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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Club too close to Amish community
4:59 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Proposed Strip Club Prompts Legislator To Request Special Legislative Session

Credit marc falardeau / Flickr.com

A Democratic state representative from Chouteau wants Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders to call a special legislative session to deal with a strip club that he says is rumored to be coming to Mayes County.

Rep. Ben Sherrer said Monday in a news release that he plans to submit a formal request to Fallin and the leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:25 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Oklahoma Agrees To Keep Oil Train Shipments Secret

Flames and smoke are seen in an May 2014 oil-train derailment along Virginia's James River.
Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. Flickr Creative Commons

Surging oil production in states like North Dakota has outpaced pipeline capacity, and the energy industry has turned to railroads to transport oil from fields to refineries.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:08 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Oklahoma Drought Easing In The West, Intensifying In The East

The July 1 update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

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World Views
12:11 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Even With Wide Support, Is Erdoğan’s Presidential Bid Really What Turks Want?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece Flickr Creative Commons

Turkey's ruling party nominated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to run in Turkey's first directly elected presidential race in August before thousands of cheering supporters on Tuesday.

Erdoğan, in power since 2003, is barred by party rules from running as prime minister again. His candidacy for president could put him at Turkey's helm for five more years.

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Around the Nation
8:59 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Programs Target Poverty In Obama's 5 'Promise Zones'

People line up at the FamilySource Center in Los Angeles, an organization in one of President Obama's five designated "Promise Zones" that aims to help fight poverty in the area.
Priska Neely NPR

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 10:02 am

Five areas across the country have been designated as "Promise Zones" by the federal government. These zones, announced by President Obama in January, are intended to tackle poverty by focusing on individual urban neighborhoods and rural areas.

In the five Promise Zones — located in Philadelphia, San Antonio, southeastern Kentucky, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Los Angeles — the idea is to basically carpet-bomb the neighborhoods with programs like after-school classes, GED courses and job training to turn those areas around.

What Happens In The Zone?

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:42 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Take Shelter Oklahoma Launches New Initiative Petition

Take Shelter Oklahoma worked to collect signatures last fall for its original petition.
Credit Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

A group that wants to install a tornado shelter in every public school in Oklahoma spent the holiday weekend gathering signatures to get its initiative petition on an upcoming ballot. 

This isn’t Take Shelter Oklahoma’s first attempt to collect 155,000 signatures, but the group is giving it another shot. 

Supporters of Take Shelter Oklahoma stood on the porch of David Slane’s Oklahoma City law office last week to celebrate the launch of their second signature gathering campaign.

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Business Intelligence Report
5:00 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Top Business Stories: Increased Tax Revenues, HP 'Lands' In Tulsa, And OKC Okays Cabela Incentives

Moore Sales Tax Growth chart
Credit Bryan Richter, Journal Record

Despite Last Year’s Devastating Tornado, Business Is Booming In Moore.

Sales tax revenues for the first part of the year are 8.7 percent higher than in 2013. In fact, collections grew more than in other metro cities. Norman grew 5.7 percent, and Edmond and Oklahoma City each posted 2.7 percent gains.

Moore City Manager Steve Eddy said the surge comes from more than just reconstruction.

He said growing retail activity made up 6 percent of the growth. Sales tax collections in June were
12.3 percent higher than a year ago.

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Law
2:12 pm
Sun July 6, 2014

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

The recent Supreme Court term resulted in an unusual number of unanimous decisions — but that doesn't mean there wasn't disagreement.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 2:10 pm

The nation greets the coming of July each year with fireworks on the National Mall and, days earlier, explosive decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Mall fireworks dissipate within moments, the court's decisions will have repercussions for decades. Indeed, no sooner was the ink dry on this term's contraception decision than the court's three female justices accused their male colleagues of reneging.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:00 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Out-Of-State Students More Than Double At Oklahoma Colleges

Lindsay Whelchel Oklahoma Watch

The number of out-of-state students attending Oklahoma’s public universities and colleges has more than doubled in just over a decade as schools increasingly rely on nonresident tuition to supplement their budgets.

From 2000 to 2013, the number of nonresident undergraduate students enrolled in public colleges and universities jumped to 22,169 from 10,129, an increase of 119 percent. The nonresidents hail from all 50 states. Nearly half of them are Texans.

In-state enrollment rose by 12 percent, to 135,842, according to data obtained from the State Regents for Higher Education and analyzed by Oklahoma Watch. That rate matched state population growth.

The portion of what colleges call their “educational and general primary budgets” provided by out-of-state tuition also jumped significantly over the 13-year period. The enrollment figures do not include graduate or international students.

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Politics and Government
6:00 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Will State Questions Drive Voter Turnout In November?

Credit JTobiason Photography / Flickr.com

Efforts are underway to place initiatives involving storm shelters and marijuana sales on this November's ballot.

Whether this year's measures would help one candidate or party is unclear. A cockfighting initiative on the 2002 ballot drew large numbers of rural Democrats to the polls, and that was the year an underdog Democratic state senator from Shawnee named Brad Henry won the governor's race.

Henry won with 43.3% of the vote, compared to Republican Steve Largent with 41.6% and conservative independent Gary Richardson with 14.1%. 

Ballot initiatives must be submitted 60 days for inclusion on the ballot, so both petitions must be submitted by September 5th. Oklahoma ballot initiatives have 90 days to gather all signatures, and at the latest must be submitted 60 days before an election -- in this case, September 5th. The medical marijuana initiative began June 3rd. The recreational marijuana initiative began June 16th. The storm shelter initiative began July 2nd.

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