Chris Polansky

News Anchor & Reporter

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.

 

His most recent stint at an NPR member station was as a general assignment reporter at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, in 2019. His stories have also appeared in/on Gothamist / WNYC, the NPR national newscast, and the Brooklyn Eagle.

 

Chris is a New Jersey native and perpetually disappointed Mets fan who spent just about ten years in New York City before coming to Tulsa. He likes hiking and camping with his dog, Trout Fishing in America. He’s also a proud alumnus of Bike & Build, an affordable housing nonprofit with which he’s bicycled coast-to-coast twice: from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara (2014), and from Nags Head, North Carolina, to San Diego (2016). Both trips crossed Oklahoma. 

Ways to Connect

Courtesy Keystone Lake Jellystone Park.

With many Oklahoma families feeling cooped up after months of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, some local campgrounds are popular destinations for Memorial Day weekend.

Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts' two locations in Oklahoma, in Mannford and Eufaula, say they're ready to safely welcome a sold-out crowd this weekend.

"We have about 85 campsites rented for the weekend," said Beth Ryan, owner and operator of the Mannford site, on Keystone Lake. Ryan said the park is going to great lengths to keep people safe.

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

When Catoosa High School announced it would be one of the few Tulsa-area high schools to hold a traditional, in-person graduation ceremony for its seniors, it said it would reference Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and remove anyone not following a list of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

Friday's top stories:

  • Tulsa County reported a spike in COVID-19 cases Thursday, attributed to a long-term care facility.
  • The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has taken custody of at least 140 inmates from the Comanche County Jail due to a major COVID-19 outbreak there.
  • The Oklahoma Legislature will reconvene today, possibly to override Gov. Kevin Stitt's vetoes of their approved bills.

Facebook / Cowboy Gatherin' Church

A pastor in Inola has been arrested following allegations of sexual assault by three children.

Roy Shoop, 55, pastor of the Cowboy Gatherin' Church, was taken into custody by Rogers County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday. 

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said his investigation began with an allegation sent to his office by the Mayes County Sheriff's Office, and eventually uncovered three children claiming that Shoop molested or raped them in his home. 

Facebook / Catoosa Public Schools

Catoosa High School seniors will be some of the first Tulsa-area students to be graduating via a traditional, in-person commencement ceremony since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the school community sent on Wednesday, Catoosa High Principal Josh Brown confirmed that the ceremony would take place at the school's football stadium on Thursday evening (or this weekend, if weather forces a postponement). 

Thursday's top stories:

  • Tulsa is reportedly a finalist for a 10,000-job factory for automaker Tesla. The city is rolling out all the stops to attract CEO Elon Musk.
  • Governor Kevin Stitt says local governments will be able to apply for $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus aid beginning on June 1st.
  • 299 Oklahomans are now confirmed to have died of COVID-19, with 5,532 known cases.

Tulsa's tourist industry is hoping a major event recently booked for Expo Square in July could be the start of the economy's revivial. 

The week-long National Junior Angus Show will bring thousands of visitors and $2.5 million to Tulsa, according to Ray Hoyt, president of Tulsa Regional Tourism.

"We're excited about the whole opportunity to kickstart the tourism aspect of what's going on in the community," Hoyt said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Responding to complaints from Oklahomans across the state who say they're struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a state cabinet secretary said Tuesday that many issues and delays are being caused by the applicants themselves.

"The biggest issue that we've seen that's causing people to get - either they get paid one week and then it stalls, or they stall completely, are inconsistencies or incomplete information," said David Ostrowe, Governor Kevin Stitt's Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. 

Wednesday's top stories:

  • At least 116 people, both inmates and staff, have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Comanche County Detention Center.
  • The Oklahoma State Department of Health now reports 5,498 cases of COVID-19 across the state. 294 Oklahomans have died.
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed a bill that would have cut the state's affordable housing tax credit. 
  • Stitt signed a bill to prevent guns from being confiscated by those deemed a danger to themselves and others.

Instagram / @TulsaTriumphs2021

A free webinar series beginning Wednesday aims to help Oklahoma teachers craft curricula and lesson plans for effectively teaching the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Dr. Karlos Hill, chair of the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the head of the Tulsa Race Massacre Institute, said that while the pandemic dashed plans for a third-annual, in-person program in Tulsa's Greenwood District, the limitation of moving programming online may also be an opportunity.

Sperry Police Department

A 17-year veteran of the Tulsa Fire Department has been arrested in connection with two bank robberies.

Police in Skiatook said they arrested Jerry Ray Brown Monday evening on charges of second degree robbery and possession of stolen property. They allege that he was the suspect in a March 12th robbery at the Oklahoma Capitol Bank in that city.

Sperry police say they suspect Brown of also being the culprit in the robbery of an Exchange Bank branch there on May 7th, and that they will pursue separate charges.

C-SPAN

Seeking to mark out a middle ground between unmitigated spread of the coronavirus and an overzealous public health response, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said he believes that measures like social distancing and wearing masks have been effective across the country because of—not despite—their being optional.

www.fallscreek.org

Saying they couldn't safely host their typical 50,000+ campers safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma Baptists announced Monday that their Falls Creek Youth Camp would be canceled for the 2020 summer season.

"With a heavy heart, and after extensive consultation with pastors, lay leaders and information from public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel," said Hance Dilbeck, Oklahoma Baptists' executive director-treasurer, in a statement.

Monday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is one of the states the U.S. Secret Service says has been targeted by an international criminal ring targeting state unemployment systems.
  • The state legislature adjourned on Friday, but stands ready to be summoned back to override any vetoes by Governor Kevin Stitt.
  • Oklahoma has now surpassed 5,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On a videoconference with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Wednesday, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. asked the senator to consider allowing any future federal coronavirus aid packages to contain funding that can be used to cover lost revenue, a use currently prohibited in existing aid programs.

Facebook / @TulsaCountySheriffsOffice

Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado announced Thursday the closure of six cold case homicides dating back decades. 

Five of the cases solved by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Task Force, an all-volunteer team of investigators, involved suspects who had since died. 

The sixth case resulted in the Thursday arrest of Tommy Edward Harris in Osage County. Police say Harris has previously confessed to killing Kim McVey in 1992, leaving her body behind a shed in Owasso.

Friday's top stories:

  • Tulsa will enter a new phase in its plan to reopen after prolonged restrictions meant to combat the coronavirus. Bars will be allowed to open today, and gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted. 
  • The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a measure that would strip local officials of some public health powers during emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic.
  • 4,962 cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. 284 patients have died.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House narrowly approved a bill on Thursday to strip some power during health emergencies from mayors and other local officials.

The bill would make several changes to the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, conferring broad authority on the governor and others during health emergencies if the Legislature agrees.

Though the reopening of Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa came sooner than Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart would have liked, both men announced Thursday that the current data concerning COVID-19 support moving into the next stage of reopening.

Facebook / @OklahomaAg

Blayne Arthur, Secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, spoke with KWGS about a new amendment to Governor Kevin Stitt's coronavirus executive order, the COVID-19 outbreak at a pork plant in Guymon, and what her department is doing to try to maintain the food supply chain.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said Wednesday that he is not yet convinced that Americans need more federal aid to deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a Zoom videoconference organized by the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Inhofe said a package being put forward by House Democrats this week is too costly, too ideological, and too premature.

"Nancy Pelosi came dancing in and decided that she wanted to have a fourth round," Inhofe said. "So far we've spent $3 trillion, and she thought it would be fair to spend $3 trillion more."

Thursday's top stories:

  • The two chambers of the state legislature have voted to override Governor Stitt's veto of their budget bills.
  • Oklahoma State University Medical Center in Tulsa could continue to serve as a "surge" facility to deal with possible spikes in COVID-19 infections.
  • Oklahoma has confirmed 4,852 cases of COVID-19 with 278 deaths. 

Facebook / @OklahomaDOC

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend special medical parole for 12 inmates determined to be at elevated risk from the coronavirus pandemic.

At a virtual meeting of the board on Wednesday morning, Steven Bickley, the body's executive director, explained how the specific inmates ended up on the docket. 

"The agency received a letter from [Oklahoma Department of Corrections] Director [Scott] Crow on Friday, May 1st, recommending 14 inmates for medical parole," Bickley said. "That is authorized by him under statute."

Wednesday's top stories:

  • The Oklahoma State Senate has passed a bill cutting the state's affordable housing tax credit.
  • The IC Bus factory has picked up a national labor union's support in its negotiations and PR battle with the city of Tulsa.
  • Oklahoma is approaching 5,000 cases of COVID-19. The state now confirms 4,732 infections and 278 deaths.

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)

A major labor union has weighed in on the lease showdown between Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and the IC Bus manufacturing plant.

In a statement from their president, Rory Gamble, the United Auto Workers said that the 1,600 workers at the plant "deserve better than the risky behavior that what [sic] we're currently seeing," and accused Bynum of using the workers as "bargaining chips."

Instagram / @TulsaCountyOK

Tulsa County has begun awarding nearly $114 million in federal funds it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. 

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Governor Kevin Stitt announced his veto of two budget bills that would temporarily reallocate $112 million from pension funds to public schools.
  • The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill to grant civil immunity to businesses sued for alleged COVID-19 exposure. 
  • 4,613 Oklahomans are now confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19, with 274 deaths.

SupremeCourt.gov

The United States Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments via phone in the matter of McGirt v. Oklahoma, a case with major ramifications for eastern Oklahoma.

Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Seminole Nation, was convicted of rape and other crimes in an Oklahoma court in 1997. In 2018, McGirt filed a motion arguing that state court was the wrong venue for his trial, as the crime was committed within the boundaries of Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which he claims is still a federally designated reservation and has never been ceded to the state of Oklahoma.

Facebook / @ClarkForNorman

Facing accusations of religious discrimination from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing, Norman Mayor Breea Clark on Friday announced that she would amend the city's order meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 and allow places of worship to hold in-person services sooner than she originally intended.

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