Local & Regional

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Three of the most powerful Indian nations in Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s governor on Tuesday, asking the court to help resolve a dispute over gambling at tribal casinos.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations want a federal judge to determine whether the state compacts that allow gambling exclusively at tribal casinos automatically renew on Jan. 1 for another 15-year term. The tribes contend all the conditions have been met for the compacts to renew.

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With all the focus lately on energy, aerospace and tourism, you’d be forgiven for forgetting agriculture is still a big industry in Oklahoma.

JanLee Rowlett with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture said the state is already in the top 10 nationally of many farming sectors.

"No. 1 in rye and native pecan production. We’re No. 2 in beef cows, No. 5 in winter wheat, all the way down to No. 9 in hog production," Rowlett said.

Rowlett said there’s money being left on the table, though.

If your bus doesn’t quite get you to where you need to go, Tulsa Transit is working on a solution.

They plan to roll out a program sometime in the spring or summer called Hopstop that subsidizes Lyft rides to and from bus stops. Hopstop will start with a pilot program running from an Aero stop to Philbrook.

2020 will bring some changes to how A Way Home for Tulsa approaches its mission of ending homelessness.

AWH4T’s new strategic plan will include more defined steps to stop homelessness before it begins, like reducing unnecessary evictions, and making services more equitable.

AWH4T Strategic Planning Coordinator Erin Velez says Tulsa’s homeless population is growing slowly, but it’s still growing.

The Chickasaw Nation has informed state officials they cannot audit the tribe's gaming operations, but they may look at past audits done by a third party.

First reported by the Tulsa World on Monday afternoon, the Chickasaw Nation sent a letter Thursday stating its position in response to a Dec. 18 letter sent to all tribes operating casinos in Oklahoma.

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Fewer students at Tulsa Public Schools are being suspended.

The district reports it placed 7% of students on suspensions last year. So far this year, that’s down to 4.1%. The district's goal for the year is not to exceed 6.4%.

TPS Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon said suspensions are down even more dramatically looking at figures from four years ago.

"We’ve had 10,000 fewer suspensions than we did this point in time in 2015," Shannon said.

KWGS News File Photo

Zero, zip, zilch -- that’s how many citations have been enforced for stopped trains blocking crossings for 10 minutes or more in Oklahoma.

The law went into effect earlier this year but was tied up by a federal lawsuit filed in August by BNSF Railway Company.

An injunction filed in October blocks the Corporation Commission from processing any blocked crossing complaints until the lawsuit is resolved.

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy said she’s not optimistic the state will prevail.

Community Service Council

Tulsa city councilors will continue digging into the Equality Indicators in 2020.

The report shows disparities in the city across a broad spectrum of measures, and it made clear there are big differences in how often police arrest or use force against black Tulsans compared to other racial groups.

The council wants to make policy recommendations to alleviate some of those disparities. Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper said she has a clear goal in mind: police oversight.

Tulsa Transit

The City of Tulsa’s Transportation Advisory Board may soon be a thing of the past.

City Finance Director and Tulsa Transit Board member James Wagner has been leading a charge to reimagine it as the Citizen Transit Advisory Council. Wagner said as it is now, the Transportation Advisory Board has a lot on its plate.

"Everything from streets to highways to public transit, bicycle-pedestrian transportation. So, what this does is it really kind of narrows the focus," Wagner said.

Helmet Hut

ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers turned in a first half for the ages, a breathtaking offensive display even as their coordinator grieved a horrific tragedy from his box high above the field.

This team from the bayou is truly something special.

With one more victory, it will be a national champion.

In his first game as a Heisman Trophy winner, Burrow threw for seven touchdowns and 493 yards as No. 1 LSU romped to a stunning 63-28 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl semifinal game Saturday.

Wagoner County Emergency Management

Updated Dec. 31, 2019

Thunderstorms that moved through northeastern Oklahoma on Saturday did spawn a tornado that touched down in Wagoner County, and it helped set a tornado record for Oklahoma.

Wagoner County Emergency Management reported minor tornado damage at a home near 193rd East Avenue and 101st Street in the Broken Arrow area. A large portion of the roof was torn off the house. Also some trees were damaged.

Emergency management officials say Oklahoma has seen a total of 147 tornadoes in 2019 and ten in the Tulsa County area. Those are both records.

Tulsa County Sheriff

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says investigators intercepted 10 pounds of meth being shipped to a man arrested last week in a drug trafficking operation.

Investigators from TCSO, Tulsa Police, Homeland Security Investigations agents, U.S. Marshals and the Oklahoma Attorney General's office took possession of two packages shipped to a home where 36-year-old Wesley Stonebarger was staying.

The packages contained approximately 10 pounds of meth that would have been sold across the Tulsa County area.

Cherokee County Sheriff

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma man is accused of abducting a woman and forcing her to dance at a Kansas strip club, then taking the money she earned at the club.

Gary Ballard, 29, of Tulsa, is charged with aggravated human trafficking and aggravated kidnapping. It wasn’t immediately clear if he has an attorney. He is jailed on $200,000 bond.

The 23-year-old victim was reported missing from Coweta, Oklahoma. three weeks ago. Authorities say Ballard repeatedly hurt her and drove her to Cherokee County, Kansas, in the state’s southeastern corner.

Tulsa Police

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A person of interest is in custody in the shooting of an 18-month-old child who was struck by gunfire that was fired into an SUV, Tulsa police said.

The child was in critical condition after the shooting Thursday, authorities said. According to police, the child was sitting in a car seat in the vehicle outside of an apartment complex when someone fired multiple shots into the vehicle.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group seeking to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Oklahoma refiled their petition on Friday after facing a fierce backlash over what the plan might do to the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

Two Oklahoma City residents — Michelle Tilley and Ryan Kiesel — filed the new paperwork for State Question 807 with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office. Tilley said the petition was redrafted to make sure there were greater protections for the existing medical marijuana industry and its patients.

Tulsa Police

Tulsa police are searching for a man after he reportedly opened fire on an SUV at an east Tulsa apartment complex Thursday afternoon, with one bullet striking an 18-month-old in the back seat in the head.

Police say they got varying accounts of the shooting, but it appears the child’s mother was the target of the shooting at the Meadows Apartments in the 2800 block of south 116th East Avenue. Several shots were fired at the woman's SUV.

Officers were called to a nearby urgent care facility shortly before 4:30 p.m. The mother had taken the child there.

KWGS News File Photo

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will handle dueling appeals in the state’s opioid lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson.

Justices could have let the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals review them first but chose to take up the appeals themselves, which could mean a quicker resolution in the case. A decision is not expected, however, for at least a few months.

Attorneys for the drugmaker and the state have appealed Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s verdict.

A City of Tulsa program aimed at tearing down or fixing up homes unfit for occupancy made progress in 2019.

The Housing Opportunity Partnership addressed 172 blighted properties. Of those, 92 were demolished, and 80 were rehab projects.

"Our goal was to address 120 properties in the first year, and we’ve well exceeded that," said city Housing Policy Director Becky Gligo.

Homeowners did 69 of the 80 rehab projects.

Trip Advisor

Local officials want to ramp up efforts to draw people to Route 66.

Tulsa City Councilor Jeannie Cue said Mother Road tourists stop in Tulsa when they know about the attractions, but there isn’t enough money being spent on marketing to tourists who aren’t aware they should pull off I-44 on their trip.

"And I think we need to find a permanent source to promote Route 66 so these people will spend the night and bring their tax dollars here, visit the Gilcrease, visit our zoo, visit Philbrook," Cue said.

Cue has not settled on a source for that funding.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission

Oklahoma has 2,107 flood-control dams across the state, and officials are urging lawmakers to put money into maintaining them.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Director Trey Lam used a Grady County dam with a cut through it as an example.

"They’re 50 years old. We can make this repair, which is put a new pipe through there where it won’t erode anymore, make that repair in the dam, and we can make these dams last another 50 years. They’ve already reached their engineering life, but they still have a lot of life in them if we just take care of them," Lam said.

Oklahoma Watch

State officials want to boost economic development in rural areas.

Oklahoma Department of Commerce Executive Director Brent Kisling said they’re working on freeing up funds from the Quick Action Closing Fund.

"We are filing rules on a rural set-aside within the closing fund program. We’re just taking a small portion of it, and for a portion of the year, if you’re in a smaller community, you can access those dollars more directly," Kisling said.

Friday's headlines:

  • Members of the Tulsa Route 66 Commission are interested in finding a permanent funding source for marketing efforts.
  • Two women withdraw their initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma.
  • Officials are pleased with the first year of a program to address blighted properties in Tulsa.

Jennifer Martin

Proponents of an initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma have withdrawn the proposed state question less than two weeks after filing it.

The Oklahoma Secretary of State received notice to withdraw State Question 806 on Dec. 23. Two Oklahoma City women filed the petition Dec. 12.

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Updated Dec. 27, 11:15 a.m.

There’s a threat on the horizon for Oklahoma’s pork producers: African swine fever.

The virus causes hemorrhagic fever that can kill infected pigs within a week. Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur said her agency has to protect the second-largest part of the state’s agriculture industry.

Gathering Place

Tulsa Transit plans to start running a shuttle from downtown to the Gathering Place.

Tulsa Transit General Manager Ted Rieck said the main goal is alleviating a shortage of parking spots at the park.

"So, we hope people choose to park and ride to get to the park, and also, if they’re going to be downtown anyway, maybe take in some dinner or a show," Rieck said.

Specially wrapped shuttles are set to start running Feb. 28, with  service every 15 minutes. Hours will vary throughout the year.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

It seems most of the more than 450 inmates who left Oklahoma prisons last month had a place to call home when they left.

Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless Associate Director Noe Rodriguez said they’ve seen a few released in the nation’s largest one-day commutation come through.

"I think it’s three to four, and we haven’t had many. So, obviously, they’re doing a great job if that’s all we’re seeing at the Tulsa Day Center, but it seems like there may be a few that have slipped through the cracks," Rodriguez said.

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Christmas is over, and now it’s time to clean up.

But what can go in the recycling cart and what can't?

"If the gift wrapping has the same look and texture as the newspaper and the advertising slicks that are in the newspaper, that’s the type of wrapping paper to place in your recycle cart," said American Waste Control Vice President of Recycling Robert Pickens. "If it is high-gloss or shiny, glittery or has foil, don’t place that in the recycle cart."

Your Boxing Day — whatever that is — headlines:

  • Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford says he's trying to help state officials get cell phone jamming in prisons.
  • Supporters of a state question to curb sentence enhancements start gathering signatures.
  • Shelters around Oklahoma report seeing few former inmates released after November's historic single-day commutation.

Supporters of a state question to curb the use of felony sentence enhancements in Oklahoma are clear to start gathering signatures today.

State Question 805 prohibits the use of past felonies to seek greater sentences when the defendant has never been convicted of a violent felony. State law lists 52 crimes that are considered violent felonies, but domestic violence is not among them.

Will Rogers Museums

The Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore could look a lot different in the future.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is raising $6 million to reinvent it as a multimedia experience center. Executive Director Bob Blackburn said that will include making collections available online so people in other countries can easily learn more about Will Rogers.

"We need to develop his experience as a Cherokee cowboy and share it with the world. He’s the most famous Oklahoman of all time, more so than Jim Thorpe, more so than Mickey Mantle," Blackburn said.

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