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

First responders and public health agencies can now see overdose information across Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is offering access to the nationwide Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, or ODMAP. Developed through the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, ODMAP lets agencies share data on overdoses in real time by entering nine pieces of information into a smart phone app.

Agencies can see overdose trends and even set an alert for when they spike.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say continuing to acquire land will help preserve hunting and fishing.

They warn participation will drop precipitously as private landowners offer less access and younger Oklahomans move to cities, so public land is needed to maintain access to and interest in hunting and fishing.

Mother Road Market

The 27,000-square foot Mother Road Market will open Nov. 2 at 10 a.m.

Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Frame Ellison said Tulsa’s first food hall aims to do more than be just a new attraction.

"We were really looking to help businesses launch and scale in the food industry in a way that wasn’t impossible. Because building a kitchen is very expensive, and starting a business is also very overwhelming and expensive," Frame Ellison said.

Healthline

Health groups have recommended several policies they said together will cut Oklahoma’s smoking rate from 20 percent to 10 in 10 years.

Many deal with kids’ access to tobacco: Raise the smoking age to 21, ban flavored tobacco products, hike cigarette prices and crack down on sales to minors. Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Executive Director John Woods said that’s by design.

"The tobacco industry is actively looking for replacement smokers, because their product kills half of those who use it. That recruiting starts with our children and young adults," Woods said.

Stay Regular

Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group finalized Wednesday its recommendations for the State Board of Health about testing and labeling rules.

The requirements would take effect May 15, 2019. Labels will not be required to have doctors’ or patients’ names on them, and they were going to read “For use by qualified patients only.”

Columbus, Ohio, is where Tulsa officials are looking for inspiration this year on an annual intercity visit.

Incoming Tulsa Regional Chamber Chair David Stratton said higher education is one of the things they’re taking a close look at, including Columbus’ community college and ties to Ohio State University.

"And just how that helps them attract more people and really make for a diverse workforce, that was a big piece that we looked at," Stratton said.

KWGS News

With marijuana being a federal Schedule I drug, Oklahoma financial institutions are looking for ways to legally work with new marijuana-related businesses in the state.

Oklahoma Bankers Association President and CEO Roger Beverage said while there are varying interpretations on the array of federal agencies’ memos and guidance, his advice is simple.

tulsazoo.org

City of Tulsa officials want to use savings from one sales tax–funded project at the zoo to help pay for another.

They’ve initiated a process to allocate $850,000 in savings from building the Lost Kingdom exhibit toward a playground renovation also in the Tulsa Zoo's 20-year master plan. 2014's Improve Our Tulsa package included $3.75 million for tiger and snow leopard exhibits that are in Lost Kingdom.

Grants and Capital Planning Manager Gary Hamer said they first looked for funding deficits in the existing Improve Our Tulsa sales tax project list.

Buy for Less

Autonomous vehicles may be in Oklahoma’s near future.

Oklahoma City grocery chain Buy for Less is looking at automated delivery. In the meantime, a working group is figuring out how state and local policies will deal with autonomous vehicles ahead of that rollout.

"They will begin with, of course, a driver in the cab while it’s driving autonomous. That will be at least a year away before we see that. And then, ultimately, they believe that they can have it fully autonomous," said Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Mike Patterson.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa’s second celebration of Native American Day on Monday saw more events and more participants.

This year’s festivities included a parade, film screening, and traditional songs and dances at and around downtown's Guthrie Green. Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James Floyd said the holiday is a good opportunity for many different tribes to gather in one place.

KWGS News File Photo

Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing is asking his colleagues for a formal commitment to the idea no number of traffic deaths or serious injuries is acceptable.

Ewing wants them to pass a resolution of support for the concepts of Vision Zero, the global safety movement behind that. Doing so would not commit the city to any particular projects.

"It is not a policy action. It is simply stating our representative will of the public and communicating it clearly to the people that make other policies inside this building," Ewing said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has received $12.5 million in federal grants to address students’ mental health needs.

The funding is going to the area of greatest need: western Oklahoma.

"Of the 106 mental health providers that serve students, there are only five that exist west of Oklahoma City metro area," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. "Only five."

Oklahoma Watch

After months with a task force, Tulsa City Councilor Karen Gilbert’s truancy ordinance is back before the city council.

Those meetings focused the ordinance on getting families into a new Therapeutic Attendance Court, which will connect them to social services they may need. Gilbert said schools will have someone present for court proceedings.

Wikipedia

Prevention is the best medicine. That’s the advice for local educators from a group focused on reducing chronic absenteeism rates.

Attendance Works Executive Director Hedy Chang says one of the most effective things teachers can do is not just give a number of missed days in parent-teacher conferences, but put them into context and start a conversation.

"So, we’re building off what we know. It’s asking for huge, huge changes, but it’s a really critical shift to prevention," Chang said.

Fore!

LaFortune Park’s par 3 golf course reopens Friday after being closed for a six-month renovation. The $3 million update includes a slight reconfiguration to keep balls from going into Yale Avenue traffic.

Tulsa County Parks Director Richard Bales said you’ll also notice cart paths there for the first time ever.

"Which has been a deterrent initially. But now the cart path is here. So, you’ll be able to ride the cart go on all the time on the par 3, which will be a big, big plus for sure for those golfers," Bales said.

Oklahoma Tourism

The City of Tulsa has started the process of establishing a tourism improvement district.

It would charge hotels with 110 rooms or more a 3 percent tax on their gross receipts, with the estimated $2.3 million in revenue going toward marketing to bring more tourists into the city.

The city will begin notifying affected hotels and motels now and aims to have the district in place by January. Councilor Karen Gilbert said every hotelier needs to benefit from the proposed citywide taxing district.

Tulsa Flag

Tulsa has a new city flag.

With Vanessa Hall-Harper and Connie Dodson absent, the city council voted 7–0 to officially adopt the blue-and-beige design with a gold line and shield, red circle, and six-pointed star.

The flag was revealed last May after a private campaign for a new one kicked off in November 2016. Councilor Ben Kimbro led the charge to make the flag official after that process stalled last year over concerns the social media and text–driven campaign left out some Tulsans.

Laurie Avocado

The Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission signed off Wednesday on the city's proposed zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses.

The regulations limit dispensaries to mixed-use and certain commercial and industrial districts, and they cannot be within 1,000 feet of another dispensary. 

City Director of Economic Development and Policy Nick Doctor said that distance is consistent across similar cities and is meant to address law enforcement agencies' concerns.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

City of Tulsa officials are no longer asking for a 1,000-foot buffer between houses and medical marijuana growers or processors.

The change comes after talks involving the mayor’s office, industry representatives and code enforcement. Chief of Economic Development and Policy Nick Doctor said that changes the stance of the mayor's office on a proposed freeze of up to 90 days on issuing permits for growers or processors.

In its 11th meeting, Oklahoma's Medical Marijuana Working Group got more information about testing and started talking about potential rules on products dispensaries will offer.

Lawmakers have concerns about whether there will be enough labs to test marijuana products. Equipment is expensive and certification takes time. Fenton Rood with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said they already work with a network of private labs on environmental testing.

Clifton Adcock/Oklahoma Watch

Nearly three months into its work to develop comprehensive regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program, Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group is not yet ready to issue recommendations.

One goal, however, is clear.

American Airlines

Starting April 2, you can fly American Airlines directly between Tulsa and Los Angeles International Airport.

The new flights go on sale Monday at American's website. For now, Tulsa-bound flights are set to leave LAX at 1:07 p.m. Pacific, and Los Angeles–bound flights set to leave Tulsa at 6:40 p.m. Central.

American spokeswoman Linda Brock said local officials and the business community showed the route was needed.

Some elected officials in Tulsa County are getting more money for their jobs.

The Board of County Commissioners approved Monday increasing annual salaries from $107,062.50 to $110,062.50. Chairman Ron Peters said the increase is not arbitrary.

"It’s based on the assessed value of property, and then the formula is calculated based on all that stuff. It’s completely — state statute defines how the raises are calculated," Peters said.

A tax Tulsa County started charging liquor retailers 33 years ago is no more.

The $900 tax applied to businesses in unincorporated areas, which was only nine bars. Under Oklahoma's new liquor laws, convenience stores choosing to sell beer and wine would have paid occupational tax, too. Chief Deputy County Commissioner John Fothergill said many of those are locally owned, mom-and-pop stores.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Boston Avenue looked a little different between Fifth and Sixth streets on Friday.

Tulsa’s Young Professionals and the Downtown Coordinating Council paid the fees to take over three parking spaces for the day.

"But then using landscaping, using art and design to help people think differently about the public realm and about the importance of urban parks and public spaces in the built environment," said Downtown Coordinating Council Executive Director Brian Kurtz.

Tulsa Flag

The city council got the ball rolling this week on officially adopting a redesigned Tulsa flag unveiled last year.

The blue-and-beige flag with a gold line and shield, red circle, and Art Deco star has proved popular. Joey Wignarajah led the redesign campaign and said they’ve sold more than 1,000 flags and it’s popping up on merchandise, appearing in sports team uniforms, and being incorporated into local projects like the new Marshall Brewing Taproom.

"At this point, I think the community has adopted this sort of full stop," Wignarajah said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Downtown Tulsa’s largest special taxing district may be up and running by November.

The city council has been asked to approve a tax increment finance district spanning from Denver Avenue east to the Inner Dispersal Loop and from Archer Street south to Eighth Street to be formally established. The TIF is part of a broad economic development plan approved last year.

Stay Regular

Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Working Group reached consensus Wednesday on some potential testing requirements.

That will include extending the deadline for labs to achieve accreditation and not starting the clock on them until six months after rules are adopted.

"Making sure that the language is very clear that laboratories will be given up to 24 months that they can operate under a provisional accreditation so that we can have testing up and going as soon as humanly possible in the state of Oklahoma," said Sen. Greg McCortney, a working group co-chair.

Advocates with the American Cancer Society are on Capitol Hill this week pushing U.S. lawmakers to increase research funding.

Oklahoma lead ambassador Carrie Mayes said she’s a staunch supporter of research after surviving cancer of her retina.

"The treatment at the time, generally, was just to remove the eye. Because of the research that had been done, we found a fabulous hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that had cutting-edge treatment, and they were able to treat my melanoma and save my eye," Mayes said.

Truth In Accounting

Oklahoma improved on an annual report card for state finances.

Truth In Accounting grades are based on taxpayers’ share of the state’s debt. Last year, Oklahomans’ was $5,100.

"We give people a 'D' if your per taxpayer burden is more than $5,000, and now you guys have jumped up to $2,900, which is in our 'C' category," said Truth In Accounting founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg.

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