Oklahoma City may have come a long way in enhancing its cultural milieu in the last ten years or so, but two recent items in the news show the city remains as provincial and inflexible as ever.
The first item deals with the state’s antiquated liquor laws that keep wine and strong beer off grocery store shelves and prevents liquor stores from stocking cold beer, ice and mixers. Mark VanLandingham, vice president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, has said his organization will not lead an initiative petition drive to let voters decide to allow wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores.
The second item deals with the blowback of the Aug. 26 raid of food trucks at the H&8th outdoor market in Oklahoma City. In what can be described as overkill and intimidation, 27 agents from different public agencies showed up at the event in August and essentially shut it down with citations. One food truck operator, according to a recent news story, wonders why health inspectors target his mobile business and others more than restaurants when there appears no reason to do so.
On the positive side, apparently Oklahomans for Modern Liquor Laws will launch an initiative petition next spring to allow wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores, and even the editorial page of The Oklahoman is behind it. Also, it’s likely the negative publicity generated by the food-truck raid will end strong-arm tactics and lead to more effective regulations.
But let’s face it. City promoters like to cast Oklahoma City these days as an increasingly sophisticated and cool place, but the fact remains it has a lingering and obstinate resistance to change among many of its leaders and residents. This lowers the quality of life here, and it hampers economic development.
Is it possible to embrace the city’s and state’s traditions and also embrace change? Absolutely. But it will take a more philosophical attitude among residents here, and that’s hard to create. It will also take visionary leaders, who recognize the issue is more than just individual problems about liquor laws or food trucks. It will also take motivation, which is always in short supply.