To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Friday, April 16, 2021

Observercast

Politicizing School Safety

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BY DAVID PERRYMAN

Perryman, DavidImagine if you will, a state in tornado alley where EF4 and EF5 twisters are prevalent. Imagine that state having so few public school safe rooms that daily over 500,000 students, teachers and staff attend school and work at sites with no protection from a tornado.

Imagine the Legislature in that state imposing on those schools the nation’s largest cut in school funding. Imagine those school districts having no revenue and no ability to borrow money to address the safety of their students and teachers.

Imagine a group of citizens finding a non-partisan way to allow the people of that state to vote to set aside funds, without raising taxes, to allow school districts, if they choose, to have access to money to build safe rooms or to match federal FEMA dollars to build storm shelters.

Now imagine a governor who does not want to use those funds to protect students because that money can instead be used to fund a tax cut for corporations.

Finally, imagine an attorney general who politicizes the process by feigning concern with the “language of the petition” in an attempt to sabotage and stymie the collection of signatures so that ultimately the governor’s desire to provide a tax cut to corporations will prevail over the safety of school kids.

Can that really be true? Does that sound farfetched? What can be done about a government that attempts to block the will of the people? There is a solution and Oklahomans have it.

Thomas Jefferson believed that “the people are sovereign and that the power of the government can only be granted by the people.”

James Madison eloquently wrote in No. 49 of the Federalist Papers that “the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the … several branches of government hold their power … it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory to recur to the same original authority … whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or new-model the powers of government.”

Thankfully, in 1906, the delegates to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention knew what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison feared and provided that when a government had little regard for the will of the people, the citizens of Oklahoma would have the power of the Initiative Petition.

We often hear about the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Top billing goes to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, right to bear arms and the right to be secure in our homes.

However, a powerful tool possessed by the citizens of only a few states is the Initiative Petition. The process allows citizens, with no governmental restriction or interference, to propose a law and have it voted on by the people of the state. Its unique nature comes directly from the populist fervor that spread across the country in the very early 1900’s.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Since statehood, Oklahoma’s citizens have had this little used power of the people to reign in an out of touch government or a government paralyzed by inaction. It is often overlooked, because in our democracy we learn about the power of the ballot box, but are led to believe that it is only the power to elect candidates.

What happens when our Legislature refuses to enact laws that the people want? This tool is our protection against an unresponsive government.

Will Rogers said, “Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.”

While Will’s analysis is correct most of the time, Oklahomans have the power to bypass the roadblock of a governor, the sabotage of an attorney general and the stall tactics of a state Legislature.

It is true that in any given year a very small number of children will be in danger of death or injury, but children deserve to be safe and parents deserve to know that schools have the resources to protect students.

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is showing that the power of the sovereign is truly reserved to the people by working with a non-partisan group, Take Shelter Oklahoma, to circulate a petition to allow the people of this great state to vote on this issue.

The choice on whether you want to join him is yours. If you do, you can find out how to join this grassroots effort on Facebook.

David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. It’s absolutely amazing what we can afford to keep safe, what we chose to shelter, and what we chose not to shelter. What kind of world do we live in if we have every mean to protect what does not matter, but can’t protect the thing that should mean more than anything else (KIDS). In my opinion SCREW THE TAX CUT PROTECT OUR CHILDREN AND BUILD THE SAFE ROOMS.

  2. I do not have any children of my own, however I do have nieces and nephews that are in school and knowing that governor would rather give corporations a tax break than build storm shelters for schools makes me angry. I would hope the governor is not so ignorant as to forget that tornado alley runs right through Oklahoma. Making sure that children and the people charged with caring for children in schools and daycares have somewhere safe to go during a tornado should be a priority in the state of Oklahoma. I really do not understand why the governor thinks a corporate tax break would be more important. Now that I know that the Initiative Petition exists in Oklahoma I will find out more about it and what I can do to help pass a law to have storm shelters put in at all schools and daycares.

  3. If a law was passed to put in storm shelters at schools, Oklahoma children would be protected from tornados or any strong storm in the area. By installing storm shelters not only would the children be safe during school but the community could use the shelters as well, resulting in fewer deaths and injuries from tornados. Yes, I realize it would cost quite a bit of money to install the storm shelters, but how can anyone argue that the end result is not worth the monetary value? Children are worth more than anything in this world and deserve to be protected to the best of their caretakers’ abilities and by caretakers I mean parents, teachers, principals, anyone who would be charged with the care of the child. If schools don’t have storm shelters how do they expect to keep their students safe?

  4. I do have children as well s my family and friends. And to think our goverment do not even care if they are safe or not bothers me. By not not making our schools safe for our kids put them in great risk. With Oklahoma weather who knows what can happen. Our children deserve a chance to be safe they are our future and they two our filled with hopes and dreams. And to think the goverment who cares more about giving corporations a tax break. Really, is this our so called goverment is this the best they can do. I truly want to believe that they need to seriously think about what they are doing to our children of Oklahoma.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.