Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Enid News & Eagle, Nov. 16, 2014
Museum decision needed
State lawmakers need to figure out funding for American Indian museum
The state's in a tight spot with respect to the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.
Unfortunately, the building, which has suffered from mismanagement and escalating costs, has a price tag of $95 million so far — and officials say another $80 million is needed to finish it. We've been a critic of the project in the past, mainly because of the cost. It's outrageous the facility has cost nearly $100 million and it's still not finished.
Now, state lawmakers, have to decide the next step. Of the $80 million needed to finish things, $40 million in private funding has been pledged if the state comes up with the remaining $40 million. That state funding has been the bugaboo. Lawmakers have been reluctant to authorize a bond issue to come up with the money, and we can't blame them.
A plan approved by the state Senate last year to take $40 million from the state's Unclaimed Property Fund died in the House. Now, the idea to take general revenue money from tribal compacts on tobacco or gambling to help fund construction has been floated.
Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, had requested a recent interim study on the museum, and said he's looking for a way to finish the project. He has been a vocal critic of a bond issue.
Of course, lawmakers also have the option of not providing any more funding. If the state abandons the project, the museum and 210 acres of land would revert to Oklahoma City, which donated the property to the state in 2005.
As much as we dislike the situation the state is in, we don't think the best idea would be to just abandon the project. There has been too much money pumped into it so far.
The facility, once it's finished, promises to be a tourism draw for the state, bringing 500,000 people annually to Oklahoma.
It's time to get this project done. Lawmakers need to figure out the funding situation when they return to Oklahoma City for the next legislative session in February.
Muskogee Phoenix, Nov. 15, 2014
Another Second District election needed
Oklahoma Election Board members made the wrong choice in denying the state Democratic Party's request for a new 2nd Congressional District election.
Democrats called for a special election after their party's nominee — Earl Everett — died two days before the election.
Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said state law is pre-empted by federal law.
Federal law does say an election must be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in even-numbered years.
But we are certain lawmakers did not consider the possibility of a dead candidate.
Oklahoma law, however, allows for the possibility of a new election if a candidate dies before the vote in some instances.
Both laws would seem to say the voters' intent is the core issue.
The argument against a new election is compelling. It will cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to hold a new election.
That seems very wasteful when you consider the outcome seems certain.
Markwayne Mullin won with 70 percent of the vote.
It seems likely that Mullin would defeat the Democratic Party's second choice as well.
But these are extraordinary circumstances.
Everett collected 25 percent of the vote when there was no chance of him actually serving.
So there is no telling how many Democrats stayed home or did not vote in this race because they had no real chance of winning.
It should be common sense to say voters deserve the right to know what would have happened had all the candidates been alive.
The Journal Record, Nov. 17, 2014
A long way from homes
A troubling report was published Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness. It examines childhood homelessness across the nation and places Oklahoma a woeful 43rd.
The ranking is based on a composite score of four individual areas. Oklahoma's best showing was in policy and planning, where the state ranked 26th. The state has a 10-year plan to end homelessness, a housing trust fund and an active interagency council on homelessness.
That's the best news.
Oklahoma is 34th in risk for childhood homelessness, a category that considered teen birth rates, foreclosure rates and the 17 percent of households who pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent. Twenty-four percent of Oklahoma's children live in poverty, and more than 10 percent still have no health insurance.
The health and well-being of children in Oklahoma ranks 44th.
We commend the private efforts of organizations such as The Homeless Alliance, whose staff and volunteers work tirelessly to help people in need. But Oklahoma's public efforts to end homelessness often appear to be well-intentioned initiatives that run out of gas in a hurry. The Governor's Interagency Council on Homelessness is responsible for implementing the 10-year plan and for ensuring the development of comprehensive cross-system strategies, such as linking prisoners released from incarceration with housing agencies. Strategies will complement these approaches, plus incorporate the unique needs of rural and urban areas. Despite the report's good grade for Oklahoma's interagency council, that organization's Facebook page (it has no website we could find) went 18 months without a single post; an Oct. 17 link is the only activity there since Feb. 25, 2013.
The state's 10-year plan says the GICH will reduce the homeless and chronically homeless total from 2008 by at least 50 percent by 2014.
Statewide numbers, collected by the Department of Commerce, were not available by press time. But the 2008 Point in Time count of Oklahoma City's truly homeless children - a number that does not include those staying with other families - was 167. In 2014 it was 144, a very long way from a 50-percent reduction.
According to National Weather Service data, the temperature in Oklahoma City dropped to 17 degrees early Sunday morning; 7 degrees if you count the wind chill.
Oklahoma must do better by its children, and we should start by living up to the promises made in the 10-year plan, which calls for housing first, with other services to follow.