MIAMI – The place was packed for a chance to hear elected officials and candidates for the upcoming November elections at the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce Eggs 'N Issues Legislative Breakfast & Candidate Forum.
First up were city, county, state and tribal officials giving updates of issues, projects and progress in the community.
Miami's City Manager Dean Kruithof spoke of the valuable and important partnerships with county, tribal, state and federal partners as well as community organizations needed to accomplish exciting community projects.
Kruithof listed the many projects currently underway in the City of Miami including utility, street and other capital improvements, the new Splash Pad, and Cultural District.
“The Splash Pad gives you an example of how everybody needs to work together to bring something like this about,” Kruithof said.
He reported efforts are ongoing toward improving flooding issues in Miami from working with ODOT to raise Steve Owens Blvd. and State Hwy.125 approaches to the Neosho River Bridge, and advocating for Miami and the downstream area stakeholders to FERC regarding GRDA’s pending re-licensure of the Pensacola Project.
The EPA and the City of Miami are now working together to remediate the vacated BNSF Railroad track system through Miami to possibly be utilized for industry uses, according to Kruithof.
Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Gilbert said partnerships are key to the economic development and potential growth of the community and thanked the many progress made in the area and continuing efforts to build economic opportunities.
Commerce Mayor Michael Hart said his town has ongoing capital improvement projects including work on water drainage issues.
“A lot has changed in 10 years, a lot good,” Hart said. “We’re getting things done, and investing in our future.”
District No. 3 Ottawa County Commissioner Russell Earls thanked local tribes and the City of Miami and legislators for their concerted efforts on several recent County projects.
“County government’s had a great year we’ve finished a lot of projects, and we’ve got a lot of projects we’re wrapping up,” he said.
A new fire station has been located in rural Fairland, and a Route 66 and Rails to Trails and road and bridge projects are in progress or completed in his district.
“ It's really about partnerships. We couldn’t do the projects we do without partnerships. I love progress. I love making things happen,” Earls said. “I'm about getting things done.”
Northeastern Inter-Tribal Council's former chairman Shawnee Chief Ron Sparkman said the tribes have continued to support and work with County Commissioners and the City of Miami on several important projects such as the Miami Will Rogers Turnpike entrance.
“We’ve been working on it for years. I know we’ll eventually get it done,” Sparkman said.
The new Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center located behind the ITC Council building is set to open soon in November.
“It’s going to be a good addition to this community. We’re working on it right now and we’re going to make a very attractive entrance way out there. It’s something you’ll all be proud of,” Sparkman said. “ I just want to end by saying, it’s been a pleasure to work with you for all these years.”
Representative Ben Loring who is serving on a bi-partisan committee medical marijuana working group with other Oklahoma legislators to review and State Question 788 gave an overview of the process underway and says the law was poorly written creating problems.
He said the new law passed gave a short timeframe for implementation and provided no guidelines for regulation on issues such as purity or labeling of medical marijuana although now 600 state growers licenses, more then the state of Oregon, Washington and Arizona combined, have been issued and use licenses have been issued to 6,000 residents so far. Loring said regulations will take at least a year or more to be enacted.
“We need to act quickly…The longer we wait the more problems we’re going to have as a state,” Loring said. “The bottom line is right now we have the worst laws in the nation as far as medical marijuana, but we do have the option if the legislature will do it, to have best law in the nation, and that’s what we’re striving for.”
Senator Micheal Bergstrom spoke on progress made and continuing issues to be addressed by state legislators.
“We’ve actually been making some progress in Oklahoma City,” Bergstrom said.
He cited double-digit revenue increases, an improved budget, and passage of the largest teacher pay raise in the state’s history as recent progress made. He said he has supported Bills to control spending and calling for forensic audits on major state agencies and sees education funding as an ongoing important issue.
“Is there more that needs to be done on education, yes, but we’ve also got some serious problems in other areas,” Bergstrom said. “
Bergstrom listed DHS, prison overcrowding, criminal justice reform, development of the state’s workforce and job training and improved educational system, and quality of life as key issues to tackle.
“We need to send a message to the nation we’re open for business,” he said. “We need goals and plans not based on the politics of the moment.”
US Representative Markwayne Mullin who just returned from Washington DC where the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings were underway told the attendees that what he has encountered there is exaggerated political activism to push a Socialism agenda.
“It is ugly…but what you’re really seeing taking place is the socialist side of the party who are wholly embracing calling themselves social democrats. They know they can’t win on legislation… So the reason why you are seeing them double down as much as they can with Kavanaugh is because that’s their only path to success. Any time they’ve tried to legislate social issues they’ve lost,” Mullin said. “The truth is that’s what you have facing you right now because the party differences are bigger than they’ve ever been. It’s not about social issues anymore, it’s about socialism.”
Mullin said the DNC is openly embracing socialism running Medicaid for all, free healthcare, free schooling, and housing and guaranteed jobs as humane rights and is the reason for the fight for control of the federal bench seats.
“Now think about that, You’re going to have a government that’s going to tell you where you’re going to get health care, where you’re going to be educated, where you’re going to live and what your job is going to be. The fight’s more real now than it’s ever been.” Mullin said.
Mullin said he would never ever vote to support legalization of medical marijuana because it is still a federal crime and is still a Class 1 drug and a nightmare to enforce.
“This was never about medical marijuana it was about recreational marijuana…As a federal official, it’s a federal crime, so it blows my mind,” he said. “We’re better than this as a state. We can do better as a state. “
Mullin told attendees he is humble and proud to serve as the elected District 2 U. S. Representative.
“You can’t be in politics and not be frustrated. Have I made mistakes? You bet I have. I’m not perfect,” Mullin said. “But I can tell you it’s an honor, it’s humbling and the idea that I get to serve in the nation’s capital is an honor.”