BY JOE DORMAN
If you are a regular reader of my column, you know that it used to be titled “Open Door Policy.” As a state representative, I wanted my readers and my constituents to know that I was available to answer questions, receive input, or just for them to speak their minds.
As the new CEO of the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy, my column will now be called “For the Children.” At the Capitol, that phrase – for the children – was often a tongue-in-cheek rallying cry for lawmakers seeking support for their bills.
Helping kids, however, is no joke. Moving forward, my goal is for this column to refocus the attention of our politicians and the public on those who need our help the most: young, at-risk Oklahomans. That starts with changing the way we interact with our political candidates.
This election season I am asking you to help change our political culture by taking one simple step: ask a question.
The second presidential debate will be held on Sunday [Oct. 9]. The Commission on Presidential Debates has mandated that moderators ask candidates questions with input from the internet. This is our chance to refocus this debate on an issue of real substance by asking, “How would your budget priorities lift working families with kids out of poverty?”
Submitting that question is easy. One of OICA’s national partners, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has already done so on PresidentialOpenQuestions.com. To add your support to that question [and increase the likelihood it is asked at the next presidential debate] go to http://bit.ly/debateQ or find the link at oica.org on our website.
Let’s make sure the next president of the United States has a plan to help the 16.4 million American children who live in poverty, the 42.2 million Americans – including more than 13 million kids – who don’t know where their next meal will come from, and the five million young men and women whose parents have been in prison at some point during their childhood.
And let’s not stop with holding our presidential candidates accountable. Ask your candidates for state representative and state senate what their plans are to help children in low-income families.
In Oklahoma, 22%, or 209,000 children, live in poverty. Thirty-six percent of all Oklahoma children live in single parent families, many of which are economically challenged. Over 66,000 Oklahoma children live in households with neither parent.
These young Oklahomans need help. To make sure they get that help, we must demand two things from our political candidates: first, that they demonstrate with words and deeds that helping poor children is a priority; second, that they are able to outline a substantive plan to help those children.
As a voter, it is your right to get a straight answer from your elected officials. But it all starts with a question. Don’t miss your chance to ask one, and please make it for the children.
– Joe Dorman is CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. He served House District 65 as state representative for 12 years and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor.