Archive for Soonerland

Not a clean getaway

Florida has its own Fark tag. We don’t. But it looks like we’re working on it:

A Connerville man got caught taking a bath in someone else’s home [Thursday] evening, after running from police while in handcuffs.

Shortly after 5 p.m., 35-year-old Justin Pollock was pulled over for speeding on State Highway 99 in Connerville.

An Oklahoma highway patrolman found marijuana, put him in handcuffs, and put him in the front of the trooper’s car. But while the trooper was searching Pollock’s van, Pollock maneuvered the cuffs to the front and got out, before running to his van and driving off.

He abandoned his car in some trees of a close by parking lot, and was found in a home around 6.

Charges, of course, were filed:

He has been charged with felony drug possession, felony evading arrest, escape and burglary.

At least he didn’t stink at the time.

(With thanks to Fillyjonk.)

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Leave it blank

An Oklahoman editorial from yesterday:

Trump’s victory in Oklahoma was among the most lopsided in all 50 states. Yet he achieved that domination while attracting fewer Oklahoma voters than [George W.] Bush or McCain. Perhaps Trump did draw new voters out of the woodwork in Oklahoma. But if so, it seems he may have also prompted some traditional GOP voters to sit this election out.

The #NeverTrump hashtag bunch perhaps saw that it had no place to go; independent Evan McMullin wasn’t on the ballot and couldn’t be put there. (We have no provision for write-ins.)

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A bit of the ultra-violets

I’ve long characterized my neck of the woods as neither fully red nor blue, but somewhere in between. This year’s precinct numbers suggest it’s getting slightly bluer:

President: Hillary Clinton (D) 687, Donald Trump (R) 519, Gary Johnson (L) 137.

Senate: James Lankford (R) 624, Mike Workman (D) 559, Robert Murphy (L) 69; independents 102.

Congress: Al McAffrey (D) 658, Steve Russell (R) 586, Zachary Knight (L) 97.

HD87: Collin Walke (D) 715, Bruce Lee Smith (R) 506, Elle Collins (L) 117.

Only one state question garnered 1000 Yes votes: 780, the simplification of drug penalties.

Previous red/blue balances: 2012; 2010.

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And the earth tries to swallow once more

Five point three.

If that magnitude holds up, it will be the fourth largest earthquake in state history.

That in itself is sort of newsy, but this is worse. Adam Wilmoth reports energy stuff for the Oklahoman:

I mean, we’re talking pipelines in every direction except straight up.

The sensation was weird: I heard what I thought was wind over the back fence, and the rumble moved forward, clearing the house in about 35 seconds. No damage here that I can tell, but then I’m pretty far away.

Update, 8:40 pm: Downgraded to 5.0. Now #5 on the all-time list.

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Is we edumacated good?

A letter to the Oklahoman starts off reasonably and then shoots itself in the foot at the end:

Remember House Bill 1017? Wagering on horse racing? Liquor by the drink? Lottery? All these things were supposed to provide more money for the schools. In addition, 78 percent of our property tax goes to the schools. Irresponsible spending needs to be reined in. Those in power continue to resist school consolidation. Anyone who lives on a budget could tell them that if superintendents were reduced to one per county (with an assistant in the larger counties), there would be money to pay teachers a raise without having to tax the people again. I ask, respectfully and without malice, why classroom teachers are so quiet on the subject when the solutions seem so obvious?

Perhaps they figure that consolidating a dozen school districts into one will cost more than just administrative jobs.

Then the argument goes off the rails:

Here in Krebs-McAlester, we are taxed at 10 percent. The raise would put us at 11 percent. For every $100 we have to spend for groceries, it will cost us an additional $11. There are many who are finding it difficult already. There must be another path to helping the classroom teachers without causing more hardship to low-income people.

Sales tax in Krebs is indeed 10 percent: 4.5 state, 4.0 city, 1.5 Pittsburg County. The tax on $100 worth of groceries is therefore $10. Increasing the tax rate to 11 percent will mean that the tax on $100 worth of groceries will be, um, $11. This is an additional dollar, not “an additional $11.”

If this is the prevailing arithmetic out there, no wonder many are finding it difficult.

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We were warned

Two Sundays ago, there was an email from the Oklahoman apologizing for late delivery: “You may be aware that as of Monday our production and manufacturing of the newspaper is now being completed in Tulsa.”

Inevitably, this additional hour or so of processing time — I assume the content is delivered to Tulsa electronically, but the actual papers have to come back down the Turner Turnpike — leads to this sort of thing:

Editor's note from the Oklahoman 10-22-16

So this might have been predictable:

And likewise this, the following morning:

But hey, they saved some money, so it’s all good.

Oh, OU beat Texas Tech, 66-59, which sounds for all the world like a basketball score.

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Propositions put forth

In addition to the stuff I expected in the absentee-ballot package, I found a yellow sheet: bonds. School bonds. Oklahoma City Public Schools wants to borrow some serious cash:

  • $106,340,000: “acquiring or improving school sites, constructing, repairing, remodeling and equipping school buildings, and acquiring school furniture, fixtures and equipment.”
  • $54,460,000: “acquiring or improving school sites, constructing, repairing, remodeling and equipping school buildings, and acquiring school furniture, fixtures and equipment.” My guess is that this one is the fallback position: “if we can’t have a hundred million, can we at least have fifty?”
  • $19,200,000: “acquiring transportation equipment.”

For what it’s worth, OKCPS is growing rather speedily of late: long the second-largest district in the state, they passed first-place Tulsa several years ago. And the district has been frank about its problems:

“In addition to our current $30-million dollar budget shortfall, we have dire basic needs throughout the district,” said OKCPS Superintendent Aurora Lora. “Our air conditioning deficiencies in schools have been well documented the past few weeks; an aging bus fleet continues to be a major financial burden, and most of our students don’t have modern classroom technology.”

In typical Oklahoma practice, these bonds will fill in a space vacated by bonds from many years ago, now retired; this enables the claim that no actual tax increase is involved. Last year, OKCPS received about 52 percent of the tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood.

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The A word

That word is “affordable,” and as usual, it doesn’t mean what everyone was taught it meant:

Health insurance premiums will likely increase by an average of 76 percent for Oklahomans who buy individual coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. The increases for individual market plans range from 58 percent to 96 percent.

“These jaw-dropping increases make it clear that Oklahoma’s exchange is on life support,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Health insurers are losing massive amounts of money. If they don’t raise rates they’ll go out of business. This system has been doomed from the beginning.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the only health insurer offering plans on the federal exchange in 2017, submitted the increases to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS will determine if the increases are reasonable. The increase requests follow many insurers reporting significant losses, lower than expected enrollment by the younger population and new customers being sicker than expected. ACA-compliant off-exchange individual plans sold by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma will see the same increases as plans sold on the exchange.

UnitedHealthcare, which was on the exchange last year, has withdrawn.

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Fobbed off

Kimberly Fobbs, you might infer from her yard signs, is running for Senate District 33:

Kimberly Fobbes yard sign, photo by Jameson Faught

“Republicans” being the third-largest word on the sign, you might think Fobbs is a member of the GOP. She isn’t; she’s the Democratic challenger to Republican incumbent Nathan Dahm.

Jamison Faught explains why this is happening:

In the 6th most Republican district (59.29% Republican to 27.82% Democrat), it’s not surprised that Democrats would try this.

In an era where a Democrat can actually win the Republican presidential nomination, I’m surprised we’ve seen so little of this sort of thing.

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Your 2016 State Questions

I can stand two of them, maybe. The other five, I want nothing to do with.

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Rattle and hum and more rattle

About two minutes after seven, I heard it: like thunder, but without all that aerial ballet.

And then I felt what must have been a groundwave, north to south, causing all sorts of unexpected jiggliness in my week-old bed and then moving on.

It came out like this:

I note that 5.6 is what we had on a November evening in 2011.

Pawnee, about an hour and a half west of Tulsa, got the worst of it:

But there were reports of falling bricks as far away as Oklahoma City.

Update, 7 September: USGS now says it’s a 5.8.

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The dreaded E30

Ten percent ethanol is on the ragged edge of acceptable for motor fuels. The jerks who push this stuff for a living want fifteen. But thirty simply will not do [warning: autostart video]:

State regulators say about 450,000 gallons of gasoline containing three times the acceptable level of ethanol was delivered to retailers across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area over the last week.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported Tuesday that they were notified by Magellan Midstream Partners that the problem resulted from an equipment failure at its Oklahoma City fuel distribution terminal.

Magellan says it is still working to determine the retail locations where the gas with up to 30 percent ethanol was delivered.

The Corp Comm’s position is that Magellan will have to locate all these stores and replenish their stock with proper fuels; Magellan, to their credit, is okay with that. They do, after all, have a reputation to protect.

As for me, I haven’t had to gas up since late June, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any of this adulterated stuff.

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Almost rhymes with “invidious”

Apparently the only reason we need these is because the state wants to bank the bulk of a five-buck new-plate fee:

Official 2018 Oklahoma license plate design

Me, I’m with this TLO commenter:

Why not use an image of mistletoe? A parasitic state flower seems more appropriate to represent our current government leaders.

Indeed. Then again, you’ve already seen my best thinking on the subject.

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How did he do that?

From page 7A in this morning’s Oklahoman:

Flooding in the Illinois Valley in December provided by Ed Fite, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission

Really, Ed? You brought down that much flood water?

(Captioning is an art. So is punctuation.)

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As the dogs and the cats frolic together

We have here a curious case where The Oklahoman thinks some of us are insufficiently taxed:

[S]ome Oklahoma counties have failed to assess properties at market value and collect the associated property taxes.

A study prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission at the request of State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones and Oklahoma Watch found 52 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties failed to collect $192 million in property tax revenue in 2014. That shortfall was created by county assessors who didn’t appraise property at market values.

The big counties, which have their own systems, seem to be doing okay, but the smaller ones, part of a multi-county computer system, maybe not so much:

In Pottawatomie County, for example, the study concluded residential property valuations were 16 percent below market value, and commercial property valuations were 24 percent too low.

In Pittsburg County, residential properties were 19 percent undervalued and commercial property was 54 percent below market rates.

Assessors in 16 counties have done such a bad job that the state Board of Equalization has warned that those counties’ assessors could have their paychecks suspended and their offices taken over by the state. Those counties are Adair, Bryan, Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Johnston, Latimer, McCurtain, Murray, Nowata, Okfuskee, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pushmataha, Seminole and Texas.

Of course, trying to fix this will cause all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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Gentlemen clubbed

The sort-of-infamous town of Valley Brook, which occupies a quarter of a square mile surrounded on all sides by southeast Oklahoma City, is known mostly for strip clubs and speed traps. The town budget, tucked into the Oklahoman’s Classified section Tuesday, would seem to bear that out:

Valley Brook budget FY 2017

Wonder what that $125,000 in “transfers out” bought them.

The population of Valley Brook is somewhere around 800.

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Primary concern

If I’m discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, well, it occurs to me that the polling place for my precinct is on my way home, and if I’m actually able to walk, something I haven’t been in the last few days, I ought to drop in and fill out a ballot. I haven’t missed an election since 1990 or so, and I’d hate to start now.

Before you ask: Early voting started last Thursday; I wasn’t in any condition to leave the house. And earlier on, it would not have occurred to me to ask for an absentee ballot, because I didn’t have any expectations of being absent.

Addendum: Obviously this is not happening.

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Dragged into the next century

From 2010:

Last month, you’ll remember, privately-owned (but Senate-appointed) tag agents registered their displeasure with the state’s plan to process orders over the Web, which might put a dent in their business model.

Displeasure duly noted, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has now opened up that Web site and bestowed upon it the incredibly-obvious acronym CARS, which stands for “Convenient Auto Renewal System.”

At the time, I noted that this wasn’t likely to change my own habits; I have an agent of choice, and I’ve been going there for a decade or so.

Then again, I spent none of that decade in the hospital. And now that I’m at an appalling level of incapacitation, now is the time to learn the online stuff.

Elapsed time: about six minutes. Trickiest bit was on insurance verification, where they have options for either name or NAIC number of insurer: perhaps they never expected anyone actually to have the NAIC number. There’s a $1.50 fee. And some time next week, right about the time the old year tab expires, I should have a new one. I just hope I feel well enough to put it in place.

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Some limit that was

By any reasonable standard, Oklahomans could have been considered enthusiastic for term limits; when State Question 632 made it to the ballot in 1990, it passed with more than 67 percent approval. Has incumbent turnover increased? Not so much:

One knock on term limits is that they artificially remove lawmakers with institutional memory, people who’ve been around the block enough times to anticipate problems. That point is not without merit, but Oklahoma’s 12-year term limit for state legislators is hardly draconian. This year provides a reminder. In the House of Representatives, 19 lawmakers are being forced out by term limits. But another 11 are leaving voluntarily, meaning more than one-third of open seats have nothing to do with term limits. For many people, the allure of legislative office is eventually outweighed by the perceived benefits of running for another office or returning to the private sector well before term limits kick in. This is one reason the Oklahoma Policy Institute found the average length of service for House members was greater in 2014 than in 1990. While term limits may slightly increase legislative turnover, their impact appears marginal.

I wonder how much the fat raise given to legislators in 1997 — they now make $38,400 a year plus per diem — might be a factor; some of these guys, you wonder if they could survive in the private sector.

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Checking one’s hindsight (1)

Note: The following originally appeared in Vent #10, from this week in 1996.

Occasional Baptist counterexamples notwithstanding, the true religion of Oklahoma is football, which explains why two of the state’s Representatives (out of six) are former college football players who have little else to recommend them. The First District’s Steve Largent, recently stroked by America’s leading political magazine — People Weekly — is owned and operated by the Pat Robertson crowd, and this always plays well in Tulsa, which is, after all, Oral Roberts’ home base. Largent, therefore, will probably survive this fall. More troublesome for the GOP is Julius Caesar Watts, installed in the Fourth District seat after spending a couple of years on the Corporation Commission shilling for utility companies. In the House, he rails against all government programs except the one that enabled him to buy a distressed Midwest City apartment complex dirt-cheap. And remember all that yammering about how Congress shouldn’t exempt itself from the laws it inflicts on the public sector? Our friend J. C. has managed to exempt a mere 94 percent of his staff from the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Steve Largent, by comparison, has fully a third of his staff covered, which by this state’s standards borders on commendable. The Tulsa World covered all this during the spring, if anyone is curious.) Word is now out that Watts turned a profit on his investment with Hillary-like speed, which automatically arouses suspicion around Dustbury, and this could well cost him his seat come November.

As it happens, neither Largent nor Watts had anything to worry about in the ’96 election, or the next two. Largent gave up his seat in 2002 to run for Governor, but was beaten by Brad Henry. Watts left in 2002 to sort of return to the private sector; he’s now CEO of the no-longer-scandal-ridden charity Feed the Children.

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Punchline to the world

Some people think of this state as a laughingstock. Others cry over its failings. Me, I figure what goes around eventually comes around.

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Number deleted

There was some brief outcry earlier this week when Governor Fallin signed House Bill 3167; apparently some people thought this meant that speed limits in this state were canceled. It means, of course, nothing of the sort:

The speed limit set for the turnpikes, interstates and other state highways was erased in a bill, signed by the Governor Monday. That doesn’t eliminate current speed limits, but eliminates the maximum that was once set by law.

House Bill 3167 deletes the section of the law prescribing a maximum speed limit.

It replaces it with the following: “On a highway or part of a highway, unless otherwise established in law, a speed established by the Department of Transportation on the basis of engineering and traffic investigations used to determine the speed that is reasonable and safe under the conditions found to exist on the highway or part of the highway.”

Before that, there was a hard limit: 75 mph and no more.

ODOT, for its part, isn’t suggesting anything:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation did not request the bill and did not oppose it, said Terri Angier, an agency spokeswoman.

The department has “no intention of raising any of the speed limits across the board on any of the highways, but it allows us to look at specific situations, if requested,” she said.

We’ll see 80 on the Turner Turnpike by this time next year. And the nimrods who currently drive 84 in a 75 zone will — well, actually, I’m not sure what they’ll do. About eight years ago, during a brief blast down a Texas highway posted at 80, I seldom saw anyone going much faster than 82 or 83.

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Dollars here, dollars there

The apparently not-dead-yet Ted Cruz — at least, that’s the name in the From field — has issued this blurb on behalf of Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma’s 1st District:

There are hundreds of congressional races taking place across the country this year, but this election in Oklahoma is especially important.

Jim Bridenstine is one of the top conservative leaders in the House today and he isn’t afraid to stand up to the powerful interests in Washington.

He has fought to stop Obamacare, to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty, and to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money.

Time after time, Jim has stood with me and other conservatives in Congress to defend the Constitution, and now he needs your help.

The Washington establishment has recruited a candidate to run against Jim in the June 28th Republican primary election. He’s a threat to the Beltway insiders so they are determined to defeat him.

*Please join me in supporting this outstanding conservative leader by making a contribution to his campaign today.*

Some of us down here in Soonerland are, shall we say, suspicious of solicitations for out-of-state money. And we know this is going out of state, because Ted Cruz and/or his fellow travelers in this particular PAC didn’t send this to me; it was sent to good old Roger Green in Albany, New York, who isn’t the least likely person on earth to send a contribution to the Jim Bridenstine campaign, but he’s a long way from the top of the list, if you know what I mean.

There is no Democrat running in the First District, which should give you an idea of how this area skews politically. (There is an Independent in the race.) Tom Atkinson, the “establishment” Republican candidate, actually considered running against Bridenstine two years ago, but eventually thought better of it. With Bridenstine vowing to serve a maximum of three terms — he’s completed two — Atkinson may actually get a chance in 2018.

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Didn’t need this after all

From page A5 of yesterday’s Oklahoman:

Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan is giving campaign donors their money back.

The District 2 commissioner secured a third term earlier this month when the deadline passed without an opponent filing for the seat. Maughan says he returned $75,810.11 to 372 donors after deducting expenses.

Maughan had geared up for a challenge after others announced plans to run. Maughan says each donor got back about 79 percent of what they contributed.

I suppose the scary aspect of this is that it takes about a hundred grand to run for County Commissioner, at least in a county this size. (There are 77 counties in Oklahoma, each divided into three districts.)

Still, this is a far better return on investment than a donor normally gets without Actual Graft.

Maughan’s campaign Web site is still up, though it probably doesn’t cost a whole lot.

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Scraping by

And doing it well, one would think:

Custom Dental sign in Newcastle, Oklahoma

Newcastle is the city at the north end of McClain County, Oklahoma; it has about 10,000 people.

(From Dorkly via Miss Cellania. Originally I was going to set this piece to the Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941” — “Have you seen my ass, Dr. Jones? Do you know what it’s like on the inside?” Taste prevailed, kinda sorta.)

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This doesn’t look like a primary

The last two elections, we had more than 50 (!) legislative incumbents returned to office because they didn’t draw any opposition. This year, not so much. There are no unchallenged Senators, and only a handful of House members got a free pass:

  • H22: Charles A. McCall (R-Atoka)
  • H24: Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs)
  • H34: Cory T. Williams (D-Stillwater)
  • H35: Dennis Casey (R-Morrison)
  • H37: Steven E. Vaughan (R-Ponca City)
  • H38: John Pfeiffer (R-Orlando)
  • H48: Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore)
  • H57: Harold Wright (R-Weatherford)
  • H59: Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher)
  • H68: Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa)
  • H77: Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa)
  • H88: Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City)
  • H90: John Echols (R-Oklahoma City)

Of these thirteen, nine appeared on the 2014 list.

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It’s starting to look like a primary

Collin Walke, who ran for House District 87 two years ago and was beaten by incumbent Jason Nelson, is trying again, now that Nelson’s out of the running. (He left a small flyer on my door some time between 11:30 and 1 yesterday.) He’s the second Democrat I’ve heard from, following the opening salvo last week by Kelly Meredith. And there won’t be any more: no other Democrats filed before the end of the official filing period Friday.

Meanwhile, four Republicans have signed up to take a stab at it, and with this year’s actual recognition of the party, there’s a Libertarian; in fact, the LP has sixteen candidates for 2016, and there will be an actual Libertarian primary, there being two candidates for Senator James Lankford’s seat.

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Greater Scott

Scott Inman is the Minority Leader in the Oklahoma House, charged with keeping the Democrats more or less in line. He has a short bio in Wikipedia, which used to be a lot longer before this section was excised:

Bogus biographical details about Scott Inman

Okay, we get it: Scott Inman is not Aquaman.

Inman’s comment upon reading this:

[M]y friends have a unique and clever sense of humor. And apparently they have a lot of time on their hands too.

(Via Phil Cross at Fox 25. He didn’t do it, I’m pretty sure.)

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Department of Subtle Reminders

For just about as long as I can remember, whenever OG&E has had a rate case pending, there’s been a note stuck into the electric bill with all the other detritus. And yes, there’s a rate case pending; the Corp Comm is scheduled to open hearings on the third of May, and my particular rate class would go up by about 6.6 percent.

Nothing too surprising here, except that on the bill itself, for the first time I can remember, there is a LARGE PRINT statement:

*** PLEASE SEE ENCLOSED SPECIAL NOTICE TO OKLAHOMA CUSTOMERS. ***

(They do have a few Arkansas customers, who would not be affected.) And the notice itself is marked SPECIAL NOTICE, so there’s presumably no excuse for missing it.

The April bill, for me anyway, is typically the lowest of the year, so the rate increase looks like a mere four bucks or so. In August, it’s going to hurt a little more.

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Live with Kelly

Last week, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) announced he would not seek reelection:

The Republican floor leader of the Oklahoma House says he will step aside from his northwest Oklahoma City seat after eight years in office.

Rep. Jason Nelson said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to his District 87 House seat in November. The 44-year-old Nelson announced his decision on the floor of the House where he was congratulated by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Republican and Democratic House members.

As an actual resident of District 87, I am of course interested in Nelson’s successor. And the first flyer has arrived, on behalf of Kelly Meredith. Her political affiliation is not disclosed, but let’s read between the lines, specifically these lines from the flyer:

Kelly will bring her experience as a strategic planner, an educator, and a mother to the Capitol. She is tired of seeing reckless budgeting, wasteful legislation, and political games that hurt our children and our state.

Got to be a Democrat. (Republicans have a 70-31 majority in the House, so at least two of those charges will presumably be blamed on the GOP.) Which means I will eventually meet her; in the 12 years I’ve lived in 87, every single Democratic candidate — and no Republican — has come out to knock on my door at a time when I could conceivably have answered it.

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