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 Monday August 31, 2009
Each week on Oklahoma Forum, we close with a special section we call Hometown News. It gives us a vehicle to show you interesting stories that find their way onto the front pages of local newspapers across the state. These are stories that don’t often make it into the the large metropolitan dailies or radio and TV newscasts. Hometown News items provide a look at stories that reflect the culture and character of the people of Oklahoma. You might also look at Hometown News as an on-line public square, where people from throughout the state can find out what is happening in other communities in Oklahoma. Our goal is for Hometown News to help connect people across the state with news items, photos and human interest stories that reflect our shared interests as Oklahomans.
It’s fun for me each week to see what is making headlines in more than 200 communities in our state. I also like having the chance to give “shout-outs” to people doing good work in their hometowns, including the dedicated journalists who produce Oklahoma’s daily and weekly newspapers.
One of those publications has been hit especially hard in the last few months. As many of you probably know by now, Anadarko has been shaken recently by the horrific murder of a pastor at one of the town’s small churches. It’s a developing story that has already made national news, and will continue to top Oklahoma news coverage as further details are known and the hunt for the killer intensifies.
What many people may not know is that the Anadarko Daily News has been following this big story while overcoming several hardships. This story from the Associated Press describes the events:
ANADARKO, Okla. (AP) - Despite a tornado, a fire and a lightning
strike since mid-May, the Anadarko Daily News hasn’t missed an
On May 13, a tornado rated at EF-2 on a scale from 0 to 5 struck
the town and disabled the printing facilities at the newspaper’s
downtown office, but help from The El Reno Tribune allowed the next
day’s paper to go out.
On Aug. 22, a fire that started in a bar next door destroyed the
Anadarko paper’s offices, and again the Daily News got help from
the El Reno paper to keep the news going out to readers.
Last Wednesday, lightning struck a transformer at a temporary
office set up near the building that had burned. The paper was
delayed a bit, but still went out later in the day.
So, congratulations to the owners and staff of the Anadarko Daily News for finding ways to keep going going. You are a strong example of the commitment required to serve our communities by keeping information flowing. And, watch for the Anadarko Daily News from time to time in Oklahoma Forum’s closing segment, Hometown News.
Until next time,
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday August 28, 2009
In January of this year OETA and other television stations across Oklahoma broadcast a ground-breaking program called Crystal Darkness. It showed the devastating effects of methamphetamine and provided an impetetus for those touched by meth to seek treatment, for themselves or someone else. Months in the planning, Crystal Darkness was well-received by Oklahoma viewers and has started many Oklahomans down the path toward treatment and rehabilitation.
This week on Oklahoma Forum, we discussed the Crystal Darkness program and the ongoing problems associated with meth production and use in Oklahoma. Our guests were two of the leaders of the Crystal Darkness project and two of the most knowledgeable people in the state about the meth problem in Oklahoma: Terri White, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Darrell Weaver, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
They are passionate about the issue. They have seen the awful impact the illicit drug has had on families across the state of Oklahoma. They know that punishment is important for those that deserve it, but that prevention is critical. And, reducing the demand for meth is the key to reducing its prevalence and damaging effects.
Nationwide, about 6.2% of young people of high school age have tried meth at least once. About 4% of Oklahoma youth that age has used meth in the last 30 days. The problem with meth is that it is highly addictive, and the more it is used, the more it takes for the user to get “high.” This results in an insidious addiction which is very difficult to break, but if it goes unchecked can be deadly.
Meth is behind alcohol and marijuana as the drug of choice in Oklahoma. Since the passage of tough, new laws controlling the purchase of pseudoephedrine (one of the principal ingredients in meth) in 2004, the number of clandestine lab incidents has dropped dramatically, from 894 in 2003 to just 89 in 2007. That’s a decrease of about 90%. Moreover, more than 90% of labs seized since 2004 have been non-operational.
House Bill 2176 has clearly been a success at shutting down “mom and pop” meth operations. But meth continues to enter the state from Mexico, and use is now on the rise again because of a new way of producing it in mobile labs through a process commonly called “shake-n-bake.”
We did not have time to discuss one issue, but it’s an important one: while many people want meth users and pushers to be severely punished, punishment needs to be used selectively. Darrell Weaver points out that there are two classes of people involved in meth - those that are producing and trafficking for economic reasons, and those that are addicted through use. Both guests agreed that those involved in the first group need to be punished, but those that are addicted need treatment, instead. Determining the proper approach on a case-by-case basis and having the resources to implement the necessary strategy to effectively battle the meth problem is a big challenge for law enforcement, health professionals and lawmakers. Plus, resources are scarce. There are not enough prison beds and not enough treatment centers for those that need it.
For more information about meth, go to the Oklahoma Forum website. Commissioner White encourages those seeking treatment to call her department’s Reach-Out hotline: 1-800-522-9054.
Until next time,
(Pictured (l-r): Terri White, Darrell Weaver)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday August 21, 2009
This week marks 51 years since the first civil rights sit-in occurred in Oklahoma. It was at Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City, 12 members of the NAACP Youth Council and Oklahoma City school teacher Clara Luper participated, and the date was August 19, 1958. The Katz sit-in was the first publicized sit-in in the nation, and it led to many more sit-ins across the south, including Oklahoma City.
August is also the month when the momentous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in 1963. The date was August 28, and between 200,000 and 300,000 marchers participated at the National Mall. They heard stirring speeches, highlighted by the riveting “I Have a Dream” speech passionately delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
Each August on Oklahoma Forum, we dedicate a program to human relations and remembrance of the modern American civil rights movement. This week’s program is on The Civil Rights Movement: Then and Now, and it features an interview with two of Oklahoma’s leading experts on civil rights: Bruce Fisher, Curator of the African-American exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center, and Dr. George Henderson, Professor Emeritus of Human Relations, Education and Sociology at the University of Oklahoma.
Bruce Fisher discussed his early memories of segregation and racism while growing up in Chickasha and Oklahoma City in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He also discussed the lessons learned about race relations from his mother, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, who went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to secure admission to the University of Oklahoma Law School. Mrs. Fisher, aided by her attorney, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, challenged OU’s admission policy and won. Mrs. Fisher became one of America’s civil rights pioneers, opening campus doors to all races before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
George Henderson is not a native Oklahoman, but arrived at the University of Oklahoma in the summer of 1967, shortly after the race riots in Detroit. He had been a professor at Wayne State University and took a pay cut to come to Oklahoma, only to find that he could not buy a house in Norman. Dr. Henderson and his family endured harsh treatment in the university city, but with the help of Norman realtors Sam and Sally Matthews, George and Barbara Henderson bought a home, raised their family and brought a new awareness and sensibility to the Norman community.
During the program, Dr. Henderson discussed how race relations have changed in Oklahoma in the 42 years he has made it his home. A nationally-known human relations and civil rights scholar, and author of 30 books, Dr. Henderson cautioned that the civil rights movement is far from over. He also expressed hope that young people remember the sacrifices made by champions of civil rights so that they could live in a country where racial differences are decreasing.
Bruce Fisher, too, talked about the promise of young people to reject racism and the importance of education to create a more color-blind nation. He pointed out, however, that race still separates us, and much work remains to be done to truly achieve equality. Bruce Fisher and George Henderson also talked about Barack Obama, and the significance and expectations for the United States’ first African-American president. The recent incident between Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer also came up in our discussion.
The program is now available on-line on the Oklahoma Forum web page, http://www.oeta.tv/okforum.html . The program makes its on-air debut on Sunday, August 23 at 1:00 p.m. on the OETA Main channel and will be repeated several times on OETA OKLA.
Until next time,
(Above, left to right: Bruce Fisher and Dr. George Henderson)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday August 14, 2009
With all the talk about health care reform and large crowds at town hall meetings around the country and in Oklahoma, we thought this would be a good time for a Congressional update. Fourth District U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, Republican from Moore, was our guest for the entire program. Congressman Cole was fresh off of town hall meetings in Duncan, Moore and Lawton. He had large crowds at each, including more than 500 at the Moore Public Library.
Congressman Cole said health care reform is driving the discussion, with intensity higher than ever for meetings which are usually low-key affairs. He said there is a lot of concern over cost, and whether the public option supported by President Obama will lead to greater involvement in health care by the government. People are generally pleased with Medicare, yet many are expressing outrage at “government-run health care.” Rep. Cole admits there is some confusion about the issue, attributable in part to President Obama’s decision to let Congress hammer out a plan, rather than presenting his own health care reform proposal.
To be sure, some of the angst being expressed is countered by people who favor a change in America’s health care system (the most recent World Health Organization report ranks the U.S. 37th in the world in overall health care; the U.S. is second in the world in the percentage of Gross Domestic Product spent on health care). Congressman Cole sees opportunities for reform, but opposes what he calls a “frightening march of America towards a European-style socialism.” Much of Cole’s concern comes from the expected cost: One trillion dollars over a ten-year period. Even with cost-savings or cuts in Medicare of more than $500 billion dollars, that is still a lot of money. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the plans being discussed in the House of Representatives would add $239 billion to the federal deficit over that period of time.
Of course, a lot can change in the next several weeks, especially once health reform legislation goes to a House-Senate conference committee. Of note, Congressman Cole said the most common misconception regarding the health care plans being discussed concerns the so-called “death panels” suggested by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Cole said that is just wrong; “death panels” are not in the bill. What the bill does provide for is government-funded advance directive information (provided by the patient’s health care provider), intended to help families deal with end-of-life planning.
There’s more in the program than health care. We also touched on cap and trade (Congressman Cole is strongly against it), the economic stimulus (it’s too early to tell whether it is successful, but so far, Cole said, it has not performed completely as promised), and the war in Afghanistan (it is going to require more money and commitment, which Congress is likely to provide). One topic we did not have time to discuss is a soon-to-be-published column by Congressman Cole in the magazine of his alma mater, Grinnell College. It argues that the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war is a mistake (unless intelligence is perfect) and is not something Americans can readily accept. I will say no more on that, but look forward to reading the Congressman’s essay and having him back on the program to discuss his take on the Bush doctrine and other issues making news in Washington.
Remember to watch Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and give us a comment here on The Sheet, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Until next time,
(Above: Host Dick Pryor with U.S. Rep. Tom Cole.)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Monday July 27, 2009
A lot of people have preconceived notions about the American Indian tribes located in Oklahoma. While they are sovereign nations and receive a variety of benefits from the federal government, our Indian nations provide their own benefits to the state as a whole. They are a lot more than casinos.
During the course of our conversation, we learned that not all Indian businesses are on trust (non-exempt) land. And, the tribes create many jobs for non-Indians in their various business ventures. Also, many of the vendors hired by the tribes are non-Indians. It was also interesting to find out that a new report from the national Indian Gaming Commission indicates that the two regions comprising Oklahoma (Kansas-Tulsa, Oklahoma City-Texas) have increased their revenue about 18% in the last year, the highest growth rate in the nation.
It was interesting, too, that Chief Ellis said he thinks the casino boom is slowing down. It’s a sign that the state may be nearing the saturation point in the number and capacity of casinos. Having said that, Chief Pyle told us about the newly-opened Grant Casino, the new RV park in Durant and the big, new casino being constructed in Durant. That casino is scheduled for grand opening in February, 2010.
Chief Haney told why his tribe, the Seminoles, don’t share in the casino boom, yet they are providing a variety of social services to their tribal members. (An aside: Chief Haney is stepping down as Chief when his term expires; the election to replace him will be held soon.) Chief Haney, who is a former State Senator, said the relationship between the tribes and the state is very good right now. This sentiment was echoed by Bill Schoemate, on the local level. As a City Councilor in Lawton, Shoemate said local governments are finding new ways to partner with the tribes to help the entire community.
We hope this program will serve as a starting point for a series of discussions with tribal leaders about the issues facing Oklahoma’s 39 federally-recognized tribes. If you have an idea for a program relating to Oklahoma’s sovereign Indian nations, their culture, and their impact on the state, let us know. Because, as important as tradition is to Indian culture, the landscape truly is changing in Indian Country.
Until next time,
(Pictured, left to right: Gregory Pyle, Chief of the Choctaw Nation; Bill Shoemate, Economic Development and Advertising, Comanche Nation of Oklahoma; Enoch Kelly Haney, Principal Chief, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Not pictured: A.D. Ellis, Principal Chief, Muscogee (Creek) Nation.)Add a comment