LEAD Agency, Inc. our non-profit organization was recognized along with LOTS of other schools, businesses, day cares, and churches. The yearly event is managed by The Journal Record which had a table with the vendors that day. I stopped by and was given a fresh copy of the paper, with a headline about Aubrey McClendon being indicted after a federal investigation into price-fixing and other anti-competitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.
I pointed to that article and told them that was going to be a very big story. He is being touted for bringing fracking to life in Oklahoma and around the country and got caught up in the greed of it, with the federal indictment. Thirty minutes later, the story got bigger because he was dead. The car he was driving hit a bridge embankment and caught fire just hours before he was set to report for court.
At the Certified Healthy Oklahoma luncheon, the state song played and Governor Mary Fallin came in to the applause of the standing attendees. I just couldn't bring myself to do either even with new shoes. After being in the room last week with 500 people in Edmond, OK whose homes are being damaged by earthquakes with no intervention by the governor or the Corporation Commission, caused by the continued use of the deep-well injection of waste water from fracking for oil and gas.
The other reason I couldn't or wouldn't stand for this governor was the fact the state of Oklahoma is refusing to take Medicare expansion funds and now our House has passed a bill that would remove 111,000 Oklahomans from the Medicaid rolls, not counting the cuts to public schools all due to the budget crisis we are in, partially because we failed to tax the oil and gas industry an equivalent taxed by other states where they operate.
I am grateful that Mary Fallin signed an executive order to prohibit tobacco use in 2012 on all state property and that will help make Oklahoma healthier, and am duly delighted that the smoking rates have fallen by 19% while she has been in service. The Governor said it was important for our economy for Oklahoma to be healthier because businesses look at this when making the decision to local in our state. "They Look at those things." The governor can use her power and we had hoped she and the Corporation Commission would use it to stop the earthquakes. I bet that is another thing that is "looked at by businesses."
Dr. Terry Cline, who serves dual positions of Oklahoma Secretary of Health and Human Services and Commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said Oklahoma was at a turning point. Five years ago Oklahoma was 49th in the Nation for health and now we are 45th. That still leaves room for improvement. According to the Americans Health Rankings our challenges are: high prevalence of obesity, high rate of cardiovascular deaths and limited availability of primary care physicians. Our ranking may backslide if we follow through and remove all these additional people from SoonerCare services due to our deficit budget crisis.
Dr. Cline urged all in attendance to ask the legislators to pass the cigarette tax of $1.30 per pack to raise $182 million and to ask those same leaders to protect the TSET funds. The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust was created by the state to manage money from settlements against any tobacco company. The Trust uses the money, through grants and programs, to improve the health and quality of life of all Oklahomans by funding programs and services that address, prevent and reduce tobacco use and obesity - health behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death in Oklahoma, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Robin White, a tribal person now working in Anadarko and the other person who sat with me earlier when the governor came and went, turned to me and said, "that tax is not going to stop smoking." The tobacco tax will be passed on to those who continue dealing with an addiction they have yet to beat and that the TSET funded programs have failed as yet to reach successfully.
My brand new shoes didn't stand up that day in Norman, but will when our leaders stand up for the public, for our health and safety. But most certainly will stand for Miami's living historian!
~ Rebecca Jim