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20
May

Getting to Know: Kevin Matthews, State Senator

In an effort to better acquaint Tulsa citizens with their elected officials, the League has launched a “Getting to Know” initiative. Today, we are featuring Kevin Matthews, who was elected to State Senate District 11 in April of this year.

Kevin Matthews 2012

What will the Senate agenda be for 2015? My 2015 & 2016 agenda remains: prison and legal reform (incarceration reintegration), Education, Economic Development, & Public Safety.

What 3 changes will citizens see under your leadership as (office)? Three changes citizens will see under my leadership: A) Constant access informing constituents of legislative activity i.e. Monthly forums, radio, news releases, social media, speaking, and presence in businesses in the district. B) Large focus on Economic Development-Entrepreneurship & Cooperative Economics. C) Youth Development and mentorship of future leaders.

What is the biggest issue that Tulsa is facing?  Biggest issue Tulsa is facing is no sustainable tax funding for the City. Sales tax is too volatile as a funding source.

What about Tulsa makes you the most proud?  I am proud that Tulsa is the home of Greenwood once known as the Black Wallstreet of America, and Tulsa has produced many world renown scholars, entertainers, and athletes.

Why did you choose to pursue public office?  I ran for office because I felt that I had raised two sons in my home, now my responsibility becomes the community, City, and State, they and their friends may have to live in.

On the weekend, you can find me:  On the weekends you can find me at the barbershop, a restaurant in the district, a community event or a movie.

What is your favorite spot in Tulsa?  The Greenwood District or Mohawk golf course.

What songs would be find on your playlist?  You can always find “Uncle Charlie” Charlie Wilson and Tulsa Gap band music on my playlist.

If your day had 25 hours, what would you use the extra hour forIf I had 25 hours a day my 25th hour would be used reading more biographies of people I admire that I didn’t know, and writing letters and poems to people I do know.

Words to live by:  Words to live by:  Live, Love, and Leave a Legacy.

7
May

Why I’m Optimistic about Education in Oklahoma

BallardKeith

By Dr. Keith Ballard, Superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools

I am optimistic about education in Oklahoma. In my seven years at Tulsa Public Schools, we have made great progress. In 2008, I joined a district that had, in many respects, lost its way. We had buildings in poor repair and classrooms that had fallen behind the times. Our children were not getting the education they deserved – but I believe we have done a lot to remedy that.

Our district’s relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – one of only eight districts nationally – paved the way for our successful Teacher & Leader Effectiveness initiative. With this work, we have proven that the secret to success is having an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective leader in every building. Another outcome was the development of the Tulsa Model, our teacher evaluation system, which has been adopted by more than 500 school districts and career tech centers in Oklahoma. This has helped us to exit ineffective teachers and improved quality in the classroom.

Project Schoolhouse, which resulted in the closing of 14 schools in 2011, demonstrated we had the strength and fortitude to shutter buildings that were under capacity and under-utilized. We collaborated with the community to make hard choices that helped restore equity in programming for our students. Not only did we find nearly $5 million in savings, but we were able to add 22 art, music and P.E. teachers in order to give our children more. We also reorganized middle schools and reformulated Will Rogers as a College High School, enabling students to earn college credit at TCC while in high school.

Along the way, we passed three significant bond issues, two of which were the largest ever in the state’s history, at $354 million (in 2010), and the most recent at $415 million. The triumphant passage of the latest bond in March was a resounding victory, with all four propositions passing by 85 percent approval. This greatly exceeded the supermajority required by law, and is proof positive that Tulsans believe that TPS is moving in the right direction.

With this support, we will provide every student with a laptop, desktop or tablet. This will level economic disparities and close the technology gap for all students.

We will construct storm shelters in all future building additions that will double as libraries or classroom space.

We will create a centralized Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Center to ensure all students have the skills critical to participating in tomorrow’s workforce.

Last, we will reimagine Emerson Elementary as a downtown-serving school, doubling it in size and providing another option for families living and working in our city center.

We’ve formed amazing partnerships along the way, enabling us to better serve children. Our partnership with Teach For America has enabled us to get these young people into our classrooms who want to make a difference. TFA has helped us to vastly improve participation and results in our summer program. They have been critical in helping us to fill teacher vacancies during the teacher shortage.

Other great partnerships include the Growing Together initiative in the Kendall-Whittier community, City Year, Reading Partners and our many active corporate helpers in Partners in Education. (I have personally witnessed the power of Reading Partners through my own tutoring, and would encourage everyone to do it!) Thanks, also, to our supportive donor community. I am humbled to serve in such an extraordinary, generous community.

There have been many other successes, and I cannot possibly name them all. As I get ready to leave this job, which has been one of the most fulfilling in my life, I feel like I am leaving things in good hands. I have had the pleasure of working with one of the most supportive boards a superintendent could ever have. My thanks to all who have given so generously of their time.

I would like to leave you with one passing thought. Please help TPS to stay the course as we continue to fight the good fight. Ignore the naysayers and those intent on doing harm to the public school system.

In spite of my optimism, I have many concerns: Concerns about the inadequate funding of public education, the teacher shortage and teacher pay. I share parent concerns about over-testing of our students and the high-stakes testing that determines a student’s fate with a single test.

Let’s give our students at public schools our very best. If we have the political will to give them our very best, then public schools will not only succeed, but flourish.

Thank you!

23
Apr

Getting to Know: Anna America, City Councilor

In an effort to better acquaint Tulsa citizens with their elected officials, the League has launched a “Getting to Know” initiative. Today, we are featuring Anna America, who was elected as City Councilor for District 7 in November of 2014.

anna america

What is your agenda as City Councilor for 2015?

To make sure the issues and concerns of District 7 are represented and addressed, and that overall as a city we are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Some of the major District 7 issues on the list so far: Streets — ensuring we have good streets that adequately deal with the growth we are seeing in some areas, particularly along Mingo Road, and that we use all the tools at our disposal (street widening, better traffic signalization, etc.) to help South Tulsans get around safely and efficiently as possible; Public Safety — as we look at a possible Public Safety initiative, one priority will be in ensuring we include support for improving “neighborhood safety” — things like auto break-ins, burglaries, etc., that plague many of our neighborhoods, and that we also do a better job of reducing traffic accidents — 7 of the top 10 most dangerous intersections in the city are in District 7, and that needs to be improved;  Business — working with neighborhoods and the business community to strengthen and support the aging retail areas in the District so they can continue to thrive (and generate the sales tax that supports the city!).

What 3 changes will citizens see under your leadership as City Councilor?

More communication with and engagement of District 7 citizens — I am holding regular Town Halls for citizens to voice their concerns, have established a District 7 Facebook page and send a monthly email; Better representation for District 7 on issues; Strong advocate citywide on a number of issues, including neighborhoods, retail business and working collaboratively with schools.

What is the biggest issue that Tulsa is facing?

For city government, declining sales tax revenue (the primary method of funding city operations), which has resulted in reductions in key services (public safety, streets maintenance, parks, etc.).

What about Tulsa makes you the most proud?

Hands down the people. We might disagree on specific issues, but we are a resilient, funny, generous, hard-working and friendly group that will come together to solve problems and help one another.

Why did you choose to pursue public office?

I want to do what I can to make sure that Tulsa is the best it can be, and remains the kind of place I want my kids to grow up in — and maybe choose to live in themselves as adults.

On the weekend, you can find me:

Usually at some kind of sports field — both my kids play competitive soccer; my 13-year-old daughter also plays volleyball and soccer for Carver Middle School, and my 16-year-old son plays soccer and football for Booker T. Washington High School.

What is your favorite spot in Tulsa?

My backyard on a nice evening hanging out with my family and friends.

What songs would be find on your playlist?

Crazy mix that changes week to week. The last 5 songs I called up: “It’s a Wonderful World,” Eva Cassidy version; “Honey I’m Good,” Andy Grammer, “FourFive Seconds” Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney; “Werewolves of London,” Warren Zevon; and “Raise Your Glass,” Pink.

If your day had 25 hours, what would you use the extra hour for:

Catching up on email!

Words to live by:

So many great sayings! My favorite this week: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –Dr. Suess

21
Apr

Earth Day guest blog: Barbara VanHanken

The following is a guest blog written Barbara VanHanken, League of Women Voters Board Member and Oklahoma Sierra Club Chair.

barbara vanhanken

This is the 45th year our nation is celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd! Over these many years, we have seen our natural resources being depleted resulting in increased air pollution, water scarcity and our land and oceans being depleted and poisoned by dirty energy and other developments. Today, our Congress and our state legislature seem to have declared a “war on the environment” with proposed new legislation and renewed challenges against the Environmental Protection Agency, which was also established in 1970.

Where once we recognized that the insecticide DDT would weaken the egg shells of our national treasure, the American Bald Eagle, and we acted to stop its indiscriminant use; we now must fight to keep our air, water and soil clean from unhealthy contamination. Many of our leaders are looking away from the agreement of 95% of our scientists that climate change is a huge developing problem and that we must act to stop it.

Locally in Oklahoma, there are strong forces working to limit local municipalities from protecting their residents and property. SB 809 sponsored by House Speaker Hickman and Senate Leader Brian Bingman is working its way through the process and when passed, it will limit local government’s ability to govern themselves regarding actions by the oil and gas industry.

Oklahoma is the Earthquake Capital in our nation today!

Yet our legislature busies themselves with issues like limiting local municipal authority, assessing fines for lost mineral rights in towns, and a “right to harm” bill, HJR 1012, that when passed, will allow any farm, agriculture and ranching operation to use any means without regard to effects on our air and water quality or the humane treatment of our farm animals. This bill shields industrial agriculture from the democratic process. Our farmers and ranchers already have the right to farm as they have for generations.

We have work to do! For updates and calls to action on these and many other issues, be sure to “like” the Oklahoma Sierra Club on Facebook.

– Barbara VanHanken, League of Women Voters Board Member and Oklahoma Sierra Club Chair

20
Apr

May/Summer 2015 Unit Meetings

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Thank you for joining the LWVMT’s Unit Meetings this past year. Your input is what makes these meetings successful.

Oklahoma League members want their organization to take a more active role as an advocacy organization. To accomplish this goal, the LWVOK began a 2014-2015 study titled: “Renewing our commitment to Action” – a study of its public policy positions.

The Tulsa league joined the Oklahoma League’s study. Our members spent 4 months reviewing Oklahoma’s “Program for Action” book and making recommendations to bring its policies up to date. Twenty members attended January’s consensus meeting. Our final report to the LWVOK contained recommendations for revision or update to all twenty-one current state policy positions.

Since January, Tulsa’s Unit Meetings have met regularly on a monthly basis. Discussion focused on various topics before the state legislature. The Program Committee will give its Annual Report at the LWVMT’s meeting on June 2. We hope to see you there.

May and Summer Unit Meetings:

The members of each Tulsa Unit will decide if they are going to meet in May and during the summer months. The topics for discussion will be decided by the members of each unit. If you have a question or want more information, please email or phone the Tulsa League office: info@lwvTulsa.org, 918-747-7933.

Unit Meeting Dates

Midtown: 11:30 to 1 pm on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at the League office, 3336 E. 32nd. Lunch and visitation 11:30 (bring your own sandwich) Meeting 12:00 pm.

North Tulsa Unit: Noon to 1:00 pm on the 4th Monday of the month at the Rudisill Library at 1520 N. Hartford Avenue.

Breakfast Unit:  Will meet on May 19 (one week earlier than usual) at the Atlas Grill, 415 S. Boston at 7 am.

Have a nice summer! We will see you in September.

Julie Gustafson
Chair, LWVMT Program Committee