PictureOld Germany entrance promotes turnpike.
In ongoing turnpike drama, local business owner Mike Turek has taken to the airwaves to chastise future victims of eminent domain.  While Choctaw proved the perfect spot to realize his American dream, some question if Mike fully grasps the document that makes it all possible.   His nearly tearful interview has people baffled.

Mike has gone on record saying he would be happy to move if the turnpike were to take its original path over his establishment, because "in the end, it's just a structure".  But this statement raises a string of questions with residents.   Is the loss of a restaurant really equatable to a home?   If walls do not define him, then why not move his business?  
If economic growth is so slow for Choctaw, why has Old Germany stayed in this location for 40 years?  

Still, Turek seems blind to any correlations between his situation and those fighting for their homes. 
“For them to call a boycott on my restaurant, our livelihood, is awful," Turek said. "They shouldn’t do that."    However, opinins to the contrary abound.   As local resident Eddie succinctly states, " Mike Turek can say anything he likes, and we have the right to boycott any restaurant we like. He may have done a lot for this community but this community has done EVEN MORE for him. Many of us feel as though he has turned his back on us. We feel betrayed by him. He doesn’t just have a different opinion than me, he is actively supporting someone attempting to bulldoze my house to the ground. I’d say that is pretty damn personal wouldn’t you?"

While it seems improbably that Turek could be oblivious to his ironic turn of events, at least one local resident questions if Turek's surprise was real.  "How could he not know?  It's called karma.  I hate to say it but I think he just wanted free advertising, and KFOR gave it to him."   While no formal declaration of a boycott has been found, many residents feel helpless to do anything other than let their money talk.   Residents further note, "Money seems to be the only thing some people understand.   Maybe if we speak their language they'll actually listen." 

Are there lessons to be learned?   It would seem one certainly stands out.   "The First Amendment does not protect you from repercussion.  If you publicly express yourself in a manner that is offensive, hurtful, or just plain dumb, strangers might contact your friends/family/school/employer and tell them what you did. That is not infringing on your right to free speech; it's pointing out how you choose to exercise that right."

When asked what final words they would like to give local pro-turnpike businesses, local residents caution:  "L
eave my property out of your business plans. Taking what isn't yours is called stealing.  Profiting from someone's catastrophic loss after you promoted it is called greed."

The Choctaw Economic Develompent Authority (CEDA) meets the last Wednesday of the month at 4:30 pm at Old Germany Restaurant located at 15920 SE 29th St.   The meetings are open to the public.  



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Landowners taking a closer look at who supports Turnpike Agenda.
 
 
 
 
OKLAHOMA CITY — While most of her choices, and her policies, are conservative, some of Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive appointments are Democrats — and some are donors to her 2010 campaign for governor.

Fallin donors now head the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, the same agency charged with enacting eminent domain for her new drivingforwardok.com project.

"Fallin’s appointees to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority include Kenneth Adams, David Burrage, Kevin Hern and Albert Kelley, each of whom gave $5,000 to her gubernatorial campaign this past year.

Another Turnpike Authority choice, C. Carl Gibson, donated $200 to the governor’s campaign. Fallin’s sixth appointee to the Turnpike Authority, E. Gene Love, donated $250..."


Read full article:   http://www.capitolbeatok.com/reports/fallin-s-first-choices-some-donors-some-democrats?A=PrinterView

 
 
Today I called Gary A. Jones who heads the Oklahoma Office of the State Auditor and Inspector to discuss the audit process as it pertains to OTA.  

When I called the office in February, my call was directed to Trey Davis who answered several questions.  He told me that OTA has submitted an audit report in 2014, but that the audit year was actually 2013.  I found it odd that an agency that is about to embark on an  $892,000,000.00 project was not being audited yearly.  Naturally I inquired about it.  That's when I was informed that our elected officials in the State Auditors office do not audit OTA.   As an Authority, OTA is allowed to self audit - which is to say, they hire a firm to do the audit and submit the report to the State Auditors Office.  I am unclear if the office reviews the data, or simply posts it to their website, but the process seems shockingly hands off. 

Naturally I wanted to know which firm handles OTA's audits.  I was told the Grant Thornton, an accredited firm, handled the 2013 audit.  I asked how many consecutive years Grant Thornton has been the firm.  Trey didn't know right off hand.  I told him I'd email him so that I had written confirmation of my questions, and the resulting answers.  

2/6/16
Hi Trey,

I spoke with you on the phone recently.  Just trying to learn a little bit about how things work.  Here are a few of my questions.  

Why have the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority's audit's stopped right before an almost billion dollar project launch?  How many consecutive years have Grant Thornton done the audits for OTA?   Who can request a special audit of OTA?  

Thanks in advance!  I appreciate your willingness to help as I learn a bit about how our state agencies are maintained. 



2 /22/16
Reply:

I understand the OTA FY14 audit has now been filed with our office. It is apparently too large for us to email to you (we had to change our parameters to permit it to be loaded to our servers). Grant Thornton, the firm conducting the audit on behalf of OTA has informed us the FY15 audit has not been completed. I don’t have a timeline as to when it may be available online.

Sincerely,

Trey Davis
Office of the State Auditor and Inspector


2/22/16
Thank you Trey.  The last question I had asked was, how many consecutive years has Grant Thornton done the audits for OTA?  This may in fact be my most pressing questions. 


Now that we find ourselves in mid March with no further reply, I decided to call the office again.   I still wanted to know how many consecutive years Grant Thornton has been working for OTA as their client. The assistant I spoke with today indicated that it looked like Grant Thornton had done all the OTA audits from 2008-2015.  When pressed, she admitted that the State Auditor has never audited OTA.  She said, "If we had, it would be here, and you could see it."   The office of State Auditor advises that:  t
hese reports have been submitted by private sector accounting and auditing firms in accordance with 74 O.S. § 212B. Public entities audited by private sector firms include municipalities, public trusts or authorities, and public school districts.  The office makes no warrant as to the propriety of these reports, including but not limited to, whether all presentation requirements have been presented or whether these financial audit reports have been conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

So, where does this leave us?  I can only speak to my own concerns, of which there are many. 

It looks like the audit process for such a large entity takes a very long time.  I can believe that.  I see some oddities in the reporting dates pictured below, but I do think a proper audit requires time.   It also seems that the files required to post the data to the public are large.  As in - 'expand your website before you can host' kind of large.  The sheer size and scope of data instills in me a strong desire to have a second set of eye on these numbers.  

I also find it concerning that a single firm has done audits for the state's most autonomous agency for 8 years straight.  Even with accreditation, it certainly allows for a well developed client relationship.  Friendships are formed, objectivity can be lost.  Is there a standard within the auditing community that is in breach here?   Preliminary research suggests that 5 consecutive years is standard and acceptable.  

My final questions is,
who can request a special audit of OTA?  
I haven't received that answer yet.  I can see that the office of State Auditors performs that service, even stating:  "Every citizen in the State of Oklahoma is served by providing assurance of accountability through Special Audits."   Assurance and accountability sound great!   How can we get some??


 
 
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OKLAHOMA CITY — National data shows that Oklahoma roads have a deadly combination: we're among the top in the nation for deadly alcohol-related crashes and distracted driving crashes.

Below is a map of where deadly crashes happened in the last year. The brighter the color, more deadly crashes. Each spot represents a death.

Topping the list, the area of the Lake Hefner Parkway near the Kilpatrick Turnpike. There were more deadly crashes along the Lake Hefner Parkway than any other area.  The second area with the most crashes is near the I-44 Lake Hefner Parkway.

Can't see the map? Click here to open it in a new window.

Other areas that see many deadly crashes are just north of the airport, near Meridian the area near I-44 and the Lake Hefner Parkway exchange and the area the I-235 and I-44 interchange.  While a deadly crash can happen on any road at anytime, there's one thing that's to blame now, more than ever. Distractions.

For traffic officers, they're public enemy number one. "In today's day and age, there's just so many more distractions than we used to have," said Oklahoma City Police Captain Paco Balderramma.  It's a day and age when technology is causing crashes, instead of preventing them.

"The National Safety Council estimates about a quarter of all crashes are a result of distraction from cell phones or some kind of electronic devices, so we know this is a big issue," said National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman.  "For sure, impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding are three of the main factors contributing to highway fatalities and this year in particular, it's been a perfect storm."


Continue Reading...
By Keaton Fox Wednesday, November 4th 2015
http://okcfox.com/news/local/oklahoma-citys-most-deadly-intersections

 
 
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With all of the statistics that the OTA, EOCP, and other pro-turnpike people have cited regarding traffic, a few key points have not been accurately reported. 

A
ccording to the National Highway Safety Administration, 2012-2014 data:

1) Traffic fatalities decreased in Oklahoma from 643 to 589 - an 8.3% decrease.
2) Traffic fatalities on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes involving semi trucks accounted for 39% of the fatality accidents, although semi trucks only comprise 15% of the traffic.
3) There was only one fatality on highway 102 and 177 between I44 and I40, making those among the safest stretches of highway in the state.
4) Highway 169/64 in Tulsa had 8 accidents in its 7 mile stretch--making it one of the deadliest.
5) Highway 51 in Tulsa had 14 accidents.
6) I-35 in OKC - the "dangerous section" that needs traffic rerouted--had 15 fatal accidents from I-240 to I-44
7) I-240 had 17 fatal accidents, but 10 of those were on the WEST side of I35.
8) I-40 saw a 77% decrease in fatal accidents in the OKC metro once the crosstown was widened and completed.
9) When heading north on I-35 to the Turner Turnpike, ANY combination of highway routes you take to the EAST of the city is on average HALF as likely to result in a fatal accident. The least likely to involve a fatality:  I-35 to I-235 to Hwy 77 to the Kilpatrick to the Turner.
10) TOTAL of THREE traffic fatalities on all the non-highway roads in Eastern OKC (Choctaw, Jones, Harrah, Luther) east of Anderson Road, between I-40 and I-44.

As seen by the dramatic decrease in fatalities on the I-40 crosstown, improving the existing roads will have a greater impact than building new roads.   Can the OTA can guarantee a 77% decrease in fatalities by building the turnpike?


If you would like to compare for yourself, check out the interactive map:
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/…/Oklahoma_Map_1_GIS_DATA_2014…

Article by Choctaw ROADS

https://www.facebook.com/ChoctawROADS/


 
 
When is a road dangerous?   When it separates you from your constitutional rights.

We ask any Oklahoma residents to watch the following documentary.   The intro segment is just 9 minutes.   We think those currently battling Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will find the situation eerily similar:   a network of roads, governmental power, lack of representation, lack of accountability to voters, corporate overreach, rampant cronyism, all resulting in staggering debt.   Yes, it's Texas and the scope is larger, but no less applicable to our current struggle.  

We hope this award winning documentary opens eyes and raises questions.  

 
 
We have had overwhelming interest in EOCP.    We are working on a post trying to and explain this entity and its impact on the community.  In the meantime, we share a letter composed by an unhappy customer. 
 


To whom it may concern:

I have been a satisfied customer of yours for many years.    I wish to maintain this business relationship, but since learning about your involvement with Eastern Oklahoma County Partnership I must immediately terminate my association with your business.

Your company was mentioned as one of many sponsors of EOCP, a local public/private partnership.   We will not be conducting business with any entity that supports the destruction of our community, especially when it has been done in such a clandestine manor.   No citizen input has been considered as it pertains to the turnpike - a front page issue when you visit EOCP's website.  Most Eastern Oklahoma County residents have no idea EOCP is actively lobbying at the capitol in an effort to transform us into the next "Dallas or Phoenix"!  They have no input on EOCP plans to bring in industrial rail and high speed transit.   We find this very concerning.  Every attempt we've made to voice our concerns has been ignored.  The powers that be, including you, seem to think you know what is best for us.  Over 240 years of representative government is being circumvented.  Are you okay with that?   I am not.

Your behavior on this issue is causing real people harm.   Your business has made a terrible miscalculation in partnering with EOCP.  They are an entity that has willingly gone behind the backs of the citizens.  Any time you support a group claiming to work in the best interest of the public, you should probably ensure the public is actually included.  Since you are listed as having substantial monetary 'pre-commitments' to EOCP you are aware that they are having private invitation only meetings with confidential documents not intended for ‘everyday citizens’.  This is not how companies foster trust in a community and I am ashamed on your behalf that you ever thought it could be.   You have made a very poor choice in your sponsorship of this unnecessary, unwanted, and unelected group.  My lack of faith in your decision making is evident and must be acted upon.  One has to question the moral center of leadership that protects their business-based interest while putting the homesteads and lifestyles of others at risk.  Stop doing business like this is a game of monopoly where you get to pick and choose winners and losers.   

In order to conduct business with you at some future point, I ask you to publicly announce your withdrawal from EOCP on the basis of resounding citizens input.  Please acknowledge that the Mayors and city officials  comprising the EOCP have failed to uphold the very first by-law of the Oklahoma Municipal League:  (a) to promote the general welfare of cities and towns and their citizens.  After reviewing OML meeting minutes it is my opinion that they reveal a strong pro-business, anti-resident agenda.   We offer the following as a test for future business considerations:   If you cannot do business in the full light of day, maybe you should not be engaging in that kind of business at all. 

 
 
When spokeman Jack Damrill discussed OTA agenda without the fetters of 'talking points' we get down to the truth.   Please notice how words like "traffic alleviation" and "safety" have only recently been added to the dialog.  At a recent meeting Jack declined the opportunity to read this email aloud to a group of angry citizens.  He could have used any words he wanted in his email - and I think he did. 

Did this email help convince Choctaw City leaders to sell out Harrah homeowners and residents for the promise of a dollar?   It is hurtful to think that it could have.   I fear that Choctaw leaders may have adopted a very dangerous and greedy mentality that is going to cost neighboring residents our homes!
  Property owners in Harrah, Luther, Choctaw and Newalla would like to see the council uphold the law that states that commerce based eminent domain is not permissible!!   We are hopeful that Choctaw City Council will respond to the resounding voice of opposition, do right by the constituents that voted for them, respect their neighboring sister cities, and issue an immediate statement against the turnpike project.   Constitutional rights should not be trampled on for profit. 
 
 
Dear Oklahomans,

You may have read the following on the drivingforwardok.com website:

“The Driving Forward initiative has support from the cities of Mustang, Oklahoma City, Choctaw, Harrah, the Eastern Oklahoma County Partnership, Oklahoma County, Tinker Air Force Base, local businesses and community members. These organizations and many more have actively supported and have been involved in the planning of this project over the last two to five years.”

Harrah and Newalla are both semi-rural areas with large unincorporated areas.   These areas are not inside actual city limits.   As a result many residents in those areas can’t vote in city elections.  Consequently, we are dealing with an atrocious lack of representation as it pertains to this issue.  At some point I wondered, “Just how many elected officials does it take to override the voice of a screaming community”?   I decided to add up how many elected officials have been pushing this agenda based on the claims of the website’s statement.   

At first I thought the number would be large.   But then I recalled my surprise during our first  Harrah City Council meeting.  Five people spoke for Harrah.  That seemed really low.  So I decided to add up how many "voices" have been heard from the list.  I looked up each area listed online, and followed those tabulations with a call to the actual community to confirm.   

Mustang has 7 elected officials
Oklahoma City has 9 elected officials.
Oklahoma County has 10 elected officals.
Choctaw has 7 elected officals.

EOCP has ZERO people elected.  Z-E-R-O.   They are a business advocacy group based out of the local votech.   Interestingly enough, while taxpayer dollars fund the educational facility which houses their offices, taxpayer voices have no sway with EOCP directors and board members.  EOCP does not appear beholden to voters in any way.  Harrah, Jones, and Choctaw all have elected officials who sit on this board effectively giving them a second chance to push their turnpike agenda.   I will give EOCP an additional 4 points for people who have not previously been counted because I'm nice like that.   And I do hope to hold those 4 people accountable at some point in the future.  First I have to survive their having spoken for me.  

Assuming every single elected official in each of these communities supports the turnpike, our tally will have reached 42 mostly elected supporters.  

Things got interesting when I tried to quantify the support of Tinker AFB.  But I needed a number.  So I called Tinker.  After a 5 minute conversation during which the person on the phone adamantly assured me that Tinker prefers to stay neutral, I worked my way up through the ranks of Tinker PR  for a real answer.   I found myself on the phone with Ron Mullan, "The Voice of Tinker", Chief of Command Information at Tinker Public Affairs.   He asked me why I’d think Tinker would have a position other than neutral.   I informed him of the claims listed on the state’s own website.   After he’d found the quote under the Q&A section of the site, I asked Tinker to confirm the specific claims that they "actively support" or "have been involved in the planning" of the the Driving Forward initiative.    I'd like to share Tinker’s answer with you:    

Ms. Arnold,

In answer to your query, the following statement is provided.

“Tinker Air Force Base supports development as outlined in the 2009 Joint Land Use Study adopted by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.”

Vr,

Ron
Ron Mullan
"The Voice of Tinker"
Chief, Command Information
Tinker Public Affairs
DSN:  884-2562
CMCL:  405-734-2562

This wasn't exactly the response I thought I would get so I kept digging.   The joint land use study is 285 pages long so I will summarize as best I can.  This is the document should you wish to read it:   http://www.okc.gov/planning/documents/jlus%20final%20report.pdf

Page 1 is a document prepared for: Midwest City, Del City, Oklahoma City, Spencer, Choctaw, Nicoma Park, Oklahoma County, Cleveland County, Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, Tinker AFB.    There is a glaring omission here.  Harrah is NOT listed on the front page.  There are other notable omissions, but Harrah is my area and thus the focus of my query.   Further keyword searches of the document reveal that the word turnpike is never used.   Not once in the whole document.  Additional searches of the text reveal that HARRAH turns up similar results.   As a city within the study area, Harrah simply isn’t mentioned.   (“Harrah” is referenced once as the hometown of a particular past councilman,  and a second time as it pertains to EOCTC, a tourism council.)

After preliminary research I can come to only one conclusion.  Tinker’s statement refutes any claims that they are 'for the Turnpike'.   Their top spokesman can only confirm that Tinker supports a study in which Turnpikes were NOT discussed and Harrah was NOT included!   This is strong argument against claims of support on drivingforwardok.com!  It certainly made me wonder how valid any of the website’s claims are if they would so brazenly claim the support of a whole Air Force Base.   As a resident who stands to incur considerable harm based on the false claims of the website, I certainly hope the Capitol will review and remove the false wording from their website.