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Latest from Russell Mills

    In a recent “report card” issued by the National Safety Council Oklahoma got an “F” in workplace safety, which doesn’t sit well with Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston. “I was shocked,” she said Friday, “because I know that we’re doing some really good work on workplace safety.' She tells KRMG she fired off a letter to the NSC for an explanation, since Oklahoma’s average number of workplace accidents is well below the national average, and has come down in recent years - a decrease of 47% in the last decade. I can’t imagine - how can we get an “F” on workplace safety? -- Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston What she heard back convinces her that the NSC has a political agenda, and the report card isn’t a serious appraisal of workplace safety in the state. “The first thing I noticed was that the measurements are really not fair measurements,” she said. “So things like our incident rate aren’t counted. Things like a decrease aren’t counted. Things like have you passed a law that bans gun in the workplace is counted.” She said some of the measurements they had sometimes weren’t factual. “One of the questions was whether or not you have a workplace safety program for public employees. They said we did not.” But Oklahoma is one of seven states that has primary jurisdiction over public sector employees, so that claim is obviously inaccurate, Houston said. But in the response to her letter, the NSC did not back down. “Basically their response was ‘what we’re trying to do is pass model legislation across the country, and this report card is to start a dialogue with your legislature about laws that need to be passed, and you have not passed these laws, so therefore your grade will not change.’” She knows that the report has no actual impact on her office, the state, or worker safety in Oklahoma. But she felt it was important for her to speak up. “I wanted to respond on behalf of our employees, on behalf of the people at the Department of Labor who work so hard each and every day to protect the safety of the worker. I wanted to respond on behalf of our companies, that have a lower than the national average incident rate. I wanted to respond on behalf of Oklahomans, who understand that we can do these things when we work together, without a government mandate.” The NSC also rated states in road safety (Oklahoma got a “C” there) and home and community safety (another “F”).
  • Air travel continues to be slower, more expensive, and less convenient in the United States, and it’s estimated that half of all delays are due to a badly antiquated air traffic control system. Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Burnley told KRMG Friday that most airports still use World War II era radar systems, and track airplanes with strips of paper.  “The United States no longer has the lead in air traffic control technology that it has enjoyed through most of the history of aviation, and it’s because we’re trying to run a 24-hour-a-day business that’s very complicated and huge under government red tape. Buying new equipment has to go through all the government procurement hurdles. Hiring people has to meet all the government hiring requirements. They’re caught by Congress not being able to get its act together and often doing short-term appropriations bills or short-term authorization bills. And we’re getting less than acceptable outcomes, and sadly, most of the western world has moved ahead of us in this area.” It’s becoming a drag on our economy. It inconveniences travelers, again with just slowing everything down to be sure we’re safe, and it’s time for a change. -- James Burnley, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation He’s now a spokesman for American Airlines, and says his company and other major airlines support a move to privatize air traffic control, moving it to a non-profit corporation that can cut through the red tape and implement technological upgrades. “We are trying to move to a GPS-based system,” he said. “We are also trying to move away from controllers and pilots having to rely almost exclusively on voice communications and use a form of texting.” A House panel approved a bill to that effect late last month, part of the FAA reauthorization bill.  President Trump backs the idea, and so does the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. But the plan faces opposition from lawmakers who want to retain control of funding, and fear a power grab by the large airlines. Burnley says we need only look to our north to see how successful a non-profit entity can operate an air traffic control system.  NAV CANADA privatized and modernized its system more than twenty years ago. “They are well ahead of us now in terms of technology,” Burnley said. “By the way, they have cut the cost to the airlines that use that system, if you adjust for inflation, by forty percent.”  Shuster’s bill is largely modeled on the Canadian system, and his bill may be heard on the House floor as early as next week.
  • Just three months into his new position as chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, David McLain has to do something Republicans haven’t done much in recent years - analyze an election defeat. Oklahoma House District 75 went to a Democrat for the first time in about 25 years in a special election held Tuesday, and the numbers paint a pretty clear picture of what happened, he told KRMG Thursday. Asked if normally Republican voters might have switched allegiance, he said that’s not what happened. “I don’t think it was Republicans that moved over to the Democrat side, I just very simply think Republicans didn’t come out and vote,” he said. Brother, if we don’t get our messaging right on economics and education, there’s a blue tsunami coming. Wake up. -- Tulsa GOP Chair David McLain He had all the numbers on his desk when our reporter showed up to speak with McLain for the first time since his election to lead the county GOP. “I’ve got the numbers, I’ve looked at the numbers,” McLain said. “See this spreadsheet across my desk? These are the numbers... we’ve run all the analytics on it.” His explanation of why those voters stayed home? He says voters were angry with Dan Kirby, who resigned as Representative of District 75 in February under a cloud after a scandal involving allegations of sexual harassment. “What this legislator did hurt us at the local level,” McLain said. “We lost a seat that we had for 25 years because of one man doing what he did. There’s the truth.” But he’s confident the GOP will regain that seat next year, when Republicans are likely to vote in much larger numbers with a slew of state offices on the line, including Governor. McLain has a lot more on his plate than one House district. He says infighting and feuding between Republicans have alienated some party members, and led the organization to crumble. He told KRMG his main goal is “to reconcile the differences within our party, pull all groups together within our party. To get back to our platform, our party platform, and to begin to promote those values from our party platform that are important.” He’s devoted himself to listening to all sides, and attempting to rebuild relationships to bring the party together. “If we don’t talk, we can’t build relationships with each other. I’m a businessman. I don’t agree with every person that I do business with, but that doesn’t stop me from doing business with them.”
  • Nearly two months after Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher, the case still haunts many of the people involved. That includes members of the jury, one of whom sat down with KRMG to discuss the case - and the verdict - at length. He wanted to speak out, because he believes that there are too many shootings of unarmed black men happening in the country. He spoke to KRMG on the condition that we not use his name. It was just horrible for everyone involved. I have no idea how much it cost her. It was a tragedy for Crutcher and his family... -- Juror in the Shelby trial “I don’t believe that it had to happen the way it happened. I don’t believe Terence Crutcher needed to be shot,” he said. But he went on to say that Crutcher made decisions that put him on the road to trouble the night he was killed. “If Terence Crutcher had not decided to do PCP that night, he’d probably be alive, you know? But he didn’t deserve to be killed because he was on PCP.” Later, he added Crutcher “was operating a motor vehicle while he was so high on PCP he thought his car was on fire. That is not cool.” Still, he stands by the verdict, because in his eyes the prosecution did not prove its case. “The words I have used to describe the prosecution are ‘sloppy’ and ‘shoddy,’” he told KRMG. But more importantly, he said, it came down to two major factors: The jury instructions from the judge, and Crutcher’s actions moments before he was shot. “I would have voted to convict, but the judge’s instructions mentioned things like ‘a police officer’s job is difficult, they have to make split-second decisions, we can’t look at it with 20-20 hindsight,’ that kind of thing. And going on what she (Shelby) knows at the time, she did not know he wasn’t going for a weapon. So we ended up acquitting her on that, too.” And that leads to the second deciding factor. “At the point he put his arm in the window of the Navigator (Crutcher’s vehicle), she was justified in shooting him. I believe a reasonable person could have decided that was the thing to do,” he said. “But I think things could have been handled differently up to that point.” And that’s why he decided he wanted his story told. He sees a trend nationally in unarmed black men shot and killed by police. “Part of the reason I’m talking to you is I’d like to try to help to see that this doesn’t happen as much. I feel like if I can get the story out, maybe we can work in that direction.” He said Shelby would likely have been convicted had the jury had an option of a lesser charge. They even wanted to add a written statement to the verdict, detailing their concerns about how the confrontation unfolded. But the judge told them such an addendum was not allowed. And in the eyes of the law, that ends it. And yet, that doesn’t mean the outcome will bring closure, or justice, to any of those whose lives forever changed the moment that shot was fired. And despite the acquittal, the juror says, police and citizens alike should take notice and find a way to prevent such tragedies in the future. “I don’t believe that it had to happen the way it happened. I don’t believe Terence Crutcher needed to be shot.”
  • After 22 years teaching art in Jenks, Jill Flummerfelt came to the conclusion that Oklahoma simply isn’t going to do anything about teacher pay any time soon. She decided to explore her options, including something she dreamed of doing when she first graduated college. So, Flummerfelt applied with the Department of Defense, and got an offer to teach the children of U.S. service members stationed in South Korea. She’s awaiting final confirmation from the DoD, but meanwhile isn’t shy about expressing the reasons for her decision. “I make approximately... $300 to $400 dollars more a month than I did back in 2000. That’s it. That’s not even the rate of inflation, you know, cost of living,” she told KRMG Wednesday. “I realized a year ago that things in Oklahoma really weren’t changing for the better for teachers,” she added. I decided that it was insane for me to try and make a living in Oklahoma -- Jill Flummerfelt The legislature’s failure to address teacher pay in any significant way, coupled with the defeat of a ballot initiative on teacher pay, left her without much hope for the near future. She’s not alone, by any means. According to a website created by the Oklahoma Education Association, teachers are leaving the state in droves. Small wonder, when many teachers find they can make an additional $20,000 a year or more by simply moving a few hours away. Flummerfelt stressed that she loves the Jenks School District, and her students, but she had to do what’s best for her financial security. “Fingers crossed, if everything works out well I’ll be in South Korea by August.”
  • During the 4th of July holiday, FOX News Radio aired a special called “FOX Across America,” highlighting things that make some of the country’s smaller cities and towns unique. Asked to submit a story for Tulsa, KRMG (a FOX News Radio afilliate) sent in a story about A Gathering Place for Tulsa, and as a result people around the country heard about the new world-class park being built along Riverside Drive. In the piece, Jeff Stava with the George Kaiser Family Foundation describes the amenities that will make the park different from anything else in the middle of the country. He also speaks at length about the quality of design and materials used in building the park. For those who might have missed it, KRMG has posted the segment about Tulsa’s new park below.
  • When he first announced his run for Congress, Representative Markwayne Mullin told voters he’d serve three terms then step down. But in recent months, he backed off of that promise, and Tuesday he made it official - he plans to seek a fourth term. In a video released via social media (see below), Mullin and his wife explained that they spent a lot of time talking with friends, family and constituents before making that decision. “We were really praying about it. And I think, her and I, we started off with ‘we’re not gonna run again,’” Mullin says in the video. “I mean, we were - we said what we said, we’re gonna serve six years and be done.” But things change over time, and that’s what happened, he said. “It’s growth. We all approach things different, and all of us are growing and all of us are changing. I don’t think there’s one person that’s never changed their mind six years apart from each other, or how they would approach things.” He says it basically comes down to his ability to make a difference for Oklahomans as a member of Congress, and not incidentally as a deputy whip for the GOP and a member of the important Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. He also spoke of the frustrations he experienced during the Obama administration, and his optimism that he’ll get more done under a Trump White House.
  • Gunfire erupted at a fireworks stand late Tuesday morning when two men attempted an armed robbery, but it was one of the suspects who ended up dead. TCSO spokeswoman Casey Roebuck tells KRMG the incident began about 11:20 a.m. at the stand near 65th West Avenue and Charles Page. The two suspects were in a green pickup; they pulled, in then pulled weapons. But someone inside the fireworks stand was also armed, and opened fire, hitting one of the men. They made it to the truck and drove off with some of the stolen fireworks, but didn’t go far. “A short time later, we received more 911 calls at 6500 West Edison saying that there was a young, white man down in a vehicle,” Roebuck told KRMG. “We arrived on the scene, we determined that the young man that was dead in the vehicle is one of the suspects in this robbery.” She said a neighbor took photographs of a second vehicle, a red car, pulling up next to the truck (see attached photo). The witness says the surviving robber and whoever was in that red car loaded the stolen fireworks into the car and took off, leaving their accomplice dead in the truck. The description of the suspect who got away and the vehicle he was in is vague; he’s apparently a white male in his 20s, and the vehicle was believed to be a Dodge. There’s been no description released of the other person or people who were in the red car. Investigators have released the photo taken by the neighbor in the hope it will help them track down the suspects. Anyone recognizing either of the suspects, or who can help investigators, is urged to call the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office at 918-596-5601.
  • Fourth of July celebrations will shut down several roads and two major bridges across the Arkansas River in Tulsa Tuesday. The 23rd Street bridge will close at 10:00 a.m., as crews prepare for the Folds of Honor FreedomFest fireworks show later that night. There will be more road closings along Riverside Drive, and surrounding Veterans Park, one of the two parks set aside for people to enjoy FreedomFest. Jackson Avenue will also shut down near River West Festival Park, and traffic will be routed around the neighborhood so drivers must access parking near the park from the west. The other bridge closure will be the 96th Street bridge between Tulsa and Jenks, which will shut down for the BoomFest fireworks show in Jenks. To see a live map of road closures and traffic flow in Tulsa, visit the City of Tulsa’s Traffic Flow page.
  • If you’re looking for a good read over the Fourth of July holiday, a new book by a German author takes a deep dive into what it was like to live in the colonies during the American Revolution. Over the last couple of centuries, author Holger Hoock maintains, much of the terrible violence that marked that war has been scrubbed from the history textbooks. His book is called “Scars of Independence.” He refers to the Revolution as America’s first civil war, and he makes an excellent point. Much like the Civil War, the revolution split cities, even families, into warring camps who blushed at almost nothing to either maintain loyalty to the British crown - or end it, permanently. Ben Franklin found himself at war with his own son, who was a fierce loyalist. Considering the tiny population then residing in North America, the war took a heavy toll in terms of per capita killed and wounded. American prisoners of war were kept in appalling conditions, perhaps as bad or worse that POWs faced in Vietnamese prison camps in the 20th century. Hoock’s book also documents a strong, and often forgotten, anti-war sentiment in Great Britain at the time, including some members of Parliament who fiercely condemned what some saw as a fratricidal conflict against British citizens over what amounted to a denial of their rights as citizens. The book is well researched, and written in compelling language that’s easily understandable to even a casual reader of history. The book “Scars of Independence” is published by Penguin Random House, and is widely available online and at book stores.
  • 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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  • It’s a hotel that Disney is hoping guests will marvel at. Disney’s Hotel New York, a 565-room property near Disneyland Paris’ Disneytown. will be renovated to feature the props, drawings and costumes from Marvel films, television shows and comic books, Travel & Leisure reported. The Art of Marvel will be the first Marvel Comics hotel. It will boast a skyscraper facade and likely will include Stark Tower, Travel & Leisure reported, continuing Marvel’s expanded presence among Disney properties.  The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009, and has opened two attractions -- Guardians of the Galaxy, Mission Breakout! at Disney’s California Adventure; and Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland. Walt Disney World’s Epcot park in Florida will be opening a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster soon, while Avengers attractions are being proposed for the Disney California Adventure park, Travel & Leisure reported.
  • Republican Senators headed home for the weekend still at odds over the details of a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, as Senate leaders vowed to press ahead early next week with a first procedural vote on the matter, though it still isn’t clear what exactly the GOP might vote on in an effort to break the deadlock on this top agenda item of President Donald Trump. “The Democrats did their bill on their own, and obviously it’s got flaws that I think everyone would recognize; Republicans are beginning to feel like we’re getting into that same mode, if you want to be honest,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said he worried that the GOP plan was being slapped together without an overall grand plan. With a procedural vote expected next week on a motion to start debate on the bill, it wasn’t even clear for Senators what GOP leaders would offer on the floor as an alternative to the House-passed health care bill. “I’m not yet decided,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told a group of reporters pursuing him in the hallways of the Capitol. “It depends what’s in the bill.” And on that point, GOP leaders didn’t have an answer on the details. 'That's a luxury we don't have' – @JohnCornyn when asked 'don't some people want to know the plan before they vote' on health care. — Kelsey Snell (@kelsey_snell) July 20, 2017 GOP Senators were being pursued every-which-way-possible at the Capitol complex, as reporters sought the latest update on the health care bill. Down in the basement of the Capitol, as Senators arrived for votes, Democrats would walk by – and sometimes not one reporter would move; a few seconds later, a Republican Senator would walk off the subway, and was immediately mobbed by reporters. Sen Heller went for the taco salad pic.twitter.com/oNexT1St3z — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) July 20, 2017 “I think they want to talk to you,” a smiling Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said as reporters descended upon him and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-ND), who sold insurance for many years in his home state. “With the Obamacare model that’s in place today, you’re going to have increases in deductibles and co-pays,” Rounds argued to reporters, though GOP Senators haven’t rallied around what their full answer should be to reverse that. “You just have people committed to trying to fix this problem,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has repeatedly made clear his frustration with how GOP leaders have tried to put together this bill. And that has led some Republicans to openly worry about how the GOP is forging a final plan. “It’s feeling a little bazaar like – like a bidding war right now,” Corker said. Demonstrating some of the frustration of the moment, Corker even suggested that his party go back to the idea of repealing large chunks of the Obama health law – without anything to replace it. “I am beginning to feel that the best way to do it would be just to repeal – set a two or three year transition period, and force both parties to get together,” Corker said. But there did not seem to be enough GOP votes for that idea. “Senate Republicans complain of chaos in healthcare effort,” was one headline in my morning email inbox – as it’s not clear which way the GOP is going on health care reform at this point. In the House, GOP lawmakers could only sit back and wait. “I’m hopeful that we’ll see the Senate try to regroup, look at the issue, and try to work it out,” said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK). “I continue to trust that the Senate will do their job,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Not only is there some frustation with the Senate among GOP lawmakers, but a little with the White House as well. “I really lay a lot of the blame on the Trump Administration itself,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). “The President hasn’t really shown leadership and guidance on what the plan should be, and it’s left several different groups to work together to try to fashion one,” Turner said.
  • A fast-thinking employee at a Colorado Chick-fil-A restaurant saved a co-worker who was choking, ABC News reported. Andrew Myrant was on his break at the restaurant in Highlands Ranch when a co-worker signaled he was choking, ABC News reported. A video captured Myrant quickly coming to his co-worker’s aid and performing the Heimlich maneuver. After the co-worker was safe, Myrant sat down to finish his meal. “I mean, it makes me feel pretty awkward because I don’t feel like it, but they say ‘hero’ a lot, and one of my managers bought me a sandwich for the other day, so that was nice,” Myrant told ABC News. The co-worker was able to resume his duties. Myrant, a college student, said he learned the Heimlich maneuver while in high school.
  • An armed robbery victim wants police to find her boyfriend and her marijuana. Tulsa police officers are concentrating not so much on the pot possession, but on the more serious part of the crime. “We have kind of a minor misdemeanor crime that’s more or less being overshadowed at this point by a more violent in nature crime,” TPD Corporal Jeremy Lawson said. No one was injured and the woman told officers where she thought the suspect might have fled. “She was a victim of the armed robbery and then the suspect was a male friend or companion that had been staying with her.”  The robbery took place around 12:06 a.m. Friday at a motel located at 3509 South 79 East Avenue.
  • A woman is arrested for child endangerment after her young son is found wandering through an apartment complex. We're told Jana Clem had forgotten to lock the door after she took her prescription medications Thursday at the Chapel Ridge Apartments. Someone called Rogers County deputies after finding the 4-year old alone. Clem said she didn't realize that the boy had left their apartment.