POSTED ON MAY 9, 2012:
Love Letters, hate mail
A new study was recently published showing Tulsa among the worst regions in the country in terms of health, adding to our already long list of accolades in poor health standings, including being one of the top ten smokiest cities in the nation. To say our city's health and well-being are in need of an improvement is quite an understatement.
Our lack of tobacco-related laws is one of the main causes of Oklahoma's low standing in health, although the harmful effects of smoking and second-hand smoke are well-understood by most Oklahomans. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Oklahoma, costing us more than 6,000 lives annually. At the root, we have a major health issue on our hands. Not helping matters, our state is doing little to correct this health issue, which in turn is creating a lot of bad press for Tulsa on a nation-wide scale.
I'm a proud Tulsan who wants our city to be known for good things! I think most fellow Tulsans have this same desire. And I wish for this not only because I want Tulsa to be recognized for the great city that it is, but additionally because Tulsa needs to make itself more appealing to potential citizens. We have a prime opportunity to increase our city's professionalism and the quality of life in Tulsa by restoring local rights and going smoke-free.
As a young professional, I recognize plenty of other bright, eager young professionals looking at Tulsa as a home and as a city in which we can contribute our skills. Too many of our Tulsa-area college and university graduates move elsewhere after completing their education, while many native Tulsans head out into the world for higher education, with little hesitation to never return to live in their hometown. Tulsa should not only be a "good place to grow up" or "a great place to go to college". Tulsa should be -- and is -- a fantastic place to have a career, to start and raise a family, and to serve and improve as a citizen, among other things. There's a lot of competition vying for these young minds. There are other vibrant Midwest cities like Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis. Cities in which the population of young professionals is thriving. Cities which consequently have a bright future and a generation growing into that leadership.!
Cities with strict smoke-free laws and local rights.
Tulsa should have the right to correct the trend of our current publicity and make itself appealing in comparison to these attractive cities. And it's almost possible for us to have the right to make those local decisions. A bill (known in the House as HB2267) is currently on its way to the Senate and would allow Tulsa, and all Oklahoma communities, to make local decisions by restoring our local rights. Right now, Oklahoma is one of only two states with pre-emption clauses that restrict local government from establishing and enforcing tobacco laws. It wasn't always this way: Oklahoma communities used to have the right to make their own local tobacco-related decisions, until 1987, when tobacco industry lobbyists advocated and achieved the placement of these pre-emption clauses to be placed in our state tobacco laws. It's much easier for the tobacco industry to control Oklahoma on a state-wide level, which is precisely what they're still doing. The only opposition to HB2267 is organizations that have ties to the tobacco industry, as well as the tobacco industry lobbyists themselves: Not surprising.
Frankly, I'm disappointed in Oklahoma for being swayed by the tobacco industry and by ignoring the health facts and figures on our state. Tulsa is unfairly being set back as a result of our state's decisions, not just in terms of health, but in terms of our city's economic future, as well. Tulsa does not currently have the right to make local smoke-free laws -- a right that 48 other states have and that I believe we should too. Tulsa should support the restoration of local rights as recognition that local rights and stricter tobacco laws in our city will help improve our health, increase our business, and attract more residents and retain more young professionals. Our current citizens and local government are more than capable of exercising local rights. And future citizens, who expect this right, will enjoy a city in which we can take full pride and ownership.
I am not an Oklahoman by birth, but I chose to come to this great city of Tulsa, which I love and work to improve through my civic duties and volunteerism. Support the restoration of local rights and support a Tulsa in which Tulsa decides what's in our best interest.
Professor Rall, your article, "The Pravda-ization of the News," was not incredibly enlightening; however, I am glad to see what you said in print. It is interesting to really analyze reality sometimes, isn't it? -- one can really see the hypocrisies in life when they look closely. I am also pleased that you included a bit about wire tapping and privacy. In 1972, in "The Campaign Trail: Fear and Loathing in New Hampshire," Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said something like, "The Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act of 1968 (a wire-tapping bill), a genuinely oppressive piece of legislation -- even Lyndon Johnson was shocked by it, but he couldn't quite ring himself to veto the bugger -- for the same reasons cited by the many senators who called the bill "frightening" while refusing to vote against it because they didn't want to be on record as having voted against "safe streets and crime control" (from: Thompson, Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone). This quote basically sums up politicking, in that even though it may appear to be the issue, "'helpful or harmful' to society?" is rarely the case when it comes to policy making/voting -- what gov. officials and policy makers are really asking themselves: "is it 'helpful or harmful' to the campaign?" Except for the Supreme Court Judges -- they don't give a damn because they don't have to worry about winning people's hearts to keep their job, which is good. Back to the point ... in 1968, people were shocked by wire-tapping, and now (thanks to Wired Magazine) I have been made aware that Utah will be home to a giant base camp for recording millions of gigs worth of data, e.g. emails, texts, phone calls, etc. so that these files can be stored, and rummaged through at a later time (and decrypted if need be). Now, a little insecure are we? I guess it's not enough to have a giant, dominating military at the gov.'s fingertips? ... Anyways, I have become side-tracked; Proffessor -- you're article is about the news, and judging by the way government works, I would not be surprised if these agencies were paid off or, at the very least, told what to report by Obama's campaign staffers. Over all, I applaud you for writing the article, "The Pravda ..."; although you failed to mention that President Obama did, in fact, end the large, long-lasting war in Iraq, and plans to draw down the war in Afghanistan -- which is worth noting, as long as were going to compare Obama to The Bush.
--Shane L. Byler
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