Local & Regional

City of Tulsa

The city of Tulsa announced Sunday the appointment of attorney Cassia Carr to serve as the city's deputy mayor, effective Aug. 30.

Monday's top stories:

• Local elected officials and health care leaders gave an update on Tulsa's COVID-19 worsening COVID-19 situation ahead of the start of the school year.

• A judge ordered the state of Oklahoma to reinstate supplemental federal unemployment benefits canceled in June by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Judge Orders Oklahoma To Resume Extra Jobless Payments

Aug 9, 2021
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge has ordered the state to reinstate a pandemic-related supplemental federal unemployment assistance program that was cut off to thousands of workers in June.

In a letter to attorneys in the case late Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Oklahoma from withdrawing from the program until he issues a final order in the case, or until the program expires in September.

City of Tulsa

Leaders from several Tulsa health care systems joined with local officials Friday for an update on the increasingly precarious COVID-19 situation in the area, calling on residents to do their part in helping stem the rising tide of largely preventable hospitalizations and suffering stemming from low vaccination rates and the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Music Added To Veteran Resource Center's Offerings

Aug 6, 2021

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.

Man Whose Case Led To Landmark Ruling Reconvicted By Feds

Aug 6, 2021
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma death row inmate whose legal challenge led to a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal sovereignty has been convicted of murder and kidnapping in federal court.

A federal jury in Muskogee on Thursday found Patrick Murphy, 52, guilty in the 1999 killing of George Jacobs in McIntosh County in eastern Oklahoma. Murphy faces up to life in federal prison when he is formally sentenced, but will avoid the death penalty.

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.

Friday's top stories:

• A top Oklahoma COVID expert fears a sharp rise in infections and hospitalizations as schools return to in-person learning this month amid a worse case rate than last year's back-to-school situation.

• The White House says the severity of outbreaks in states like Oklahoma is driving more Americans to receive their first vaccine doses.

OKC Landlords Settle Sexual Harassment Claims

Aug 5, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group of Oklahoma City landlords agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging its former agent sexually harassed female tenants, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The settlement with defendants Rosemarie Pelfrey, Omega Enterprises LLC and Pelfrey Investment Company Inc. ends a lengthy legal battle in which the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleged the Walter Ray Pelfrey, who managed rental properties for the company, sexually harassed more than 40 female tenants and prospective tenants over nearly 20 years.

Pikist

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oklahoma topped 900 Thursday for the first time since February, and a nursing shortage at a time like this has a University of Oklahoma doctor worried.

There were 954 hospitalizations, with 274 under intensive care, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“Back in January, February, we handled the capacity with the big numbers of cases. We can’t do it now because we don’t have enough nurses and personnel to take care of all of those patients,” according to OU Health Dr. Dale Bratzler.

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.

Thursday's top stories:

• The Tulsa City Council's COVID-19 mitigation working group said Wednesday they are not working to reintroduce the city's mask ordinance, but instead are focused on supporting efforts to boost vaccination rates.

• The Oklahoma Republican Party on Wednesday again reaffirmed that they believe COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements are akin to policies in Nazi Germany that targeted Jews.

Greenwood Rising Finally Opens Its Doors To The Public

Aug 4, 2021

After some delays, Greenwood Rising, a history center dedicated to educating visitors on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, had its grand opening for the public today. 

 

Phil Armstrong is the project director. 

 

“Today is really just allowing for the public to finally see what six years of planning looks like.”

 

NIAID-RML

Despite rapidly rising numbers of new COVID-19 infections, the City of Tulsa’s mitigation working group is not moving toward reimplementing a mask mandate.

City Councilor Kara Joy McKee said there have been calls for that from the community. Right now, the city is going to focus on messaging and other actions that support the Tulsa Health Department’s work to to increase vaccination rates. Currently, 53% of county residents are fully vaccinated.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

As the Tulsa City Council begins consideration of a 4% employee retention bonus to be paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds, a signing bonus has been tacked on to the proposal.

The retention bonuses would spend about $8.7 million from the city’s $87.8 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funds. Those would go to employees with at least one year of service by the end of 2021.

The White House

Addressing reporters from the White House Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden pleaded with governors of states, like Oklahoma, that have prohibited schools from requiring masks to mitigate COVID-19 to do more to help the nation in its fight against the coronavirus. 

"As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who cannot get vaccinated," Biden said. "Some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be masked or vaccinated...  What are we doing?"

Oklahoma Republican Party

The Oklahoma Republican Party on Wednesday morning reaffirmed its belief that requirements for individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are akin to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

"You elected me to fight for you, and that is what I'm going to do," said party chair John Bennett in a Wednesday video message that ended in an appeal for donations.

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools officials say that while they recognize they're legally prohibited from requiring masks for students, faculty and staff when the school year begins this month, they do 'expect' individuals to follow federal and expert guidance to keep each other safe.

Wednesday's top stories:

• President Biden criticized governors of states like Oklahoma with new laws banning schools from requiring masks to help lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Tulsa Public Schools officials say while they legally can't require masks, they do expect teachers, staff and students to wear them to help protect one another and their community.

KWGS News file photo

Hospitals no longer need an emergency order from the governor to reorganize beds.

 

LaWanna Halstead is a vice president at the Oklahoma Hospital Association. She said today on a Healthier Oklahoma press conference that because an emergency exists at the federal level with the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals can do what they need to do to function in the face of possible COVID surges.

 

The commissioners of the Pac-12 and Big 12 met Tuesday to discuss how the conferences might benefit from working together or maybe even merging.

Two people with knowledge of the meeting said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and George Kliavkoff from the Pac-12 were discussing the potential for strategic planning between the two conferences.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the leagues were not immediately sharing details of internal discussions. The Athletic was first to report the meeting.

Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The president of the Oklahoma Medical Association said Tuesday that talks with Gov. Kevin Stitt show no sign that a special legislative session is in the offing to overturn a law banning schools from mandating masks.

“We have been talking and chatting with the governor and also discussing with some of the legislators,” but with no indication of a desire to overturn the law, said Dr. Mary Clarke.

“Who knows what will happen next week, but right now we don’t think there’ll be any change to that law,” which Stitt signed in March, Clarke said.

Rental Realities

For the next 90 days, help is right across the street for Tulsa County tenants in eviction hearings, and the court will help direct them to it.

The new Tulsa County FED Docket Social Services Hub is set up at Iron Gate, across from the Family Center for Juvenile Justice, where eviction proceedings have been held since mid-2020.

Free legal assistance is among the available services. Legal Aid Oklahoma Coordinator of Housing Advocacy Eric Hallett said there were around 100 tenants on Tuesday’s three-hour docket alone.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Transit has added its first all-electric buses to the fleet.

The four Proterra ZX5, 40-foot buses unveiled Tuesday were designed and built in the USA.

Proterra Transit Team Senior Director Lauren Cochran Scoville said the environmental benefits of going electric are clear. Each diesel engine–driven bus taken off the road means 230,000 fewer pounds of carbon pollution — and that’s not the only benefit of ditching combustion engines.

A comedy series shot entirely on the Muscogee Nation reservation premiered last night at Circle Cinema.

 

Sterlin Harjo co-created Reservation Dogs with fellow writer Taika Watiti. Harjo said writing a comedy was a natural choice. 

 

“Because we’re funny. Native people are funny. And we never get shown as funny. We always get shown as depressing or sad or soulless and faceless like zombies. Native humor is very specific. Just putting that on the screen is something Taika and I have always wanted to do.”

 

Tuesday's top stories:

• Oklahoma hospitalizations from COVID-19 increased dramatically over the past week.

• While Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a law forbidding school districts from making their own decisions regarding mask mandates, pediatricians are urging Oklahoma parents to follow CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance and send all kids 2 and older to school in masks and get all kids 12 and older vaccinated against COVID-19.

• Poor air quality continues in the Tulsa area Tuesday due to wildfire smoke from the Pacific Northwest.

Pages