A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:
The Oklahoma, May 18, 2015
PETA response to Oklahoma cat video overblown
We agree with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that it's in poor taste to make a video of dead cats "dancing," as some Oklahoma City high schoolers did. But it's just as bad, if not worse, to demand a state investigation of and significant instructional changes at an award-winning school simply because some kids acted juvenile.
At some point a video, made in an anatomy class at Harding Charter Preparatory High School in fall 2013, was posted recently on Facebook. It showed several Harding students using dead cats destined for dissection for a choreographed "dance" to a cat food jingle.
PETA wrote to the school to object. By that time, most of the students involved had graduated. The issue was reviewed; efforts were made to prevent similar misuse of school property in the future.
But PETA officials apparently felt that notifying school officials of the embarrassing video was somehow insufficient. Samantha Suiter, an official with PETA, also wrote the Oklahoma Department of Education to demand a state investigation and effectively suggested Harding should be discouraged from allowing dissection in anatomy classes.
"Behavior that makes light of the suffering and mutilation of animals, particularly in front of impressionable young adults, is callous and irresponsible," Suiter wrote.
She added that "a growing majority of students now oppose experiments on animals and are too upset and distracted to learn when they're forced to dissect." She suggested that anatomy classes instead rely on videos.
PETA also issued a news release objecting to the Facebook video (which likely drove more people to check it out). The release declared that "classroom animal dissection can cause lifelong psychological distress and foster callousness toward animals and that this situation is a case in point."
We suspect many people, upon reading those statements, will have the same reaction: Are you serious?
The kids' video may have involved morbid humor, but it hardly made light of animal suffering — because the cats were already dead. The cadavers were procured from a scientific education company that supplies them to schools.
In short, the kids weren't killing animals to use them as puppets. They were simply behaving like kids in an anatomy class. And there's no evidence this behavior was routine, or was in any way encouraged by school officials. A single video does not make a trend.
Furthermore, are teenagers really "too upset and distracted to learn" and subject to "lifelong psychological distress" upon discovering that you dissect animals in an anatomy class? That's ranks up there with claiming the dog ate your homework to explain a bad grade.
Even if such claims of distress are true, those kids will have learned an important life lesson: Read the course description before enrolling in an elective.
To suggest that Harding Charter Preparatory High School is somehow failing students is laughable. The school has been rated among the most rigorous high schools in the nation. It was a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. In 2015, the school was ranked No. 2 in Oklahoma by the Washington Post. This year's graduating class of 114 included three National Merit Scholarship finalists.
The lesson here is not that Harding needs to change its academic ways, but that kids — even those receiving a top-notch education — will still occasionally act like . kids.
Tulsa World, May 17, 2015
Legislation aims at throwing tax incentives at people willing to live in unattractive counties
Here's a bad idea: If people don't want to live someplace — if they can't make a living there or they just can't imagine taking their families to such an environment — let's have the state pay them to move there.
It's ridiculous on its face, and it's the premise of House Bill 1747, which is dangerously close to becoming state law.
The bill would give a five-year, 100 percent state income tax exemption — $0 due for five years — to homeowners who move from out of state to a county projected by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to have population growth of 0.5 percent or less by 2075.
That would apply to 48 of the state's 77 counties.
A version of the proposal blew through the rural-dominated House Agriculture and Wildlife Conference Committee on Tuesday.
There's no evidence this plan will actually do anything to stop shrinking counties from shrinking.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute recently pointed out that the idea is based on a Kansas law that created a tax exemption in 50 counties in 2012 and another 23 counties in 2013.
The first 50 counties had a net loss of 473 people due to migration from 2010 to 2011. In the three years since the tax break was created, the counties had an average annual loss of 713 people. They shrank faster.
In the counties added in 2013, there was a net migration loss of 1,121 the year before the incentive and an average loss of 1,003 residents since then. The shrinking continued.
By the way, why would we want to base our fiscal model on Kansas, a state facing an $800 million budget shortfall?
Beyond the lack of evidence, the premise of the incentive is bad.
If the incentive works, it will amount to the state of Oklahoma picking winners and losers among the counties instead of allowing the natural effect of the marketplace to rule.
It would lead to all sorts of ways to game the system. Here's an example: Get a job in a growing county, live just across the county line in a shrinking county and commute to work on a state highway you don't have to pay for. Of course, five years later, when the exemption runs out, you can move closer to your job.
That's the fundamental flaw of the legislation. If people don't want to live in a dying county, throwing a tax incentive at them will only work, so much as it will work at all, as long as you keep throwing the money. The underlying issues with the shrinking county will still be there when the money stops.
We aren't hard-hearted toward the problems of shrinking rural communities. A way of life is threatened by the erosion of population loss. Attracted by the bright lights and big salaries of the cities, children leave and return only for holidays. It's painful to see, more painful to live.
But that's the reality of life in a market-driven world. People move toward better opportunities. If you want the trend to reverse, change the market conditions — create better opportunities in your rural community.
In a year when lawmakers said they were finally going to be rational about tax incentives, suddenly they aren't.
In a year when the state budget is $611 million short of breaking even and projections are for the situation to be as bad or worse next year, the Legislature is toying with another effort to undercut the state's ability to pay for its own government.
As in amazingly bad idea.
State budget process cloaked too much
The Oklahoma legislature needs to take a page from Stillwater's book.
It's budget-making season, and the city of Stillwater's process is remarkably more transparent than Oklahoma's.
The city has held various events and meetings for residents to better understand how the budget is put together. They have also given ample opportunities for community input. These opportunities began back in February and have continued through the spring.
Oklahoma's legislative session ends May 29, and the state's budget is due at the conclusion. New budgets go into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1.
Have there been any events for Oklahoma residents? Has there been a drive for community input? No. Instead of putting forth a group effort, a select few Oklahomans go behind closed doors to decide how to spend billions in taxpayer dollars.
The legislature has a tendency to approve the budget at the very end of session, after which lawmakers leave the capitol.
The state has a budget department, which helps Gov. Mary Fallin craft a suggested budget. She submits this spending request to the legislature. The proposal usually arrives in early February.
Although the entire legislature has to pass the appropriations bill, few work on it throughout the session. Senate and House leaders bear the brunt of the task, working closely with the governor.
Legislators generally don't approve the budget until a few weeks before it goes into effect. In 2012, the Congress didn't approve the budget until May 25.
Anyone familiar with goings on at the capitol will tell you the process is tense and quick.
Of course, building a city budget of $100 million is much simpler than building a state budget of $7 billion. But at the end of the day, it is still the people's money, and they should have more opportunities to dictate how it is spent.
At the very least, each representative should have more time to examine and weigh in on the budget. A few short weeks at the end of a legislative session isn't enough.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.