151 Band

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Unleash The (Saturday) Hounds

There is a great deal going on right now, so let's review, shall we?

High Noon Nastiness:  The Friday High Noon Club that meets at a local gun range weekly was fired up as Randy Brogdon, his new boss Commissioner Doak and attorney arrived to what used to be friendly territory.  Not so much anymore.  Apparently, Brogdon and crew were chastised, and one person even told Brogdon that she would "never vote for him again."  Former State Senator Randy Brogdon was a very conservative candidate for governor in Oklahoma who had vowed to reduce the size and scope of government, but then took a $99k/year job with Insurance Commissioner Doak.  Reducing the size and scope of government by eliminating positions to perhaps pay for his big salary is what he meant...and now, the chickens have come home to roost.

Barresi Blasts:  You read about it here, the fight that took place with the Board of Education and State School Superintendent Janet Barresi and McCarville has put together quite the series on the issue.  And this is a story that will not go away anytime soon.  Read more here

Brad Henry To UCO?  Rumors abound that since Henry will be temporarily working with a law firm in Edmond, that he will soon be tapped to take over when Roger Webb bails out at the University of Central Oklahoma.  Henry will fit in well in Edmond, will be seen frequenting Cafe' 501 (where the beautiful people of Edmond congregate), Lottinville's (where former Treasurer Scott Meacham has been seen) and of course, the Edmond Arts Festivals.  Since the law offices are right across the street from Lottinville's, that will more than likely be his new hang-out while he awaits the decision from the Board of Regents he himself appointed.  Think this will be a tough interview?

Feed The Wallets:  Larry Jones, founder and former President of Feed the Children, has settled his wrongful termination lawsuit and FTC has also dropped all the counter-suits.  Looks like they've kissed and decided to go their own ways.  Now, the Attorney General is saying that there will be investigations into the embattled charity, but believes them to be headed in the right direction. 

More to come...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Republican Pile-On For Barresi

The full force of the Republican leadership of Oklahoma is ready to have a field day with the Oklahoma Board of Education and Tim Gilpin has no idea just what he has done.  Giving Barresi grief over a couple hires that are clearly Constitutional and void of any statutory requirements was one of the biggest mistakes the Board of Education may have ever done.  Other than perhaps having a Worker's Comp attorney serve on the Board.

The McCarville Report is listing all of the Republican leaders who have come out against Tim Gilpin and the Board of Education.  They are as follows:

Speaker of the House, Kris Steele.  Board of Education can expect EVERY education reform bill to be passed through committee now. 

Senate President Pro Tempore, Brian Bingman.  Likewise in the Senate, education reform will be fast-tracked.

OCPA.  Even the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has ripped this one.

If I'm Tim Gilpin, I'm running for cover and learning to keep my mouth shut.  Gilpin may have just sealed the deal for education reform in Oklahoma and the Board may have to be restructured.  Be careful what you ask for, Tim, you're about to get it.  In spades.

Barresi Off To Rocky Start

In her first meeting with the Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction faced her first real difficulty since her landslide victory and immediately, Governor Mary Fallin spoke out on her behalf.   The Oklahoman is reporting that Barresi was denied the first of her three hires.
“You were not elected dictator,” board member Tim Gilpin said to Barresi about her first recommended hire.

Barresi placed her campaign manager Jennifer Carter on the agenda for the position of chief of staff. Gilpin questioned Carter's qualifications for the position.
Carter's law degree, according to Barresi, qualified her for the $96,000/year position as chief of staff.  More than likely, Carter dealt with much more difficulty during the campaign than she would as COS.  The position of COS has no real qualification requirements, so this could very easily be seen as a response to other statewide elected officials and their questionable hires.  More likely, however, this is a slap in the face to Barresi who has vowed to change how the Education Department has been run in the past.

I mean, really.  Think about it:  Barresi is a dentist, not an educator, and she won statewide support because the citizens of Oklahoma are tired of how ineffectual public education has become.

Governor Fallin issued the following statement:
“The public indicated their support of Superintendent Barresi when they elected her to office. She should clearly be able to appoint her own senior staff, especially given that all of her intended hires are well-qualified. My goal as governor, and Janet Barresi's goal as superintendent, is to improve our schools and help our children. I would hope the Board of Education would join us in that mission rather than engage in the kind of obstructionism and cheap political theatrics they pursued today.”
So, at present, Superintendent Barresi has no COS.  And the story does not tell us what the other two positions were that she was denied.

Read the whole story here.

UPDATE:  Read the McCarville Report and see how even Damon Gardenhire's position has been called into question.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weird Feeling At The Zoo

A week or so, we took the kids to the zoo and had a wonderful time.  It was chilly out, which turned out to be both good and bad.  Good, because it wasn't very crowded.  Bad, because, well, it was cold.  Regardless, the zoo was entertaining and most of the animals were quite active. 

I have enjoyed trips to various zoos since I can remember.  The Seattle Zoo was always a favorite stop for me growing up and once, I had the opportunity to experience the world-famous San Diego Zoo as well.  Exciting and entertaining times that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  I always believed that the animals were being cared for exquisitely and I still do.  But this trip to the zoo, I saw something that I hadn't seen before. 

It seemed as though some of the critters were focused on one thing - finding a way out.

It could have been my imagination.  It could have been the fact that the kids were having fun, but were ready to get out of the cold.  Or, it could be that in my old age, I'm noticing things that I haven't before.

There was one tiger that paced back and forth, would make this unbelievable sound and then lie down.  It wasn't a roar like you hear on television.  It was something else.  I noticed that it laid down facing the enclosure of another tiger.  When we rounded the bend and saw the enclosure, sure enough...the other tiger was laying down facing the first tiger.  Was it socialization they desired?   What was it?  I had never seen that before.

Then, there were the otters.  There were two of them and they would swim around frantically, run to the door where apparently they received their food and then return to their swimming hole where they would entertain the kids tapping on the glass trying to get their attention.  But every once in a while, they would both stop and look up, surveying their enclosure as though they were searching for a way out. 

From there, we cruised over to where the cats where hanging out.  Most were inside their caves, no doubt trying to stay warm.  But there was one that I can't even remember what the heck it was, but it paced constantly, looking up, surveying the enclosure just as the otters had previously. 

It was a strange experience for me.  I do believe that the folks at the zoo care for the animals very well and this is in no way an indictment on the facilities or the staff or personnel of the zoo.  And yes, we will be returning.  I do wonder why, however, at this point in my life I noticed this behavior.  Has it always been that way and I overlooked it in the past?  Probably so.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Live In Strange Times

Judges being charged with crimes, a nutcase shooting and killing people in Tucson, gasoline hitting $3/gallon...and then there's the whole "to the victor go the spoils" thing in Oklahoma politics where elected officials are making some questionable hires.  It is as though we're living in a movie produced by the love child of Oliver Stone and John Waters. 

Here are some of the interesting stories I have run across today.  Thought I would share them with you.

Republican Lawmakers Taking Aim At U.N.:  The newly elected fiscal conservatives are beginning the fat-trimming with a hack at the massive .1% of the budget the United Nations consumes.  The United Nations hasn't been on the Christmas Card list of conservatives (probably because most of the UN members find Christmas offensive), but we have to ask ourselves whether or not this is the way to begin the budget trimming.  My thinking would be to take a long, hard look at earmarks and pork spending.  But what the hell do I know? 

Judicial Races To Be Partisan?  According to a friend of mine who used to serve in the legislature, there is a bill by State Senator Anthony Sykes to make judicial races partisan.  On the other hand, State Representative Randy Grau has authored legislation to make some races non-partisan.  Which is it?  Partisan or non-partisan?  If it's true, Sykes' bill will probably not get too much attention and hopefully will be killed in committee.   That is, unless there are a few of the consultants who spend more time under the methane gas filled dome than do most legislator who decide they like the bill because it represents potential revenue production for them.  My opinion on this is that judicial races should in no way be partisan. 

Felony To Be At A Dog Fight:  Representative Paul Wesselhoft has apparently filed a bill that would make it a felony to simply BE at a dog fight, let alone be a participant.  Keep in mind that this is the same State Representative who wanted to ban pitbulls, to require law enforcement to take a DNA sample at the point of felony arrest...this guy likes the "F" word.  Felony.  How about he author legislation to make it a felony to drive drunk?  Paul is running for the State Senate, facing one of the Tea Party leadership.  I like Paul a lot, but this guy is felony-happy.  We don't need more Nanny State government...we need less.

Democrats Reaching On Esk:  The Democratic chat board, Demookie.com has posted a story on a Tea Party member who is in a bit of trouble with the law, but then goes on to make some pretty interesting allegations and inferences.  The story talks about Charlie Meadows from OCPAC, talks about State Representative Charles Key and mentions a hand-selected group of Esk's Facebook friends - myself included.  The motivation for their reaching in such a manner is suspect and I personally don't like the implications whatsoever.  As one contributor to the thread said, it is "borderline libelous."  But, the Democrats have had their collective asses handed to them in Oklahoma and across the nation so it is really to be expected for them to make huge leaps in order to prove an otherwise unprovable point. 

Ritz To The Rescue:  By now you've probably heard of Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her legal troubles.  First, the District Attorney got her off of the Ersland case, now she's being charged with all kinds of insanity.  Representative Mike Ritz, however, wants to get her booted from the bench.  It's an interesting story and many people tend to agree with the guy.

Well, more to follow...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Doak: Saving Taxpayer Dollars

Okie Doakie
Reducing the size and scope of government.  Returning power to the taxpayers.  Following the Constitution...these were all issues championed by the Republicans in the tidal wave that took place back in November.  And Okie Doak is wasting no time saving some taxpayer dollars by laying off fraud unit personnel.

In a spectacular piece written by the Oklahoman, six investigators will be unemployed at the end of the month (any coincidence that Doak hired three former legislators is, well, coincidental) and will save taxpayers a bunch of money (emphasis, mine):
The six layoffs will save the department about $323,000 a year, Doak said in a news release.
Dan Ramsey, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said he had not heard of Doak's plan to stop investigating allegations of policyholders committing fraud against their insurance companies.
Wondering if the savings is a net savings or if that is factored prior to the hiring of three former legislators?

HVAC Guy Randy Brogdon
The Insurance Commission, however, had a quick and well-planned response that should immediately silence any critics:
Some insurance department investigators told The Oklahoman they believe they were laid off so Doak could use their salaries to hire friends in executive positions, including three former legislators who are being paid $99,000 each to serve as deputy commissioners in his administration. The investigators requested anonymity, saying they were afraid of retribution if their names appeared in the newspaper.
Assistant Insurance Commissioner Rick Farmer denied the allegation, saying Doak saved money elsewhere to pay the deputy commissioner salaries of former state Sen. Brogdon, R-Owasso; former state Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City; and former state Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward.
Ah, well.  There is our answer - nothing to see here, folks, move along.  Doak saved money elsewhere to pay the deputy commissioner salaries of Brogdon, Thompson and Laughlin.  No worries.  We believe you.  Sort of.  We even believe the following:
Doak started out with 124 agency employees and the number will be down to 108 once employees who have been terminated go off the payroll, Farmer said. Doak campaigned under a promise to reduce the size of state government and would like to eliminate a “handful” of additional employees once other positions are evaluated, Farmer said. Reductions so far should save the department about $503,000 a year in payroll costs, plus an additional 25 percent or so in benefit expenses, he said.
Wonder if District Attorney Prater is watching this develop...

Fire some employees so you can hire former legislators.  Makes sense to me.  And there is a savings to the taxpayers of Oklahoma because clearly, previous Insurance Commissioners rarely thought of saving taxpayer dollars or reducing staff size.  Neither did they hire former legislators who are real estate professionals or HVAC guys to be "Deputy Commissioners."  They are more than qualified and experienced to do the job and are already showing their abilities...regardless of what the Oklahoman thinks:
The department receives hundreds of insurance fraud complaints a month and only a small portion could be investigated — even with a staff of nine, an investigator said.
Deputy Commissioner Brogdon, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, will oversee the reorganized anti-fraud division, Farmer said.
Brogdon ran a heating and air-conditioning business before becoming a state senator.  
Some investigators questioned Brogdon's ability to lead an effective fraud unit, saying it takes a while even for trained law enforcement investigators to learn how to work insurance cases.
I hope that you've picked up on some of my sarcasm because I have been laying it on pretty damned thick.  The True Believers in the Republican Party will support Doak in his quest to keep the unemployment rate low for former legislators and they will point to these layoffs as "saving taxpayer dollars."  The rest of us, however, will see it for what it is:  Cronyism.

And by the way, there is rumored to be some stories about the new Labor Commissioner and his political hires coming down the pike pretty soon as well.  That will be fun.