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Latest from Russell Mills

    The next dip in Green Country’s weather roller coaster track is a short one, but it could bring enough icy precipitation to make elevated surfaces like bridges and overpasses dangerous Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Meteorologist Amy Jankowski with the National Weather Service Office in Tulsa tells KRMG the cold moves in Tuesday evening. “The bottom kinds of drops out Tuesday night going into Wednesday,” she said. “We do have a little bit of a chance of maybe some wintry precipitation. At this time, maybe a mix of some freezing drizzle, maybe a little bit of sleet and snow near the Kansas border.” She said the area along and north of I-44 is the primary area of concern for possible ice. The good news is that most roadways will likely be okay, she added. “It’s been so warm lately that the ground temperatures are pretty warm, so that will help keep any frozen precipitation from building up on main roadways. Now any elevated things like overpasses and bridges, they’ll be a little bit more susceptible to freezing because they don’t have the soil to help insulate them. So people still need to just be careful on those types of things, but most of the road should be okay,” Jankowski said. The metro area will likely see an inch to an inch and a half of precipitation during the event, with areas further to the south and east getting perhaps as much as three inches. That means the possibility of some flooding in low-lying areas, a possible concern for people traveling to the southeast part of the state, or perhaps into Arkansas. KRMG will be closely tracking the system as it moves through, and will activate the KRMG StormCenter if necessary.
  • No one’s counting their chickens just yet, but there’s hope among some Oklahoma lawmakers that a new budget proposal might be able to overcome the (thus far) insurmountable barrier of a 75-percent supermajority. There’s no handy nickname yet for the plan, which includes modifications to many of the elements of the “Step Up Oklahoma” proposal which went down to defeat last week in the House. But some lawmakers are cautiously optimistic that this time, they’ve got a plan that can actually pass. The question now becomes: Will the GOP House leadership bring it to the floor for a vote? Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa) tells KRMG that longtime State Auditor Gary Jones was a key architect of the new proposal. Jones, a candidate for Governor, also has GOP street cred, as he’s the longest-serving state party chairman in Oklahoma history. The plan has bipartisan support; indeed, Proctor said Friday, he believes all 28 Democrats in the House will vote for it. “Democrats are ready to deliver every member of our caucus for it,” he told KRMG. “Republicans would need to bring 48 of their 72 members.” And while that’s not a slam dunk by any means, it’s an obtainable goal in the eyes of many lawmakers. The main bullet points: An increase to 5% for the first 36 months in the gross production tax on oil and natural gas wells ($200 million) A 75-cent per pack tax on cigarettes ($130 million) A 6-cent increase per gallon on diesel, 3 cents per gallon on gasoline ($113 million) A cap on itemized deductions ($107 million) A hotel/motel tax ($50 million) Ball and Dice gaming reform ($22 million) Proctor said the plan would pay for a $5,000 annual pay raise for teachers, plus raises for other state employees who haven’t seen raises in a decade or more. “The way we see it, it’s a more fair. It spreads out the burden of the taxes not just on the working poor and middle income families, but across all economic spectrums. We believe it’s more fair, and equitable, and just,” Proctor said. “From what I’m hearing from friends on the other side of the aisle, I think if we put this plan on the board, it passes,” he added. “Now the question is gonna be: Are we going to be allowed to vote on it or not?”
  • Another massacre at an American school means another round of finger-pointing, cries for reform, and searching for answers. In Tulsa, as in cities across the country, people talk about their fears and their opinions on what needs to be done. Diners at Tally’s Good Food Café (11th and Yale in Tulsa) had a wide range of opinions. One man said teachers should have guns; just feet away, a woman said there’s no excuse for anyone to have military-style weapons unless they’re in the military. Rick Chandler and his wife were about to order their breakfast when KRMG asked them for their thoughts. And he had a lot to say, because it turns out he carries a firearm with him at all times, but also teaches martial arts and counsels parents and teachers who have had problems with bullying. “I’ve got six black belts in different styles, and I tell every one of my students ‘if there’s a door, get out,’” Chandler said. The best bet is to avoid the situation entirely, by being aware of your surroundings at all time, he added. And if avoidance or escape are no longer options, one is well-served by having at least some training in self-defense. A couple miles away, owner David Stone at Dong’s Guns, Ammo and Reloading near Admiral and Yale told KRMG guns aren’t the problem - and gun control’s not the solution. Unlike when Barack Obama was president, however, he didn’t see a spike in sales after the latest mass shooting. “It’s because President Trump has made it very clear he’s not about to take away gun rights,” Stone told KRMG. And after a few political leaders laid some of the blame for school shootings on violent video games, KRMG visited Ivan Juarez, owner of Delta Games in Tulsa, near 21st and Memorial. Juarez told KRMG he’s heard it all before. “Every time something violent with teenagers, or a teenager does something violent, they also mention video games - because that’s what teenagers do,” he told KRMG. Research on the possible correlation between violent games and actual violence is all over the map. Perhaps the most telling statistic is the large drop in the national homicide rate in recent years - years in which video games were invented, and have become vastly more complex and realistic. Many researchers point out that the statistical sample of people who commit mass killings is so small, it’s impossible to establish a credible causal link. And, clearly, millions of people play the same games, without acting out with actual violence. Back at Tally’s, a man who began the conversation by saying it’s time to arm the teachers didn’t take long to admit perhaps that’s not a solution. In fact, he said, “from what happened yesterday (Wednesday) and what I understand, I don’t think you could stop it. When they get in their mind they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it.”
  • Educators with a plan for an innovative educational program that could really impact their students can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 to make that plan a reality. The money comes from Cox Charities, and is funded through donations by employees of Cox Communications and Cox Media Group. The “Innovation in Education” grants are available to public and private schools, pre-K through 12th Grade. As Carly Senger with Cox points out, the grants couldn’t be more timely, considering the budget problems faced by educators in Oklahoma. “We know that it has never been a more challenging time to be an educator in the state of Oklahoma,” she said Wednesday, “so we’re thrilled to be able to offer these Innovation in Education grants.” Nearly 2,000 Cox employees contribute to the fund, which has awarded more that $6.4 million to non-profits and schools in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas since 2005. To apply for the 2018-19 school year, visit the Tulsa Cox Charities website. The deadline for the applications is March 1, 2018.
  • Four men vying to be the Republican nominee for governor of the State of Oklahoma met for a debate Tuesday evening in Tulsa. You can listen to the entire debate by clicking on this link, or by using the audio player below. The event was held at Brookside Baptist Church, and was attended by several hundred people. It was presented by the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club, the Tulsa Republican Assembly, and Tulsa 912 Project. The participants were Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones, and Gateway Mortgage founder and CEO Kevin Stitt. Dan Fisher, a pastor and former State Representative, originally agreed to the debate but backed out, his campaign did not offer an explanation. The other announced GOP candidate for governor, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, had prior commitments and was unable to attend. KRMG Anchor/Reporter Russell Mills served as moderator.  The primary elections will take place June 26th.  If necessary, there will be an August 28th runoff; the general election will be held November 6th.                
  • Tulsa is home to the only organization in the country that exists solely to honor the state’s centenarians, those who have lived to be 100 years old or older. On its website, the group says it “is a rapidly growing, not for profit, volunteer organization whose sole purpose is to honor citizens of Oklahoma who are 100 years of age or older.” Gloria Helmuth is Executive Director of Centenarians of Oklahoma, she tells KRMG research done by Boston University indicates its the only group of its kind in the U.S. Its origins stem from 1991, when it first formed in Oklahoma City. It has since moved to Tulsa, and the major challenge for its all-volunteer staff is to raise funds, because the only money that comes in is from donations. “Oklahoma gets toned down so many times about the things we do wrong here,” Helmuth told KRMG. “I want people to know there’s something that’s being done right in this state. And what’s being done right, is we are remembering our centenarians.” They’ve honored well over 2,100 of them since they started, and have an average of about 180 registered at any given time. But, they know there are many more out there - the challenge, she said, is finding them. “We find these centenarians several different ways,” Helmuth said. “We have one of our ladies who loves to search Facebook and find people that are posting pictures of their grandmother, or ‘great-aunt Sally is going to be 100 soon,’ things like that.” But they could use help finding their honorees, each of which receives a certificate and other gifts including a “Golden Okie” button. The group keeps track of its honorees, making sure they get personalized cards on birthdays and holidays. They also need some help with IT, Helmuth told KRMG. “One thing we need right now pretty desperately is a tech person. We had one and she moved to Texas,” she said. For example, their website doesn’t include a way for people to donate money, which makes it that much harder to raise funds. To volunteer time or donate, visit the group’s website or call Helmuth at 918-510-0150.
  • Tuesday afternoon, localized icy drizzle created chaos on the Inner Dispersal Loop, the highway system surrounding downtown Tulsa. In a matter of less than three hours, EMSA responded to 19 injury crashes related to the weather. Saturday promises to be worse, in terms of the amount of precipitation and the length of time it’s expected to remain in the metro area, according to Steve Cobb with the National Weather Service in Tulsa. “This appears to hit us more square on” than Tuesday’s storm, Cobb told KRMG, “and last potentially a little longer, so it could continue all the way through portions of Saturday night, well after midnight in some cases.” And the cold will remain in place during the entire event, he added. “Our temperatures are going to bottom out Saturday morning around 25 degrees, and they might rise to near 30 degrees here in the Tulsa area Saturday afternoon. So that, overall, is not going to provide any chance for the precipitation to change form, it’s still going to be freezing.” During the event, drivers should assume any wet roads are frozen, and take appropriate precautions.
  • A large, and growing, body of research indicates medical marijuana can treat chronic pain effectively, and an increasing number of doctors point to it as a possible solution for the nation’s opioid crisis. Dr. Shivani Amin tells KRMG she used to use opioids for pain management, but no longer. “I was able to see first-hand the opioid epidemic that we have going on in our nation,” she said Wednesday. “Because of that reason, I kind of switched gears and went down more of an alternative path, and I’m a huge advocate of cannabis because I’ve seen it first-hand - the way it can help people, especially with chronic pain management.” Asked if, in her opinion, marijuana is as effective for pain management as opioids, she didn’t hesitate. “Yes, definitely,” she said, “if not better.” She stresses that a patient who’s been taking opioids, especially for any length of time, should not try to get off of them “cold turkey.” But with the help of a physician, she said, making the switch can change their lives. And there can be no doubt, Amin told KRMG, that marijuana is much safer. “My honest opinion is marijuana is 100 percent safe. No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. I mean, you have millions and millions of deaths every year from an opioid overdose.” Oklahoma will vote on State Question 788, which would make medical marijuana legal in the state, on June 26th.
  • Five Republican candidates for governor have so far confirmed they will attend a debate in Tulsa February 13th. The event is sponsored by the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club, the Tulsa Republican Assembly, and Tulsa 912 Project. It will be held at the Brookside Baptist Church, 3615 S. Peoria Ave., beginning at 6:30 p.m. The candidates who have agreed to take part so far include Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones, Gateway Mortgage founder and CEO Kevin Stitt, and Dan Fisher, a pastor and former State Representative. The other announced GOP candidate for governor, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, has not indicated he will attend. KRMG Anchor/Reporter Russell Mills will serve as moderator. The primary elections will take place June 26th. If necessary, there will be an August 28th runoff; the general election will be held November 6th.
  • The evening commute could be dicey, because it may be icy. That’s the word from the National Weather Service, although most of the precipitation should stay south of the metro. What does fall in the city, however, will not help commuters arrive safely at their destination. “It’ll be pretty much a wintry mix,” Brad McGavock at the Tulsa NWS office told KRMG. “It’s gonna predominantly start as a freezing rain/sleet mix, then it may change over to a sleet-like snow mix before it all ends.” One bright spot in the forecast, he said, is that the precipitation totals for Tulsa look fairly light. So while it’ll be a potential problem for drivers, the area shouldn’t see much impact to limbs or power lines. As for the timing, he believes it’ll be late afternoon before anything frozen falls. “The highest chances actually will probably hold off until after 5:00, probably between 5:00 and 10:00 (pm),” he said. “It’ll kind of spread up from the south, probably not get into the Tulsa metro until the afternoon hours.” The City of Tulsa has plans in place to pretreat roads and bridges, and the KRMG StormCenter will activate if necessary. KRMG will also have live reports from the roads throughout the afternoon and early evening Tuesday.
  • Russell Mills

    Anchor/Reporter

    Russell Mills came to Tulsa in 1991 with an AA degree in Broadcast Journalism and a new family. He worked in local television for more than 20 years as a show producer, assignment editor, and online content director. He built one of the first television news websites in the country and helped pioneer streaming audio and video, especially as it related to weather and live news coverage on the Internet. Russell says working for KRMG fulfills a longtime dream. "I worked in newsrooms for a long, long time before finally getting the chance to get out and cover the news in person. I can't tell you how much I love doing just that -- driving toward the big story to talk to the people involved gets my adrenaline going like almost nothing else in life." Russell grew up in Bozeman, Montana then spent several years as an "itinerant musician and restaurant worker," living in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California before finally starting college at 28 and discovering broadcasting as a possible career path. He is married to Shadia Dahlal, a nationally-known Middle Eastern Dancer and instructor, and has two stepchildren. You can connect with Russell via TwitterFacebook, or Linked In

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  • The next dip in Green Country’s weather roller coaster track is a short one, but it could bring enough icy precipitation to make elevated surfaces like bridges and overpasses dangerous Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Meteorologist Amy Jankowski with the National Weather Service Office in Tulsa tells KRMG the cold moves in Tuesday evening. “The bottom kinds of drops out Tuesday night going into Wednesday,” she said. “We do have a little bit of a chance of maybe some wintry precipitation. At this time, maybe a mix of some freezing drizzle, maybe a little bit of sleet and snow near the Kansas border.” She said the area along and north of I-44 is the primary area of concern for possible ice. The good news is that most roadways will likely be okay, she added. “It’s been so warm lately that the ground temperatures are pretty warm, so that will help keep any frozen precipitation from building up on main roadways. Now any elevated things like overpasses and bridges, they’ll be a little bit more susceptible to freezing because they don’t have the soil to help insulate them. So people still need to just be careful on those types of things, but most of the road should be okay,” Jankowski said. The metro area will likely see an inch to an inch and a half of precipitation during the event, with areas further to the south and east getting perhaps as much as three inches. That means the possibility of some flooding in low-lying areas, a possible concern for people traveling to the southeast part of the state, or perhaps into Arkansas. KRMG will be closely tracking the system as it moves through, and will activate the KRMG StormCenter if necessary.
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone . A rumor claiming that the 71-year-old actor had passed away recently surfaced on social media — and he was not happy about it.>> Read more trending news  Stallone took to Twitter to express his annoyance. “Please ignore the stupidity,” the “Rocky” star tweeted Monday. “Alive and well and happy and healthy … Still punching!” >> See the tweet here Stallone’s younger brother, Frank, also took to the social media platform to inform everyone of the death hoax. And he wasn’t happy either. “Rumors that my brother is dead are false,” he wrote. “What kind of sick demented cruel mind thinks of things like this to post? People like this are mentally deranged and don’t deserve a place in society.” >> See the tweet here Read more here.
  • We may have found a different use for the oxygen mask on airplanes. The New York Post says, on a flight from Dubai to Amsterdam, a man wouldn't stop, to put it nicely, decompressing his cabin. He was passing gas, repeatedly, despite the men who had the bad luck to be sitting next to him telling him to stop. It was apparently bad enough that they got into a fight and the plane made an emergency landing. They were kicked off the plane along with two women who are completely baffled, because they say they don't even know the men. You can read more about the story here.
  • The White House on Monday signaled that President Donald Trump is willing to back at least one bipartisan measure to strengthen the national instant check system for those who buy firearms, as Democrats in the House and Senate continued to argue that action by the Congress on gun violence is long overdue. “While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In a written statement sent to reporters, Sanders said the President spoke to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Friday; the Texas Republican has a bipartisan bill with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), which would force states and federal agencies to submit more information into the instant gun check system. Our churches and schools should be refuges where children and parents feel secure. Many of these shootings can be prevented. There's no reason not to advance #FixNICS to help https://t.co/0JpZDiLPOr — Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) February 15, 2018 Interesting morning. Two quick thoughts: 1/ Trump's support for the FixNICS Act, my bill with @JohnCornyn, is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly. 2/ No one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic. — Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 19, 2018 After a mass shooting last November in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 25 people died, the Air Force acknowledged that the killer – who received a ‘bad conduct’ discharge from the military – should not have been able to buy guns, but those records were never placed in the instant check system. “For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn said in November when he introduced this bipartisan gun measure.” Democrats had hoped there would be action on that measure – just like they had hoped there would have been action to ban “bump stocks” after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, action on the “No Fly, No Buy” measure after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, and then the “FixNics” bill after the Texas shooting. I know assault rifles. I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America's streets. #Orlando pic.twitter.com/ibKQE2PpqF — Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) June 14, 2016 Last week’s shooting in Florida simply put all of those requests for legislation to deal with guns on repeat for Democrats. “We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “And so, I’m asking – no, demanding – we take action now.” Democrats would certainly like to do much more than the ‘FixNics’ bill, or banning bump stocks, as other ideas have popped up in recent days, like not allowing anyone under age 21 to buy weapons like an AR-15. But as the President returned to Washington on Monday evening from a long weekend at his Florida retreat, it wasn’t clear if his support for one bipartisan plan would actually mean action – as GOP leaders have not put such measures on the fast track to a vote in the House and Senate. On Sunday, when the President met with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Florida, the two men discussed a series of issues, including “the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida.” The White House statement on their meeting did not characterize whether legislative action was discussed. No action will happen on anything gun-related this week – as the Congress won’t be back on Capitol Hill for votes until February 26.