Capital City: Limited fixes offered after state agency audit
Good Tuesday morning.
The mother of a woman who died in the Oklahoma County jail this month says jail officials should have known her daughter was a suicide risk.
Krysten Mischelle Gonzalez, 29, spent the last three months of her life in the Oklahoma County jail's general population area. During that time, the county public defender's office tried unsuccessfully to find a bed for her in an inpatient mental health facility. Likewise, jail officials say they never found space for her in the jail's mental health ward.
Gonzalez died Jan. 8 after being found unresponsive in her cell. The state medical examiner's office has not released a cause of death, but jail officials say Gonzalez hanged herself. She was the third inmate to die in the jail's custody in less than a month.
The Oklahoman's Silas Allen has a deeper look at this latest jail death and the questions that remain. The county jail has long been under scrutiny and political leaders are growing louder in their cries for a new facility to be built.
Political State: On the latest episode of the Political State podcast we discuss Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first week on the job, the state bills filed last week and the ongoing federal government shutdown. You can listen/watch that episode here.
Private auditors have looked into state agency spending but many proposed fixes are limited ... From Oklahoma Watch: A commission appointed by state leaders to ferret out wasteful spending and ineffective practices by state agencies has gotten its first recommendations from private auditors it hired. But if a summary of 61 draft proposalsobtained by Oklahoma Watch is any indication, auditors aren’t pushing for major cutbacks in staffing or programs to shrink state government.
Instead, the initial audit of six agencies mostly recommended changes in processes or procedures that have no budgetary impact or require no legislative action, the proposals show.
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GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN CONTINUES ... As the partial government shutdown entered its second month, hundreds of furloughed federal employees lined up Monday at Oklahoma State Fair Park to pick up food, cleaning supplies and other staples to get them through until their next paycheck.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma set up a food distribution site at the Oklahoma Expo Hall, and hundreds of volunteers handed out 70,000 pounds of food to federal employees who will miss their second paycheck this week.
Some federal employees have been forced out of their homes ... Anna Hekins-Hulsey, who does purchasing for the Indian Health Service, said she had to move out of her house in late December after her landlord refused to work with her on rent payments. She's staying with friends until the government reopens and she starts getting paid again.
"Creditors are crying at me, but there's nothing I can do," she said.
Horn visits with federal workers ... U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, who visited the distribution site Monday afternoon, said she's heard from many constituents who are in the same situation. Horn represents thousands of FAA workers and other federal employees who haven't been paid since the shutdown began. Many of those workers have told her they're frustrated that they've been caught in the middle of a political battle.
Wagner talks support for environment ... Former EPA official Ken Wagner, now Gov. Kevin Stitt's pick for secretary of energy and environment, says he cringes at the perception that Oklahoma is “an oil and gas state” uninterested in the environment. The Tulsa World's Randy Krehbiel has a story on Wagner's return to Oklahoma and his thoughts on the new secretary post.
“This state has made significant carbon (emissions) reductions,” Wagner said. “If we want to attract businesses, we have to assure them we have clean air and clean water.”
OKC school board members to consider closure plan ... OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel will present three options for changing how the district operates to the school board at 5:30 p.m. tonight.
Oklahoma City Public Schools would close 12 elementary schools as part of one of the plans to provide students with more teachers, course offerings and support, documents obtained by The Oklahoman show. Six others will be converted into middle schools and the district will change its grade structure and which schools students move to next.
Women's March: The third annual Women's March was held Sunday with a rally at the state Capitol. The Oklahoman's Nate Billings has a photo gallery from the event.
Chairman says veterans center bill won't be heard ... A last-ditch legislative effort to stop a $100 million state construction project and keep a veterans center in the small southeast Oklahoma town of Talihina appears to be dead on arrival.
Rep. Jim Grego, a Wilburton Republican, introduced House Bill 1149 on Thursday. It would block closure of the Talihina Veterans Center, one year after that closure was approved by lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin.
“If it gets assigned to my committee, we're probably not going to hear it,” said Rep. Tommy Hardin, a Madill Republican and chair of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “We worked pretty hard the past four years to try to get that changed ... I'm not planning on hearing it.”
Students leave OU after video ... University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly used Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday to strongly condemn a student-produced racist video, and he said the two students who appeared in the video have voluntarily withdrawn from the university.
"Those students will not return to campus," Gallogly said at a news conference on the main OU campus. "This type of behavior is not welcome here and is condemned in the strongest terms by me and by our university." A student rally against racism is planned for today at 12:30 on campus. The Black Student Association at the University of Oklahoma has demanded changes to the university's policies and procedures after the video.
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