Let's Pod This is the official podcast of grassroots organization Let's Fix This, Inc., where we talk with policymakers, advocates, elected officials, and regular folks from across Oklahoma to explain how our government works and provide context for the pressing issues facing our state.
A blank sheet of paper
We discuss the quarterly polling data from Amber Integrated (mentioned last episode), the state threatening to sue the feds, and how the contract signing event with Canoo was a bit of a publicity stunt.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60099f1f6ffad96a2d94bf98/t/6160626094852806944ad325/1633706593494/Toplines_Oklahoma+Statewide+Poll_Septmeber+2021.pdf (Polling from last week that we said we’d cover)
https://www.kgou.org/politics-and-government/2021-10-15/oklahoma-attorney-general-oconnor-calls-for-employers-to-disregard-president-bidens-vaccine-mandate-requirements (Can the Governor spell Constitution? Governor Stitt’s AG tells business to ignore the federal vaccine mandate)
http://algerhart.blogspot.com/2021/09/why-republican-party-needed-to-be-sued.html (Oklahoma Tea Party is at war with the OKGOP leadership)
Is this Canoo taking on water? Frontier has some information on the states deal with electric vehicle manufacturer Canoo
https://tulsaworld.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/gov-kevin-stitt-taps-appeals-court-judge-as-new-general-counsel/article_c5a42352-2de1-11ec-b390-bbd0495a8719.html (New General Counsel for the Governor’s office: Trevor Pemberton )
https://kfor.com/news/local/worlds-tallest-fresh-cut-christmas-tree-arrives-in-oklahoma/ (Everyone has their Christmas decorations out - Target, Amazon…and the city of Enid )
Hofmeister bets on blue
Joy Hofmeister enters the the race for Governor...as a Democrat! Also some other stuff happened, but that's most of what we discuss.
Links discussed in episode:
First, the public affairs software company https://quorum-media.s3.amazonaws.com/media/blog/2021-09-30T100446.981267_Quorum_2021USStateLegislatureReport_R4-web.pdf (Quorum recently released a report) summarizing information about state legislatures during 2021. Some interesting takeaways:
In general, the larger a state's population, the more bills their legislature filed.
No correlation to the number of bills enacted, though.
Oklahoma’s 149 state legislators filed 3,057 bills, of which 582 were enacted.
That averages out to 20.5 bills filed and 3.9 bills enacted per legislator, which is the 11th highest rate in the country.
Health and Education were far and and away the most popular topics for bills nationwide.
Oklahoma state Senator Mary Boren is the most active Oklahoma legislator on social media with 3,600 posts on Twitter and FB this year.
https://www.oklahoman.com/story/news/2021/10/07/group-wants-oklahomans-vote-recreational-marijuana-petition/6041574001/ (Advocacy group “Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action” filed two initiative petitions this week.) One would basically fully legalize recreational marijuana for anyone age 21 or older, including growing, buying, transporting, preparing and consuming it. The measure would double the excise tax on marijuana sales, from 7% to 15%. It would also allow anyone serving time for a marijuana-related conviction to request that conviction be dismissed. (Which seems like it violates the single subject rule.)
The second initiative would eliminate the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which is a part of the state dept of health, and create a standalone state agency called the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission, which would also have a seat in the Governor’s cabinet. It would also remove the cap on the number of cannabis-related business licenses and allow for home delivery of marijuana products. (Again, seems like a violation of the single subject rule.)
Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax https://oklahoma.gov/content/dam/ok/en/elections/letters-from-the-secretary/lettertolegislature-20211005.pdf (sent a letter to lawmakers) debunking allegations of election hacking by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell
Race for US Senate heats up
Bailey's back! Also, US Senator James Lankford now has three opponents - two conservative Republicans and a newcomer Democrat. We discuss the dynamics of that race, down-ballot races, and the racial disparity in police shooting (a data point for which Oklahoma ranks #1 in the nation).
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/ (Oklahoma has highest rate of people killed by police)
Show Us the Maps
More than six weeks since the 2020 Census data was released, but the Oklahoma legislature has yet to release any maps. What's up with that? Also—a breaking news announcement happened during recording!
Outline and Links
State Fair is underway! And tonight: Ginuwine!
Oklahoma passes 10,000 Covid deaths
Stitt’s removal of two OHCA board members over the Labor Day weekend has ruffled the feathers of some lawmakers from both parties. His ability to do that, of course, stems from the legislature’s decision in 2019 to grant the Governor broader authority over state agencies. https://www.oklahoman.com/story/news/2021/09/19/oklahoma-gov-kevin-stitt-firings-spur-debate-gubernatorial-power/8339729002/ (According to The Oklahoman,) Representatives Marcus McEntire and Mark McBride expressed some reservations or regrets about how it happened. Rep. Monroe Nichols has pre-filed legislation to change the Governor’s role with the OHCA board specifically by requiring the governor to appoint to the board at least one licensed physician, two Medicaid recipients and several people who have experience in health care fields. The Governor would be able to pick appointees only from a set of three candidates nominated by the board, appointees would have set term limits and the governor would not be able to remove them without cause.
https://nondoc.com/2021/09/23/oklahoma-county-sheriffs-office-new-body-camera-policy/ (Oklahoma County Sherrifs will now be equipped with body cameras) and they released their policy for them.
https://nondoc.com/2021/09/24/oklahoma-special-session-date-set/ (Special session begins Nov 15th! )
The Wild, Wild Western Heights
There's been considerable trouble in the Western Heights school district over the last couple of years...and "trouble" doesn't begin to describe it. Thanks to strong journalism by the folks at NonDoc and others, we were able to put together a pretty comprehensive timeline for you, which we'll detail in this episode (it is included below with links to all the stories). Remember: local elections matter.
Timeline for Western Heights
In October 2019, https://kfor.com/news/15-employees-resign-at-western-heights-school-board-meeting/ (15 employees resigned), ranging from bus drivers to the assistant superintendent, citing ongoing issues of mismanagement at all levels of the district.
Two weeks later, still in October 2019, https://www.news9.com/story/5e346e6c527dcf49dad6e133/parents-call-for-investigation-of-western-heights-superintendent (parents in the district requested an investigation) into the district for these issues, and specifically wanted an investigation into Superintendent Mannix Barnes, his $220,000 per year salary, and the fact that the chair of the WH school board, Robert Everman, is his former employee when they worked at a casino. (Which is obviously directly useful knowledge for running a school district, right?)
Before we go on, you’ve got to hear about the compensation package superintendent Mannix Barnes had at the time. And, again, remember that he had no experience as a superintendent when he was hired by the district just a couple of years ago. Barnes’ contract with Western Heights included:
A $220,000 base salary with a $75,000 retention bonus effective June 15, 2022;
20 days of unpaid leave for outside activities;
Reasonable time off and pay for professional growth and community involvement;
25 semester credit hours annually to further education;
Membership for community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce;
40 vacation days per year;
20 sick days per year;
20 personal business leave days per year.
We’ll do the math for you: that’s a minimum of 100 days of paid leave. The district only has 167 instructional days.
Anyway, in April 2020, the WH district got into hot water with the state board of education when the district unilaterally https://www.oklahoman.com/article/5659613/mayor-disagrees-with-western-heights-food-service-suspension (decided to suspend the free meal )program during the pandemic, despite the fact that 90% of the distinct’s students qualify. The superintendent said some pretty inflammatory things about state superintendent Joy Hofmeister and OKC Mayor David Holt, including using the phrase “I double dare those two to come down here” and threatened to sue the state board.
Nearly a year later in March of this year, the state board of education expressed “utmost concern” about the operation of Western Heights Public Schools https://nondoc.com/2021/03/25/state-board-accreditation-western-heights-schools/ (and threatened to end their accreditation), mentioning multiple issues, including:
failure to provide in-person instruction since March 2020;
a decision in the spring of 2020 not to provide nutritional services to students;
an audit report showing violations of state law, including the use of 2018 bond proceeds meant for contracting and repairing facilities to pay off debt instead;
a board member consuming alcohol during a public meeting;
a 23 percent drop in student enrollment, from 3,365 to 2,597 in the past year, and a loss of more than 100 staff members in the past two years;
disharmony in the school environment and community.
In April the state board https://nondoc.com/2021/04/09/state-board-hands-out-probation-for-western-heights-district-and-sovereign-school/ (placed the district on probation) and giving them 90 days to remedy the situation or face being annexed by the state board.
As you might have guessed, the district didn’t comply and instead they filed suit against the state board, So, in June the state board...
Legal Expert & Labor Commissioner
We discuss the far-reaching implications of Texas' new abortion law with attorney Melanie Rughani and then catch up on the latest developments from the OK Dept of Labor with Commissioner Leslie Osborn.
Let’s Pod This Wild World!
Always witty, factual, and minimal opinions (but still logical and well-thought out, so don’t get your feathers too ruffled). I enjoy the bipartisan local civics updates, and the special guests as well! #MooresHonor best podcast available for the regular-ish informed citizen folks out there just living their best life possible in Oklahoma.
Informative and fun!
Educational and F. U. N.
This podcast feels like sitting in on a group of well-informed friends just casually talking about super important topics. I learn so much, and it’s very listenable.