The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 10, 2013

Courageous gentlemen stepping up

GUTHRIE — With the recent news coverage of the government’s inappropriate use of the IRS, citizens have paid special attention to practices within various federal agencies.

Abuse tends to creep in when there is limited transparency. Those who use the government to attack or punish their political enemies typically count on two things about the public and the press: first, that they are not properly equipped with the necessary tools to observe the inner workings of government; and second, they simply don’t care due to personal bias.

The former is understandable. With the drastic size and scope of our ever-expanding government, the ability to oversee it has become tremendously difficult. The latter however, is inexcusable and frightening.

I have become convinced that due to these two factors some abuses never receive public purview. The ones that do receive public recognition are often a result of the courageous efforts by conscientious individuals. These are the people who are ready and willing to put their reputations on the line in order to do the right thing.

When someone dares to question the status-quo, the defenders of the status-quo may resort to intimidation, hoping to silence the questioner. Here are a couple of examples that I have personally observed.

I am a big fan of former State Auditor Steve Burrage. I was pleased when he accepted Governor Mary Fallin’s appointment to the board for the Department of Corrections.

Upon appointment, Burrage wasted little time in questioning the Department’s budget as well as their intended usage of multi-million dollar reserve funds. Burrage was taking his job seriously and bringing transparency to the Department’s fiscal practices. The new transparency undercut the Department’s ability to leverage cash from the Legislature. Until Burrage highlighted the size of the reserve funds, the Department was trying to get $6.4 million in supplemental budget appropriations.

Thanks to Burrage, the Department lost its ability to strong-arm legislators, while simultaneously defending the existence of $22 million of reserve money.

Needless to say, the defenders of the status quo were not particularly thrilled with this new change.

A former board member claimed that Burrage’s action “violates every number of probably a dozen or more standard operating procedures that governs this board.”

This is a great example of using intimidation as a tool to silence transparency proponents. In case you need a translator, the former board member’s statement could be loosely translated as, “Stop asking questions or we’ll keep twisting the story until you’re the one that looks like the bad guy.” When someone dares ask tough questions, they suddenly find themselves accused of various intangible wrongdoings.

Most of this is just a bluff, designed to intimidate and scare. However, as you’ll see in the following example, this sometimes proves to be a pretty expensive bluff for you, the taxpayer.

For many years, a local government entity controlled the Logan County Hospital. The entity was subsidized by $2 million of taxpayer money each year. This subsidy stayed in place even though the county was one of the fastest growing in the state.

Local residents started asking why the hospital failed to achieve profitably and where this money was going. Due to area growth, shouldn’t the subsidy have gone away?

After being appointed to the Hospital board, one of these extremely bold individuals finally had the opportunity to ask these questions firsthand. And, he himself transparent, was willing to talk to the local press about the board’s activities and answer their questions honestly.

This openness was apparently inexcusable to those who controlled the organization. They spent thousands of your taxpayer dollars hiring attorneys in a frivolous attempt to remove the transparency advocate from the board.

Somehow in their delusional state, they believed that high-powered attorneys were above the clear and plain reading of the law, searching for a magical way to expel the member.

They were not successful! Thanks to the bold actions of this board member and others and the willingness of the press to look into the affairs of the board, the government would soon give up the tax subsidy and return the facility to private sector control, where it now plays a vital role in the local economy.

Area taxpayers keep the $2 million each year that would have otherwise unnecessarily gone to the government.

And Oklahoma taxpayers won’t be paying for an unnecessary $6.4 million appropriation to the Department of Corrections because of Auditor Burrage’s courage.

REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results