Tulsa World, Feb. 14, 2013
Wrestling belongs in Olympic Games
Since the modern Olympic Games were established in 1894, their motto has been Citius, Altius, Gortius or Faster, Higher, Stronger.
Few sports have embodied that phrase, or the Olympic ideal of athletic competition purely for its own sake, more than wrestling.
The International Olympic Committee's decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 summer games is outrageous - especially so given the fact that one of the stated reasons is that wrestling matches don't attract enough TV viewers.
Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since the modern games began, and the Greco-Roman version goes back to the ancient games. Banishing wrestling from the Olympics is the equivalent of doing away with the 100-meter dash or the pole vault.
Oklahoma has a proud wrestling tradition. The state and its two largest universities have produced 25 Olympic medalists, 15 of whom won gold. Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma have at times dominated college wrestling in America.
The Olympic committee's decision, if it stands, will have a negative impact on amateur wrestling in the United States. That is because unlike other major amateur sports - football, basketball, baseball - there is no potentially lucrative professional version to which participants can aspire. Olympic competition has represented the peak of the sport.
Ironically, the Olympic committee could have dumped boxing, a "sport" that has become so corrupted by politics, nationalism and pure greed that the judging of its matches is laughable and often bears no relation to what goes on in the ring.
The honorable sport of wrestling now must join seven sports, including something called "wakeboarding," to beg for readmission to the Olympics.
It's a sad day when TV viewership - instead of pure athletic competition, history and tradition - rules the Olympic Games.
The Norman Transcript, Feb. 14, 2013
State fifth highest in sales tax rates
There was a time when the federal government relied on income taxes for its revenue stream, state and local government got sales taxes, and county government and schools relied on property taxes.
Nowadays, that's all scrambled as entities scramble for tax dollars. In the end, sales taxes are more popular than ever as cities and counties look for short-term answers to revenue needs and capital projects.
The Tax Foundation this week reported that the average combined state and local sales tax rate in Oklahoma is the fifth highest in the anation. The average combined rate is 8.67 percent. Norman's combined city, state and county tax rate is 8.25 percent, with 4.5 percent of that going directly to state government, 0.25 percent going to the county for the new jail and the remainder, 3.5 percent, going directly to the city.
States with higher rates than Oklahoma are Tennessee, Arizona, Louisiana and Washington. Tennessee is the highest with a combined rate of 8.44 percent.
The Tax Foundation, according to a Tulsa World report, says Oklahoma is one of the few states that still apply sales tax to groceries. Cities and towns have fought efforts at the legislature to remove taxes on groceries, saying it would hurt their operating revenue.
Several bills introduced this legislative session would remove long-standing sales tax exemptions. We expect heavy opposition as such services as barbers, advertising, dentists, doctors and lawyers don't want to get into the practice of collecting sales tax on their services.
The Oklahoman, Feb. 14, 2013
Legislative shortsightedness on water may harm Oklahoma
You might think the ongoing drought would cause lawmakers to carefully consider long-term water needs. Instead, state legislators appear headed in the opposite direction.
The Water for 2060 Act passed last year with strong bipartisan support. It included language setting a goal for Oklahoma to consume no more fresh water in 2060 than in 2012. That's only a goal — not a mandate — but state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, finds it "reckless." He filed House Bill 1562 to repeal that language. HB 1562 got committee approval with bipartisan support.
When presenting the bill, Wesselhoft declared the water goal is "the kind of language that comes out of the United Nations; it's Agenda 21" — immediately before saying he likes some Agenda 21 goals, just not water objectives. Make of that what you will.
But Wesselhoft also argued the conservation goal signals Oklahoma's water needs won't increase in the next half-century, weakening our position in ongoing legal disputes with Texas. That's nonsense. Conservation efforts indicate officials expect demand to eventually outpace supply, not anticipation of unending surplus.
We support repeal of obsolete laws and agree that an unenforceable statutory "goal" is ultimately meaningless. HB 1562's passage won't affect conservation efforts — but lawmakers' dismissive attitude toward long-term planning could.
From the 1950s to 1966, Oklahoma City expanded from 68 square miles to 649 and increased access to and control of water supply. Those actions were driven not by then-current shortages, but primarily by future projected needs. Does anyone today doubt the wisdom of those actions more than 50 years ago?
Lawmakers' short-term thinking on infrastructure needs has already battered the Oklahoma Capitol. Its crumbling exterior now threatens citizens' safety and its eroded sewage pipes pose potential health hazards. Heaven help us if lawmakers apply the same mindset that made the state Capitol a disgrace to Oklahoma's long-term water needs.