Sunday, April 01, 2007
Walters Outlines Reform Agenda at Oklahoma County Democratic Party Convention
(In addition to his keynote speech at the Oklahoma County Democratic Party Convention yesterday, former Governor David Walters has provided his thoughts on a Reform Agenda for Oklahoma Democrats as outlined in the following text. Walters now heads Walters Power International. Please feel free to leave your comments about the topics on this blog .)
A Reform Agenda for Democrats
March 31, 2007
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the most important issues but rather an example of issues that would create an image of reform for the Democrats in Oklahoma. The Democrats should be the Party of ideas (as the Republicans have in the past claimed). In some cases these issues and ideas are “out there” but they are the type of ideas that capture the sentiment of working and voting Oklahoman’s who care less about party and more about a properly and sensible functioning government. The Democrats need to “brand” themselves as the party that most often delivers on reform ideas and important programs. Conversely the Republicans should be branded as those who want to use social engineering legislation to divide us in order to win elections, financed by special interest and rich executives who are returning the favors of the Republican officials.
I. Honest Leadership and Open Government
The Democrats should take the lead in addressing fundamental structural changes in how we elect officials and how they serve in office. The following examples would send a message and begin to change how our state works.
A. Prohibit office holders from “free ride” elections. The general citizen does not understand how we can elect someone who then spends all of their time running for another higher office. Officials should like other employees either do the job they were hired (elected) to do or resign to pursue higher office.
B. Prohibit the naming of facilities or programs after officials currently in office. To many times “vanity” facility and programs are named after an official to get their support or are required by the official to be named in such a manner. This kind of implicit pressure creates bad decisions that do not serve the public. After someone is out of office and no longer able to directly influence the decision makers, and those affected by their past actions wish to bestow such recognition then have at it.
C. Oklahoma Clean Elections Act. The State of Maine has successfully implemented a system that operates off a tax payer check off that allows candidates to opt into a publicly funded campaign so long as they do not run negative campaigns. This remarkable program, too involved to describe here (http://www.maine.gov/ethics/pdf/maine_clean_election_act.pdf) is taking special interest financing and the constant requirement for fundraising out of the legislative and state wide races in Maine.
D. Provide for the Governor and Lt. Governor to run as a team. It is a rare occurrence for the Governor and Lt. Governor to be in sync and work well together. More often than not these two positions work against each other. We have precious little time and resources to waste for these positions not to be on the same team.
E. Appoint, with Senate confirmation, more positions that are currently elected state wide. The Governor’s job needs to be strengthened (classed as one of the weakest in the country) and we have no business having Superintendents of Education, Auditors and Inspectors and Insurance Commissioners out beating the bushes for contributions and running political campaigns. Elected officials are not known for bold risky moves and Oklahoma needs its government to be bold in order to take the great leaps needed to catch up and get off the bottom of too many lists.
F. Prohibit elected state officials or their spouses from being TV spokespersons for public service announcements provided in kind by special interest wanting to do a favor for the official. This has been a backdoor mechanism for the promotion of candidates and officials without any regulatory limits and it should be stopped.
II. Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence
Democrats should develop an agenda that is forward thinking that will create high quality jobs by dramatically improving opportunities, education and research.
A. Put the Minimum Wage on the ballot. Do to the Republicans what they did to the Democrats with the Gay Marriage ballot initiatives.
B. Require the Office of State Finance to develop and publish a detailed state balance sheet so that assets and liabilities, critical data for any other organization, can for the first time be seen.
C. Fully the fund the EDGE endowment by selling non-productive state assets (GRDA, Oklahoma Insurance Fund, Pryor Industrial Park, Sell Lease backs on non historic state buildings, etc.). A billion in funding can be raised from such sales and the practice of appropriating tax dollars to this fund can end. The Edge endowment can be sustaining by interest earnings and also paying back of grants from successful commercial initiatives (similar to the I2E program at the Research Park).
D. Lets do more Research Parks like the Oklahoma Health Center Research Parks. This did not happen by accident. Seed money for incubator buildings, new laws to commercialize research and today one of the most impressive medical biotech parks has exploded out of the ground west of Lincoln Blvd. Using the Edge endowment and a dramatically expanded I2E approach start similar initiatives in other research fields in Tulsa, Lawton, Muskogee and elsewhere.
E. Make a real commitment to Teachers Salaries. After all the talk and some action Oklahoma is still ranked 47th. The highway contractors can take care of themselves. Cut every agency 5% and fund the teachers, float a bond issue and fund the teachers, devote the lions share of new money to this problem. This is not complicated it just requires some honest commitments of priority.
III. A Healthcare System that Works for Everyone.
A. Adopt the Massachusetts programs on making health care accessible to everyone, launched by a Republican Governor. The states are leaving the federal government in the dust on this issue. By expanding insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare coverage can be dramatically increased.
IV. Energy Policy
A. Get serious about Alternative Energy Credits, particularly wind energy. Oklahoma’s utilities have quietly kept Oklahoma’s program in the dark ages. Oklahoma’s incentives are not even close to those being offered by Texas. The result is VERY few wind projects in Oklahoma compared to other states with similar wind resources.
B. Stop being fixated on Ethanol…it takes more energy to make it then it generates. This bubble will burst and Oklahoma doesn’t need to be peeling bubble gum off its face.
V. Real Security
A. Adopt the Oregon system of using a matrix system to manage its corrections system. Oregon listed all of the crimes that would result in jail time, had public hearings on the length of punishment for such crimes and their priority, then they compared this with the number of prison beds that they thought reasonable and could afford…and they adjusted the sentences to match the capacity. No more pardon and paroles, no more overcrowding of prisons from random sentences, no more random punishments for the same crime. No more crazy rankings like locking up more women per capita than any other place on earth. Oklahoma’s prisons are bulging with people who should be in rehab or training for a productive life and yet serious offenders get out early due to overcrowding and as in the Keating Administration, kill again.
VI. Restore Oklahoma Values
A. Prohibit sexually explicit adds during prime television viewing and radio listening time. Highly profitable sexual performance drugs, that have little to do with any disease, have turned the airwaves into near porn channels. Democrats are not known for leadership on such issues and it is high time that we do so.
B. Prohibit sexually explicit e-mails to Oklahomans. Why not lead the nation in challenging this flood of porn onto computers.