Strike Two for Gene Stipe?
When I was just a kid, I remember my mama being outraged about corrupt Oklahoma politics. When she really got riled, she always brought up two things. First, was the condition of our state roads and highways (which was even worse than today) and second, "those things" that McAlester's State Senator Gene Stipe was up to.
Stipe's district was heavily populated by state employees and many of these people worked at the McAlester state prison. It takes loads of money to run a large prison. The local economic benefits were enormous in Pittsburg County and this gave the local state senator a lot of clout.
Stipe, being the popular local senator he was, always found a way to take care of his constituents and this really helped when it came to fund-raising. Having more money than he needed, Stipe had a penchant for sharing the extra with other politicians. Through the years, his power and influence grew even more as he gained invaluable state senate seniority. The fact that Oklahoma politics back then was often corrupt didn't hurt Stipe one bit. In Oklahoma, Gene Stipe was the biggest daddy of them all.
From way, way back, it was common knowledge, that Oklahoma County Commissioners got kick-backs from road suppliers. This was generally ignored because the pay of a County Commissioner was "so low." After all, the poor guys had to "make a livin'."
Since our state Attorney General never seemed to get around to doing much about the situation, in the late seventies the FBI stepped in. On tape, they caught an asphalt supplier arranging kick-backs for one County Commissioner. As it turned our, this fellow supplied almost all our counties with road asphalt. The Feds gave him a choice hard to refuse...cooperate with further investigations or call Leavenworth home for a spell. Guess which one he chose.
With him now wearing an FBI wire, the Feds got that they needed to start filing charges on a bunch of these guys. Oklahoma has 231 County Commissioners, and since they had the goods on over 200 of them, the filings had to be stretched out to keep from overloading the courts. It was a hoot to watch! Every night on the TV news, some new charges were filed against a County Commissioner somewhere.
When the trials were finished, over 200 of them went to jail. Several of theses "good ole boys" were so popular with the local folks that Bar-B-Ques were held to see them of to prison. Boy-Howdy, those were the "good ole days!"
However, McAlester's County Commissioner walked "Scot-free." Guess who his lawyer was: Gene Stipe.
A few years ago, the FBI caught Stipe in some kind of white-collar-grime-crime and he was convicted. My Mama was real pleased.
Now, the FBI says they've caught him again. While under house arrest, he has allegedly been channeling funds illegally to some politicians. Two that he channeled money to were Governor Henry and Congressman Boren. If Stipe was looking for some kind of help from these two, he was barking up the wrong tree. Given the stature, character, and reputation of these public servants, there is not any reason they would want anything even remotely connected to the ex-senator. Consequently, they donated the money to charity. Perhaps, Stipe dreamed they might help him get a pardon. However, I have it on good authority that he has "gone senile."
But you've gotta give the ex-senator credit. He is extremely loyal to the old, old ways of Oklahoma's political past. Doing his best to keep his brand of politics alive.
Editor's Note: Like you, we are sure that our new batch of County Commissioners, especially those serving Tulsa County are above reproach and have only the best interests of the citizens they serve at heart. (See OpEd, "Something Fishy at The Fairgrounds," page 6.)
Trouble Waters Under Bridge
Despite my involvement with the bridge issue, kudos to Michael Bates for his latest article. The politics of OK, no different than many other places, tend to disappoint the average citizen when involved. The more they complain, the closer they are being brought into the light! Next, good riddance to Nancy Riley, Randi Miller, et al.
Card-Carrying Letter Writer
Well, Urban Tulsa, you have done it yet again. I read the article last week "More Questions About GW." The author was
Mark W. Hendrickson PH.D. Most of us Okies respect those with a PH.D, and many probably won't question Dr. Hendrickson's credentials. At least he had the decency to admit he is an economist and not a scientist right there in the article!
You see, about a year and a half ago, you
published an article about education written by a Mr. Schlomach. I mention that article because I wrote a letter in response, and you published it. You see, Mr. Schlomach said public school is a monopoly, so I suspected that he was NOT an educator in public schools, and probably had zero experience in that field.
I was right. I looked him up, and he was an economist from Texas, a state that is notorious for stealing some of our best new public school teachers. So what gives? Why do you keep publishing articles concerning social issues by people with no experience or knowledge in the fields they write about?
Demmings was a good start, but why not find another scientist with a PH.D to write an article titled "More Questions About GW?" Could it be that you can't find one? I don't really care what economists think about global warming and public education! And people who are truly concerned about those issues don't care what economists think either. You know why? Because economists don't know the answers to social issues and problems. Why does your paper give economists such a strong voice with
these types of issues? Could it be because they always agree with the conservative agenda that your paper pushes on these topics? I would love to see you touch on these issues with writers who have actual experience or education in the fields they write about! You could still push the
conservative agenda, and at least it would have some credibility with those who disagree. It might spark some informative debate and truly educate your readers.
Editor's Note: If all we were allowed to do was hear from the experts, it wouldn't make for much of a democracy--or a Letters section in the newspaper, for that matter. Let's see your English degree!
The Beauty of Tax Cuts
In a recent "Wizard of Id" comic strip, the king informs his subjects, "I'm pleased to announce that I've balanced the budget." One subject then asks another, "What does that mean?" The all-too-true (and thus only mildly funny) response is: "He spent every dime we gave him."
This is a dead-on accurate description of how the Oklahoma budget process works. The state agencies, teachers, state universities, and all the other tax consumers first spend weeks holding teary press conferences describing the millions of dollars worth of unmet needs. These figures, when you add them all up, far outstrip any estimate of the money available for that year. When the money comes in, it surely all must be spent -- and generally is -- because no matter what we have we will never meet the needs of those dependent on government.
Well, the horrible cries you have been hearing from the vicinity of 23rd and Lincoln these last few months are coming from these tax consumers and their political patrons. They have discovered that we have less money to spend than they had hoped for. It turns out that, strangely enough, recent tax cuts may have played some role in the reduction of the pie. The Tax Commission estimates that the tax cuts passed the last two years may have reduced the spending pie by as much as $300 million -- and these permanent spending cuts will increase each and every year.
These developments should go a long way to settle an intramural debate among Oklahoma conservatives. Some conservatives have been arguing that reducing spending is more pressing than cutting taxes -- or at least one should invest as much political capital in trying to cut government programs as in cutting taxes.
Others of us have argued that the only way to cut government spending is to cut taxes. Unlike with the federal government, the state requires a balanced budget -- if you cut the revenues, you have to cut the spending. Now if you had tried to cut government programs directly, the tax consumers would have trotted out the poor child, the teacher, the rural firefighter, or the correctional officer who would be hurt by the cruel cuts, and you would find yourself on the losing end of the political stick.
If, however, you cut spending by reducing taxes, all that will appear in the press is an announcement that revenue has dropped -- or, as is the case this year, that it hasn't gone up as much as projected. The whining and wailing of the tax consumers that their money has been stolen by the greedy taxpayer causes no stir at all.
So if you a hear a House or Senate leader tell you we have to cut spending before we can cut taxes, keep in mind that failing to cut taxes guarantees that we do neither.
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