This week, believe it or not, there’s a little more good news than bad being reported about Oklahoma, including a great representation of our state by OKC Mayor Mick Cornett on Real Time with Bill Maher. Read about that and more below. And if you’ve read anything of Okie interest, be sure to leave us a link in the comments.
- Oklahoma City made The Atlantic’s list of cities with the fastest-growing job markets. Aaron Renn, of Urbanophile, analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the 51 U.S. metros with populations of 1 million people for the year 2010-2011. OKC ranked 11th on the list, with 1.99 percent job growth for the year. “On the whole, it was a much better year for metros than we’ve seen in the recent past,” Renn wrote. “The national economy added jobs, and all but two large metros did as well.”
- Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was on Real Time with Bill Maher this week, along with MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan and GBTV’s Amy Holmes, to discuss politics, economics, and energy. He represented the state well, rationally and logically defending his conservative stance on some issues, while taking a more progressive position on issues like poverty. He also talked up Oklahoma City and the local government’s efficiency there, which is why, he said, he was able to raise taxes with citizens’ support.
- Late this year, a new musical based on The Flaming Lips’ 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will debut on a La Jolla, California, stage, according to The Los Angeles Times. Presented by the La Jolla Playhouse and directed by Des McAnuff, Yoshimi “will tell the story of a young Japanese artist who journeys into a robot world where she must contend with a host of evil forces,” will feature multimedia stage effects and songs from other Lips albums. McAnuff released the following statement:
Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and I have been working on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots for some time. Aaron Sorkin initially planned to write a book for the musical, but when it became clear that the musical would be “sung through,” Aaron turned his attention to other projects. In the meantime, Aaron and I have started work on another play. Wayne and I continue to fine tune the libretto and score for the musical, which will go into rehearsal in La Jolla in the middle of September. We are both looking forward to Yoshimi with keen anticipation. We know that we have Aaron’s enthusiastic blessing on our project.
- The Wall Street Journal wrote this week about Oklahoma’s proposed “open-carry” gun law, which is gaining ground in the state, while bills like it are becoming increasingly popular statewide. “Fourteen states have laws allowing handgun owners to openly display their weapons,” WSJ reported. “Advocates say the practice is legal in 29 states that are silent on the issue, according to OpenCarry.org, a gun-rights organization.” If Oklahoma passes the law, it’ll be the first state since 2005 to do so. “The open-carry movement has gathered momentum in recent years,” the paper reported. “In states that don’t have laws either allowing or banning open-carry, gun-rights advocates have staged events in which supporters wear holstered pistols in public places, including protests at multiple Starbucks locations.”
- Oklahoma earned a “D” grade in government accountability this week. iWatch News, an effort of The Center for Public Integrity, analyzed data for all 50 states’ to determine their levels of “transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms.” No state earned an “A,” and Oklahoma was ranked 38th in the nation.
- Forbes released a story this week about the $33 million lost by the Oklahoma State University Cowboys as a result of a botched fundraiser.
The “Gift of a Lifetime” fundraiser, reportedly suggested by OSU alum and Forbes 400 member T. Boone Pickens, was certainly an intriguing one. The athletics department took out $10 million life insurance policies on 27 boosters, between the ages of 65 and 85. The school had projected related revenues could be as high as $350 million, but apparently the boosters were taking their vitamins. Not a single insured booster died after two years, leading the athletics department to cancel the plan in 2009. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they had shelled out $33 million in that time.
The athletics department tried to recoup some of those payments, claiming that policy records had not been properly delivered. But a U.S. District judge ruled this week that premiums paid over the first two years of the policies, which totaled $16 million, were made legally and could be kept by the life insurance company.
- A brutal Tulsa home invasion involving the beating of an elderly couple has made headlines across the country, and now across the pond as well. London’s Daily Mail wrote about how the incident, which resulted in the death of 85-year-old Nancy Strait, ended a 65-year love affair between Nancy and her husband Bob. Nancy was sexually assaulted and beaten, and Bob was beaten and shot in the face with a BB gun. Police have arrested 20-year-old Tyrone Dale David Woodfork.
- According to iVillage, an online community for women, Oklahoma is one of the worst five states in the U.S. for women. Researchers examined data in six areas—health, economy, affordable childcare, female representation, education, and reproductive rights—to determine which states women “can live in good health, get quality care for our kids, and have a government that truly gets our priorities.” In Oklahoma, which ranked 49th, iVillage writers wrote, “a woman’s right to choose is under attack” and “there are few women in politics.”
Nearly 25 percent of women lack health insurance — that’s one out of every four women. Not coincidentally, Oklahoma women also rank among the worst in the nation when it comes to Pap smear and mammogram rates. Healthy weight and healthy diet are also an issue — Oklahoma women have the nation’s worst record when it comes to eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Choice is extremely limited in Oklahoma, where 96 percent of counties have no abortion provider and there are only six such doctors in the entire state. Health insurance companies are banned from covering the procedure (except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother’s life). Women seeking an abortion have to wait 24 hours after undergoing a sonogram where they will be offered a chance to view the fetus and are required to listen to a description of the image on the screen. The state legislature is working to limit choice even further. The state Senate recently passed a Personhood bill that gives legal personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. The bill is awaiting action in the House. A “Heartbeat” bill requiring doctors to tell women they have the right to hear the fetal heartbeat before ending a pregnancy passed the state Senate in early March and is awaiting action by the House. If passed, both bills will likely be signed by anti-choice Gov. Mary Fallin.
- Nationally, advocates are calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch officer in Florida, who gunned down an unarmed 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. Mother Jones has published an in-depth report explaining the details of the incident and its legal implications. Zimmerman, if charged with a crime, could plead self-defense because of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which “allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation,” according to MJ. Twenty-one other states have similar laws, including Oklahoma, where citizens have the right to use deadly force against intruders in their homes or places of business.
- Oklahoma Methodists are rallying in support of gay marriage. The Associated Press reports: “Retired Oklahoma City minister Jim Gragg is collecting signatures and says 62 clergy and 203 members have signed the statement… Gragg says the church has historically been inclusive and that doctrines and attitudes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people contradict the vows ministers take to minister to all people.” One Tulsa pastor, Suzanne Davis, who signed the statement said she did so because “she believes gay people who want to make a commitment to each other in the church should be able to do that and be recognized as important.”
- A photo of a downtown Tulsa office building had The Daily Beast readers wondering where such beautiful, ornate, well-constructed architecture could possibly exist. Some readers guessed Dublin, Ireland, while others thought it might be Kiev, Ukraine; Syracuse, New York; Portland, Oregon; and New Haven, Connecticut. Finally, someone recognized it as being the 320 Boston building in Tulsa. “I almost spit my coffee back in my cup when I saw the picture,” one commenter wrote. “It is of my office building in which I am currently sitting!”
—Holly Wall, News Editor