Archive for November, 2006

Mayor Mum on Reasons For Suspensions

November 22, 2006

By P.J. LASSEK
World Staff Writer

Action against city attorney, his deputy called private personnel matter

Mayor Kathy Taylor said Tuesday that she had a good reason for disciplining City Attorney Alan Jackere and Deputy City Attorney Larry Simmons, but she refused to discuss specifics.

“I would never take any action to do anything to harm the (city) team unless I had a very specific reason to do so,” Taylor said when pressed about whether she told the attorneys why she disciplined them.

Taylor placed Jackere and Simmons on paid administrative leave Sunday for an undetermined period.

Jackere and Simmons said Monday that they weren’t told why they were suspended other than that the mayor based her action on a “preliminary report.” Simmons and Jackere said they were not interviewed for the report, nor do they know who prepared it.

Jackere has worked for the city for 30 years, and Simmons has worked for the city for 24 years. Read more…

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Issue of anonymous trusts as lottery winners to be studied

November 22, 2006

By ANGEL RIGGS
World Capitol Bureau

OKLAHOMA CITY — A committee established by the state Lottery Commission will determine whether anonymous trusts are allowed to receive winnings, officials said Tuesday.

To maintain the lottery’s transparency, the names of lottery winners are considered public information. However, this year the winners of two major prizes, including a $101.8 million jackpot, have remained anonymous by forming a blind trust to collect their winnings.

That creates a problem for lottery officials who determine the eligibility of the winners, including whether they owe taxes or child support payments.

Jim Scroggins, the lottery’s executive director, told commissioners that he understands why some people would want to collect their winnings anonymously. Read more…

California Congressman Cancels Plans for Bombing Hearings

November 22, 2006

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A California congressman who wanted to conduct hearings into a possible foreign connection to the Oklahoma City bombing says he has canceled those plans.

Republican U-S Representative Dana Rohrabacher says a House subcommittee he chairs will issue a report in December instead of conducting hearings, which had planned to hold November 15th.

Rohrabacher will lose his position as the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee when Democrats assume power in January.

During his investigation, Rohrabacher has met with convicted bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and traveled to the Philippines, where Nichols spent time in the months before the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people.

Gay Rights Advocate Keith Smith Dead at 51

November 22, 2006

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A well-known advocate for gay rights in Oklahoma has died.

Close friends of Keith Smith say the Alva native passed away just before midnight last night at Integris Hospital in Oklahoma City. He was 51.

Longtime state Senator Bernest Cain said Smith was known around the Capitol as a tireless advocate who pushed to involve more people in the political process.

A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Smith was the first openly gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Oklahoma. He was a member of the National Board of Stonewall Democrats and a former American Cvil Liberties Union Oklahoma and national board member.

As president of the lobbying firm The Smith Group, his client’s included the A-C-L-U, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Oklahoma Policy Consortium for People with Disabilities and the National Association of Social Workers.

Political ‘Hacks’ End The Season On A Hungry note

November 21, 2006

Transcript Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the vast majority of Oklahomans, the 2006 campaign season ended at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7. Sure, a handful of recounts dragged the cycle out a few days longer for a handful; but most of us went back to our normal lives come Nov. 8.

Most, but not everybody.

For a select few — namely Democratic candidates, consultants and contributors — the 2006 campaign season ended Saturday at Macklanburg-Duncan Park in Oklahoma City at the 29th annual Political Hacks Chili Cook-off.

A tradition which spans decades, the Hack’s Chili Cook-off gives political junkies one last chance to get together and “cuss and discuss” the election season, celebrate or commiserate their wins (or losses), drink some ice cold beer, and eat lots and lots of chili.

Chili that’s made outdoors.

Chili that’s cleverly named.

Chili that’s cooked by people who aren’t chefs, but political professionals.

“The original cook-off was actually at my house,” says founder Hershel Lamirand.

“There were six of us and my stove only had four burners. We had to cook, talk and share — in that order.”

This year’s cook-off drew several hundred attendees, a dozen or so cooks, and even had its own band.

“We’ve grown a little since then,” Lamirand, the executive director of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation, said.

Composed of mostly Democratic campaign staff, consultants and supporters, the cookoff has, on occasion, been visited by the stray Republican or two and, over the years, has developed a unique history.

There have been speeches.

And beer.

A fist fight between consultants.

And beer.

Long running political debates.

And beer.

And, of course, the chili. Read more…

Political ‘Hacks’ End The Season On A Hungry note

November 21, 2006

Transcript Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the vast majority of Oklahomans, the 2006 campaign season ended at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7. Sure, a handful of recounts dragged the cycle out a few days longer for a handful; but most of us went back to our normal lives come Nov. 8.

Most, but not everybody.

For a select few — namely Democratic candidates, consultants and contributors — the 2006 campaign season ended Saturday at Macklanburg-Duncan Park in Oklahoma City at the 29th annual Political Hacks Chili Cook-off.

A tradition which spans decades, the Hack’s Chili Cook-off gives political junkies one last chance to get together and “cuss and discuss” the election season, celebrate or commiserate their wins (or losses), drink some ice cold beer, and eat lots and lots of chili.

Chili that’s made outdoors.

Chili that’s cleverly named.

Chili that’s cooked by people who aren’t chefs, but political professionals.

“The original cook-off was actually at my house,” says founder Hershel Lamirand.

“There were six of us and my stove only had four burners. We had to cook, talk and share — in that order.”

This year’s cook-off drew several hundred attendees, a dozen or so cooks, and even had its own band.

“We’ve grown a little since then,” Lamirand, the executive director of the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation, said.

Composed of mostly Democratic campaign staff, consultants and supporters, the cookoff has, on occasion, been visited by the stray Republican or two and, over the years, has developed a unique history.

There have been speeches.

And beer.

A fist fight between consultants.

And beer.

Long running political debates.

And beer.

And, of course, the chili. Read more…

Todd Thompsen Wins Oklahoma House Seat in Recount:

November 21, 2006

Speaker-designate Cargill Praises Thompsen’s Leadership

Todd Thompsen – a southeastern Oklahoma representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a member of OU’s 1985 championship football team – Monday became the newly-elected state representative for Ada-based House District 25, after a recount showed him winning by a two-vote margin there.

House Speaker-elect Lance Cargill congratulated Thompsen on the recount results.

“Every vote counts, and this shows that Oklahoma’s democratic process works well,” said Cargill (R-Harrah). “I know that people of House District 25 are ready to see Todd Thompsen working on their behalf at the state capitol. We’re looking forward to having the results certified and swearing Representative Thompsen in before Thanksgiving.”

Cargill thanked Oklahoma’s election officials for their professionalism and hard work during the recount, and he praised Thompsen’s leadership.

“Representative Thompsen is a quality individual who will bring his strong character and integrity to the state capitol,” Cargill said. “He will help us bring people together to do great things for Oklahoma.”

Thompsen’s victory Monday means that House Republicans will maintain a 57-seat majority in the state House with no losses.

Smoking Down 13% Since Tax Hike

November 20, 2006

by Janice Francis-Smith
The Journal Record
11/20/2006

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma has reached a historic point regarding the state of its citizens’ health, members of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund board of directors leaned Friday.
For the first time, Oklahoma has more former smokers among its population than current smokers, who number about 600,000 people, said Doug Metheny from the state Health Department. Another first – the state’s smoking population has dropped below the 20-percent mark.

As the success of smoking cessation programs increases, however, the state should examine how to make the most of the money invested in those programs, said James Wilbanks of the state treasurer’s office.

Figures compiled from the Health Department combined with revenue reports from the Oklahoma Tax Commission show that Oklahoma’s tobacco tax increase yielded better results than similar measures undertaken by other states.

On average, a 10-percent increase in the price of cigarettes results in a 4-percent decrease in consumption, said Metheny. Based on that estimate, an 8-percent decrease in cigarette consumption was expected in Oklahoma after the tobacco tax increase went into effect January 2005. Instead, Oklahoma has seen a 13-percent decrease in consumption, said Metheny. About 30,000 Oklahomans have quit smoking since the increase went into effect, and those who still smoke say they are lighting up less frequently.

Examining the sales in neighboring states shows that Oklahomans did not simply make their cigarette purchases in other states – only Arkansas showed an increase in sales, and that increase was “a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers we were talking about,” he said.

On the other hand, total cigarette tax collections are up by more than 240 percent. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the state collected $56.3 million in cigarette tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended in June 2004 and $192.3 million in the fiscal year that ended June 2006.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham’s office is recommending a slight alteration in the way it invests money received under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies, which is used to fund smoking cessation programs. Juggling the percentages invested in equity funds and bonds could increase the annual yield from 3.35 percent to 3.60 percent, said Wilbanks. That relatively small change could increase the amount of money available to spend on smoking cessation programs from $800,000 a year to $1 million a year, he said.

Buyout Doubts Create Shaky Future for Picher Businesses

November 20, 2006

By OMER GILLHAM
World Staff Writer

PICHER — Susie Stone’s business is on shaky ground in more ways than one.

Stone is one of several business owners who applied for the voluntary buyout of undermined properties in the Tar Creek Superfund site.

Currently, the first phase of a $20 million buyout is under way for families and individuals. Many Tar Creek businesses qualify for the buyout because they are situated above deteriorating lead mines as well. Others have been adversely affected by plummeting sales connected to a declining population in Picher and Cardin.

With limited funds available, the relocation committee has prioritized the families and businesses being bought out first. Read more…

Free Speech Be Damned!

November 20, 2006

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) The Muskogee Planning and Zoning Commission and the city’s Public Works and Finance Committee this week will consider a possible ban on portable signs in the city.

If both committees recommend such a ban, the Muskogee city council could take up the issue as soon as its November 27th meeting.

Muskogee Mayor Wren Stratton says she thinks the city would look better without the portable signs and a tourism expert who visited Muskogee last spring agrees.

But the owner of a local advertising business is against such a ban. Tim Lipe says about 70 of the more than 100 portable signs he owns are placed in Muskogee.

He says that if a ban is passed the city should compensate him for his loss of business. He says banning portable signs in Muskogee won’t make much difference in the city’s appearance.