Roundup of Oklahoma editorials

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman, Nov. 25, 2013

In Oklahoma, an uphill fight to reduce the stigma related to suicide, mental health issues

If he were still alive, Brandon Magalassi would be approaching his mid-20s. Nearly a decade after their son’s suicide, Michele and Billy Magalassi are focused on outreach, talking to other parents whose children have committed suicide.

“I just hope it helps,” Michele told Oklahoma Watch. “We just never know who it’s going to touch.”

They aren’t alone in trying to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to suicide and mental health. It’s unfortunate that they’re fighting such an uphill battle.

Whether it’s suicide, in particular, or even the more broad topics of mental health and mental illness, Oklahoma isn’t a bastion of openness. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard state health officials hammer on the need for better identification and support services and for treatment opportunities. These are long-standing issues in Oklahoma that only perpetuate silence.

Meantime, the Mental Health Association in Tulsa is doing its outreach with the goal of equipping a variety of people with the skills and knowledge to spot troubling behavior and connect those in need with help. The “Question, Persuade and Refer” method involves a one-hour training that can help anyone recognize and aid someone who may be suicidal. Such programs are clearly needed and worthy of support.

Let’s be real: Almost across the board, Oklahoma’s health statistics are bad — disturbingly, alarmingly bad. It’s no secret that there’s a tie between overall poor physical health and issues with substance abuse and mental health.

If Oklahoma is ever to turn its health statistics around, it must address all types of health. Personal responsibility — laying off the fast food, quitting smoking and drinking within reason — is critical. But making improvements in mental health is decidedly more complicated, which circles back to the issue of silence.

Reports from the state’s mental health agency show rates of serious psychological distress in Oklahoma are routinely above national rates regardless of age. Suicide rates are high, too.

Many people who lose a loved one to suicide wonder what signs they missed or how they might have prevented such a tragedy. There is certainly no guarantee that catching early warning signs would have changed an outcome. But the mere possibility of saving a life warrants the investment of time and resources to reduce incidences of suicide and other mental health indicators.

Families like the Magalassis are beacons of hope. Through their tremendous pain, they speak hope into others. Through a scholarship in their son’s name, they encourage high schools to pen their thoughts about suicide prevention — a small but undoubtedly meaningful step in eliminating the taboo of talking about such a tough issue.

The “why?” questions won’t go away when someone commits suicide because there are no easy answers. But Oklahomans should be grateful for the Magalassis and others like them who match the questions of why with the determination to help save others from experiencing their pain.


Tulsa World, Nov. 25, 2013

Majority rule

The U.S. Senate voted to change rules governing filibusters last week, clearing the way for faster confirmation of presidential appointments to most federal slots.

It was a partisan vote, but we approve of the move for nonpartisan reasons — it will clear some of the gridlock dominating Congress and install what most Americans thought we already had, majority rule.

Previously, 60 votes were required to move forward on judicial and executive nominations. Now it will only take a simple majority of the Senate. The rule change doesn’t apply to Supreme Court nominations.

The filibuster is a time-honored tradition — a single individual standing doggedly on principle against majority tyranny in the tradition of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

But the filibuster should be the last resort, not an ordinary tactic. Historically, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees and half of them occurred during the Obama administration.

As we have argued when legislation increased Gov. Mary Fallin’s authority to control the top officers in state agencies, an elected chief executive should have the power to name his or her own team to key positions. That’s the expectation of voters on election day: Elections have consequences.

Also we said in the case of Fallin’s move, this should be as true no matter which party is in power. If Democrats want to control state offices, they should win the governor’s election. If Republicans don’t like President Obama having the authority to appoint judges and executive officers, they should win the White House.

Frankly, we wish the changes had gone further — instituting majority rule on legislation as well as appointments — and we will support the proposition no matter who is president or has partisan control of the Senate.


The Examiner-Enterprise, Nov. 24, 2013

A few good reasons to shop local this holiday

We modern shoppers are a highly mobile lot. If we don’t readily find what we’re looking for nearby, or if we think we can get a better price somewhere else, we will jump into the SUV and drive to Owasso, or Tulsa, or even beyond to get it.

But this holiday shopping season, set to officially kick off the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. “Black Friday, we would all do well to consider the benefits of doing the bulk of our shopping locally.

Research cited by the Bartlesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reveals several good reasons to spend our holiday shopping dollars close to home:

Reason No. 1 — Shopping local supports local infrastructure

The sales tax we pay when we shop at local businesses stays in our community and supports our local road improvements, our local police and fire departments, and our local parks and recreation facilities.

Meanwhile, the sales tax we spend in Owasso or Tulsa supports their roads, their police and fire departments and their parks and recreation facilities. Let’s keep it here. We need it.

Reason No. 2 — Shopping local supports our local businesses

It is local businesses which sponsor our children’s sports teams. Consider the local restaurants that donate to our children’s school to fund improvements. It’s local companies that purchase the ads supporting the high school yearbook.

Do businesses in Owasso or Tulsa provide that same level of local support here? Clearly, the answer is no.

To state it plainly, local community-minded businesses need our business to stay in business.

Reason No. 3 — Shopping local supports our local nonprofit organizations and charities

Local businesses help local civic organizations and charities survive through direct support and by providing jobs for local citizens, who in turn contribute to local organizations and charities.

When we shop at local businesses we help these organizations and make our community a better place to live and work.

Reason No. 4 — Shopping local supports economic development

When we shop locally we keep our tax dollars at work right here. That means more economic development opportunity. Shopping locally helps expand our economy and increase job opportunities for our fellow citizens.

Reason No. 5 — Shopping local means local jobs

Local small businesses provide jobs for our neighbors and are one of the largest employers nationwide. Shopping locally helps these businesses grow, employ more people and invest in the community.

So before we decide to head down U.S. Highway 75 and spend our money elsewhere, check out what the Bartlesville/Dewey area has to offer first. As an added bonus, we will all save on gasoline and the wear and tear on our vehicles in the process.

Let’s all do our part and keep it local this year.

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