The punches just keep coming…

If you have paid any attention whatsoever to the news lately you’ll agree that it seems like rural Oklahoma just keeps getting punched in the mouth. Things like school finance, medicaid payments, hospitals closing and the brilliant decision made by the Department of Corrections involving work release centers in our part of the state are frustrating to say the least.
That frustration can often turn into hopelessness which might lead some to want to throw their hands up and say “we’re done”. The only reason I want you throwing your hands up is because you enjoy a good roller coaster or you’re a Cameo fan. Giving up is not something we are not particularly good at around here. I know things are tough and it appears the deck is stacked against us but we are tough and resilient. We have the blood of courageous pioneers in our veins and we don’t walk away from something with out giving our everything. 
What is that “everything” we need to give? Well there is a list, let me tell you about some of it.
As simple as this first things seems, be kind. We live in a great community that cares deeply for one another, we lend a hand when someone is down, we chip in when there is a need… we are kind. The moment we turn on one another and stop being kind is the moment this ship sinks. Period.

Be heard. I think that we all have the impression that because we are small we don’t matter in the larger scheme of things. But I can tell you first hand, that’s just not the truth. Earlier in the year when school finance and potential rule changes kind of hit the fan, our local school system called on you for help. Our administrators asked for you to be heard. To write letters, send emails or make calls to our Legislators telling them we have had enough and there are things we won’t stand for. You did such a good job one of them called our Superintendent and asked him to “call your people off, we know, we get it”. That is the sign of people who will be heard and make a difference. That is just one example, we have made ourselves heard many times lately and it’s working.
Be local. That not only means Shop Frederick First but also Attend Frederick First. All the events that are hosted in town should be full each and every time with Frederick residents eager to support one another. That means going to things other than what your kids or grand-kids bind you to, those things that enrich our culture or inform us. These things must be attended by our local population. We cannot sit by and hope others come to town to support us. Being local also means that the more we spend in our own town, the more we get. We get a larger selection at stores, we get things repaired around town and we get farther away from dependency on others for our survival.
 These are three seemingly simple things but but they are the basis for so many more things. I ask you, actually beg you, to focus on these things and make a conscious decision to be kind, be heard and be local.

Take Action

As you all may know the Department of Corrections (DOC) took action on the Facility Consolidation Plan this past week which closes 15 work release centers in Oklahoma. Seven of those being in southwest Oklahoma to includes our center at Weaver as well as Altus, Hobart, Hollis, Mangum, Waurika and Walters. Their plan is to rent the North Fork Correctional Facility near Sayre owned by Corrections Corporation of America (a private company) and house the medium/maximum security prisoners from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite there. Then move the work release prisoners from the 15 centers to the Reformatory in Granite and save millions. I’ll give you a minute to let your head stop spinning! The contract with CCA is 5.5 years with the stipulation that the DOC does not pay rent for the first 18 months.

My initial thought is that no private company makes money or stays viable giving things away for free, there will be a consequence to this that is yet to be seen causing even more financial havoc on our already struggling state.

Most importantly, many small communities just like ours will be adversely impacted by this measure. The DOC has stated that all employees will be given the opportunity to continue their jobs at the new facility which means all of these communities will not only lose their facilities but residents as well. This means tax dollars go down, the number of students in our school system go down and fewer people to purchase goods from stores that need every customer they can get. Small communities like ours cannot keep taking these punches that are being thrown our way.

The DOC also stated that communities would still be able to use inmate labor from the Prisoner Public Works Program. Well folks, Granite is roughly 63 miles from Frederick. I’m guessing the employees of the groups that use inmate labor have better things to do than drive 2 hours round trip to pick/return inmates to the facility. Who uses inmate labor around here you ask? The City of Frederick, Tillman County, the Historical Society, the Chamber of Commerce, Community Action Development Corporation, the Lake Ranger at Lake Frederick, Frederick Public Schools and the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team. Those are just the places that immediately pop into my head and it also doesn’t take into consideration the special events that the inmates help to put together. To hire workers to fill those spots would be impossible for most of these groups and they will have to lean even harder on volunteers and donations.

I could spend a whole page of this paper talking about the effect that it will have on the rehabilitation of these men. These men are serving their time and allowed to work outside of their facility in order to help train them for the job force once released. This will have disastrous ramifications to some of these guys potentially leading to further incarceration.

Many of you contacted our local Legislators to help stop this ridiculous measure before it was a done deal. Unfortunately, that while Sen Barrington, Representative Coody and several others from the area attended the DOC board meeting, the measure was “ram rodded” through by the new Director. Sen. Barrington said our next step is the Governor. The money still has to be appropriated making Gov. Fallin our last option. Our area Legislators are on our side and doing what they can to help reverse the potential damage.

This is another time when I’m asking you all to put your action where your mouth is, so to speak. Please take a moment to call, email or write to the Governor’s office and let her know as tax payers we will not stand for this. That we cannot and will not continue to support being choked out by the reckless decisions being made in our state. Below is the information to reach Gov. Fallin. I am asking you to make respectful, educated and rational pleas to her.

The Office of Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 212, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 Local: (405) 521-2342 Fax: (405) 521-3353 or go to www.ok.gov and click on the picture of the Governor at the bottom to reach her email.

Chamber After Hours

We are trying something not quite brand new but a little new and different. I hope you are intrigued! Thursday, May 5 will be the first ever Chamber After Hours event. It will be here in the Chamber office at 100 S. Main from 5-7 pm.

And yes, there will be drinks and snacks! The saying “if you feed them, they will come” is oh so true.
The purpose of having the first event at the Chamber office to help members find out what the Chamber is doing to help your business, let us help you find the perfect spot to volunteer as well as learn more about upcoming Chamber After Hours events.
The goal of the Chamber After Hours events are to provide an opportunity for business and community leaders to network and begin to help one another build our community to be something even better than it is currently. The events will be held quarterly by Chamber members or businesses in their facility or at various attractions throughout the community. This is a simple, cost effective way to build more working relationships throughout Frederick. It also serves as an opportunity for Chamber members to visit businesses in the community and familiarize themselves with those places they may not frequently call on.
Oh, and did I mention there are PRIZES? Every one who comes will have their name entered for one of two prizes which are $50 in Chamber bucks. I think I felt a collective lean in toward computer screens after that.
Seriously, I hope you will join us so that we can all begin to work together for success. We are a hard working community and there is so much more we can accomplish if we learn to help one another and lean on each other’s strengths.
I look forward to working with you all in the coming days and know we can do more for our community!