Matt Trotter

Reporter

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN. 

He has a master's degree from Arizona State University, where he spent a semester on the first reporting staff of Cronkite News Service's Washington, D.C., bureau. As a grad student, he won awards for multimedia journalism and in-depth TV reporting.

Matt is from Southern California, so he's slowly following Route 66 across the United States. He would have made it Chicago by now, but he's not a fan of long drives.

Ways to Connect

FEMA

Broken Arrow homeowners putting in a new storm shelter could get a rebate of up to $2,000.

There are a few criteria to apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency rebate offered through the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

"They have to be the homeowner. They must not currently have a storm shelter in place, and they can’t live within the floodplain," said City of Broken Arrow Emergency Management Director Jamie Ott.

The storm shelter also has to be at an applicant's primary residence.

A report released Thursday recommends the state of Oklahoma — not the federal government — manage health care services for veterans the Department of Veterans Affairs can’t provide.

The report is the result of the two-year Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Project and recommended a three-year test period starting next October in which health care currently outsourced through the federal Veterans Choice Program is moved under state control.

City of Tulsa

The City of Tulsa rolled out on Thursday the New Tulsans Welcoming Plan, a roadmap to make the community a better place for immigrants.

file photo

Oklahoma is trying to get more people into work-based learning like apprenticeships, and an interim study reviewed aspects of that work.

The "Earn and Learn Oklahoma" program targets low-income residents and out-of-school youth for training and connection to apprenticeships and internships.

Laurie Avocado

The State Chamber of Oklahoma gave lawmakers a list of concerns Wednesday about medical marijuana in the workplace.

Members of the Medical Marijuana Working Group asked Chamber President and CEO Fred Morgan about a potential special session.

"If we could delay implementation, it will give this committee and the legislature time to be able to put this regulatory scheme in place. If not, we would like to see the legislature move as quickly as possible to address the concerns we’ve raised," Morgan said.

Tulsa Police say after a more than yearlong investigation, they’ve found the man responsible for the April 2017 murder of 43-year-old Amy Robertson.

Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen said detectives presented their findings to the district attorney today.

"They found sufficient probable cause to believe the suspect, Dennis John Kurtz — a.k.a Dennis Vargas – committed the crimes of first-degree rape and first-degree murder, and a felony warrant was issued for his arrest in the homicide of Amy Robertson," Larsen said.

Today is Tulsa’s inaugural 918 Day.

Events started early with a scavenger hunt on Saturday, and the citywide celebration of all things Tulsa includes special deals at businesses today and a Tulsa Public Schools arts competition.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Sweeping changes to Oklahoma’s liquor laws are just two weeks away, and the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission is trying to tell sellers what to expect.

Dozens of current and potential future alcohol vendors, from bar owners to grocers, got the scoop Monday on liquor law changes at a forum in Tulsa. There is still some confusion about what will be allowed under the new laws.

A state task force is creating a resource handbook to help Oklahoma’s parents and teachers help kids with dyslexia.

Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma founder Michelle Keiper said it’s not too difficult to identify kids with some reading difficulties.

"But we don’t really know much about dyslexia. Our teachers will say, 'I didn’t learn anything about that. I haven’t had any professional development in that. I really don’t know what that is,'" Keiper said.

USDA

A first-of-its kind advisory board will evaluate rapid poultry industry growth in northeastern Oklahoma.

The Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth is the first such body formed in conjunction with a federally recognized tribe, in this case, the Cherokee Nation.

More than 200 new commercial poultry houses got permits from the state agriculture department in the past year, many of them in northeastern Oklahoma. Residents aren’t exactly welcoming them with open arms, voicing concerns about water access, air and water quality, and traffic.

How are Oklahoma’s four virtual charter schools performing? State lawmakers found out in an interim study Thursday it’s hard to say.

Experts told Oklahoma lawmakers for the most part, the largest virtual charter school, Epic, is outperforming public schools in state testing, while its third-largest, Oklahoma Connections Academy, is comparable in English Language arts.

Sen. Ron Sharp, however, took issue with how their calculations, which compared very different proportions of students.

The new leader of a downtown Tulsa advisory board is ready to move full speed ahead on a walkability study’s suggestions.

Downtown Coordinating Council Executive Director Brian Kurtz said he wants downtown to be a more attractive place to be, and renowned city planner Jeff Speck's 2017 study is a game plan for that.

Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group took a deep dive Wednesday into testing.

Jeremy Applen is vice chairman of the ASTM International committee developing technical standards for cannabis. Applen said testing must be done at multiple stages of cannabis production, because making a THC concentrate, for example, concentrates all substances that were on a marijuana plant.

The former Dollar Thrifty Plaza is full up on tenants.

Family & Children’s Services and OSU Center for Health Sciences will occupy 13 floors of the west tower at Legacy Plaza, the social services–centered redevelopment on 31st Street east of Yale Avenue led by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.

Executive Director Bill Major said they join east tower tenants Mental Health Association Oklahoma, CAP Tulsa, LIFE Senior Services and Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, and Assistance League of Tulsa, which occupies a three-story building on the site.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s latest eight-year construction plan includes a major Tulsa project.

An $80 million project on I-44 west of the Arkansas River should go out for bid sometime in federal fiscal year 2021.

"The plan right now for I-44 for the widening between Union Avenue and the Arkansas River will be adding in an extra lane in each direction and also making some operational improvements at the U.S. 75 junction," said ODOT's Kenna Mitchell.

The project was awarded a $45 million dollar federal infrastructure grant.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission is considering an update to the corridor’s master plan, last touched in 2005.

"The citizens have approved through the Vision Tulsa package some dollars to help our work in making Route 66 all it can be in Tulsa. So, we want to have a new strategic plan that guides that work, that invests that money in meaningful ways that will give us the best return," said Chairman Ed Sharrer.

An update would give the commission an opportunity to pencil in new projects. The 11th Street bridge over the Arkansas River is a priority.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa Development Authority is looking to our neighbors to the northeast for some inspiration.

Commissioners and staff recently journeyed to Kansas City, Missouri, to take a look at their transit systems and recent downtown economic development efforts.

Missouri’s second-largest metro area is years ahead in transit, with two bus rapid transit lines in operation and leaders now eyeing an extension of the downtown light rail service dubbed KC Streetcar.

Inhofe Press Office

Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is suddenly holding a lot of cards in Washington.

Inhofe, recently named as chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, said he’s been approved for a waiver and will continue chairing the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

"Those are the two things we’re supposed to be doing up there, defending America and infrastructure. So, that’s what I’ll continue to do," Inhofe said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa has even more cause for celebration following this weekend’s opening of the Gathering Place: Riverside Drive has reopened.

A two-mile stretch from 21st Street to 41st Street was closed more than three years while the Gathering Place was under construction. The drive will definitely be smoother. The stretch of road previously rated just 46 out of 100 on the City of Tulsa's pavement condition index.

File photo

ACLU’s Smart Justice campaign has recommended steps Oklahoma can take to reduce its prison population by 50 percent by 2025.

They include instituting policies that send fewer people to prison, reduce the time people spend there on average and correcting racial disparities, especially when it comes to drug crimes.

A pedestrian-friendly alleyway renovation going with a downtown revitalization project will get public funding.

Tulsa Development Authority signed off on $205,000 in special taxing district funds for the repaving and lighting of the alley running from Second to First street, which will happen in conjunction with developer Jeff Scott’s $2.5 million overhaul of the OTASCO building at Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue into a restaurant and retail development with a patio.

A new group wants to amplify rural Oklahoma’s voice to state and federal lawmakers.

Oklahoma Rural Association President Monica Miller said with the focus seemingly on the state's urban areas, there are fewer opportunities and lower quality of life outside of them.

"You know, it gets as basic as, I say, when you drive down Main Street and you just see what used to be thriving and vibrant communities with boarded-up buildings where there’s no longer activity," Miller said.

Democratic candidate for Oklahoma governor Drew Edmondson said a statewide tour taught him public education still needs to be fully funded.

"We are tired of four-day school weeks in one-fifth of our school districts. We’re tired of 30 percent of our school districts not offering a foreign language when it remains a requirement for admission to many of our colleges and universities. And we are tired of overcrowded classrooms and too few teachers," Edmondson said.

City of Tulsa

Consultants for Tulsa’s Arena District Master Plan have some big concepts, including a bold move to better connect the area.

Chris Hermann with planning and design firm MKSK said the BOK Center and Cox Business Center are good starts.

"And the thing between them is the federal building, the Page Belcher Building, and it’s just this huge block. And so, if you’re trying to get activity and energy to go between the two, it’s in the way," Hermann said. "And so, at a minimum, figuring out some way to create a kind of arcade or pedestrian space through it."

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Partners in Tulsa’s A Better Way Program hoped it would reach 100 people in its first few months.

Six months in, 394 have taken paid work cleaning up public spaces, getting a meal and referrals to social services, too.

Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO Mike Brose said Wednesday morning’s pick up shows how popular the program is and that they might need another van.

National Geographic

Four months in, the 2018 West Nile season is a slow one.

"So, in Tulsa County, we have not had a confirmed case of West Nile virus, compared to last year, during 2017, when we saw seven cases," said Tulsa Health Department disease and data specialist Jessica Rice.

While there have been zero human cases reported, the health department isn't sure why that is.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker highlighted economic growth, more jobs, and new, affordable housing created over the past seven years in his state of the nation address.

Speaking during the Cherokee National Holiday celebration, Baker said the Cherokee Nation is enjoying greater financial independence.

"Over the past seven years, our economic impact has more than doubled, from just under $1 billion a year to over $2 billion this last year," Baker said.

City of Tulsa/Tulsa Transit

An incentive program for property owners along the Peoria Avenue bus rapid transit line gets renewed through the end of 2019.

The voluntary program waives application fees for property owners within a half mile of the route who apply to be rezoned as mixed-use.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Two city councilors have introduced the first piece of their plan to deal with short-term rentals like Airbnb in Tulsa.

A zoning code amendment would add them as a lodging type, eliminating the need for owners to pursue a special exception before legally operating as a bed and breakfast. Councilor Blake Ewing said the next part of his and Councilor Ben Kimbro's plan will tackle how those properties will register with the city.

The Children's Society

Monitors report the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is slipping when it comes to foster care system improvements.

After noting "discernible progress" in January toward improvements laid out in the Pinnacle Plan, the monitors, known as co-neutrals, noted nine areas where DHS is not making good faith efforts, up from three in their last semi-annual review.

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