Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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State Capitol
1:10 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Former Oklahoma House Speaker Named Secretary of State

Former Oklahoma House Speaker and Secretary of State-appointee Chris Benge (R-Tulsa)
Credit Oklahoma House of Representatives

Former Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge has been appointed secretary of state.

Gov. Mary Fallin announced the appointment Wednesday. Benge will start the position on Nov. 8. The Senate must still confirm the appointment.

As secretary of state, Benge will be a senior adviser to Fallin on policy, economic and legislative issues.

Benge, a Republican from Tulsa, was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1998 and served until 2010.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:33 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

StateImpact On OETA: Oklahoma Wind Farms And Weather Radar

StateImpact Oklahoma's Joe Wertz
Credit Oklahoma Educational Television Authority / YouTube

StateImpact reporter Joe Wertz was a guest on OETA’s Oklahoma News Report last week to discuss his report on how wind farms interfere with weather radar.

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State Capitol
11:24 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Committees Discuss Oklahoma Veterans Center Employment Needs

Ardmore Veterans Center
Credit Oklahoma Dept. of Veterans Affairs

The Senate and House’s Veterans and Military Affairs Committees heard Tuesday what the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs has done and hopes to do to address staffing and related issues, particularly at it seven veterans centers.

“There is no easy answer here,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs retired Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon said at the conclusion of the meeting.

ODVA staff testified that they have embarked on a plan to convert patient care staff from classified to unclassified positions, are working on ways to address salary and training issues.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:36 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Oklahoma Regulator: The Federal Government Is ‘Coming After Natural Gas’

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas
Credit Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Supporters of the oil and gas industry ‘blasted’ environmental regulations and a campaign against fossil fuels at an Oct. 17 energy policy conference in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa World’s Susan Hylton reports.

Conference speakers included Bob Tippee, editor of the Oil & Gas Journal, who assailed President Barack Obama’s “extremist” environmentalist supporters, and William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who went after federal regional haze rules.

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Shots - Health News
9:09 am
Wed October 23, 2013

States' Refusal To Expand Medicaid May Leave Millions Uninsured

Protesters fill the Miami office of state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. on Sept. 20 to protest his stance against expansion of health coverage in Florida.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 11:12 am

President Obama on Tuesday appointed one of his top management gurus, Jeffrey Zeints, to head the team working to fix what ails HealthCare.gov, the troubled website that's supposed to allow residents of 36 states to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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Bribery Probe
7:40 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Trial Continues For Ex-Oklahoma Legislator

Former State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore)
Credit Oklahoma House of Representatives

The trial of a former Oklahoma legislator accused of offering a bribe to a Senate colleague in exchange for her not seeking re-election is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Several notable Oklahoma politicians are expected to testify in the trial of Moore Republican Randy Terrill, including former Gov. Brad Henry.

During opening statements yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon told jurors the 44-year-old Terrill was motivated mostly by political power.

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Opening Ceremony On Friday
6:15 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Choctaw Nation Reopens Busy Tourist Info Center

Credit Ray Horwath / Flickr.com

The Choctaw Nation is celebrating the reopening of one of the state's busiest tourist information centers on Friday.

The Choctaw Nation assumed operations of the facility in Colbert in July under a five-year contract with the state.

Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory Pyle says the tribe is excited to share the Choctaw heritage with visitors. He says it's an opportunity to educate thousands of people a day about Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation. The center will feature artwork by Choctaw artists and members of other Native American tribes.

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43 Were Aboard
4:20 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Norman High Students Safe After School Bus Fire

Credit Elisabeth D'Orcy / Flickr.com

Members of the Norman High School band are OK after a charter bus they were riding in caught fire while on the way to a band competition.

The bus was on Interstate 44 in Comanche County when it had a mechanical problem on Tuesday that led to the bus catching fire. Officials say 43 students were aboard and all got out safely.

Lawton television station KSWO reports the students were on the way to Cameron University when the problem occurred.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
1:15 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Fight For Safe Rooms Leads To Oklahoma Supreme Court

Credit hyku / Flickr / Creative Commons

Kathy Turner works with Take Shelter Oklahoma.  The group wants to build safe rooms to protect students from tornadoes like the one that destroyed Briarwood and Plaza Towers Elementary Schools in Moore.  Turner says her experience as a former school administrator showed her how important government funding can be.

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2014 Elections
11:54 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Longtime Educator To Seek Oklahoma Superintendent's Post

State Superintendent for Public Instruction Candidate Freda Deskin
Credit Provided / Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter (ASTEC) Schools

A longtime educator, school administrator and former university dean is the latest candidate to announce plans to seek the state superintendent post currently held by first-term Republican Janet Barresi.

Democrat Freda Deskin formally launched her campaign on Monday with announcements in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. She was joined by Oklahoma's former First Lady Kim Henry, who is chairing her campaign.

Deskin was a public school teacher and administrator for 15 years, taught at the University of Oklahoma and was a dean at Oklahoma City University.

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