Vote of confidence by accinent


									G      Sunday, February 28, 2010


                                                                                                                                            Najibullah Zazi, center, is escorted off a New York City
                                                                                                                                          Police Department helicopter by U.S. Marshals after
                                                                                                                                          being extradited from Denver. Zazi admitted to a plot to
                                                                                                                                          bomb the New York City subways. Associated Press

                                                                                                                                          and free
Vote of confidence                                                                                                                         Guarding our rights
                                                                                                                                          in an age of terrorism
Despite troubled times, school bonds should be OK’d
   Tulsa schools Superintendent Keith
Ballard is a straight-shooter.
                                                                                           leadership. You can see it at the school
                                                                                           level. At Eugene Field Elementary, for
                                                                                                                                          H          ow does a country that offers its citizens
                                                                                                                                                     more freedom than any other country in the
                                                                                                                                                     world track and defeat domestic terrorists
                                                                                                                                          without trampling all over the rights of its citizens?
                                                                                                                                             And how can Americans who are afforded such
   To wit, this comment he made re-                                                        example, new principal Cindi Hemm has          precious rights turn against the country that pro-
cently: “The conditions couldn’t be any                                                    helped foster a huge turnaround. Five          tects them and their rights? How could a person be-
worse for a bond issue right now.”                                                         years ago, the school’s standardized test      tray his country and his family?
   True enough.                                                                            scores were among the state’s worst, but          Those are difficult questions and ones that the U.S.
   In case anyone missed it, we’re in the                                                  recently the school ranked among some          Department of Homeland Security face. Homeland
middle of a recession. Nationally unem-                                                    of the best known schools in the state. You    Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently told the
ployment is around 10 percent.                                                             can also see it on the district level, where   nation’s governors that homegrown terrorists are be-
   In Tulsa, 89 former police officers are                                                 Ballard has erased memories of the bad                                            coming as big a con-
unemployed and the firefighters accept-                                                    old days, cleaned house at the Education                                          cern as international
ed painful concessions to prevent a sim-                                                   Service Center and started making TPS a                                           terrorists.
ilar hit. When people are worried about      tioning upgrades. No school is left out of    source of public pride once again.                                                  She also said that
life and death, education and commu-         the plan.                                        Inevitably, someone will raise the is-                                         the government does
nity improvement seem secondary.                That money will multiply as it is re-      sue: Couldn’t we be using this money to                                           not have a good han-
   Meanwhile, voters are hacked off. For     spent in the Tulsa economy, creating          pay for police and fire protection? No,                                           dle on how to pre-
a year Congress dithered over health         jobs along the way.                           we can’t. Bond money can’t be spent on                                            vent someone from
care reform and came up with what               Second, the bond issue won’t raise         continuing costs and the city of Tulsa                                            becoming a violent
smelled like a corrupt bargain, while the    your tax rate.                                and the public school system are dis-                                             extremist.
economy showed no signs of improving.           A panel with representatives of every      tinct operations.                                                                   Prevention by the
   In Massachusetts, the “safe” Demo-        part of town went over the proposal me-          More important, the chaos and fear                                             government is a dif-
cratic seat of Edward Kennedy went           ticulously to make sure it would not re-      created by the police layoffs are legiti-      ficult if not impossible task. The best deterrent is edu-
red. In Jenks, voters turned down a          sult in anyone’s tax rate going up.           mate, but they aren’t sufficient reason to     cation and family upbringing. But young people have
sales tax measure to improve police             At the same time, another panel has        stop progress in education. In fact, they      become radicalized for as long as there have been
and fire services. In Tulsa and Oklaho-      precisely kept track of the spending          underline the imperative of doing just         young people. Most grow out of it or channel their en-
ma City, incumbent school board mem-         from previous bond issues to make sure        that. If you think the city is put in danger   ergies in peaceful manners.
bers got bounced. Everywhere, the Tea        the money went where it was promised.         from crime by laying off 89 police offi-          But there will always be an element that becomes
Party movement — with its anti-incum-           Because of past bond issues, Tulsa         cers, just imagine how bad things could        violent. And there is not much chance of stopping
bent, anti-tax animus — is on the ascen-     has a new Booker T. Washington High           get if we don’t build a working, effective     that. Thwarting that element is difficult because of
dancy.                                       School, a new Kendall-Whittier Ele-           public school system.                          the freedom that Americans enjoy. We have access to
   And yet, Tulsa Public Schools is in-      mentary, a new Clinton Middle School,            “In this business, you’re only as good      travel and free speech and religion that many coun-
deed coming to its voters asking for ap-     a new Eugene Field Elementary, a new          as your last bond issue,” Ballard said.        tries don’t have. If citizens want to travel to Yemen or
proval of a $354 million bond issue, the     Mark Twain Elementary, cable access              “I think we’re on the right track and if    Pakistan they are relatively free to do so. What they
largest in state history.                    in every classroom and air conditioning       people don’t believe we’re on the right        do while in a foreign country is their own business as
   With the recession and political icon-    throughout the district.                      track, they’re not going to vote for the       a U.S. citizen. As long as they remain a citizen, they
oclasm raging, you couldn’t have picked         TPS has proven itself a good steward       bond issue.”                                   can return to this country.
a worse time, but I’m going to give you      of tax money, and deserves the good                                                             “What really is it that draws a young person being
three reasons why you should vote for        faith of its patrons.                         Vote for the future                            raised in the United States to want to go and be at a
the bond issue anyway.                          Third, the school district is improving                                                   camp in Yemen and then come back to the United
                                             on all fronts.                                   Voters are hacked off and for good          States with the idea of committing harm within the
Three reasons                                   Schools are safer and will get safer yet   reason. Taxes are even less popular than       United States?” Napolitano asked. “Where in that
                                             with improvements scheduled with the          ever, also for good reason. Further, the       person’s formulation is there an opportunity to break
  First, the bond issue is fundamental,      bond issue. The district has completed        economy stinks, and there’s nothing            that cycle?”
effective and local economic stimulus.       its move to create its own police depart-     good about that.                                  Take, for instance, the case of Najibullah Zazi, the
  It’s $354 million in new work for the      ment and has finally figured out an al-          But Tulsa school voters should pass         Denver airport driver who recently pleaded guilty
Tulsa economy.                               ternative education program that gets         the four bond issues on Tuesday any-           to plotting to use explosives to blow up targets in
  Most of the money will be spent lo-        bad kids out of ordinary classrooms and       way.                                           New York City. He was born in Afghanistan but had
cally, installing new windows in schools,    into an environment where they can be            It will create jobs locally and broadly.    lived in the U.S. since he was 14. In recent years, he
upgrading rest rooms, improving school       controlled and educated. Using money             It won’t increase the tax rate.             traveled overseas to receive training from al-Qaida.
roofs, adding fire sprinklers to buildings   from a previous bond issue, the district         It is part and parcel of the rising tide       In his guilty plea Zazi said, “I would sacrifice my-
and putting new books in libraries and       is at work on a security camera system        of improvement at TPS.                         self to bring attention to what the U.S. military was
classrooms.                                  and entry door access at high schools.           A vote for the bond issue is a vote of      doing to civilians in Afghanistan.”
  The stimulus would be felt across the      This bond issue extends that protection       confidence in the district’s new direc-           In this case Zazi’s father also is charged in the
community. East Central High School          to the middle and elementary schools.         tion and a vote of investment in Tulsa’s       conspiracy, but in other cases it has been the fami-
would get a complete makeover. Edison           The school’s curriculum is becoming        future.                                        lies who have alerted authorities to suspicious or
would get classroom additions. Rog-          more rigorous. The district’s new ACT                                                        dangerous activities by family members.
ers would get a new cafeteria. McClain       America’s Challenge plan is bringing                     Wayne Greene 581-8308                  Late last year five young Pakistani men living in Vir-
would get $8.3 million in repairs and        new focus on college-preparatory edu-                   ginia traveled to Pakistan seeking training from al-Qa-
renovations. Central would get more          cation in Tulsa.                                       Read Wayne Greene’s daily blog:       ida. The families informed the FBI that the men were
than $5 million in heating and air-condi-       The most important change is one of               missing. They have been detained in Pakistan.
                                                                                                                                             Even with help, some slip through the cracks. Al-
                                                                                                                                          though not a homegrown terrorist, Nigerian Umar
                                                                                                                                          Farouk Abdulmutallab, the infamous underwear
                                                                                                                                          bomber, had drawn suspicion from his family and
                                                                                                                                          they had alerted authorities. Nevertheless, he made
                                                                                                                                          it onto an airliner bound for Detroit. His attempt to
                                                                                                                                          blow up the plane was foiled by his own ineptitude
                                                                                                                                          and some brave passengers.
                                                                                                                                             Nidal Hasan, an Army major who shot and killed
                                                                                                                                          13 people at Fort Hood in Texas, was overlooked by
                                                                                                                                          superiors despite his fixation on religion. The Army
                                                                                                                                          is considering possible punishment for those who
                                                                                                                                          turned a blind eye to Hasan’s inclinations.
                                                                                                                                             Americans want to be safe. But they certainly don’t
                                                                                                                                          want to become a police state in the process. Back
                                                                                                                                          during the really Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s it
                                                                                                                                          was well known, or at least it was a story that went
                                                                                                                                          around school, that the Soviet Union encouraged chil-
                                                                                                                                          dren in their country to report their parents if they be-
                                                                                                                                          lieved they were doing anything suspicious. We were
                                                                                                                                          appalled that kids would turn in their own parents to
                                                                                                                                          the communist government. It’s uncertain how wide-
                                                                                                                                          spread that really was but there certainly was some
                                                                                                                                          anecdotal evidence.
                                                                                                                                             There is a fine line between being cautious and
                                                                                                                                          violating our rights. It’s a line that Americans even-
                                                                                                                                          tually will have to define.
                                                                                                                                             In the meantime, we all ought to remain vigilant
                                                                                                                                          to what goes on around us and to what the govern-
                                                                                                                                          ment is doing under a pretense of protecting us. Giv-
                                                                                                                                          ing up our rights for the sake of safety is not a good

                                                                                                                                                            Mike Jones, 581-8332
  Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard speaks during the Campaign Kickoff Rally for a school bond vote at East Central
High School on Feb. 20. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World

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