national sit-in movement was launched to demonstrate discontent by youth ordering Cokes at Oklahoma City’s Katz drugstore on Aug. 19, 1958.

Following in the footsteps of earlier protests led by Luper, Enid students set their sights on two downtown lunch counters: Downs Pharmacy and Sanford-Stunkle Drug Co. at 100 N. Independence.

Midmorning on Aug. 27, 1958, a group of 50-60 black students arrived at the drugstores, filling booths and stools, with others waiting outside to fill seats as white customers left.

These nonviolent protests caused controversy. In an article dated Aug. 23, 1958, Lloyd Hardin, owner of Hardin’s south of Enid, “blamed newspaper publicity for the situation, explaining that it only increased both sympathy for, and hostility toward the Negroes.”

Ultimately, this disciplined nonviolence ended restaurant segregation in Enid. To avoid further loss of business, the restaurant owners’ group agreed to all integrate their businesses at the same time on Sept. 4, 1958.

The Rev. Bonell Fields remembers the courageous role her sister Maudell Lawrence Graves played in organizing the Enid civil rights movement. Fields said Graves, then president of Enid’s chapter of the NAACP, was happy the protests ended with integration and wanted harmony between the restaurant owners and their new customers.

Hopefully, racism and hatred will dwindle. Fields believes time will continue to heal the old wounds of segregation and prejudice.

“I think more generations are going to have to fade out, or die out, because I think the younger generation coming up has a different attitude,” Fields said, “and I think the rise of that new generation is going to do a lot to solve that discrimination.”

Passage of civil rights lessons from generation to generation is needed to overcome the vestiges of America’s racially divided past. If we don’t learn from this vitally important history, we are guaranteed to repeat it.


The Oklahoman. Sept. 2, 2018.

— Power shift is possible in 2019 Legislature

Given this year’s primary and runoff elections, it’s worth asking if Democrats could hold a functional majority in the Oklahoma House after November’s elections. The question isn’t as far-fetched as it seems when looking only at partisan breakdown.

One byproduct of Republican dominance in Oklahoma is the party has become less cohesive. Many individuals who once would have registered as Democrats now register as Republicans because it’s politically advantageous. Many candidates who ran as Republicans this year, including some who have advanced, might not call themselves Hillary Clinton Republicans, but the label fits more often than stereotype would suggest.

The passage of large tax increases by the Republican Legislature has been tested at the ballot box. So far, 12 Republican incumbents — 11 in the House, one in the Senate — have been ousted, including four tax-hike supporters. But eight tax opponents were ousted by more liberal opponents.

That suggests, to a degree, that there’s a growing embrace of liberal fiscal policies by some Republican-registered voters, although that view is partly undercut by the fact businessman Kevin Stitt easily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination as an opponent of this year’s tax increases. Nonetheless, political liberals have reason to claim they are seizing greater control of state government.

There are also many open-seat legislative races. In some, Republican candidates who tout their support of higher taxes and increased government spending have prevailed, while in others traditional free-market conservatives have advanced. How it all shakes out remains to be seen, but it’s reasonable to wonder if the number of Democrats, when combined with the number of liberal-leaning Republicans elected to the House in November, will constitute a majority of that legislative body. The same question may apply to the Senate.

Such an outcome might not result in Democrats holding explicit leadership positions, but it would allow them to drive policy discussions. That was the case this year when Republican leaders often bowed to the political demands of the minority party when crafting tax-increase measures.

Despite having passed over $1 billion in tax increases in the past several years, there will be pressure to raise taxes again next year. Some Democrats are campaigning on that platform and some Republicans are promising greater state spending than what appears feasible under normal revenue growth.

The liberal Oklahoma Policy Institute recently argued state spending should increase another $788 million at a minimum, and that will no doubt be a rallying cry for activists next year. Predicting how a retooled Republican majority will respond is a fool’s errand.

Some legislative Republicans who voted for tax increases this year indicated they are unlikely to support similar measures again. And partisanship often discourages open cooperation between even liberal Republicans and liberal Democrats. But stranger things have happened. In Kansas and Texas, alliances of left-leaning Republicans and Democrats have effectively allowed liberals to hold significant sway in legislative chambers technically controlled by Republicans. It’s not unthinkable that the same could occur in Oklahoma.


Tulsa World. Sept. 4, 2018.

— DHS, expert panel at crossroads in relationship

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the panel of three experts overseeing its reforms are at odds.

This critical crossroads in the relationship could have an effect on safety of vulnerable children in foster care.

The latest bi-annual progress report from the panel, released last week, took a different tone than those in the past.

Reviews since 2012 have shown a mixed bag of improvement, both good and bad. In April last year, the panel indicated DHS was turning the system around and, for the first time, was making “good faith efforts.”

In January, the review had a positive tone, stating noticeable progress had been made but more is needed for permanent change.

Something has shifted since then.

This latest review takes a harsher tone finding DHS is not doing enough to curb maltreatment of children in care that raises “serious concerns for child safety.”

State officials are pushing back.

“The reversal in assessment from their last report raises a lot of questions,” Gov. Mary Fallin said through a spokesman. “It’s important the co-neutrals give DHS a consistent objective standard of what good faith is.”

The reforms are in the Pinnacle Plan, which is the negotiated settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit that alleged abuse of children in foster care.

The ambitious five-year plan addresses 15 areas of concern including reducing foster-care placements, recruiting more foster families, lowering caseloads, eliminating shelter use for young children and raising worker salaries and foster family payments.

In September 2016, an agreement was made for an extension to meet and sustain the goals.

The panel — made up of Eileen Crummy and Kevin Ryan of Public Catalyst in New Jersey and Kathleen Noonan of the health services nonprofit Camden Coalition in New Jersey — are tasked with overseeing the implementation by tracking 31 areas within the system.

The state can’t afford to litigate this issue and lose, but it’s not asking too much to expect the standards to remain consistent over time.

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