Roundup of Oklahoma editorials

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    Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

    The Oklahoman, Nov. 2, 2015

    Support keeps growing for liquor law changes

    If public opinion truly matters in the political arena, then Oklahomans will have the opportunity next year to reform the state's highly restrictive, and occasionally bizarre, liquor laws.

    A new poll conducted by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates Inc. on behalf of The Oklahoman finds 63 percent of registered voters (an all-time high) want to liberalize Oklahoma's liquor laws while just 29 percent oppose change.

    Majorities in all age groups endorsed liquor law reform, although support was strongest among younger voters and opposition greatest among those age 75 and older. Majorities of Democratic and Republican primary voters favored changing liquor laws. This is a rare issue where people on all ends of the political spectrum are in general agreement.

    That strong voter support is undoubtedly impacting many interest groups involved in this discussion. In September, the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma announced support for liberalizing Oklahoma's liquor laws.

    Since the group benefits from existing law, that announcement surprised many. But with strong voter desire for change, it appears the association's members saw the writing on the wall: You can either get onboard and influence the content of any new liquor laws, or you can hope state lawmakers will ignore the desires of a strong majority of citizens in deference to the wishes of status quo forces. The latter option appears less tenable by the day.

    Legislators are studying this issue, and proposed constitutional amendments are expected to advance in the 2016 session. The proposal that may get the most attention is whether grocery stores will be allowed to sell wine and strong beer, as is allowed in Texas and New Mexico.

    The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma said its members support granting select grocery stores that right. That proposal is of keen interest to the state's urban centers, which are trying to attract various national chains that sell groceries and wine in other states. But it could also be of interest in many rural communities, which otherwise struggle to support a grocery store. Allowing those small stores to sell liquor could increase their chances of financial survival.

    Should the liquor issue go to the voters, however, we'd encourage proponents to stay focused on logic in their arguments, not personal attacks. Kevin Hall, an organizer for League of Oklahomans for Change in Alcohol Laws, displayed the latter when he told The Oklahoman's Brianna Bailey, "The younger generation is mostly driving this; they're tired of always having to apologize for Oklahoma. Oklahoma is always seen as a bit backwards when it comes to alcohol."

    To call Oklahoma — and by implication its citizens — an embarrassment will do little more than cause some voters to bow up in opposition. Without doubt, Oklahoma's liquor laws are odd — stores that sell wine can't sell corkscrews, for example. But many states have strange liquor laws. Oklahoma isn't unique in that regard.

    A budget standoff currently underway in Pennsylvania is driven, in part, by efforts to privatize alcohol sales. Currently, the government owns all liquor stores in that state. Nearly half of Pennsylvania voters supported privatization in a recent poll, outnumbering opponents, but that state's Democratic governor is resisting privatization.

    We've noted before that the beer and wine issue won't go away until a public vote is allowed. How this issue develops in the months ahead, and the specifics of any legislative proposals, will be carefully monitored by many Oklahomans.

    The Journal Record, Nov. 2, 2015

    Cops in schools teach wrong lessons

    A cellphone video once again has opened a discussion about how law enforcement officers do their jobs.

    Clips that went viral last week from inside a South Carolina classroom showed a school resource officer tossing a high school girl and her desk to the ground, then throwing her across the room. He was called to the room after the student refused to give her cellphone to a teacher or stand up and leave when requested. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said it wasn't the first time one of his officers was called to remove students for using a phone inappropriately, which he said was often an unnecessary escalation.

    That's part of the problem; it's too easy for school officials to hand over disciplinary responsibility to police officers stationed right down the hall.

    Many campuses, from elementary to high school, now have such an officer. Nearly 20,000 men and women are walking the beat on campus, according to federal statistics.

    The nation has endured decades of school shooting after school shooting. Besides the headline-generating mass attacks, some neighborhoods suffer violence that bleeds into the schoolyard on a regular basis.

    So it makes sense that trained officers would be stationed alongside educators to provide safety. But the situation has turned the wrong direction when the role switches from protecting students to policing them.

    The police officer in South Carolina, who has since been fired, wasn't keeping anyone safe. He wasn't shutting down a dangerous situation. He was called in by a teacher and administrator to handle a discipline issue.

    Some online commentators said that the officer's response was appropriate because children no longer respect authority.

    The National Association of School Resource Officers doesn't agree. Their position paper on best practices says schools and police agencies should prohibit SROs from becoming involved in formal school discipline.

    Unfortunately, there's been a trend toward schools assuming a prosecutorial role. You also see it when officials want to test students who participate in extracurricular activities for drug use, which should be treated as a personal health issue.

    Schools should be supportive places that encourage learning and exploration. Discipline is necessary, and physical force may be necessary to prevent harm.

    But SROs should stop campus threats; they should not be the district's disciplinarians.

    Tulsa World, Nov. 1, 2015

    Stanley Glanz leaves office in shame, a failure of his own making

    Stanley Glanz, Tulsa County's sheriff for a quarter century, leaves office in shame.

    Someday, elements of the sheriff's tenure might be remembered more positively. He helped modernize equipment, raised standards to achieve outside accreditation, operated the Tulsa Jail without major incident and stayed in office longer than any other sheriff in Tulsa County history.

    But the revelation of Glanz' final months in office overshadow those achievements with dishonor.

    On April 2, Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, Glanz' fishing buddy and campaign donor, fatally shot an unarmed suspect during an undercover gun buy. Bates, a 73-year-old insurance executive and volunteer for the sheriff's office, later said he mistook his pistol for his stun gun when he fired the fatal shot.

    From the moment the hammer dropped on Bates' gun, Glanz' career began unwinding.

    A sheriff's office investigation suggested there was no crime in the shooting, but Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter. A trial is pending.

    A 2009 internal sheriff's office memo surfaced, including accusations of falsified records, intimidation of subordinates and special treatment favoring Bates.

    Glanz said he was aware of the memo, but might not have read it "word for word." After it became public, he started forcing out top subordinates, including his undersheriff, the major who oversaw the undercover investigation and his public spokesman.

    In a May Tulsa World story, Glanz conceded that lucrative sheriff's appraiser appointments were part of a patronage system. His appointees included Bates' daughter and the daughter and wife of Bates' attorney. Other appointees included Glanz' friends, relatives and political donors.

    We the People, Oklahoma, a grass-roots group, sought a grand jury investigation. Glanz resisted, using public money to fight the petition on technical grounds. The fight went to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and Glanz lost.

    On Sept. 30, the grand jury returned two misdemeanor indictments against Glanz and an eight-allegation accusation for removal from office. The report went beyond the Bates incident and included allegations of gross partiality, oppression in office, corruption in office, inexcusable recklessness and willful maladministration.

    Glanz resigned, setting his exit for Sunday.

    It was a fast fall from a high place. Glanz had been the most trusted local public official, the go-to man who aspiring politicians sought for endorsements.

    Now he leaves office with his record tarnished and no one to blame for his problems except himself.

    We won't try to defend the legacy of Glanz. The events of the past seven months mean that he will go down in Tulsa County history as a scandal-tainted sheriff who was forced from office when the public learned the truth.

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