Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tulsa World, Dec. 8 2014
Pitiful lesson in court battle over football game 3 comments
A great deal of good comes from young people participating in team sports.
They learn to work hard toward a goal, to take care of their teammates and to value an active, healthy life.
They learn to win with grace and to lose with dignity — even when things aren't fair.
That lesson is being denied the students of Douglass High School by the Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The school district took a bad call near the end of the Nov 28 quarterfinal game between Douglass and Locust Grove High School to court on Thursday and asked the judge to overturn the loss.
Earlier, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association refused a school district request to replay the game in whole or in part because of the botched call.
There is little question that the call on the field was a bad one. An incorrectly enforced penalty negated a go-ahead touchdown by Douglass with 1:04 left in regulation.
The OSSAA has apologized for the officiating error, but says the final result has to stand.
At Thursday's hearing, District Judge Bernard Jones said he was skeptical about the case, but granted a temporary restraining order preventing Locust Grove from playing its scheduled playoff game against Heritage Hall Friday. Jones has scheduled another hearing for Thursday.
We're skeptical too, but more importantly we are stunned by the school district's decision to litigate the issue.
Sometimes referees make bad calls. It's not supposed to happen, but it does. They are human.
That's what happened here. You can protest and try to get things set straight on the field, but when the game's over, it's over. You walk away with your head held high, shake the other guy's hand and vow to work harder next time.
You don't go running to court. That's poor sportsmanship, a gross exaggeration of the proper place of sports in high school life and a pitiful lesson to teach young athletes.
This isn't the first time that a team worked hard, played fair and lost because of an unfair break. That sort of thing happens in football and in life. There are a lot of valuable lessons that can be learned about your own dignity in dealing with those situations.
Oklahoma City Public Schools should consider what lesson their actions will teach.
The Oklahoman, Dec. 7, 2014
Unclaimed Property Trust Fund worth a look
THIS is a state that gets knocked around a lot for not doing enough or not doing enough things right. But sometimes Oklahoma does get it right. And sometimes that's because the people insist on it.
We noted recently how right the people were in creating an endowment fund for the money coming in from the 1997 settlement of a lawsuit against Big Tobacco. State Treasurer Ken Miller suggests that the same concept should be applied to the state's unclaimed property fund.
Oklahoma was the first state to constitutionally protect its tobacco settlement money from the annual scramble for legislative appropriations. Unfortunately, the unclaimed property fund remains unprotected from the scrum of politics.
The people got it right in making Oklahoma the first state to limit legislative terms. They got it right in shortening legislative sessions and making it more difficult to raise taxes. They really got it right in sequestering 75 percent of the money arriving from tobacco companies.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is on its way to generating as much in earnings as it's getting in new transfers from Big Tobacco. The endowment has grown to nearly $1 billion. The latest annual earnings on the principal topped $52.7 million, money that can be used to cover the costs of health care programs that would otherwise go begging or tap the General Fund.
Why not apply the same concept to the unclaimed property fund? As the smoking rate continues to fall, the tobacco fund faces diminishing contributions. But the endowment doesn't face diminished earnings potential.
Miller says remittances to the unclaimed property fund vary between $18 million and $70 million a year, making it a risky proposition for the appropriations process. Yet lawmakers tapped the fund for $230 million in the past six years, including $54.5 million in the current fiscal year.
With such fluctuations in receipts, Miller wrote in the November edition of his Oklahoma Economic Report, "this growing dependence is unsustainable unless changes are made."
Suppose instead that the money went directly to an endowment fund and drew interest? The earnings could then be appropriated. The fund must be tapped when unclaimed property is claimed, but some of the money will never be claimed. In the meantime, the endowment would make money through investments.
"What is now a volatile source of revenue could be molded into a steady, recurring revenue stream," Miller said, adding that sufficient money would be set aside to pay claims. The rest would be "put to work providing a permanent source of funds for public use."
The treasurer said that placing $40 million a year into an endowment at an 8 percent growth rate per annum for 15 years would build a fund worth more than $1 billion — "an amount capable of spinning off more than $58 million annually."
Even better, putting the endowment off limits until Year 20 would create a principal of nearly $2 billion and generate as much as $100 million in annual earnings.
This is an opportunity for Oklahoma to get another thing right. Once again, the people should insist on it. Lawmakers may be loath to surrender funds to a hands-off endowment, but they can't argue with how well the tobacco fund concept has worked out.
Muskogee Phoenix, Dec. 2, 2014
We must grow to co-exist
Race relations in this country have come a long way.
But a truly peaceful coexistence between races in the United States has a long way to go.
The gap between black and white, for instance, was highlighted again by the death of Michael Brown.
Brown was shot to death by a St. Louis County police officer in August.
A grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death.
There clearly is distrust in this nation. Racism clearly exists in this country.
We should begin by acknowledging that many people were willing to peacefully protest the grand jury's decision. We also know that the vast majority of people who wear the badge do so for the right reasons.
But circumstances surrounding Brown's death have had a polarizing effect among some.
Many people are willing to judge the evidence on its merit.
But too many people have chosen sides — firmly believing that their version of what happened is the only possible version.
That's where we as a nation have a long way to grow.
Again, we believe that race relations have come a long way.
But it will take much more earnest work by many good people to bridge the remaining gap.
First and foremost, there must a willingness from everyone to continue a civil discourse.
As a nation, we must acknowledge our differences, but focus on our similarities.
We are citizens of the United States.
We all want the promise of the Declaration of Independence. We all want life, liberty and to pursue happiness.
We can, at times, be a nation determined to be divided. We are rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, male or female, young or old, citizen or immigrant, black or white.
Too many times it appears basic human nature suggests we think we have to be better than the next person.
It does not have to be that way.