Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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Donrae Moore (left) placed her son Skyler (to her left) on the waiting list for state-funded services for the developmentally disabled. The family is still waiting for those services.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Ten years is a long time to wait for state help to improve the care of a developmentally disabled child or other relative.

But that is the current wait time for assistance for Oklahoma families seeking state-paid special-needs services. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services reports more than 7,200 households are on the list; the estimated waiting time for more than half is six years.

Search, Seize And Settle: Anatomy Of A Forfeiture Case

Dec 26, 2015
Oklahoma Watch

On a March day in 2009, Moua Yang and his father, Chao Yang, were driving west from Oklahoma City in a rented Nissan sedan with more than $25,000 in cash in the back seat.

A Canadian County deputy stopped them.

Deputy Mike Stilley, working drug interdiction, clocked the car at 76 mph in a 70-mph zone on Interstate 40. He gave chase as he called in the vehicle’s out-of-state plate, pulled the car over and, after approaching on foot, began questioning the Yangs.

Corrections Director Robert C. Patton, seated at his desk in early 2014 shortly after taking over the department.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton’s quitting to take a job with a private prison company that contracts with his agency is raising questions about whether the move violates state law.

Patton announced earlier this month that he would step down as Corrections Department director to become deputy warden at a private prison in Kingman, Ariz., which Geo Group took over as operator on Dec. 1.

Will The Holtzclaw Case Lead To Long-Term Changes?

Dec 20, 2015
Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw cries as he is led from the courtroom after the verdicts were read for the charges against him at the Oklahoma County Courthouse on December 10, 2015.
Nate Billings / The Oklahoman

In one sense, the case against former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was simple, though chilling.

A police officer, working the low-income neighborhoods of his beat, used the power of his position to commit a series of sexual assaults against vulnerable women. His department eventually found out and investigated. On December 10, a jury convicted him on 18 counts, and he could spend decades in prison.

Case closed.

In All Cases, Police Find No Proof Of Racial Profiling

Dec 19, 2015
Daran Steele, of northeast Oklahoma City, alleges that two police officers improperly detained and frisked him in 2013 because he is black.
Nate Robson, Oklahoma Watch / YouTube

Over a four-year period, Oklahoma’s two largest police departments and two state agencies received about 60 complaints alleging unlawful racial profiling by officers.

Investigators substantiated none of the allegations, according to data obtained by Oklahoma Watch.

All of the complaints were probed by the law enforcement agencies against whom the complaints were filed, but investigators found insufficient evidence that officers had treated the person differently because of race or ethnicity.

Once In Place, Sales Tax Breaks Nearly Impossible To Touch

Dec 12, 2015
money
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Buried deep in the Oklahoma tax code is a sales tax exemption for railroad spikes. Once it got hammered into place, it never budged.

The tax break was created in 1993 for the benefit of one spike manufacturer, Wellington Industries, so it would relocate from Texas to Sand Springs. Tax code reformers later targeted it for review, but it survived. Oklahoma Tax Commission officials said they weren’t able to calculate how much it costs the state today.

Brad Collins, of nonprofit addiction recovery center 12&12, said an alternative to jail provided by 12&12 would help both those with alcoholism and those who need to sleep off a one-night party.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Each year, 3,000 to 4,000 people are booked into Tulsa’s David L. Moss Correctional Center, the county jail, on complaints of public intoxication.

Some are chronic alcoholics. Others went out for a good time and had too much to drink, said Tulsa Police Department Maj. Travis Yates.

Wind turbines near Hunter in Garfield County reflect the growth of the wind energy business in the state. Tax breaks for wind power are among incentives recommended for review by an Incentive Evaluation Commission.
Bonnie Vcluek / Enid News and Eagle

Responding to a new law that took effect Nov. 1, state officials are suggesting an independent review of up to 75 business incentives that have reduced state revenue by more than $335 million a year.

The list, compiled by four state agencies with help from nongovernment advisors, is dominated by two big incentives designed to boost employment in Oklahoma: the Quality Jobs Program and the Investment/New Jobs Tax Credit.

Home health nurse Rita Nuss reads a book to 9-year-old Josiah Melton, who has  chromosomal disorders and is on the developmental disabilities services waiting list.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

After decreasing last year, the waiting list for a state program that provides services to Oklahomans with developmental and intellectual disabilities has grown again, to the highest level ever.

As of Oct. 15, the wait time for those seeking state-paid services for their developmental disabilities was nearly a decade, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The number of people on the waiting list grew from 6,992 in July 2014 to 7,239 in October this year.

Penny Hike Would Make Oklahoma Number 1 In Sales Taxes

Oct 31, 2015
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

A proposed penny sales tax increase for education would push Oklahoma to the top of list of states with the highest combined state and local sales taxes, according to data from a national research group.

It also would elevate Tulsa and Oklahoma City to No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, among major cities with the highest combined sales taxes, trailing only Chicago and Seattle, the Tax Foundation said.

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