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Latest from Russell Mills

    In September of 2016, enough signatures were certified on an initiative petition to put medical marijuana on a ballot in Oklahoma, but so far, Governor Mary Fallin has not designated a date for voters to decide the issue. Members of Oklahomans for Health, an advocacy group which favors State Question 788, aren’t happy with the delay, and have begun a campaign to turn the heat up on the governor’s office. Shawn Jenkins, a spokesman for Oklahomans for Health, spoke with KRMG on Wednesday. “We have started a phone campaign and an email campaign that is currently going, that started this week,” Jenkins said, “specifically requesting that it be put on the ballot - and some people are a little bit more not requesting, but demanding that it be put on the ballot - and not just on the ballot, not in November, because that’s too late. This issue was petitioned in 2016.” But the language of the ballot title became an issue when then state Attorney General Scott Pruitt removed the word “medical” from it, which sparked a court battle which restored it, but delayed the issue long enough to prevent a vote that year. Now 2017 has come and gone, and the governor still hasn’t acted, though she could do so at her discretion. Jenkins, a veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division, suffers glaucoma and also has a son with a rare disease. When KRMG asked him why he advocates for medical marijuana, he discussed the potential benefits for himself, his family, and his fellow veterans. But first, he talked about his rights. “I first got involved with advocacy for it because of being so conservative in my philosophy, and individual rights, and aspects of freedom and liberty,” he told KRMG. If the governor doesn’t call for an election, the issue will still appear on Oklahoma ballots, but not until November of 2018.
  • For those wanting the traditional Thanksgiving feast but who can’t, or don’t want to, do the cooking there are a few restaurants in Tulsa that traditionally use the holiday as a way to thank their customers by offering a free meal. In Tulsa, Tally's Good Food Café at 11th and Yale has offered free Thanksgiving for 30 years; they'll feed people from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Owner Tally Alame tells KRMG he loves Thanksgiving, and loves throwing his doors open to all comers on the holiday. “Coming originally from Lebanon, I experienced Thanksgiving when I came to the country here, and it has to be my favorite time of the year. You can look back and see everything that we are thankful for, and so I just want to share my gratitude with my customers.” This year, he’s also thankful that his success is about to lead to a second location, at 61st and Sheridan. He had hoped to have it opened by Thanksgiving, but says he’ll have to delay until (tentatively) December 11th. Duffy’s Restaurant at 706 S. Elm Place will serve its free meal from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Owner Eddie Chammat tells KRMG it’s about thanking his customers, but also about providing a welcoming place for those who might otherwise be alone on the holiday. Batman's at Pine and Mingo offers free Subway Sandwiches and pie from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
  • As the Oklahoma Blood Institute moves into the final stretch of its 40th anniversary year, it’s trying to get word out about what it does, and the need for extra help during the holidays. In those four decades, OBI has grown to become the ninth-largest non-profit blood center in the nation. OBI Recruitment Manager Kenda Burnham told KRMG Tuesday they serve about 90 percent of the hospitals in the state, and for most of them, are the only source of blood. “That includes all childrens’, all veterans’, and all Indian hospitals in the state,” she said. “We also supply St. Francis Health Systems, which is the largest user of blood here in northeast Oklahoma.” That requires a lot of donations. “It takes close to 1,200 donors every single day to ensure we meet the needs of patients all across our systems,” Burnham said. And that need does not go down during the holidays, but unfortunately donations often do. “Holidays are a little more challenging, because people just get out of their regular routine,” Burnham told KRMG. “People are busy doing other things, so sometimes they forget to take time to give blood. So we still have patients in those hospitals, no matter what day of the year it is, that are counting on life-saving blood donors.” The process takes about an hour for a standard donation, and she said most people actually qualify, even if they’ve traveled out of the country or had a tattoo. But only about one in ten who can donate, actually do. Anyone who can help is urged to visit the OBI website and make an appointment, or find a nearby blood drive.
  • Former Tulsa police officer Shannon Kepler was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison after a manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of Jeremy Lake, but like every aspect of the case, determining how long he may actually serve in prison is complicated. For starters his attorney, Richard O’Carroll, has already said they will appeal the conviction. There’s also the looming case of Patrick Dwayne Murphy, whose 1999 murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals because it occurred in “Indian country,” and Lake’s death also occurred on what is - according to that ruling - part of a Creek Nation reservation which was never officially disestablished by the federal government. Since Kepler’s been on the roles of the Creek Nation since 1983, the pending appeal in the Murphy case could potentially land his case in federal court, obviating anything the state court did.
  • The budget bill passed by the special session of the Oklahoma legislature didn’t appear to make anyone happy, even those who voted “aye” last week. It certainly didn’t satisfy Gov. Mary Fallin, who vetoed nearly the entire package Friday,  a move that will likely mean another special session. For educators, it’s especially frustrating since despite much rhetoric and many promises, there is no raise for teachers in the bill.  Dr. Shawn Hime is Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He tells KRMG he’s frustrated that despite constantly hearing how important education is from voters and from the state’s elected leaders, once again teachers got passed over for a raise.  “Everyone who runs for office, it seems like, does tout education as being very important, top of their list,” he told KRMG Friday. “Every poll from voters has education at the top of the list for the most important things to fund, most important things to improve, teacher pay. But at the end of the day, to date, we haven’t been able to hit the finish line with that because of political squabbling over what the revenue source is, where the revenue source comes from, where the money goes - any number of things.” He said the number of emergency teaching certificates issued this year serves as a stark example of the problem.  In 2012, the state issued a total of 32. “This year, through November, we already have over 1,800 emergency certified teachers that have been approved and are in our classrooms,” Hime said, “and that is a direct reflection of not adequately funding education, not giving teachers a pay raise for over a decade, and continuing to have this partisan bickering at the state Capitol instead of doing what’s right for Oklahoma.” Things will be dire when the legislature re-convenes in February.  Estimates of the budget hole going into that session range from $500 million to as much as $800 million. 
  • Thursday, a local Subaru dealer handed over the keys to a brand new Outback SUV to a local Meals on Wheels program, thanks to a nationwide effort to “share the love.” Subaru is celebrating 50 years in the US by giving away 50 vehicles to Meals on Wheels around the country. The only one selected in Oklahoma was the metro Tulsa program. Lauren Danielson with Meals on Wheels tells KRMG the vehicle will help them serve their clients, especially when road conditions are bad and the normal volunteer routes can’t be covered. The keys for the new Outback were handed over personally by Larry Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Subaru in Broken Arrow, part of the Ferguson Superstore. He told KRMG Subaru of America has five charities it supports, including four national organizations.  Each dealership then chooses a local charity to support. Through January 2nd, Subaru of America will donate $250 to one of those charities for each new Subaru leased or purchased. “For every new Subaru sold, a portion of that goes to the charity, and that’s the customer’s choice,” Ferguson said. The local charity Ferguson chose this year is “Hope is Alive,” a group that works with people suffering addiction or alcoholism:
  • A month-long task force designed to take a bite out of violent crime in Tulsa netted more than a hundred arrests and took dozens of illegal firearms off the street, Tulsa police announced Wednesday. “Operation Blue Thunder” involved members of the Tulsa Police Department, FBI, BATF, and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, with support from the US Attorney and Tulsa County District Attorney. Beginning October 17th, officers and agents targeted high-crime areas and known felons, and by all accounts, enjoyed a lot of success. Wednesday, a large group gathered to discuss the results, including Mayor G.T. Bynum, TPD Chief Chuck Jordan, Sheriff Vic Regalado, FBI Asst. Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda, US Attorney Trent Shores, Asst. State Attorney General Julie Pittman, Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler, and several members of the Violent Crimes Task Force, Gang Task Force, and robbery detectives. According to TPT, those results include: 102 felony arrests 55 felony warrants 48 illegally possessed firearms seized 17 stolen vehicles recovered 26 pounds of marijuana seized 26 grams of cocaine seized 8 grams of heroin seized More than a pound of methamphetamine seized $38, 511 in (suspected) drug proceeds seized KRMG rode along during part of “Operation Blue Thunder,” and we will be posting more details in coming days.
  • Wednesday evening, a new business in Tulsa will get a healthy infusion of cash, knowledge, and other resources that should provide it a great head start. And a new initiative to help businesses obtain zero-interest loans from a crowdfunding platform will be rolled out in Tulsa as well. Five finalists in the Tulsa StartUp Series will make their pitch to a panel of judges, and the winner will receive several prizes which will help them get up and running. “The first-place winner receives $15,000 as their grand prize,” Meredith Peebles, COO of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation (LTFF) tells KRMG, “as well as a year-long membership to 36 Degrees North, a year-long dedicated mentor, as well as this year they’re getting a great advertising package from Cox Media Group.” Second place gets $4,000, third place gets $2,500. But the real prize, many say, is the invaluable lessons new entrepreneurs get in building a business plan, and pitching it to potential investors. “There’s so much opportunity for mentorship and coaching along the way,” Peebles said. “It’s helping them refine that very important sales pitch and investors pitch. They’re getting feedback at all these different points in the competition.” The competition begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Cox Business Center downtown; the winner will be announced at 8:00 p.m. But before the StartUp Series starts up, LTFF will announce a new initiative also designed to help small businesses. It’s called “Kiva,” and it’s actually been around for about 12 years. The non-profit was founded in San Francisco, and originally focused on growing businesses owned by women in developing nations. But now, Kiva is coming to Tulsa, with a full-time coordinator on the ground here in Green Country. Kiva helps connect small business owners to zero-interest, crowdfunded microloans. Lenders can invest as little as $25 in a business, and businesses can request loans up to $10,000. The lenders don’t make money, but when the loans are repaid they can re-invest elsewhere or cash out. The latest figures show that 97% of Kiva loans do get repaid. LTFF has announced it will match up to $250,000 in Kiva loans in the Tulsa metro area. Businesses seeking Kiva loans will also be at the Cox Business Center Wednesday evening, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
  • If you have Cox Contour Cable service, you can now access Netflix content without having to switch sources on the TV or grab a different remote. Tuesday, the two companies announced the integration of Netflix content in the Contour platform. The service does require subscriptions to both Contour and Netflix, explains Bruce Berkinshaw Director of Product Management for Cox Communications in Tulsa. “You need to be a Netflix customer, just like you would need to be an HBO customer to watch HBO through Cox,” he told KRMG Tuesday. Netflix appears right in the “On Demand” area of Contour, and is accessible either through the Contour menu or by using the popular voice remote feature. The advantages go beyond the ability to use the voice remote, however. “You can watch Netflix wherever you go,” Berkinshaw said, because it will now be accessible through any television in the home that’s hooked up to Contour. “It essentially turns your regular TV into a smart TV for the Netflix title because it comes right in there, and you can either just go straight through the app that’s included with Contour or again just use the voice remote.” There is a 30-day free trial of Netflix available for those who don’t already have a subscription. For more information, visit the Cox Communications website.
  • He’s the first four-term mayor in the history of Oklahoma City, but in June of this year Mick Cornett announced he won’t go for a fifth. Instead, he’s running for governor, and his campaign slogan is short and sweet: “Fix the mess.” Cornett sat down for an exclusive interview with KRMG News Monday, and he said for starters, Oklahoma’s entire budgeting process is “broken.” I want to help change the culture at the Capitol, where it’s less politics and more governing -- Mick Cornett He compared how the legislature works on a budget, as opposed to how his city handles the process. “We never conduct a budget process like this. First of all there’s got to be more people at the table, there’s got to be more items on the table. You can’t say ‘I’m going to negotiate but we can’t talk about this, this and this.’ You’ve got to bring more items to the table if you’re trying to get people on board.” And he doesn’t see that happening at the capital. “When you’re digging yourself in a hole, the first thing you’ve got to do is quit digging,” Cornett said, “and this legislature just continues to dig and dig and dig. And people around the state, I can tell you firsthand, are angry. And they have a right to be.” He doesn’t blame one party or the other, he blames them both. And, he says, the solution includes new leadership - and a new paradigm for how leaders are judged in the state. “We have spent too long in this state judging our leadership by how well they deal with a crisis,” he told KRMG. “It’s time we start judging them by their ability to avoid a crisis.” Cornett will face a fairly crowded GOP field in next June’s primary, including current Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, and incumbent State Auditor Gary Jones.
  • 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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  • An 86-year-old Philadelphia woman allegedly pushed her walker into a bank Tuesday afternoon and . >> Read more trending news Bank employees told police the woman, identified as Emily Coakley, brandished a gun and demanded $400, CBS Philly reported. It didn’t take long for the police to arrive, and they arrested the senior citizen. Authorities say the woman had a .38-caliber revolver. They said the gun was not loaded, but, she did have bullets in her purse, according to The Morning Call. University of Pennsylvania police responded to a robbery call at the TD Bank at 3735 Walnut St. around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Coakley has been charged with aggravated assault, robbery and other related offenses. According to witnesses, Coakley had visited the bank the day earlier and was under the impression she had been shorted $400 from her withdrawal that was the specific total she demanded from the teller. Her family later arrived and tried to defuse the situation. Despite this, people near the bank weren’t happy. “Someone could have got shot, even accidentally. You have to have concerns. People bring their kids here,” customer Will Duggan told Fox 29 in Philadelphia. The Morning Call said she did not offer comment as police escorted her from the bank.
  • South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal increased the jail sentence for former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius to 13 years, 5 months, the reported Friday. Pistorius was originally sentenced to six years in prison for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.  'The sentence imposed by the … [High Court] with respect to murder is set aside and substituted with the following –- the respondent’s imprisonment for 13 years and five months,' Justice Legoabe Willie Seriti said.  He said Pistorius should have been sentenced to 15 years, but the Supreme Court of Appeal took into account the time he had already served, News24 reported.  Pistorius was arrested on Valentine’s Day in 2013 –- the day of the killing. North Gauteng High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa initially sentenced Pistorius to five years for culpable homicide in 2014, News 24 reported. Pistorius served only 10 months of the five-year sentence in prison before being released and put under house arrest. The state appealed the culpable homicide conviction, and it was later replaced with murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2016, and Masipa handed down a six-year jail term, News24 reported. Previously, the six-time Paralympic gold medallist had made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics, in 2012 in London, running on prosthetic 'blades.” He had his legs amputated below the knee as a baby, the BBC reported.
  • In September of 2016, enough signatures were certified on an initiative petition to put medical marijuana on a ballot in Oklahoma, but so far, Governor Mary Fallin has not designated a date for voters to decide the issue. Members of Oklahomans for Health, an advocacy group which favors State Question 788, aren’t happy with the delay, and have begun a campaign to turn the heat up on the governor’s office. Shawn Jenkins, a spokesman for Oklahomans for Health, spoke with KRMG on Wednesday. “We have started a phone campaign and an email campaign that is currently going, that started this week,” Jenkins said, “specifically requesting that it be put on the ballot - and some people are a little bit more not requesting, but demanding that it be put on the ballot - and not just on the ballot, not in November, because that’s too late. This issue was petitioned in 2016.” But the language of the ballot title became an issue when then state Attorney General Scott Pruitt removed the word “medical” from it, which sparked a court battle which restored it, but delayed the issue long enough to prevent a vote that year. Now 2017 has come and gone, and the governor still hasn’t acted, though she could do so at her discretion. Jenkins, a veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division, suffers glaucoma and also has a son with a rare disease. When KRMG asked him why he advocates for medical marijuana, he discussed the potential benefits for himself, his family, and his fellow veterans. But first, he talked about his rights. “I first got involved with advocacy for it because of being so conservative in my philosophy, and individual rights, and aspects of freedom and liberty,” he told KRMG. If the governor doesn’t call for an election, the issue will still appear on Oklahoma ballots, but not until November of 2018.
  • On every Thanksgiving, it’s always nice to take some time and think about what you and your family are thankful for in 2017 – but at the same time, we may as well try to figure how Turkey Day is playing in political circles as well. In terms of political news, reporters on Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C. are currently going through an almost never-ending avalanche of stories, erupting daily (or even hourly) in what seems to be a high rate of speed in this new social media atmosphere. Let’s take a look at a few things on this Thanksgiving 2017: 1. Roy Moore – Roy Moore might be thankful for a lot right now, mainly a number of men in high profile positions in the Congress and the news media who have been ensnared in the recent swarm of news about sex. The latest person to hit the news – and take the focus off of Moore – is Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who had a nude photo of himself leaked on to social media by a woman he was once in a relationship with, which some say might be ‘revenge porn.’ No matter what the details might be of how this occurred, the Barton story is a reminder of the perfect piece of advice that my father gave as he dropped me off at the U.S. Capitol on my first day of work in 1980, when he told me that ‘They call it the House of Representatives for a reason” – members of Congress are no different from our neighbors and friends. Some are good. Some are bad. Some make bad choices along the way. Roy Moore is thankful for Al Franken, John Conyers, Joe Barton, Charlie Rose, and many others. Their stories keep Moore out of the headlines. So the count for today if I'm not mistaken is two more accusers against Al Franken, one more against John Conyers and a picture of Joe Barton's genitalia splashed across the Internet — Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) November 23, 2017 2. President Donald Trump. – Mr. Trump may be most thankful for political opponents like Hillary Clinton, who continues to be a Trump punching bag on Twitter. While many Inside the Beltway cringe at “Crooked Hillary” tweets, those missives continue to delight the President’s legions of fans, as it helps to keep the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee in the news. (While Mr. Trump is probably also thankful for sports figures like Lavar Ball, Steph Curry, Richard Sherman, and others, I’ll stick to the political arena.) Over the last year, this President has proven himself to be very adept at verbally smacking people on Twitter – whether you think it’s right or wrong for Mr. Trump to be doing that isn’t the point. The longer that President Trump can keep Hillary Clinton in the news, the better for him, and maybe the better for the Republican Party. Donald Trump is thankful that Hillary Clinton is still around. Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2017 3. Tax lawyers and accountants. – Yes, Republicans say their tax reform plan will make the tax code simpler to deal with, and for some individuals, it would be easier to file your taxes under the plans envisioned in the House and Senate. But before you think that it’s going to change everything, a simple review of Congressional tax plans shows there will be plenty of work for people who need to explain the intricacies of the tax code, like tax lawyers and accountants. You don’t have to go very far into the GOP bills to feel confused about what’s being changed. Tax lawyers and accountants are thankful for the GOP tax reform bill. There will still be plenty of business for them, even if that bill becomes law. 4. Federal workers. All the talk for years from Republicans has been about making deep cuts in the budget of various federal agencies. On the campaign trail, President Trump promised much the same. But this first year of a combination of a GOP House & Senate, and the Trump Administration, produced almost nothing in terms of spending cuts and budget savings. Last week, the White House proposed $44 billion in (generic) budget savings to offset disaster aid for recent hurricanes – except it would come between 2025 and 2027, when Mr. Trump would be long gone from the White House. So, as they enjoy a big turkey dinner, federal workers can say ‘thanks’ that the Republican Congress and the President, as they really haven’t been able to wield a budget axe on the Executive Branch. Mr. Trump said before Thanksgiving that he would push for budget cuts in the next year. On Thanksgiving, President Trump visited a Coast Guard facility in Florida. Back in April, Mr. Trump wanted to cut over a billion from the Coast Guard budget. That didn’t make it through the Congress. Pres Trump to reporters 'Admin. Dept. heads will work next on spending cuts, welfare reform ('very shortly aftr taxes') & infrastructure' — AWPS NEWS llc (@AWPSNews) November 20, 2017 5. Politics at Thanksgiving. A year ago, the recent election of Donald Trump was a prime topic for many families, as a lot of Democratic voters were struggling to come to terms with President Trump’s election. Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2017, and it’s possible that a lot of those same people are still somewhat aggravated about the way things have gone in political circles after Mr. Trump’s first 10 months in office. And that leads me to believe that some of you will have a few things to say at the dinner table about President Trump, good and bad. Some will be saying “thanks” for the President – others, not so much. But it isn’t hard to argue over whether you should talk about politics at the table, eh? If you’re a republican having thanksgiving dinner with your democrat family, as you go around the table saying what you’re thankful for, I highly encourage you to say “the electoral college.” — Lord Single Malt (@Singlemaltfiend) November 22, 2017 My advice: Don't print anything out. Don't bring a chart to dinner. At Thanksgiving tell weird stories about when you were a kid to the kids and funny stories about loved ones no longer with us. Politics aren't that important. — Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) November 23, 2017
  • Just in time for Thanksgiving, more than 100 members of Oklahoma's National Guard arrived at the Broken Arrow Armed Services Reserve Center Wednesday night. KRMG's told the unit had been serving a six-month deployment in the Ukraine as part of a joint, multi-national training group. They also provided training support to Ukrainian forces. The soldiers were thrilled to see their friends and family. “I’ve been waiting for this feeling,” one soldier said.  “I’m proud of everything we did over there, but I’m happy to be home.” More soldiers from the unit are expected to return home over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to thank the soldiers in the comments.