In a week when Oklahoma has taken center stage on the national news media, one might have expected our local embedded journalists to step up, and report not just that which they see before their vacant eyes, but at least offer a passing nod to the real stories in this State.
I understand that pictures of old ladies being re-united with their dogs are heart-warming, and have a feel good factor that no television camera can resist. When the little old lady then expresses her profound gratitude that God has answered both of her prayers it ramps the story right up the human interest scale.
I, on the other hand, curmudgeon that I am, find myself rather more concerned with the ten dead children, the ones God apparently missed in his rush to save a dog. Don't get me wrong. I am pleased for the lady and the dog, she has suffered and deserves the comfort, but forgive me for being less pleased with our local TV station, NewsOn6
They do deserve some praise, primarily for Travis Meyer and his team of meteorologists. They do a great deal of work and Tulsans trust them to keep the necessary information flowing in a calm and accurate manner. They do this very well, and are the first choice for weather information in this house. On Monday they did a fabulous job despite being interrupted frequently by the somewhat less than useful "Emergency Broadcast System".
This is a system designed to interrupt the state of the art weather info you are watching, with utter garbage, but I digress.
Now the news team are a different kettle of bass. They are really rather good at letting us know about all the crime that is committed. If a meth lab is discovered, or a gas station robbed they are all over it, in high definition. Where they lose focus is in any attempt to go beyond the crime and look at the causes. Lori Fulbright is brilliant at teaching women how to defend themselves, less good at pointing out that young Oklahoma men are not taught how not to be rapists. I refuse, by the way, to be down on Ms Fulbright. Last time I had cause to take issue with her she entered into a positive dialogue, which is to be encouraged. Lori is not the
investigative journalist mouthpiece in this story.
The news anchors are decent people. Good, down-home manner but either unwilling to, or constrained from making any real efforts to either investigate issues thoroughly, or add any form of editorial view. It seems to be sufficient that they uncover a few facts, and report them. No analysis, no conclusions, never a hint of a finger pointed in the direction of the seats of power.
They need me. They need someone who will actually ask questions that people do not want asked, and not allow venal, craven and corrupt legislators to get away with peddling the usual line of bullshit. They need, in essence, an investigative journalist, or three, who will ... you know ... investigate, compile, report and conclude. They need a Jesse la Greca, or even a Twigg!
Let me give you a case in point, and the story they investigated three days after an EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, OK, killing twenty four and making thousands homeless.
In this troubled time the producers clearly wanted to demonstrate their prowess at exposing either lackadaisical behavior by school districts, or maybe even illegal behavior by the same. Not unreasonable, one may think, given that two schools were destroyed on Monday with a tragic loss of life.
After the last Moore, OK tornado, in 2003, which itself followed the Moore, OK tornado of 1999 (who chooses to live in Moore?), the State Legislature passed the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003. One of the provisions of this worthless waste of paper is the requirement that all School Districts form emergency plans, and submit them to the local Emergency Manager. The plans must be updated every year. This is the law. This is what they are supposed to do.
Now shock, horror ... In the heart of Tornado Alley it appears that few School Districts are doing this. I presume we are left to draw our own conclusions about the abject failure of Schools to protect our kids, because no real analysis was provided.
But wait ... It seems that a failure to plan for an emergency, given our weather is a serious matter, and if true then surely heads must roll? Well of course it isn't true. Every school in at least one of the districts concerned has well-developed and practiced plans, and regular drills for the students. How do I know? I know because it's the first damned thing they hand me when I turn up to substitute. The schools around here take weather very seriously indeed. It's right up there with Intruder on Campus. and Oklahoma University losing at football.
So if the schools are planning, what is the bone of contention? That they didn't file a plan with the City Manager? Did NewOn6 ask who the plan was filed with? (link to main story) Nope. Surely that would have been useful. Was the plan, for example, filed with the Fire Department, the Police Department? The people who would need the plan to actually do their job? We don't know, because our intrepid reporter either didn't ask, or didn't tell us. I hope she didn't ask and is merely incompetent. She's a nice young woman and I would hate to think that she did ask but decided that the answers were inconvenient to her "angle".
These matters, while pertinent, are minor and I'm being picky criticizing NewsOn6 in this manner. Picky because they completely failed to get the real story here. A story of complacency and dereliction of duty so egregious that it should be headlined for the entire week.
May 3rd, 1999 a tornado hit Moore killing dozens and producing the highest wind speed ever recorded on the planet, ever. 2003 another tornado hit the city, and on Monday a third, even worse than the tornado of 1999.
Two schools filled with elementary age children took direct hits, and ten children died.
Not why did the tornado hit, that is just what tornadoes do and Oklahomans know this. They have known for a hundred years and presumable the Native Americans knew for thousands of years before that. No, a tornado hitting Oklahoma is not new, not surprising at all. It is an entirely predictable occurrence.
My question is not why did the tornado hit, that is a known quantity, but rather why did the schools collapse? Why did those kids die? If we can predict an outcome, we can prepare to meet it and it appears that the preparations have been woeful.
Following the tornadoes of 1999 and 2003, did the Oklahoma Legislature toughen the building codes? Did they require that new homes incorporate safe rooms, or that schools be built to withstand EF5 tornadoes at least in part of the structure? No, they did not. They didn't do either of those things either then or at any time, following any of the hundreds of tornadoes that have hit Oklahoma.
It appears that the price Oklahomans must pay for the freedumb from Big Government Regulation, is that when the children leave home in the morning, sometimes they will not come home again.
This is the real story ... the one missed by journalists who are being well-paid to investigate, yet I found in a few minutes.
The Oklahoma Legislature's response to the very real danger to life in predictable circumstances was not to move to protect the children ... Instead they simply insisted that the School Districts tell the Emergency Manager where to find the bodies!
It doesn't have to be this way. Even in Oklahoma, where the State Government appears to be immune from concerns about the safety of the population. Where school districts are apparently feckless, and illegally withholding the required paperwork, for shame. Some communities are managing to put their people first.
With credit this time to Channel 6 for the reporting:
Beggs School District, a small community just south of here, took matters into their own hands. With a need for a new Event Center, the people of Beggs passed a bond issue. In return for the confidence expressed by the local community, Beggs built an Event Center and built it to withstand an EF5 tornado, with accommodation for up to one thousand people; enough for the entire town!
"It's built to withstand an F-5 tornado and it's our way of giving back the community since they gave the building to us in a bond issue, it's our way of opening up and helping them feel safe and secure," Superintendent Cindy Swearingen said.The dome they built has steel-reinforced, sixteen inch concrete walls. Given the picture at the top of this story, those walls might be needed.
Beggs School District may, or may not have filed their emergency response plans with the Beggs Emergency Manager, but they certainly have a plan, and the entire city put their money where their children are. Other school districts have well conceived plans, regardless of where they file them.
The Oklahoma Government did nothing to help, other than cut budgets and create another layer of beaurocracy, but, with the eyes of the world on this State (my Mom called from England to check we were okay), one might imagine that the undivided attention of the lawmakers was focused, laser-like on relieving the suffering.
Indeed they have been busy. In the last few days of the current session, they have been again attempting to help the working, and working poor by another attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.