Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Oklahoma Black Elected Officials to Host 4th Annual College Fair Aug. 26 at Metro Tech

OKLAHOMA CITY – The fourth annual Oklahoma County Black Elected Officials College Fair will be held Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Metro Technology Centers’ Business Conference Center in Oklahoma City.

More than 50 universities, organizations and every branch of the military will be at the fair, and Metro Technology Centers will have experts on hand to speak with students about professional licensing and career paths. Continue reading

Is Oklahoma coming around on legalization of marijuana?

While there is still strong resistance to legalizing marijuana from current state government leaders, as well as prosecutors and law enforcement in our state, there is evidence that the average Oklahoman is ready to reform the harsh laws that harken back to the War on Drugs of the Reagan era.

In 2016, two ballot initiatives aimed at criminal justice reform passed overwhelmingly, with voters recognizing that putting nonviolent offenders in prison, sometimes for lengthy sentences, is neither effective or financially responsible.

But again, legislators at the Capitol decided they knew better and found ways to squelch the reforms. For now.

Activists are pushing forward with a ballot initiative to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma, and this time the state’s voters may be ready. But maybe a majority is ready to go even further. The general success of legalization in states like Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and California, with others allowing medicinal use, has begun to erode the alarmist arguments of the past decades.

Rather than the old saw about marijuana being a gateway drug, I think things have evolved to the point that medical marijuana is the gateway reform. I think it’s time to go for the whole enchilada, and in fact, that discussion is already starting on the federal level, thanks to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. It might turn out that by the time Oklahoma approves the less controversial approach, the conversation across the country will be well ahead of us.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But I don’t think the many old fogey pols in Oklahoma will be able to use those outdated arguments much longer and not get laughed at, and they won’t be able to avoid the issue entirely either. Really, the time has come to put this self-defeating drumbeat of doom to rest and listen to the science and the personal experience of millions of users.

Political and community leaders, even in Oklahoma, need to be bolder about taking a stand to bring a saner approach to drug use in general, to stop arrests for possession of small amounts of pot, or growing for personal use or to treat medical conditions. And this is sure to become an issue in 2018 state elections with the question on that same ballot.

Connie Johnson, currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and Joe Dorman, former gubernatorial candidate and currently CEO of Oklahoma Institute for Children Advocacy both were quoted with full or tentative support, respectively, in an August 4 story in The Tulsa World about New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s proposal for federal level legalization.

Both have been involved in past efforts to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma. They were interviewed for an August 3 story in the Tulsa World by Siandhara Bonnet about Booker’s bill.

“I believe the federal government should get out of the … illegal marijuana business,” Booker said. “It disturbs me right now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not moving as the states are, moving as public opinion is, but actually saying that we should be doubling down and enforcing federal marijuana laws even in states that have made marijuana legal.”

Neither Johnson nor Dorman defended the current approach in Oklahoma, of course, because they are ahead of the curve, and have been for several years. They should not be the ones quizzed, in my opinion. Where do the current crop of candidates for governor and other state positions stand — that’s what we need to know.

It’s time for other state leaders and candidates to acquaint themselves with the realities of our times, and stop promoting easily-refuted claims of cultural calamity. crime, eventual escalation to opiates and other such myths, and support making marijuana legal in Oklahoma for both medical AND recreational use.

Press On: Recent Media Coverage of OK Democrats

Democrats in Oklahoma often have to struggle for positive coverage in the corporate media, but here are a few recent news items we found, along with a TV clip featuring Rep. Jason Dunnington, and a letter to the editor.

NEWSPRINT

Former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate talks revenue woes, criminal justice reform – by Carl Lewis of CNHI News Oklahoma, published in Norman Transcript (originally in Ada News), July 21, 2017

Differing shades of Oklahoma Democrats line up to challenge Steve Russell Justin Wingerter, OKlahoman, July 23, 2017.

Which got this reaction on Twitter:

Oklahoma GOP gets head start on 2018 campaigns – Dale Denwalt, Oklahoman, July 23, 2017

House Dems call for contingency plan negotiations, public meeting – by Caleb Slinkard , published in Norman Transcript, July 19, 2017

Virgin: Knocking doors is key to victories – BY Joy Hampton, published in Norman Transcript, July 22, 2017

VIDEO

LTEs

Letter to the editor: A problem only Republicans can fix – By Mary Thetford, in Tulsa World, July 23, 2017

If you found other news items featuring OK Democrats, please let us know.

Seeing the Light at the End of the Oklahoma Budget Debacle?

If more Oklahoma Republicans can be cured of their tax increase phobia, maybe we can get back to funding critical services in this state. Some real solutions are starting to be discussed at 23rd and Lincoln. Baby steps, but still!

Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer, but he also writes a regular guest column for The Journal Record. His latest op-ed addresses the foundational problem that has decimated our state’s budget in recent years: an out of date and unfair tax code.

In “Political spin, special interest cooks and future prosperity” (Behind paywall) Hamilton commends a handful of legislators who are trying to seriously review Oklahoma’x complex (and obviously broken) tax policies, and seek out solutions.

[I]t’s both notable and laudable that senators – led by Okemah’s Roger Thompson – took the first steps toward possible overhaul of a tax system that disproportionately burdens the working class and poor and undermines core state services whose funding is over-reliant on volatile revenue sources like oil and gas.

Noting how previous attempts to raise more revenue – like Gov. Fallin’s expanded service tax idea last year – have fizzled, optimism is not easy to come by, but the dire situation Oklahoma has in seems to have “woke” some Republicans to some realities that don’t mesh well with long-standing GOP dogma.

Thompson’s three-hour hearing this week served as a primer for senators of both parties seeking to better understand Oklahoma’s revenue picture. It also signaled that the Senate’s Republican majority has taken note of Kansas’ failed “trickle down” experiment – cutting taxes do not magically generate more income.

To me, that alone is cause for some ray of hope, but it’s a long way from the interim study currently underway and a supermajority required by State Question 640 to radically reform our tax code by changing rates and thus raising income taxes on high-earning groups. That will mean more than a handful of Republicans will have to recognize that “tax reform” doesn’t always mean cutting taxes for the wealthy and making the poor and middle class pick up the slack and suffer the effects of service cuts. Because, as Hamilton notes,

what helps create sustainable, predictable revenue streams to underwrite vital public services is a fairer, more broadly applied tax code that ensures the working class and poor have more to spend, the economy’s uber stimulant.

Slowly, it appears that this — the only real alternative to our current crisis — is getting through to those who make these decisions on our behalf. Perhaps the winning streak of reality-based Democrats in several recent special elections is playing a part in the new insights by the Republican majority.

We can hope!

What seems to Hamilton – and me – to be a very sane solution that will serve to tamp down Republican politicians’ nervousness about violating the Grover Norquist rule of polcymaking, is, yes, handing the job off to a bipartisan panel, an idea proposed recently by State Treasurer Ken Miller.

Such a group could tackle comprehensive reform – everything from income tax rates to sales taxes on services to gross production and motor fuel taxes – then present a plan for an up-or-down legislative vote.

That won’t be easy (thanks, Yes on SQ640 voters!) but can perhaps cushion the political pain for members of the majority running this state.

Because some of them are coming to the light and getting introduced to reality too. Hamilton quotes Miller, who, unlike some stubborn Norquist-bamboozled state legislators, reads the state’s books: “We need to have a modernization of our tax code,” he says. “It was built for an economy that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Ya think?!

 

Weekly News Roundup

On July 14, Our Revolution Oklahoma, a chapter of the group formed by former staffers and supporters of the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, had a well-attended organizational meeting in Moore. 80 people from across the state attended. A followup meeting will be held on August 15.

The reconvene of the Oklahoma Democratic Party on July 15 went pretty smoothly once a quorum was present. Anna Langthorn was pretty universally commended for her facilitation of the event, though, afterward, she was seeking out recommendations for orthopedic shoes.

Democratic State Representatives are being pro-active about a possible constitutional showdown over the state budget and resulting special session.

Senator seeks to nail down state’s cost for defending unconstitutional laws – By Barbara Hoberock, Tulsa World, July 23 2017

A new study shows that Oklahoma is dead last in funding for higher education. Add that to the deepest cuts to K-12 public education in the country. Isn’t full Republican control of Oklahoma government great?

Tom Guild, candidate for OK-5, did a 2.5 hour AMA on Reddit.

Meanwhile, Kendra Horn, also running for OK-5, was interviewed by Red Dirt Report‘s Chelsea Copeland.

Most Republicans hold negative view of higher ed  by Ben Felder, published in the Oklahoman, July 23, 2017

Oklahoma delegation in DC works to decimate federal government – DC Report column by Randy Krehbiel in Tulsa World, July 23, 2017.

USGS in Oklahoma showed how following the dots can be really frightening!

A message from Connie Johnson: How to Vote By Mail — and take Oklahoma back

Former state Senator Connie Johnson is an advocate for every progressive cause known, but she has a special calling to increase voter participation, and in particular to increase the use of absentee voting (vote by mail) among Oklahoma Democrats.

Currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor, Connie sent out this letter recently. Whomever you support in that race, Connie’s advocacy for this tool for increasing turnout is a winning ticket!

Most people don’t know that Oklahoma wasn’t always this way — sold out to the highest bidder, dominated by right-wing extremism, and bankrupted by irresponsible, corporatist leadership. At our formation, we were considered one of the most progressive states in the nation. It was only as recently as 2004 that Republicans took a majority in the House, and then, in 2010, snowballed into a supermajority avalanche.

How did this happen? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Among other things, one of the most successful strategies of the Right is that they push hard for their supporters to Vote By Mail. Traditionally speaking, the candidate who wins the absentee vote wins the election.

The advantages are vast, and the implications for the minority voice are profound:

  1. Never miss an election. Every ballot will be delivered straight to your door three (3) weeks prior to each election, large or small, meaning you will have three weeks to vote instead of three days;
  2. Have time to research. No matter the candidate, state question, or bond initiative — whatever appears on your ballot, you’ll have plenty of time to make an informed decision.
  3. Easily notarize. Your local tag agency or financial institution notarizes ballots for free. If you are disabled, or a caregiver to someone who is disabled, your ballot simply has to be witnessed by two people before sending it off.
  4. Throw a ballot party! Various groups, churches or other community organizations can host a ballot party, with notaries present, and everyone can put two first class stamps on their ballots and send them off all at once; and
  5. Still vote in person if you want! You don’t have to use your absentee ballot — but we are asking everyone to please just sign up! The more people who register to vote by mail, the more successful our movement will be.

Sign up to Vote By Mail at okvotebymail.com. It takes less than 5 minutes. Tell your friends and family all of the benefits. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying something new.
The age of reactionary, defensive strategy on the Left is over. It’s time to get proactive.

It’s time to take our state back.

Welcome to the Movement.

Kind regards,
Connie