The Blog for Oklahoma Forum
Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.
Written by Dick Pryor on Wednesday July 20, 2011
Oklahoma has always been a big sports state, but now that Oklahoma City has a team in the National Basketball Association the issues affecting major professional sports teams has added relevance. Oklahomans have long loved their college and high school sports, but with the Oklahoma City Thunder now on the scene, we can truly call Oklahoma a pro sports state. So, with that in mind we gathered a group of sports reporters to talk about the impact of the recent lockout of NBA players by team owners in a labor dispute and the ongoing National Football League lockout.
Our guests were Berry Tramel, Sports Columnist for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com and contributor to the Sports Animal Network; Mark Rodgers, host on the Sports Animal Network; Myron Patton, Sports Director of KOKH-TV and host on the KREF Radio Sports Network; and Royce Young, writer for CBSsports.com and the Daily Thunder blog.
The NBA lockout was expected for some time, and finally happened on June 30th, when the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NBA players and league owners expired. There are numerous issues to be worked out, but the largest, of course, is money - specifically how the league's revenues are to be divided. The league claims that 22 of the 30 teams are losing money and that owners need to receive a bigger part of the revenue pie. Currently, teams operate under a formula that gives the players about 57% of the league revenues, with teams taking the remaining amount. There also is concern over revenue sharing among the teams and how television dollars should be allocated.
With the teams "locking out" the players, that means among other things that team websites have been scrubbed of references to players and their stats, players cannot be involved in team functions including summer practices, and player contracts cannot be negotiated or signed. As of this writing, the two sides haven't gotten together for formal negotiations, and players are starting to look outside the U.S. for employment. Just this week, Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets signed to play with a team in Turkey; and superstars Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City have suggested they might play in Europe to keep sharp until the lockout ends.
Besides the Thunder, there are many players with Oklahoma connections in the NBA. Among them are Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, Ekpe Udoh of the Golden State Warriors, Etan Thomas of the Atlanta Hawks, Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies, James Anderson of the San Antonio Spurs, and Daniel Orton of the Orlando Magic.
The effects of the lockout extend beyond the players. Already the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves had laid off front office staff to save money during the down time, and in a few weeks the pinch will start hitting the vendors, support personnel, businesses and others that depend on teams like the Thunder for income. Hardest hit will likely be those who rely on teams for some extra dollars in-season, such as concession workers. Oklahoma City is getting ready to find out what other cities have known for a long time - that professional sports teams have a big impact on their community's workforce and economy. Work stoppages also affect the fans who rely so much on pro sports teams for entertainment and a sense of community.
While the NBA lockout is just now starting, the National Football League lockout is heading into its 19th week. The issues are similar, but one of the major sticking points is the league's rookie salary structure. It's long been a problem for the teams and many veterans players who watch as untested rookies come into the league under multi-million dollar contracts. Former University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is the latest high-grossing rookie (his contract was for more than $50 million guaranteed as the number one pick in the 2010 NFL draft) and will likely be the last number one pick to make such money. The NFL's over-riding issue is how to split up more than $9 billion in revenue. The NFL work stoppage is affecting numerous players and coaches with Oklahoma ties; the league has a large fan base in Oklahoma.
There has been recent movement in the NFL talks and signs are that the lockout will end in time to salvage the season, although some pre-season games may be in jeopardy. Such is not the case for the NBA. Many analysts expect the NBA lockout to linger until winter, which could lead to cancellation of the first half of the schedule. The last time the NBA had a player lockout, in 1999, the league shortened the schedule to only 50 games. The league has announced its 2011-12 schedule (with Oklahoma City at the Los Angeles Lakers in one of the marquee opening night games on November 1), but it comes with a big caveat: if the lockout ends.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Berry Tramel, Mark Rodgers, Myron Patton and Royce Young.)
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Written by Dick Pryor on Friday June 17, 2011
In what is probably a first for statewide television in Oklahoma, this week's Oklahoma Forum program features a discussion of our state's two largest cities with their mayors, Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City and Dewey Bartlett, Jr. of Tulsa. Make no mistake, the two cities are distinct and different, but they are both showing up in many surveys that rank cities in various factors.
It's true that all is not positive - Oklahoma City was recently ranked the most unfit of all large U.S. Cities in a study by the American College of Sports Medicine. Oklahoma City was dead last out of 50 cities in 2010, too, and this despite efforts by Mayor Cornett to put the city on a diet. Both cities have initiatives to improve the fitness and wellness of their citizens. Tulsa ranks in the top third of cities nationwide that pay most in property taxes.
But, in several economic studies, Oklahoma City and Tulsa are scoring well. Oklahoma's overall business condition ranking is solid, and unemployment is dropping. According to an annual survey by Forbes magazine, Oklahoma City is fourth and Tulsa fifth among all metro areas in the U.S. for home ownership. The magazine cites several factors including low unemployment, the affordability of housing, and a low foreclosure rate for making them attractive to home buyers.
The Business Journals ranks Oklahoma City second and Tulsa sixth in best climate for small business, and the cities are gaining in stature for sports and entertainment. The Oklahoma City Thunder is becoming one of the best teams and model franchises in the National Basketball Association and putting the city in the consciousness of sports fans across America. Tulsa's BOK Center is rated one of the top entertainment venues in the world.
The cities have their special challenges - Tulsa is now looking at changing its form of government and is facing population migration to the suburbs. In the last decade, while Oklahoma City was showing a 15% increase in population, Tulsa recorded a slight decline. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City's "Core to Shore" development that is a significant part of the MAPS 3 project is facing opposition from some on the City Council who believe the opening of the renovated Myriad Gardens makes the Core to Shore park unnecessary.
The program provided an opportunity of these two friendly rivals to sit down and talk about their city's successes and their challenges. And, we get to listen in.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Mayor Dewey Bartlett was in our Tulsa studio.)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday June 17, 2011
It's called the Arab Spring, and it's been one of the most dramatic periods of time in recent memory in the Arab world. Beginning with revolution in Tunisia, pro-democracy movements have been spreading throughout the region. Events are happening quickly in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen as anti-government protesters, many of them young people armed with social media, are changing the face of their countries.
In addition to the spread of democracy, the death of Osama bin Laden has changed the dynamics of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond. Our guests are specially-qualified to discuss the rapidly-changing situation and the impact of these historic events in our post-9/11 world. Don Betz joined us in our Tulsa office. He is President of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, and was recently named to the post of President of the University of Central Oklahoma. Dr. Betz is an expert on the region and for more than 20 years has worked with and for the United Nations on Middle East issues. Mohamed Daadaoui is an assistant professor of political science at Oklahoma City University. His academic interests include Middle East and North African politics. Dr. Daadaoui came to us via Skype from Morocco.
We were scheduled to be joined by another Oklahoman who is an expert on the region, but at the last moment Joshua Landis was called to testify before the United Nations about Syria. Dr. Landis is the Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of a highly-read newsletter, Syria Comment. We missed having him with us, but as expected, Betz and Daadaoui provided great insights and context to the major stories that are developing during this Arab Spring.
To those who have contacted us to compliment us on this program - thank you. We are firm believers that we have many knowledgeable people in Oklahoma who need to be heard from about significant issues, and this week's program is a testament to the importance of understanding stories of worldwide significance that all of us as citizens of the world. Thanks for watching.
Until next time,
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Written by Dick Pryor on Friday May 20, 2011
This week on Oklahoma Forum we discuss the legislative session with longtime Capitol reporter/analysts M. Scott Carter, Capitol Reporter for The Journal Record; Pat McGuigan, Editor of The City Sentinel and reporter for CapitolBeatOK.com; and Arnold Hamilton, Editor of The Oklahoma Observer.
Obviously, the 2012 budget, and the way lawmakers and the governor crafted it to bring the numbers into balance with a $500 million hole, was the main topic of discussion. Overall, changes in Oklahoma's corrections system was viewed as one of the most significant accomplishments. Likewise, giving the Department of Corrections a relatively small funding cut was a plus, to prevent creating a public safety crisis by furloughing guards and perhaps being forced into releasing prisoners.
One of the major shifts in this year's budget agreement was the approach to funding education. As Pat McGuigan pointed out, negotiators went where the money was, in agreeing to cut 4.1% from the common education budget, 5.8% from higher education and 5.8% from the funding for CareerTech. All told, the cuts to Oklahoma's education system totalled around $200 million. There were also several changes in education policy and procedures that will significantly revise the relationships between schools and teachers and the the way the State Department of Education is run, while it's still unclear how the moves will affect student achievement.
Since any tax increases were ruled out of order by the governor and legislative leaders from the first day of the session, there was a lot of talk about reviewing and revising Oklahoma's tax credits and incentives to provide additional funding. As you'll hear, the conservative member of our panel (McGuigan) and the progressive member (Hamilton), agreed on this issue: both believe the state spends too much and that a big part of that "excess" spending is centered on tax breaks. As they pointed out, there was interest in making a thorough review and eliminating those tax credits and incentives that don't work (Governor Fallin supported this approach from her first day in office), but nothing was done. In fact, a couple of incentives were revived. It's clear that this is going to be a big issue in the coming months and the next legislative session.
Our guests also evaluated how the legislature did overall, how Republicans handled their huge majorities in both houses, and how Democrats handled their new position of being a diminished minority. But, I will save the explanation of that for the program, which airs at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. It is also repeated on OETA Okla (check listings on our website) and is available worldwide online.
We take pride in being your source for open and transparent government in Oklahoma. And, this week's program is another way we do that. As we taped the show, the legislature was planning on adjourning on Friday, May 20, which would be one week ahead of the legally-required time for Sine Die Adjournment. However, it appears legislators will likely come back next week to do some clean up, before dropping the final gavel on this year's session.
So, after taking next week off for the Memorial Day weekend, Oklahoma Forum will return on June 5 with another Capitol Reporters Roundtable to discuss specific legislation and the final frantic days of this year's session.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, M. Scott Carter, Patrick McGuigan, and Arnold Hamilton)
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Written by Dick Pryor on Monday May 16, 2011
The direction of this week's Oklahoma Forum program changed in the last 24 hours before the taping began. The announcement of a 2012 budget deal by the governor and legislative leaders and the resulting proposed 5.8% cut to Higher Education caused us to shift our focus from a more general discussion of colleges and universities to one centered more specifically on money, and the impact of cutting an additional $58 million from next year's Higher Ed budget.
Glen Johnson, Chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, expressed disappointment at the cut, following other funding reductions over the past several years. Johnson said that about $112 million has been saved from the budgets for 2009-2012 due to various policy changes. However, the loss of funding has forced students and their parents to pay higher tuition, and that's expected to be the case again. OU President David Boren has already signalled that he intends to cap tuition increases to no more than 10%, but that is a still a sizable increase for already cash-strapped students.
Our program did not focus on the state's major research institutions, but on the smaller regional universities, with the presidents of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, East Central University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University joining Chancellor Johnson. Each of them has taken numerous steps to stretch their dollars, while maintaining the intregrity of their institutions' academic missions.
The funding cuts are potentially damaging because of the increasing enrollments in Oklahoma colleges and universities. More than 190,000 students are enrolled in this academic year and the rate of increase in enrollment has been heading steadily upward. The increased enrollment has stressed faculty, staff and infrastructure. The rising tuition has forced more students to work and seek financial assistance, which forces students to stay in school longer and accumulate more debt that must be paid off following graduation. Already, 66% of Oklahoma students receive financial aid.
Presidents on the program were: Janet Cunningham, President of NWOSU in Alva (with additional campuses in Woodward and Enid); John Hargrave, President of East Central University in Ada; and Randy Beutler, President of SWOSU in Weatherford (with a branch campus in Sayre).
There are 25 public colleges and universities in Oklahoma, and a college education here is considered a real value, given the relatively low costs. This program provides an opportunity for our viewers to hear from the leaders of universities which are lower profile than OU and OSU, but which are very important to the higher ed mission of providing local access to a college education on a regional level.
Thanks for watching.
Until next time,
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