STILLWATER, Okla. —
Another school year has started. You bought the clothes and supplies, signed the slips that go with extracurricular activities, met the teachers, know the schedule, have already attended a couple of games — all familiar routines by now if your child is a teenager.
And maybe this is the first time you’ve let your child drive to school by themselves. Have you prepared them for that education as well as you have for their academic education?
You might look at me and say, “Of course I have. Do you think I don’t care about my child? They took driver’s training.” If that’s your reply, I commend you, because driver’s training is a good thing, especially with the instructors we have here in Stillwater.
But wait, something is still missing. Have you also taught your child how to be a good passenger? How to say “No! Let me out!” if they feel their teen driver friends are taking too many risky chances? Have you assured them they can call you any time, with no repercussions, if that happens?
Take it from me, they need to know that they can.
Miss you, Ben (7/29/86 – 10/14/01).
Politics have been interesting lately in Stillwater.
This May the mayor, Nathan Bates, survived an election to recall him from office, by a margin of four votes. Now he has been indicted on felony charges that allege misusing his status as a public official and the computer provided to him at the expense of the taxpayers for personal gain.
He hasn't been convicted yet so in all fairness he deserves the presumption of innocence but evidence of his character has been stacking against him since 2009. He has been accused of public drunkenness and soliciting young woman to expose herself in public and now with the formal indictment from the courts he faces the formal accusation of grave wrongdoing.
Whether Mayor Bates abused his office for personal gain is yet to be seen. The courts can be expected to perform their obligation to the public to find the truth in this matter.
Regardless of the court's decision, Nathan Bates is bad for Stillwater. Whether he did in fact abuse his office for personal gain or not, his lack of political aptitude has absorbed city resources and caused an embarrassing stain on this town's political legacy.
Due to his lack of tact and bullheaded support of unpopular legislation, Bates has placed himself in a position of political ineptitude. A politician who cannot manage to enact any legislation could simply be replaced with an official stamp and a recording of an acting student delivering a self promoting monologue - the checks could get signed and we could listen to someone talk about how great they are without having to worry about them using city property to commit felonies.
In an interview with Mike Pilosof posted on the website K101online.com on Dec. 4, 2009, Bates discussed his political motives:
“At my age, it's obviously a lot more important that we strive harder to try and prove ourselves that we have the capability to maintain leadership, we have, really, the motivation to perform all the duties and to really act like we're there for a purpose and not just there to get a bullet on our resume … ”
... who doesn't want a bullet on their resume that says they were a mayor before the age of 30? Bates continues in the interview to more plainly clarify his motives:
“ … honestly, you know, I put myself into debt just to try and stay in office. I've gotten extra student loans to maintain bills and maxed out my G.I. bill every month just so I could continue to serve out here. It has nothing but, you know, pure altruistic motive here to try and serve the city of Stillwater to the best of my ability.”
This statement by Bates further raises the question of why. Why go into debt just to be the mayor of a town, especially when you can't seem to do anything but make enemies and act in such a disgraceful manner that concerned residents must resort to a petition to recall you from office?
Now in the face of a felony indictment, Bates still refuses to resign.
Whatever your motives, Nathan Bates, it's time to give up. How much more embarrassment will you bring to this town?
In this election year when so many issues affecting the country’s future are to be decided, it would be wise to consider not just the issues, but how those issues will be implemented by whoever wins the election. Let’s look at some of them.
Government waste: I have yet to meet a politician who even knows where the waste is, let alone what to do about it. I have worked for state agencies for 36 years in four states. Out of nearly 300 forestry projects, only four were ever audited. The auditors looked at who spent the money and what on, but never considered whether the projects accomplished what they were supposed to.
In 36 years, I can recall only three equipment and property inventories and those were for capital items only - items that cost more than $200. In one inventory, the auditors discovered a stamping press they had no record of, miles of wire and fence-building supplies that weren’t on the records and that two chain saws were missing.
You can’t eliminate waste if you don’t even know what you own and where it is. A government-wide (both state and federal) inventory is needed and it needs to be repeated annually. Only then will we have any real idea of where the money is going. In the meantime, being against government waste is nothing more than a campaign promise.
Any real reductions in spending mean cutting military budgets. There aren’t any other places it can come from. More than 30 percent of the federal budget goes to the military, and that doesn’t count hidden expenditures in non-military budgets.
For example, nuclear weapons are manufactured, not by the Defense Department but by the Department of Energy. Thus, they do not appear in military budgets.
Medical care for disabled veterans is handled by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Military appropriations don’t go to them.
When hidden costs, such as interest on deficit military spending, are added, the total cost of current and past wars nearly doubles.
Balancing the federal budget will mean closing bases and probably laying off civilian employees. And some of that must come from Oklahoma. Balancing the federal budget will cost Oklahoma jobs, but maybe it’s time to bite the bullet.
If the barbarity of capital punishment isn’t enough to dissuade a serious voter, then its cost should be. It is far cheaper to incarcerate a prisoner for life than to go through all the appeals and other safeguards built into our legal system. Capital punishment, as a deterrent, doesn’t work. Serious budget cutting calls for the elimination of the death penalty.
Frivolous lawsuits are filed by grandstanding politicians solely for their appeal to the voters. It looks good to the constituents to see their congressman taking on the federal government, even when there is little, if any, hope of winning and the entire expense to both sides of the issue has to be paid by taxpayers. This is government waste on a huge scale and it is perpetrated, not by bureaucrats, but by the very people we elect.
Beware the politician who is going to fight for Oklahoma values. When he gets to Washington he will meet other politicians who are fighting for Massachusetts values and California values. If he antagonizes these folks, they will dig in their heels and vote against everything he wants. If you want to make some gains for Oklahoma values, you need to concede some gains for New England values. Don’t send a fighter to Washington. Send a deal maker, a negotiator.
In 2009, personal income taxes were at their lowest point since the 1960s. Any politician who has a vision of what America could be knows that vision will cost money and that money has to come from somewhere. And there are some good deals out there we could get if we were willing to raise taxes just a little. Example: Auto insurance premiums could be eliminated with a state-run insurance pool paid for with an at-the-pump tax on fuel, combined with no-fault insurance for property damage. I’d happily pay an extra $700 in taxes to eliminate my $2,500-a-year vehicle insurance payments.
And there are hundreds of similar ideas. How about eliminating Stillwater’s hidden markups on the electricity you pay for every month on your utility bill? In effect, it’s a tax. When the fuels allowance is figured in, wind power (which does not pay the fuels depletion charge) is cheaper than fossil fuels, but the city can’t charge sales tax on wind power, so we pay the taxes.
If America, Oklahoma or Stillwater is ever to reach its potential, money must be spent. And that money must be raised. Anti-government rhetoric is a by-product of a lack of vision for the future.
Doug and Cynthia Stevenson
Salute Town and Gown
Town and Gown outdid itself with the recent play “Tuna Christmas” a comedy starring Seth Phillips and Kyle Shifflett. The performance equaled anything by Jackie Gleason or Carol Burnett. These guys played 11 different characters each. The comedy was so professional that I saw tears of joy in the faces of the audience.
Who will ever forget the role of Didi Snavely who runs the “Used Weapons” shop. Her slogan was “if we can’t kill it, it is immortal.” Thank you Mr. Shifflett and Phillips for sharing your comedic talents with Stillwater.
Dr. Sidney Williams
On Tuesday I called the Stillwater Street Department about a sidewalk problem along McElroy street. On Wednesday the city crew was there and the problem was repaired.
Thanks, guys, for a job promptly and well done.
While I hate to sound like a grumpy old prude, I feel compelled to express my displeasure with a portion of one of the halftime performances at the Stillwater Pioneers football game on Oct. 1.
The Pioneer cheerleaders delivered a spirited and funky dance routine accompanied by an up-tempo, mostly hip-hop soundtrack.
Their routine was fun and flirty and energetic, and it displayed the athleticism and coordination that has come to characterize sports cheering. I want to congratulate the squad for that.
The lyrics in at least one of the songs sampled, however, were far beyond the pale. This was a high school football game, not a stag party. Can we please clean it up a bit?
Comedy Central isn't always about comedy, per se. Jon Stewart, on 9/30/10, spent at least 10 minutes on his 'Daily Show' castigating and ridiculing Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn for holds put on various Senate bills. Stewart's particular concern: the $5 million aid for the sick and starving people of Haiti.
But, the wise and knowledgeable people of Oklahoma love Sen. Coburn, in finitum to the Nth power, and that's their right. But his nation-known penchant for delaying tactics is ad nauseam to the Nth power.
Another Outside-the Box person: Afghani Pres. Hamkid Karzai. ... The U.S. is in the dilemma of can't live with him - can't live without him. What's a body gonna do?