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, NPR's Weekend Edition, 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

Monday's top stories:

• A Green Country summer camp has reported dozens of COVID-19 cases, primarily among staff.

• Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) things Oklahoma's below-average COVID-19 vaccination rate can be attributed to mistrust of government, concerns about vaccine side effects, and laziness.

• The Tulsa's Young Professionals Urbanist Crew has released a recommendation for the removal of the segment of Interstate 244 running through Greenwood.

New Life Ranch

A Green Country Christian summer camp is on hold and changing its public health protocols following a COVID-19 outbreak.

At least 25 staff members at the New Life Ranch Flint Valley camp in Colcord have tested positive, according to camp officials.

One camper at New Life Ranch's Frontier Cove camp in Adair has also tested positive, the camp said.

Tulsa Tough

A Tulsa tradition and throngs of bicyclists return to the city Friday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation in 2020.

Saint Francis Tulsa Tough is scheduled to kick off at 5:00 p.m. with a race through the Blue Dome district beginning at 3rd and Elgin.

Other races and rides are scheduled throughout the weekend, including longer and more leisurely "fondos" as well as a family-friendly "townie ride" beginning and ending Sunday afternoon at Cry Baby Hill, at the corner of 15th and Riverside.

OU Health

A top doctor at OU Health said Thursday that their hospital system had no COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units one day this week.

"Which was the first time in a long time we had nobody in our ICUs with COVID-19," Dr. Dale Bratzler said in a video update. 

Bratzler also shared that after a winter season with an extremely low number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), diagnoses of the latter are on the upswing among children.

Friday's top stories:

• Oklahoma health officials say they are not giving up on trying to get the state's COVID-19 vaccination rate out from near the bottom of national rankings.

• A Tulsa nonprofit is taking applications for free air conditioning units for eligible county residents.

• The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has widened eligibility for a cash incentive program introduced after Gov. Kevin Stitt ended extra weekly federal unemployment benefits.

Tulsa Weather Coalition

A local nonprofit is reminding Tulsa County residents without air conditioning that they may be eligibile to receive a free window unit to help cool their homes.

The Tulsa Weather Coalition, an initiative of the Community Service Council, is accepting applications for the program, which was launched in 1980 following a summer of many heat-related deaths.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

A top state health official said Thursday that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is not giving up on improving COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state after weeks of placing near the bottom in national rankings.

Tulsa Police Department

Members of the Tulsa City Council on Wednesday discussed possible actions they and the Tulsa Police Department can take to prevent or discourage illegal street racing on the Broken Arrow Expressway and other roadways across the city.

Councilor Kara Joy McKee sponsored the agenda item for the council's urban and economic development committee meeting in response to constituent complaints she said she has received and seen on social media.

Thursday's top stories:

• Some city of Tulsa employees could be getting a 4% retention bonus from the city's share of American Rescue Plan funds.

• The World Health Organization has released a new naming scheme for COVID-19 variants.

• Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) is defending Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, from bad-faith attacks being launched by Cole's fellow conservatives.

City of Tulsa / Downtown Coordinating Council

The city of Tulsa has launched an online survey to solicit public input as officials design a new branding campaign for downtown.

"The new brand identity and messaging will seek to champion Downtown Tulsa locally and throughout the region as everyone’s neighborhood," the city said in a Tuesday news release. 

Maggie Hoey, assistant director of the Downtown Coordinating Council, said they hope to develop a marketing campaign that will resonate with locals and visitors alike.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Voters approved a 5-year, $414 million bond package for Tulsa Public Schools.

• The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted this week to rescind the district's COVID-19 mandatory masking policy.

• Researchers expect to begin skeletal analysis on human remains discovered in a mass grave in Oaklawn Cemetery Wednesday in an attempt to determine whether they belong to victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

City of Tulsa

Researchers said Tuesday that they have now uncovered 15 more burials in an Oaklawn Cemetery mass grave since an October test excavation revealed 12 in their search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims, bringing the total to 27 presumed sets of remains with still more "very likely" to be discovered.

"We were able to then come back today and actually initiate the process of excavation on some of the individual burials," Dr. Kary Stackelbeck, Oklahoma's state archaeologist, said during a press briefing at the Tulsa Fire Museum adjacent to the cemetery.

The Biden administration on Wednesday declared June a "national month of action" for COVID vaccination, with a goal of getting 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of Tuesday, that number was 64% nationally and 54% in Oklahoma, which has for weeks been consistently placing near the bottom of national rankings.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Oklahoma's seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections, which peaked above 4,000 in January, has dipped below 100 for the first time since June 10 of last year.

• Voters living within the Tulsa Public Schools district boundaries will decide Tuesday whether or not to approve a $414 million, five-year bond package.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission this weekend launched "Shop 66 Saturdays," a program meant to boost business at establishments along the historic route's Tulsa portions by staging pop-up events, giveaways and discounts at participating businesses on the first Saturday of each month through the end of 2021.

Rhys Martin, who sits on the board of the Tulsa Route 66 Commission, said Saturday they hope the promotion inspires Tulsans and tourists alike.

Monday's top stories:

• U.S. 412 could be on the way to becoming Interstate 412.

• "Shop 66 Saturdays" launched this weekend with pop-ups, giveaways and discounts by retailers on the Mother Road in Tulsa, a recurring event on the first Saturday of each month through December.

• Some Tulsans are concerned about Amazon's track record on worker safety as the company prepares to open a third local facility.

Congress for the New Urbanism

A report from an national urban planning think tank recommends the portion of Interstate 244 that runs through Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood be torn down.

"This year marks the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when Black Wall Street was first destroyed," the Congress for the New Urbanism writes in its annual "Freeways Without Futures" report.

Friday's top stories:

• The city announced Thursday researchers have uncovered more coffins than previously found in a mass grave in Oaklawn Cemetery in the search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims, bringing the total to 20 presumed sets of remains.

• Attorneys for the three known living survivors of the massacre in their lawsuit for financial recompense from the city, state and other entities gave an update on their case.

• The city awarded a total of $6.5 million in COVID-19 relief grants to 74 nonprofits.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With the national spotlight off Tulsa following substantial media coverage of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre centennial anniversary and President Joe Biden's visit to Greenwood to commemorate it, advocates for reparations for survivors and descendants say they aren't going anywhere.

Councilor Joe Deere

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor representing the district that includes much of the historic Greenwood neighborhood destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre says he believes reparations are due to the attack's survivors and descendants.

Councilor Joe Deere welcomed attendees of the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival's main event on Sunday at the Oklahoma State University - Tulsa campus to the Cherokee Nation reservation.

Thursday's top stories:

• The Tulsa City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday evening that apologizes for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. While the resolution begins a months-long process of discussing potential restitution, it does not endorse reparations for massacre survivors, victims and descendants.

• Tulsa's controversial Greenwood Rising History Center had a ceremonial opening Wednesday afternoon. The $20 million museum will open to Tulsa residents next week.

Oklahoma Capitol

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon issued a ruling that could have major ramifications on Gov. Kevin Stitt's plan for privatization of Medicaid expansion in the state.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the state of Oklahoma does "not have authority under the law to proceed and implement the SoonerSelect program," the name of the managed care expansion program.

Wednesday's top stories:

• President Biden gave a speech at the Greenwood Cultural Center Tuesday to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

• Researchers began the exhumation process of human remains thought to belong to massacre victims discovered in a mass grave in Oaklawn Cemetery last year.

• The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state acted unlawfully in awarding contracts to private companies for managing Medicaid expansion.

City of Tulsa

On the 100th anniversary of the second day of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, with the president of the United States in town to commemorate the racist attack and meet with living survivors, the city of Tulsa on Tuesday began the process of exhuming remains discovered in a mass grave in the search for massacre victims.

Chris Polansky / KWGS

Updated 3:07 p.m. to correct the pool reporter's quote attributed to President Joe Biden.  

President Joe Biden toured Greenwood Cultural Center and met with the living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre after arriving in Tulsa early Tuesday afternoon.

Greenwood Cultural Center Program Director Mechelle Brown-Burdex led Biden on the tour, showing him the history of "the most successful, prosperous Black-owned business district in the country."

Tuesday's top stories:

• Events including a candlelight vigil and a prayer wall dedication at Vernon AME Church in Greenwood were held Monday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

• President Biden will visit Tulsa Tuesday to tour the Greenwood Cultural Center and meet with the three known living survivors of the massacre. He will be the first sitting president to visit Tulsa on the anniversary of the attack.

The White House

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation Monday honoring the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre 100 years later and vowing to work toward undoing systemic racism in the U.S.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Monday morning issued a statement apologizing on behalf of the city for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, exactly 100 years after the racist attack by white Tulsans began.

"As mayor, I hold our local government to the highest standard," Bynum said. "Tulsa’s city government failed to protect Black Tulsans from murder and arson on the night of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and from discrimination in subsequent decades."  

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Several hundred armed Black men and women from across the country converged on Tulsa Saturday for a march as part of the National Black Power Convention, scheduled to nearly coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Demonstrators chanted in favor of reparations, at one point extending a long banner reading 'REPARATIONS NOW!' as they marched. There was also a focus on encouraging Black Americans to take up arms to defend themselves against everyday acts of racist violence as well as largescale atrocities like the massacre.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The Tulsa City Council announced Friday it would consider a resolution at its upcoming Wednesday meeting that would formally apologize for the past and ongoing harms caused by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and launch a process to evaluate recommendations included in a 2001 state report that included an endorsement of reparation payments. 

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