My Comments on the Encompass 2040 Association of Central Oklahoma Governments transportation plan.

October 9. 2016

ACOG Transportation Planning Division
21 E Main Street #100
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73104

Re: Comments about the Encompass 2040 Plan

To whom it may concern:

I have reviewed the “draft executive summary” of your Encompass 2040 Plan and listened to the webinar Sunday evening.

This plan does not even begin to address the needs of the common good in Central Oklahoma when it comes to transportation.

1. The list of named projects has not one single public transportation project listed. There may be some sidewalks associated with the road construction and widenings, although that isn’t clearly stated in the draft. There are little pedestrian and bicycle icons throughout the list of named projects, but their meaning is not explained in the document. One hopes that means that there will be sidewalks and bike lanes, but if so, that needs to be explicitly spelled out somewhere.

2. In response to a question during the webinar, the ACOG rep stated that it would be at least five years before any improvements to the bus system could be considered. This is because despite all of the work of ACOG, no one has actually gotten around to forming this regional transit authority that is going to do all these good things, supposedly, for public transportation in Oklahoma.

3. Looking at the locations for the road projects, the Encompass 2040 plan is obviously a subsidy for sprawl in the form of providing road amenities for upscale housing developments. This involves taking money from existing transportation infrastructure and using it to subsidize new home construction. So we take from the poor and working classes and give to the rich and politically well connected.

Why is this inadequate planning proposal such a problem? Because local governments throughout central Oklahoma are involved with many activities that, added together, constitute a system of structural oppression of lower income residents.

For example, all the ACOG governments are involved with operating various debtors prisons in their counties. Non-violent people, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime, are routinely incarcerated for long periods because they don’t have the money to pay bail. While incarcerated, they are charged for every day in jail. In Oklahoma County, that amounts to more than $1,200/month.

If they are unable over time to pay for those charges, they will be locked up again. None of the court systems in the ACOG area properly advise people coming before them of their rights to a hearing to determine whether or not they can actually pay a fine. Many of these courts routinely find that even homeless people are not “indigent” and thus require them to pay their fines and costs. Even when a hearing is lawfully requested, many of these judges simply refuse to schedule them, and demand that the individuals continually return to court instead of honoring their legal requests for hearings. I know these things because I often accompany very poor people to court in Oklahoma City and Norman and I have seen first hand the way that low income people are treated by these judges.

Another aspect of the structural oppression of lower income peoples is our inadequate public transportation system. Public funds that could be used for the bus system are routinely routed to other projects, such as subsidizing sprawl, and the notorious downtown OKC streetcar to nowhere. This is facilitated by planning processes such as this ACOG Encompass 2040 program. Of what use is a planning document that does not identify the structural problems that are causing the present dilemmas? If such problems are never called out, how will they ever be resolved?

Let us count the ways that the present transportation of central Oklahoma system oppresses low income people.

  • Most jobs in central Oklahoma are not accessible by the bus system.
  • Most retail stores in the area are not accessible by bus from the various neighborhoods of the City. E.g., none of the retail in the NW Expressway corridor is accessible by the bus system, nor are those jobs.
  • It does not get people to worship. Well, I suppose some Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist congregations are served by bus service on their Sabbath, but for the Christian majority, there is no bus service on Sunday. There is also no bus service for any one who works on Sunday.

What this adds up to is a situation where if you want a job, you have to have a car. Since many employers in the Oklahoma City area do not pay their employees just wages, maintaining a car on an $8/hr job is very difficult, even if the household has two incomes. So low income people often cancel their insurance, after getting their car registered for the year. This puts people at risk of scenarios like this:

  • A policeman stops the car because they have a broken rear light.
  • Finding that they don’t have insurance, the car is impounded.
  • The family loses the car because they can’t afford to get it out of impound.
  • The workers in the family loses their jobs because they can’t get to work. The bus doesn’t go there.
  • The household’s lights get cut off because they can’t pay the bill.
  • Someone tells social services, and the government swoops in and takes away the kids (disconnected utilities is grounds for putting kids into foster care).
  • Because they have no income, the parents are evicted and become homeless, splitting up. Another family down for the count.
  • Maybe the woman is pregnant, and she decides she can’t afford a baby in her circumstances, so she has an abortion, coerced by her financial circumstances.

This is a lot of human misery that could have been completely avoided if this family had had access to a reasonable public transportation system.

This is not an outlandish nor an extreme example. Something like this, in some form or another, happens every day in central Oklahoma, on multiple occasions. I have personally seen this happen again and again in my activities with the Catholic Worker House. When you are poor, a cascading series of catastrophes can easily result in homelessness, family collapse, and abortion. These tragedies are the consequences of the structural oppression of the poor by local governments.

So the lackadaiscal, “one of these days, we’ll get around to it,” attitude of the Encompass 2040 planning system regarding improvements in our bus system is a deliberate government decision to continue and increase the human misery, pain, and suffering of low income households that can be directly traced to the poor planning choices made by central Oklahoma governments, and the consequent maldistribution of public resources. As a primary planning organization for central Oklahoma, ACOG must shoulder its share of the moral blame.

ACOG is an essential aspect of the “leave the poor behind for the wolves to devour” social darwinism that is a characteristic of all the local governments in central Oklahoma. ACOG provides the necessary patina of “public input” that allows these governments to continue to ignore their responsibilities to the common good. ACOG facilitates the process of rewarding their friends and campaign contributors with all the transportation sprawl that they demand, and the consequent punishment of the poor who have no access to a reasonable transportation system. In the central Oklahoma planning process, the poor have no friends.

Oklahoma City always has all the money that any politically well connected developer wants, but it never, ever, under any circumstances, has enough money for an adequate bus system. The reason for that is obvious: the City Council’s voting majority cares nothing for the pain and suffering of low income people, and they care everything for the appreciation, friendship, and campaign contributions of the politically well connected upscale segment of the population.

In summary –

+ The ACOG Encompass 2040 plan does not even minimally meet the needs of the common good in central Oklahoma.

+ The plan subsidizes sprawl which will have enormously deleterious impact on the environment and quality of life of central Oklahoma.

+ The plan will do nothing to increase availability of public transportation options, because nothing in the plan provides any “SMART” goal markers. There is nothing about public transportation in this Encompass 2040 draft that is specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, or time based. Without those markers, nothing in a planning process will ever happen.

+ The plan enables local governments to continue the present system of structural oppression of low income households, and will therefore bring about an enormous amount of suffering, pain, and family dysfunction that will impact tens of thousands of people.

This letter also constitutes my resignation as a member of the Encompass 2040 Citizens Advisory Committee. I have no desire to have any affiliation with an organization such as yours, which is directly involved with facilitating the structural oppression low income people by the governments of central Oklahoma.

What do you mean by crushing my people, and grinding down the poor when they look to you? Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem! To those who acquit the guilty for bribes, and deprive the just man of his rights!

Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgment and robbing my people’s poor of their rights, making widows their plunder, and orphans their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, when ruin comes from afar? To whom will you flee for help? Isaiah 3:15; 5:20-21, 23; 10:1-3

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Endorsing Chris Powell for Oklahoma County Clerk

Below is my endorsement letter for Chris Powell, who is the Libertarian Party candidate for Oklahoma County Clerk.  The Democrats don’t have a candidate in that race, his opponent is somewhat sketchy even by Oklahoma Republican standards, sigh.  It’s a long shot to think a Libertarian might get elected, but to have the Republican character in such a responsible post in Oklahoma County for the next four years is not a prediction of good governance in our state’s largest population county.

September 20, 2016
To whom it may concern:

Oklahoma County needs a County Clerk who is honest, competent, and committed to public service. That’s why I am endorsing Chris Powell for election as Oklahoma County Clerk in the upcoming November 2016 election.

Chris has experience with legal processes and documents, a critical competency for this office. He is a notary public and has had experience as a life insurance agent, in the student loan industry and in personal financial services serving lower-income communities. He understands the necessity of handling public records properly and accurately.

Chris is committed to making records and services available. He strongly favors maximizing accessibility to public documents and data, while at the same time maintaining proper safeguarding of personal information that should be kept private. He has signed the FOI Oklahoma’s pledge to support open government.

Chris is a trustworthy and reputable member of the community. He has never lived anywhere but Oklahoma County, and he encourages people to search to see that he has no embarrassing run-ins with law enforcement that would make the news. His opponent cannot say the same, having been convicted of DUI and with a somewhat checkered political career that includes long stretches of not-voting and flip-flopping between the Democratic and Republican parties.

I encourage anyone concerned about the future of Oklahoma County to vote for Chris Powell for County Clerk. It’s time we stopped voting for crooks and thieves and started electing some decent human beings to political office in Oklahoma. Electing Chris Powell would be a great way to kick start that process.

Yours for a hopeful Oklahoma future,

Bob Waldrop

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Rise up! Wail in the night! Lift up your hands to the Lord for your children.

orlandoWith a tragedy such as the Orlando massacre, there is an urgency to come to an understanding of who is responsible.   I think that impulse at least in part comes from a desire to keep such terrible tragedies from happening again.

And certainly, the man with his finger on the trigger bears the first responsibility.  We know who he was and indeed he has already been punished being himself killed while in the act of killing other human persons.

But there is more in this plot than just this native born American citizen of Afghan ancestry or even his emotional connection with Daesh (the Islamic State) and his own inner demons.  Those are the obvious. We have to go deeper.  We owe that to all who have died.

We have to look at this problem with all of its complexities, and attempt to understand them and their many connections. Anything less is folly.

This holistic vision shows us that nobody is an island, everyone and everything comes from a milieu, a context. There is nothing that happens without a chain of causation. (Well, except for God of course but that is a different essay.)

So it comes to pass that we discover that there is such a thing in this world as “secondary terrorists.”  These secondary terrorists create the objective conditions in which “primary terrorism” — such as happened in Orlando — proliferates. Without secondary terrorism, there would be very little, if any, primary terrorism, because nobody would be creating situations where terrorism seems like the best idea since sliced bread for the resolution of grievances.

I know this conflicts with the popular delusion and madness of crowds that there are evil Islamic terrorists who want to kill us because they are irrationally evil Islamic terrorists who hate us because we are so good and they are so evil.

We forget that before there was Islamic terrorism, there was a century of Western attacks on the peoples of the Middle East. There are millions of people out there who personally know someone, or are related to someone, who has died in one of our wars. Do you think they love us?  We forget because we are supposed to forget, we have been relentlessly programmed to ignore the realities of our actions in this world.  We forget because its easier to forget than to face the truth about what the United States has been doing in this world of sorrow and pain.

Who are the secondary terrorists in this situation?  Those who are responsible for the political and military policies of the United States government and its allies throughout the world–

  • President Barack Hussein Obama
  • Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton
  • Former President Bush II, together with his cronies Cheney and Rumsfield.
  • Former President Bill Clinton and his VP Al Gore
  • The leaders of the NATO countries which have backed the US moves in the Middle East, plus the historical leadership of France and England that carved up the old Ottomon Empire in ways that are mind-boggling in their incompetence.
  • And all who carried water for these war criminals and made their war crimes possible.

(Trump is a “wannabee secondary terrorist.”)

This is definitely a most marginal opinion in today’s marketplace of ideas. But it’s the one consistent with all the facts.

The trouble with playing games with the lives of entire peoples is that there is no good outcome from such grave evil. In the end comes the crash and burn, the center that does not hold, and we will not be an exception to this historical truth. Ash heap of history, here we come! I have no idea what that will look like, but unless we the People of these united States decide to become much better people than we are now, we will not be able to avoid our fate. What goes around does come around, for good or for ill.

For the fact of that matter is that we have the government we have, these people are in charge,, because we are the people that we are. We ourselves are filled with greed and bloodlust and thus we should not be surprised when our leaders model our own sins on a world scale.

Which is to say that the situation isn’t actually hopeless, because every person is capable of becoming a better person.  And if that catches on, we could overthrow the greedy murderous fanatics —  Obama, Clinton, Trump — that are driving us towards the ash heap of history.  As a devout Catholic Christian,  I am addicted to the hope that good will triumph over evil, and that indeed by grace we will overcome evil with good.  And as with all addictions, there are times, like now, when that addiction is somewhat desperate.   I have read the Book, all the way to the end, and that is how it ends, but considering where we are now, between here and there is a lot of trauma.

In any event, given the scope of modern evil, and the hell being created all around us, all who hold to that promise ought to get busy, and if already busy, then we should get busier.

To what can I compare you—to what can I liken you— O daughter Jerusalem? What example can I give in order to comfort you, virgin daughter Zion? For your breach is vast as the sea; who could heal you?

Your prophets provided you visions of whitewashed illusion; They did not lay bare your guilt, in order to restore your fortunes; They saw for you only oracles of empty deceit.

Cry out to the Lord from your heart,  daughter Zion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; Give yourself no rest, no relief for your eyes.  Rise up! Wail in the night, at the start of every watch; Pour out your heart like water before the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children.(Lamentations 2:13-14;18-19)

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Dear Mayor Mick Cornett —

I don’t understand.

I just saw you on the news bragging about how the city was spending $57 MILLION to build what amounts to flowing water amenities for canoe enthusiasts. Yet, when you were asked by a reporter from Politico why OKC doesn’t do more to help its low income residents, you basically said — “They should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

Given your expectations of poor people. . . Shouldn’t people who like to shoot the rapids and do canoe races pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? Or are the canoe enthusiasts somehow “special.”

You can never find enough money for the bus system which would help tens of thousands of people, yet you always seem to have money for sports amenities for your jock friends.

Isn’t sauce for the goose sauce for the gander? When this idea for river amenities was presented to you, you didn’t say — “Great idea! I support you 100% as you bootstrap your way into completing this project!” No, you said, “How much taxpayer money do you want?”

You make demands of the poor that you would never think of making of those who are not poor. You never lecture the downtown development community about how they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Instead, you take money away from schools, public health, public safety, and libraries and give it to rich guys to build buildings.

So, in other words, you are a political hypocrite and as all us native Okies know, hypocrisy is always popular in this state.  Your downtown that you are so proud of is a Potemkin Village that hides many ugly realities in this City.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, Corporation shenanigans, Oklahoma City, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A question for the state legislature: How many unborn babies are you planning to slaughter to balance the budget this year?

PRinc_photo_of_fetus_at_16_weeksIt’s a simple question, rooted in reality.

Poverty drives the abortion rates:

  • Women in poverty turn to abortion at a rate FIVE TIMES that of women who do not live in poverty.
  • Women in poverty can be so desperate because of crisis pregnancies that they will spend rent, utilities, and food money to pay for abortions.
  • 42% of women having abortions are poor.
  • While abortion rates for women with incomes twice the poverty level are declining, abortion rates for women with incomes below 2x the poverty line are increasing.
  • In a 2005 study, 73% of women choosing abortion said financial desperation drove their decision.  A 2008 study had 69% of women choosing abortion had incomes below 2x the poverty level.
  • The 2008-2009 recession drove up abortion rates among poor women.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill in Okie the Shakey City. . . the Legislature is slashing the handful of tax credits that benefit the poor (the state earned income credit, child care credit, and low income sales tax refund) and proposing to toss 100,000 people — mostly women and mothers — out of the Medicaid system.

Given the economic realities of the drivers of abortion, these Republican proposals to balance the budget on the backs of low income households are radically pro-abortion.  So the question for the Legislature is — how many unborn babies are they willing to slaughter at abortion clinics so they can maintain the many welfare checks they are writing to industries and businesses that are politically well connected?


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Oklahoma City Persecution of the Poor: A Short Bill of Particulars

In an interview with a reporter from the national publication Politico, our Mayor said —

As for the poor, Cornett says, his city offers them opportunities to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. About one in six residents live below the poverty line in his city, whose 3.6 percent unemployment rate compares well with a national urban rate of 4.8 percent. “The government isn’t really capable of handling complex social problems,” Cornett tells me. “My goal is provide jobs, to encourage people to find work and start businesses.” While the poor may not find it as easy to move up the ladder of success as they used to, he says, “In Oklahoma City I think the opportunities are pretty much available to you. I don’t think it’s good for government to send a message that they are not.”
Read more:

Au contraire, Mayor, Oklahoma City is already stirring the pot regarding its policies towards poor people.  But instead of helping the poor “pull themselves up,” Oklahoma City is busy cutting those bootstraps so that people who are poor stay poor.  If the prerequisite for employment is owning a car, then many lower income people are condemned to unemployment, or underemployment.  That’s a government policy, not a free market activity.

And while the Mayor brags about our low “unemployment” rate, everyone knows — or should know — that the unemployment figures are not very respectable. Like the statistics of the old Soviet Union, these figures are politically massaged to understate the problem.  This chart at the Shadow Government Statistics website suggests that the real unemployment rate may be nearly five times the rate reported by the government and accepted uncritically by most of the press.

So herewith I present this short “Bill of Particulars” regarding the persecution of the poor by Oklahoma City, demonstrating how Oklahoma City’s policies and ordinances create a system of social cruelty that persecutes the poor for the profit of those who are not poor.

Persecution via the city courts

OKC finances its court system on the backs of those least able to pay and is making a profit on the deal. Fines and costs received by OKC are about double the cost of operating its court system. Besides much pious rhetoric, zero progress has been made to reduce the impact of Oklahoma City’s unjust court rules and practices that specifically target poor people for punitive sanctions and jail time. The commission set up to study this system and recommend “changes” is packed with rich white men with a history of backing demagogic politicians with public reputations for hostility to poor people.

Persecution via the misallocation of funds, transferring resources from the poor to the wealthy.

The #1 thing the City does that persecutes the poor is its continual refusal to adequately fund a bus system, claiming “the money just isn’t available.” This city policy functionally requires that anyone who wants to work must be able to afford to buy and operate a vehicle. Some argue that bus service is subsidized, while “cars pay their own way with fuel taxes and registration fees.  However, the facts show that all forms of transportation are subsidized. Each Oklahoma City general obligation bond includes hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain streets. The bonds are paid by all citizens, not just those who drive cars. By some estimates only about half of the expenses related to automobile and truck transportation is paid for by fuel taxes and registration fees, leaving the rest of the tab to be picked up by the general taxpayers.  Since transportation is obviously a public amenity, paid for by the taxes of all citizens, not just those who drive cars, the City should not discriminate against those who ride the bus by not properly allocating the available transportation resources so that we have an effective bus service that gets people to work, to shop, to play, and to worship.

  • The Council campaigned for a hundred million dollar capital expenditure for a “street car to nowhere,” and has yet to announce where those operating funds will come from.
    The City is quick to extend four lane streets to new developments at the far edges of the City, thereby subsidizing sprawl that benefits upscale developers and households and picks the pockets of the poor and working class households in older areas of the cities. Why is the convenience of newly built suburbs of greater importance than the transit necessities of older, lower income neighborhoods?
  • The City has written hundreds of millions of dollars of welfare checks to wealthy developers and corporations via the TIF system, yet the transit system in the TIF project areas has never been considered for additional funding. TIF funds could be used to operate and enhance transit services in such districts, thereby freeing up funds for service enhancements and operations outside of the TIF districts.

OKC actually has plenty of money that could be used to provide a proper bus service. But it has a problem allocating its money. If we follow the dollars, we see that the City consistently under-funds services like the bus system that benefit lower income residents so that it can fully fund and increase services to the wealthy and politically well connected.

Persecution via a politicized process that finagles property prices to drive up rents.

City zoning laws concentrate mobile homes into “trailer park ghettos”. City ordinances restrict the ability of homeowners to add garage, basement, attic, and backyard apartments. Under the guise of “redevelopment,” the City has used eminent domain to ruthlessly destroy entire neighborhoods of poor people, scattering communities who have lived together for generations, paying them cheap prices for their properties, and transferring those properties via various sweetheart deals to wealthy and politically well connected developers. (That’s the real story of the ethnic cleansing of the Deep Deuce for the benefit of rich white people.) Thousands of units of low income housing have been destroyed by this politicized process, which raises the rents for everyone. The City sets standards requiring minimum lot sizes, minimum set backs, and minimum square feet for houses and apartments. All of these combine together to reduce the amount of housing available to low income people and increase the cost of housing via these non-free market, policitized processes.

Persecution via poor city maintenance in low income neighborhoods

The City routinely defers maintenance on streets in lower income neighborhoods. Conditions that would never be tolerated in Heritage Hills or Mesta Park are perennial realities in lower income neighborhoods. A good example of this is the “car bomb sized pothole” at SW 26 and Virginia that was cited by the Politico eHealth article referenced above.

Persecution via policies and ordinances that criminalize poverty.

City policies effectively criminalize poverty in general and homelessness in particular. The anti-panhandler crusade is a particularly egregious example of this process.

Persecution via business licenses, zoning, and the regulatory process

  • A business license is required to be a street entertainer. This prevents Oklahoma City from developing a fun street music scene that would benefit the community, the performers, and be an attraction for people visiting our City.
  • People can’t grow vegetables in their back yards and sell them to their neighbors in their front yards unless they are zoned for commercial activities.
  • People who can afford to buy a whole acre of property are allowed to have chickens and other farm animals. Anyone who can’t afford an acre of urban property is prohibited from having backyard chickens.
  • The Oklahoma City-County Health Department exceeded its authority and applied an abusive and hostile interpretation to the home bakery law passed by the state legislature in such a way as to effectively gut the law so that it is not practical to use it to start a small home business.

Favoritism to the wealthy and politically well connected.

When three of the wealthiest guys in the state showed up at City Hall with a plan to snatch grab the Seattle Sonics to create the OKC Thunder, the Mayor did not say. . . “What a great idea!  I’ll support you all the way as you bootstrap your way forward.”  No, he reached for the City checkbook and said, “Would $120 million help?”  When Devon wanted to have a new streetscape around its new 50 story building, but didn’t want to pay for it, did the Mayor say, “What a great bootstrap project!” No, he said, “How about a nice TIF district that will take much of that increased tax money away from the schools, the health department, and the libraries, and spend it to redecorate downtown?  And we’ll borrow 20 years of tax receipts from you and pay you a high interest rate on the money. Is that a great deal or what?”

The Mayor makes demands on the poor that he would never make of his rich and politically well connected friends.

So it comes to pass that in Oklahoma City, the poor definitely sit in the back of the bus.

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Earthquakes and the Oklahoma oil bidness

In 2015, Oklahoma experienced 857 earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.0 or greater. 30 of them were 4.0 or greater.  This is more earthquakes than the rest of the United States combined. We had 106 in 2013 and 585 in 2014. From 1978 to 2008, we average two earthquakes a year that were greater than 3.0.

Meanwhile, back at the oil patch. . . The oil business has pretty got whatever its wanted from the state government since the beginning of our state government. But I saw an upper middle class woman from Edmond on tonight’s news making a statement that these earthquakes are a threat to hundreds of millions of dollars of residential and business property, and something needs to be done.

Personally I’ve been somewhat surprised at how quick the Corporation Commission has been to move to regulate underground injection wells. That suggests to me that there is real science behind their concerns because the default in Oklahoma politics has always been to not afflict the oil bidness. It’s not as if the three Corporation Commissioners are liberal Democrats.

So my 2016 prediction is that one of the interesting situations to watch is how this plays out over the coming year, especially since given the year-end wrap ups of the 2015 news, the message seem to be that as the year has progressed, the number and intensity of earthquakes has increased.

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An Open Letter to Oklahoma City Municipal Court Judges

In the recent discussion about an ordinance banning panhandling in the center medians of streets, assurances were given that Oklahoma City municipal courts do not persecute poor people who cannot pay their fines. Instead, it is said that such people can request a hearing to determine that they are indigent, in which case they will be referred to community service.

I am the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. We work in food security for low income people. So I know lots of poor people. Since the panhandling issue came up, I have been attempting to find someone who has experienced this mercy from the Oklahoma City court system. Last week I attended an arraignment court session to see how the system works. At the beginning, a representative of the city attorney gave a presentation about what would happen. He mentioned several times that if people needed time to pay their fines, they could simply ask for time and receive it. He never stated that if people were indigent, they could do community service instead of paying a fine. The judge never mentioned it either.

A right that no one knows about is not much of a right. Therefore, I ask that you send me a paragraph about the rights of people in the Oklahoma City Municipal Court system to a hearing to determine if they are able to pay a fine and the procedure for exercising that right. I would like to publicize this right widely among low income communities in Oklahoma City. This paragraph should be read out at every court session where people are entering their pleas and included as a printed statement on their paperwork.

While it may be said that “justice is blind,” in practice we all know that it isn’t and that fines levy injustice as well as punishment.. A $150 fine on someone whose income is above the median for this state is a much different “penalty” than it is for someone who makes minimum wage. For the former, it is simply part of the price of doing business. For the latter, it could mean not enough money to pay rent and thus an eviction leading to homelessness and maybe also time in jail. By the time a payday lender gets through with it, that $150 fine may be $500.

Further –- there is an accumulating body of evidence that indicates that municipal court systems around the United States are making a substantial profit off of the fines and costs paid by poor people. Indeed, this kind of economic persecution for municipal profit was one of the drivers of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. I am sure we all hope to never see such a situation in Oklahoma City, so if the City isn’t unduly profiting from the legal and economic persecution of poor people, the municipal courts (and the City!) should make a point of ensuring that people know their rights so that they don’t feel trapped in a system that seems designed to grind them into the dust.

I appreciate your assistance in helping ensure that Oklahoma City is not profiting from the persecution of poor people. I don’t anticipate that there will be any problem with this because of the assurances referenced above. Assuming those are true, I eagerly await your response.

Bob Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

1524 NW 21 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106

405-200-8155 +

On the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, December 3, 2015

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My testimony at today’s public hearing on the panhandler’s ordinance

My name is Bob Waldrop and I speak in opposition to the proposed restrictions on the free speech rights of panhandlers and charitable solicitors.

The claim is made that this is a public safety issue. Yet, nobody has been hurt in Oklahoma City soliciting for charity or panhandling from these center medians. Stories circulate about assaults and aggressiveness, but that is a different issue. Assault is a matter of public safety, and it’s an issue because we have the same number of police today that we had 20 years ago, and more of our police are assigned these days to special squads. So we don’t have many cops on beats, they’re all out responding to 911 calls. A useful response to these problems would be to figure out a way to get police patrolling on bicycles in the areas where these kinds of incidents are most likely to occur.

In the public conversation about this, someone said, “Oklahoma City has plenty of charitable resources.” That it is not true. My organization, the Oscar Romero Catholic worker House, delivers food every month to about 350 households who don’t have transportation. I stop taking requests for deliveries on the third day of the month. If I had the people to do the deliveries and the food, I could deliver to a thousand households, and this would still only be a fraction of the need.

Contrary to some claims in the public conversation on this issue, it’s not easy to be poor in Oklahoma City. I often tell poor people that they would be much better off if they left Oklahoma City and went somewhere else, to a city with a decent public transportation system and a state which went with the federal expansion of Medicaid.

In this context, the speech of panhandlers is the last gasp of the social safety net. It is the cry of those who are the weakest among us. Much has been made about how some panhandlers are allegedly “scamming” the system, whatever that means. Some even claim that panhandling is a way to “make a lot of money.” Obviously, these claims are made by people who have never stood all day in the hot sun, the freezing cold, or the driving rain, asking people for money. I think these urban myths are stories we tell ourselves so that we feel less bad about ignoring the economic structures of sin that are the reason we have so many poor people.

Instead of picking on panhandlers, why don’t we do something about the laws and regulations that prevent people from becoming micro-entrepreneurs and starting their own part time businesses that with work could grow into full time jobs? One of the tragedies of this proposal is that it takes direct aim at the one local program that fosters an entrepreneurial approach to poverty, the Curbside Chronicle.

The economic cost of this law will have to include the cost of fighting the legal challenges, because there will be people lining up to violate this law, who will go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary in defense of our First Amendment rights to speech and religion.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A response to the outrageous lies about panhandlers propagated by the Neighborhood Alliance in support of Meg Salyer’s Anti Free Speech Ordinance

There’s an anti-free speech, anti-poor people mob forming in Oklahoma City.

It’s been ginned up in the Nextdoor neighborhood social media app.

People are  upset about panhandlers.  They are upset about free speech! It hurts their eyes to see panhandlers on the streets. They don’t want to be reminded that the actions of the politicians they vote for have consequences in real life for real people. They demand that the government make this evidence of the failure of our government policies go away! Heedless of the potential consequences, they demand limits on free speech!

Crucify them! Crucify them! Crucify them!

And so it comes to pass that the Oklahoma City Council is poised to pass an ordinance limiting our right to free speech by forbidding panhandlers and those soliciting for charity from standing in the medians at stop lights to solicit funds.

God forbid that we do something about the economic and government issues that cause panhandling.  It is much easier to propagate outrageous and absurd urban myths about panhandlers.

  • People are getting rich off of panhandling!
  • There are plenty of resources to help poor people in Okie City so no one has to panhandle for essential needs.
  • All panhandlers are out for money for drugs and alcohol.
  • Panhandlers ruin property values and devalue businesses.
  • There’s a “panhandling church” in San Antonio that trains people to panhandle and then buses them to Oklahoma City!

Folks, you can’t make up this kind of stuff!  It would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so socially cruel.

In support of this social evil, the Neighborhood Alliance, in a letter sent to their entire email list, says —

(Panhandling) degrades our neighborhoods and gives the appearance that we are a thoughtless and callous society, one that doesn’t even care if our fellow citizens have to stand in the middle of a busy intersection to beg for their existence. It hurts our businesses, our property values, and perceived or real safety issues abound.

But of course, we do live in a thoughtless and callous society, and it is evident from their actions, that for Oklahoma City, County, and State governments, the needs of poor people are low on their priority lists.  Who gets the big checks from Oklahoma City, County, and State? Big businesses! Politically connected developers!  Street and road contractors! Campaign contributors!

The Oklahoma Standard policy is that if you are poor and sick, you should just suffer and if you die, well, it’s a tough life buster.  Just ask Governor Mary Fallin about that.

So instead of taking action on the structural issues that lead to such grinding poverty, the Oklahoma City Council plans to limit the free speech rights of anyone who wishes to publicly solicit funds for personal use or for charity.

I guess Oklahoma City has lots of money to spend on legal challenges, because I think there might be a line of people ready to stand in the median and raise money for charity.  And if the police want to write me a ticket, I’ll be happy to take that all the way to the United States Supreme Court, in defense of my religious and free speech rights.

This ordinance is evidence that those in power in this society are as clueless as the Romanov’s in 1917, King George in 1776, and the French Aristocracy in 1783.  Every day we get closer to the ash heap of history, and these political attempts to make the evidence of our political, societal, and economic failures go away are likely to become more frequent going forward.

Here’s the back story of this proposed ordinance.

First they came for the panhandlers, and I cheered that on because of course everybody knows that panhandlers are gaming the system and making big bucks and we can’t have poor people making big bucks doing anything, can we? They’re poor, so they simply don’t have the same free speech rights that we middle class people have. Besides, we shouldn’t have to look at them. They are so pathetic. And they’re bad for business and property values.

Then they came after the hair braiders who hadn’t paid their dues and got their licenses, and I didn’t say anything because who cares about what happens with lower income people anyway. Everyone knows that poor people are bad for business and property values so the government really should make all of them just go away.

Then they decided that political speech had to be regulated, because  some people were getting uppity and protesting against the many political, economic, and societal failures of our system.  They have opinions that are offensive and dangerous to the State! And we can’t have anybody getting offended or being dangerous to the State can we? That’s not good for business OR for property values either.

Then my next door neighbors disappeared. There was a big commotion, early in the morning, I heard screaming. Not sure what happened, but I’m not saying anything. It’s the nail sticking up that gets hit, you know.

Now my son is gone. I don’t know where they’ve taken him. The Homeland Security people won’t tell me. He was at some stupid rally advocating peace as a national policy. I’m told he is being held indefinitely in detention “for his own good” pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

If you don’t think that regulating free speech is a slippery slope, then you aren’t paying attention to history.

City Councilperson Meg Salyer, and the Neighborhood Alliance, make big noises about safety.  This is a meaningless argument.  if Meg Salyer and the City Council really cared about public safety. . . well. . .  we have the same number of police officers in 2015 that we had in 1985, but our population is 130% of what it was in 1985, and we have more police officers on special squads.

So we have no police “patrolling beats” in neighborhoods.  All the police not assigned to special squads do is answer 911 calls. The whole safety argument is at best specious.

And in any event, when it comes to “safety and the goobermint,” those who forget the advice of Benjamin Franklin, do so to their own mortal peril and that of future generations:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Finally, a reminder of this text of the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew seems most appropriate:

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.



Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Catholic, Collapse, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment