Matt Trotter

News Director

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.

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Cherokee Nation and Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology have entered into a formal education agreement.

The partnership will help Cherokee Nation citizens access training for careers as pilots or aviation technicians. Spartan Executive Vice President Dan Bregman said there’s a definite need for pilots, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

Tulsa Planning Office

After months of planning, a steering committee has chosen an alignment for Tulsa’s Route 66 bus rapid transit line.

It will follow 11th Street from downtown to Garnett Road before turning south to take 21st Street to its terminus at Eastgate Metroplex. Five north-south legs to take buses from 11th to 21st street were considered. The committee evaluated them based on multiple data points, including demographics, access to jobs and social services, and existing transit ridership, and Garnett was the clear best option.

Stitt Criticizes School, Biden Over Masking

Aug 20, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is criticizing both a northeast Oklahoma school district that adopted a mask mandate and President Joe Biden over comments that the state’s school mask mandate ban may violate a coronavirus aid package for schools.

The Republican governor and state Attorney General John O’Connor released a joint statement Thursday criticizing the Hulbert school district for its mask requirement.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A former state health official warns Oklahoma has not hit its peak for the COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant.

OU epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Wendelboe said according to his model — which considers factors like vaccination rates, mask wearing and kids returning to school — transmission of the virus has more than doubled since June, and reported new infections and hospitalizations will continue to rise at least through August.

Wendelboe said other researchers are seeing information that supports that, including OU’s team testing wastewater samples for the coronavirus.

Pool photo by Mike Simons / Tulsa World

The Oklahoma State Department of health is preparing to offer booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines starting Sept. 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Boosters would come eight months after a person receives their second dose. So, people who completed a series in January would be up first, meaning the state will follow the same rough schedule of giving shots to older and at more at-risk people first.

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More than 32,000 Tulsa Public Schools students returned to their classrooms Thursday.

The district expects every adult and student to wear a mask indoors and out when they’re around others, regardless of vaccination status, in order to limit spread of COVID-19. Speaking to reporters outside Bell Elementary during her districtwide, first-day-of-school tour, Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she’s been pleased to see staff, students and parents masked up, but officials will monitor mask wearing and related legal issues.

Whitney Bryen, Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is acknowledging the squeeze on hospitals created by patients severely ill with COVID-19.

According to a hospital association survey this week, 22% of staffed hospital beds in the state — 1,309 out of 5,913 — are occupied by someone with COVID. That’s on top of hospital demand that’s typically higher this time of year.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said the survey represents the count at a single point in time and numbers can fluctuate.

Photo from Public Service Company Oklahoma

A Southwest Power Pool executive told Oklahoma state regulators the corporation is working hard on ensuring an adequate supply of fuel for electricity generators across the 14-state grid it oversees.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A portion of the Gilcrease Expressway is now designated the Don Ross Expressway.

The 2.2-mile stretch honoring the civil rights leader and former state lawmaker is between Lewis Avenue and L.L. Tisdale Parkway.

Ross served in the Oklahoma House from 1983 to 2003. In the early 2000s, Ross helped secure $32 million in funding to build the Gilcrease Expressway. One of his sons, Ed Ross, told his father at a dedication on Wednesday that was just a small part of what he accomplished for his constituents.

Oklahoma families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits stand to receive 25% more than they did before the pandemic starting in October thanks to action by the Biden administration.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reviewed the underlying numbers that determine SNAP benefits, resulting in the largest benefit increase in program history. The roughly 600,000 Oklahomans who get SNAP benefits in a given year will soon receive $1.62 per person per meal, up from $1.30.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa on Tuesday officially launched a 12-month process to plan the redevelopment of publicly owned land in north Tulsa — land taken from Black and Native communities over the past 100 years.

The city, Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity and Tulsa Development Authority chose Philadelphia-based architecture firm Wallace Robert and Todd to lead the Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood Master Plan. Several local firms and an 11-member leadership committee have been tasked with making sure the plan aligns with the community's wishes.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa will continue not to have a mask mandate until at least Aug. 25.

A special meeting Monday night to consider a proposal for those 4 years and older to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 went without a vote after a procedural motion to call one failed to get the required two-thirds majority.

The five councilors agreeing to call a vote were Mykey Arthrell-Knezek, Lori Decter Wright, Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kara Joy McKee. The four opposed were Jeannie Cue, Connie Dodson, Jayme Fowler and Phil Lakin.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa’s state ID megacenter opened for business Monday morning.

The Department of Public Safety is offering a variety of renewal and replacement services there on a walk-in basis, including REAL ID compliant cards. Tulsa and Oklahoma City megacenters are meant to help address a backlog that created months-long delays for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Computer system problems were one of several contributing factors.

Tulsa Fire Department

The Tulsa Fire Department is trying to fix a problem within its ranks: Current firefighter demographics aren't representative of their communities.

TFD officials say they have far too few people of color. Recruitment Officer Anthony Payne said they’ve been in talks with City of Tulsa officials about changing one application requirement in particular to help change that.

Tulsa Fire-Facebook

As city councilors continue monitoring public safety staffing, the Tulsa Fire Department reports they’re down 60 firefighters because of retirements and being unable to hold academies last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation is being exacerbated with 15 firefighters out with the illness. A couple are in the hospital with it.

Deputy Chief of Field Operations Brent Goins said around 20 firefighters a day are working overtime to meet minimum staffing requirements, meaning 48 hours on and 24 off rather than the other way around.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oklahoma’s COVID-19 spike continues to worsen.

The state’s per-capita rate of new cases, test positivity rate, new hospital admissions and vaccination rate all remain among the bottom 10 states or worse. The state’s current seven-day average of more than 2,100 new cases is as high as it’s been since early November, as the state rocketed into a three-month winter surge before vaccinations became widely available.

The Tulsa City Council will hold a special meeting Monday night to consider a new citywide mask mandate.

The original mask requirement expired at the end of April and was instituted in July 2020. It first applied to adults, then anyone 10 or older.

Councilors Lori Decter Wright, Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kara Joy McKee are proposing a mask requirement for anyone 4 years old or older, citing a high local rate of COVID transmission, low vaccination rate, strained hospital system and mounting calls for action.

Oklahoma Capitol

Parties to two lawsuits over the state’s early end to enhanced federal unemployment benefits made their arguments on Wednesday before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee.

One of those lawsuits was decided in Oklahoma County district court last week, when a judge ordered the state to reinstate the program. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt wants the state supreme court to overturn that ruling.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission plans to take a $1.5 million request for American Rescue Plan funds to the mayor and city council next week.

The virus relief money can be used to support industries that saw business drop during pandemic.

File photo

A former Tulsa Police officer who pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges has been sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Chief U.S. District Judge John F. Heil sentenced Latoya Dythe, 27, on Tuesday. In April, Dythe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make a false statement to a firearms dealer and to false statement to a firearms dealer.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday learned what it can do in dozens of cases from December through March that ended in denials because of tie votes.

The typically five-member board was down to four after former Chair Robert Gilliland resigned in mid-December, and around 300 cases ended in ties. Those are considered denials under current policies.

Agency general counsel Kyle Counts told the board the 130 commutation requests that got 2–2 votes have to wait three years under current policies.

Some segments of Oklahoma highways are getting renumbered.

The state transportation commission approved a slate of them last week, including a new State Highway 375 designation that includes the Indian Nations Turnpike and creation of I-240, a loop around the Oklahoma City metro that spans I-40 and the Kickapoo and Kilpatrick Turnpikes.

Transportation Secretary Tom Gatz said the changes will help drivers and any devices they use with navigation, especially with the OKC metro loop.

National Weather Service

Much of northeast Oklahoma was under an excessive heat warning until 8 p.m. Monday, and it’s just the start of a week of potentially dangerous heat.

The National Weather Service said additional heat advisories and warnings are likely as summer heat and humidity linger over the area.

Heat index values will be above 100 in many areas Tuesday to Thursday, with some locations across eastern Oklahoma and west central Arkansas reaching 112 degrees.

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A U.S. Senate committee advanced a pair of bills last week to help preserve Native languages, including one named for a renowned Cherokee linguist.

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz is a co-author of S.1402, the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act. It would direct the president to keep tabs on agencies’s compliance with existing law recognizing Natives's right to use their own language and implement surveys of revitalization programs every five years to see where resources are needed most.

Preliminary figures show property values in Tulsa County are up 3.5% from last year, despite worries about the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tulsa County Assessor John Wright said commercial property accounts for about one-third of countywide valuation, and businesses in all sectors were taking a hit from decreased hours or total closures. 

Facebook / Tulsa Police Department

Tulsa Police have arrested five people — three of them under 18 — in connection with the theft of several luxury cars from homes in south Tulsa, Jenks and Bixby.

Lt. Chase Calhoun said they’re part of a group that’s stolen as many as 25 cars over the past two weeks.

"Based on the interview with some of these suspects, information was provided that they are actually targeting these vehicles in these certain areas because there are a lot of vehicles being left unlocked with the keys inside," Calhoun said.

Joe Ravi / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The state's new attorney general has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the ruling that held Oklahoma for more than a century wrongfully claimed jurisdiction over crimes within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation.

Attorney General John O'Connor, who took office two weeks ago, is calling the court's July 2020 ruling "recklessly overbroad," says crime victims are being revictimized going through the legal process a second time, and says tribes and the state don't agree on a path forward.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More than 150,000 Oklahomans have qualified for Medicaid under an expansion of the program approved by voters, and state health officials say they suspect many more Oklahomans are eligible but haven’t yet applied.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority reported Monday that 154,316 Oklahomans have qualified for the additional health benefits. Of those, nearly 91,000 live in urban areas and about 63,000 in rural Oklahoma. About half are between 19 and 34 years old.

Members of an oversight committee in Tulsa’s search for mass graves holding victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre expressed to city councilors their displeasure over last week’s reinterment of remains.

The committee held a meeting July 27 after being invited to a reburial ceremony at Oaklawn Cemetery and voted to postpone it. The reinterment happened last Friday.

Tulsa Community College is spending roughly $4 million in federal virus relief funds to pay off more than 5,000 students’ outstanding balances.

The institution is notifying current and former students enrolled on or after March 2020 that money they owed as of July 12, 2021, has been wiped out. A survey found about 40% of TCC students reported their financial situation has worsened during the pandemic, and a similar proportion is now struggling to pay for college.

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