151 Band

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Day Memory 1 - "Red"

Most of you reading already know that I lost my mother when I was 14.  She was 33 and the cancer that eventually killed her ravaged her body.  But it wasn't a quick and painless death, it was long, slow and agonizing.  Hospice was involved and they were clearly a God-send for us.  So much so that after I joined the United States Navy, I felt it incumbent upon myself to "give back," to become a Hospice counselor myself.

Ironically - or rather through Divine providence - the gentleman handling the class was the Chaplain who worked on my mother's case some ten years prior.

My first case was that of a man called "Red."  He was dying from lung and larynx cancer, unable to truly communicate his pain, his emotions or even tell his lovely bride what was on his mind.  He had no verbal communication skills whatsoever as I recall.

He was a World War II Navy hero.   He had served honorably, received numerous commendations and medals of which he was very proud.  Red, though his verbal abilities were gone, still had a way about him.  As I spent time with him and his lovely though heart-broken family, Red would show me photographs of him during his time of service.  A gleam would appear in his eyes, a slight smile would cross his face and he would give me that "knowing glance," as though there was some unique bond we shared as "shipmates."  I showed him my Shellback card (certification of crossing the equator) and his eyes glistened. 

He couldn't speak because of the cancer, but the photographs of his shipmates, the way he ran his weathered fingers across them made me tear up.   Red often had a tear in his eyes as well.

When he passed, his family asked me to be a pall bearer at the funeral as well as being honored with presenting him with the flag that draped his coffin.  It was tough for his family to see Red go, but we knew in our hearts he no longer had pain and would be joining his shipmates on the other side.

Every Memorial Day, I remember Red and his wry smile, his calm demeanor though his body was ravaged by cancer.  Someday, Lord willing, I'll again see him and thank him for his service once again.

More Power to the Attorney General?

Without a question, one of the most powerful positions in the state of Oklahoma is that of the Attorney General.  Sure, the Corporation Commission regulates approximately 80% of the state's economy, but all agencies must go through the Attorney General's office for opinions regarding everything from determining Constitutional aspects of legislation to ethics commission rulings.

Jarod Morris, a friend of mine on Facebook and gentleman who attended law school with my wife, wrote an interesting note on a bill that sailed through the House recently that would give the Attorney General's office more power, more control and all under the guise of "saving money."  Here is Jarod's article:

HB2465 was introduced during the last week of session in an effort to save money by consolidating all agency attorneys to the AG's office and placing these attorneys on the (lower) pay scale of the AG's office. Fiscal analysis states that about 50 attorneys are expected to quit rather than accept being paid at the lower AG pay scale. There is no indication that any of these attorneys will be replaced, and the analysis cites additional savings due to these resignations.
It's all semantics anyway!
50 attorneys working 50 out of 52 weeks a year for 40 hours per week is about 10,000 hours of work that Oklahoma is not buying. This is saving Oklahomans an estimated $100 per hour, but how can it be savings when we're also not getting the work from those attorneys? Each state agency will have the same legal demands for the AG's office, yet now across the board, there will be approximately 10,000 fewer hours per year in which to meet the legal demands of each state agency. Additionally, 50 is only an estimate. How did anyone come up with 50? With the given economy, many of these attorneys may choose to be paid less than not at all because finding a job is not easy right now. What if only 10 quit? Does this mean we'll save 20% of the projected amount? What if the estimate is incredibly low and 80 or 100 quit? This could absolutely cripple state agencies. Will state agencies resort to hiring outside counsel just to get the work done? Think any law firm is going to work for $100 per hour? No way!
Buying Less Does Not Equal Saving More
I'll attempt to put this into an everyday example: Everyone needs groceries. Lets say my wife sends me to Homeland to get some stuff for dinner after work. I got to Homeland and I get 5 of the 10 things she told me to get and instead of spending $20, I spend $10. I just saved $10 right? Wrong! I spent $10 less because I bought $10 less food! The state is doing the same thing. While there may be inefficiencies that may be resolved by consolidating agency counsel into one area, saying that we save $10,000,000 by buying $10,000,000 less in labor is grossly misleading. Assuming that state agencies can function efficiently with ~10,000 fewer hours in attorney time is not realistic. Any savings that may actually be realized will come at a cost to state agencies and in the end, the citizens of Oklahoma.
Power to the People Attorney General
The AG is the CEO of the AG's office and anyone in that office will have to answer to the AG. The other agencies will not like having to cater to the AG in order to make sure their agency projects don't get put to the back burner of an already overloaded attorney. This gives more power to the Attorney General.

Take it for what you like, but it appears to me as though this is a power grab, or someone trying to "pay it forward" politically.  Something about it doesn't seem right and Jarod nailed it.
Consolidating offices makes sense at times, particularly where administrative functions of school districts are concerned but we're yet to see serious legislation such as this come forward in light of the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Last Word On the Shanster

The Oklahoma Gazette asked me to write an op-ed piece on Mark Shannon, asking my views and perhaps an "insider" look at talk radio as well as the experience of working with the man known by many as "The Shanster."
Mark Shannon and I worked together at the station formerly known as “SuperTalk 930, WKY.” He was the morning drive guru; I handled the back of the bus in the afternoon slot. Shannon’s death as a result of his long and arduous fight against leukemia May 8 most assuredly taught all of us that life is precious, that our time on this earth is limited and is quite fragile.
Read the whole column here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Leaning into the pitch, taking one for the team...our teachers.

The Oklahoman is reporting that school districts across the state are tightening their belts, preparing for the inevitable axe that will be falling very soon.  The budget cuts for education equate to approximately $4.5 million, but the Oklahoman story indicates that Karl Springer (OKC Super) is preparing for a much more dramatic cut of $16.8 million.  (Read the story here.)

Springer was former Mustang School Super who got into a fight with the late Tim Pope over religious expression in the Mustang schools and eventually, Springer backed down.  In this story, Springer even talks of taking a $25,000 a year cut in pay from his $165,000 per year salary.  Good for him.

It's called "leadership by example."

Virtually every state agency has been forced to lean into the pitch, and it is deplorable to see how our school teachers are always the first to get the pink slips.  Not the administrators mind you, but the teachers.  Our administrators have a tough job, but there are plenty of them around to actually DO the job.  The money for education should be spent in the classroom, not on administration.  We need leadership in the state of Oklahoma who is willing to stand up and say the obvious - it's time for consolidation of our administrative functions for our school districts. 

Certainly not a sexy political tool in this day and age because many of the administrators make enough money to have their political opinions heard by elected officials.  It's sad, really.  This is not to say, of course, that I buy into the garbage about "regional averages" in per-pupil spending or even "regional averages" to calculate teacher pay.  I do believe, however, that our education system in Oklahoma is broken and it is broken because of the administrative load taxpayers are forced to carry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It was certainly Monday...

Here are some of the stories getting your attention today and if they aren't, perhaps they should...

LAKE HEFNER:  According to reports from my friends around Lake Hefner, the hatchery may be closed by city leaders.  Mind you, the hatchery serves more than Lake Hefner and though fishing isn't as sexy as say, flying a kite, it is a revenue-producing endeavor.  The City charges for fishing licenses, law enforcement writes tickets and everyone is just happy.   Well, except for the people who don't fish, of course.  I'll keep an eye on this one.  There is, however, an organization to help Lake Hefner...perhaps from making it a huge restaurant district and kite-flying recreational facility.  It's Friends of Lake Hefner.

But after reading Forbes' report on the top ten most sluggish cities and finding Oklahoma City as #1, maybe more walking trails around Lake Hefner is needed.  Perhaps we should suggest we shut down some of the eateries serving such unhealthy food?  Don't bet on it...Nonna's would be really, really pissed.

BIG BROTHER'S CAMERAS:  Mike McCarville has hit another one out of the park with his review of the use of cameras to check those who supposedly do not have automobile insurance.  This is yet another set of rules and taxpayer expenditures that has benefited the insurance industry - consider it a mini-Obamacare in Oklahoma.  Read Mike McCarville's stories.  Representative Ken Miller and a few others have some answering to do...

DR. ROY WITH NEW ADS:  KTOK has been the testing ground for most 5th District candidates and their radio ads.  This week, Dr. Roy launches new ads that are creative and very informative.  No doubt, KTOK appreciates the increased revenue.   On paper, Roy is one heck of a candidate and his people are working very hard.

GARY TO RUN AGAIN?  Rumor has it that Gary Jones, chair of the Oklahoma GOP, is considering another run for State Auditor.  Gary, Mike Reynolds and a few other stalwart Republicans busted their chops to expose Jeff McMahan for being far less than what he campaigned as and it worked.  Gary was defeated in two runs for the post, but the pump has been primed and to be honest, Gary is a guy the Tea Party should get behind.  Gary fought against government corruption and let's face it - that is what is needed from our State Auditor.  Personally, I hope Gary runs.  Oklahoma deserves a guy like Gary as our Auditor who has the experience and the tenacity to root out corruption.  But that would leave us wondering who would be our next state party chair... 

Will it be State Senator Randy Brogdon?

More to follow...