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Latest from Russell Mills

    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.
  • Fourteen staff members working for the Oklahoma House of Representatives got raises at the beginning of the year, some as high as thirty percent. That doesn’t sit well with thousands of state employees in other agencies, who haven’t seen a raise in as long as twelve years. Tom Dunning is Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. He tells KRMG the perception among many members is that the House seems to be taking care of its own, while ignoring dire problems elsewhere in the state. “For the past several years, there’s been no state pay raises,” Dunning said, “yet the House of Representatives seems to be able to make that happen for their own staff. For our members who are frustrated and angry about this, it just seems like there’s a double standard.” He adds that going without raises for more than a decade has left Oklahoma’s public employees far behind. “The average state employee’s compensation, that’s both salary and benefits, in 2017 was 24 percent below market,” Dunning told KRMG. “Now, that’s not OPEA’s numbers, those are numbers from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, who is responsible for the state’s personnel actions. So, we’re not just pulling those numbers out of the air.” One of the more dire examples would be the Department of Corrections, which is experiencing extremely high turnover because of poor pay and extreme working conditions. “The turnover rate among correctional officers is right around 50%,” Dunning said. “That means the state pays money to recruit and hire folks, and train them, and then they stay maybe six months then they go find something else to do.” The last time the legislature actually voted to raise pay for state employees was in 2006. The raises for House staff members came from the legislature’s operating budget, which Dunning admits can technically be done by other agencies. But, he says, “it’s impossible, because state agencies have been cut, and cut, and cut over the last several years.” State employees keep getting promises, he said, but lawmakers have failed to come through. “They’ve heard ‘now wait until the money comes in, and we’ll take care of you.’ And for whatever reason, it never seems to happen.” The fourteen House employee raises, according to OMES, range from just under $3,000 annually to as much as $20,000 a year in one case.
  • To even call Oklahoma’s process for obtaining a license to practice a trade or occupation a system might be something of a stretch, although Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston is working to correct the problem. Currently, she told KRMG, the situation is fairly chaotic. “There’s no place you can go to find out how many licenses we have, how expensive they are, how many training hours - I mean it’s kind of crazy,” Houston said. “We have 300 agencies, boards and commissions, and each one issues a number of different licenses.” About a year ago, Gov. Mary Fallin formed a task force to study the issue, and last week the group issued twelve recommendations. But Houston has already taken action, helping create a website that acts as a sort of informational clearing house on licensing in Oklahom Meanwhile, the problem is a concern nationwide. “This is a big issue at the national level,” Houston told KRMG. “The Trump administration is looking into what they can do at a national level to address it, but interestingly so did the Obama administration. And I can tell you from 25 years in public policy, when you have both the right and the left saying ‘hey, this is a problem,’ that is an area that is ripe for reform.” She said according to the research they did at the Oklahoma Deparment of Labor, government oversight of occupational licensing grew rapidly in the second half of the 20th Century. “In the 1950s, one in fifty occupations required a license. Today, it is one in three,” Houston said. And she doesn’t think that’s necessary, much less beneficial. “Is this an appropriate use of the government? Is this an appropriate are for the government to be in? Again, if you’re interfering with somebody’s ability to earn a living, then there needs to be a governmental interest.” And there are only four areas, according to the task force’s findings, where the governmental interest exists. Houston enumerated those areas: “When the public health is concerned, the public safety, there’s a fiduciary duty, or there is some sort of fundamental right that is impacted. Other than that, it really shouldn’t be a license. And there are lots of different ways to get there that aren’t a license. So, that’s really what we started analyzing and making some recommendations on.” The database of licenses is a start, she said, although the ODL is still waiting from many of the agencies for the requested information. The second tool, she said, is dubbed “the blueprint.” “It is a way to get everyone on the same page, asking the same questions about licenses. And it is a model for the rest of the country. I’ve had several national groups that have reached out to me asking for it and looking to replicate it, because again it’s an issue across the country - not just in Oklahoma.” The blueprint, she says, drills down on three basic questions: What is the governmental interest? Is there a less restrictive means? Who is regulating the licenses? The goal now is to get the legislature to move on the task force’s recommendations.
  • 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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  • A motorist spotted a body in the street around 11:27 p.m. Saturday night. The discovery happened near Young and Quaker. Tulsa Sgt. Dave Walker tells us the medical examiner was called out to help. “They were able to determine he had a gunshot wound to the back of the head,” Walker said.  “That is the reason he died.” Investigators believe a shots fired call about an hour before the body was found is related to this case. The name of the victim hasn't been released. Police don’t have a suspect or motive for the homicide.  Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.   Walker adds this is Tulsa’s fifth homicide of 2018.  
  • Today will be perfect for outdoor activities. National Weather Service Meteorologist Chuck Hodges says we have a nice day ahead of us in and around Tulsa. “Should be topping out in the lower 60’s,” Hodges said.  “We’ll be kicking up a little more wind.” The low Sunday night will be closer to 57 degrees. If you get an extra day this weekend for Monday's holiday, make sure an umbrella is nearby. NWS is reporting we could see a few thunderstorms.   The high for Monday will be close to 61 degrees.  
  • In the wake of a fresh round of indictments in the wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and Sunday to repeatedly express his frustration with the probe, again proclaiming his innocence, attacking his critics, and demanding attention instead on actions of the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” the President tweeted on Sunday morning – though Mr. Trump has been very slow to embrace the concept that Russia was at fault, as he derided the investigations into Russian interference in 2016. “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow,” the President said on Twitter. “Get smart America!” Those were just a sampling of a number of tweets from this weekend, as the President let off steam on a number of fronts. I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018 If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018 Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018 The President even rebuked his own National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, over a point that Mr. Trump and his supporters have zeroed in on repeatedly – a lack of evidence that ties any Russian operation to the Trump Campaign. “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” as the President again tried to switch the attention of the moment to questions that the GOP has raised about Hillary Clinton, the Steele Dossier, and the Democratic National Committee. General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018 Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein stated at the News Conference: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2018 Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2018 “The Fake News Media never fails,” the President wrote on Saturday, repeatedly making the argument that any Russian interference in 2016 did not tip the scales of the election in his favor. “Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President,” the President added. “The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” he tweeted. Critics of the President noted what was missing in his Saturday and Sunday tweets about the Russia investigation was any pledge by Mr. Trump to implement tougher sanctions against Russia which were approved by the Congress, or to order tougher measures to stop any Russian meddling. Last week, the nation’s top intelligence officials all agreed that Russia was going to try to repeat their 2016 effort in the 2018 election – asked by Democrats if there was any specific order from the President to focus on that threat, the intelligence chiefs only indicated that they were focused on the matter. “Look, this is pretty simple,” said retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former head of the National Security Agency. “The Russians objective was to mess with our heads.” “Based on his late PM – this AM joint Twitter meltdown, it’s safe to say “Trump” is having a nervous breakdown as Mueller’s walls close in,” said John Schindler, a former U.S. intelligence official who has been highly critical of the President’s statements on the Russia probe. Late on Saturday night, the President also drew in the Russia investigation to criticize the FBI over the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week. ” They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign,” the President said. Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018 Here is the latest Russia indictment from last Friday.
  • A man is dead following an auto-pedestrian collision Friday night in Tulsa. Officers at the scene tell us the crash happened around 10 p.m. near 21st and Memorial. “The pedestrian was crossing the street from the north to the south and was struck by a vehicle,” police said.  “The vehicle was heading eastbound.” The driver did stay at the scene. Investigators don't believe the driver was at fault for the collision.   Investigators reports the pedestrian was pronounced dead at the hospital.  As of early Saturday morning, his name hasn’t been released.  
  • When you look outside this morning, expect to see soggy conditions. However, National Weather Service Meteorologist Chuck Hodges says the Tulsa area won't remain wet all day. “We’ll probably get some filtered sunshine later in the day,” Hodges said.  “Temperatures should be topping out pretty close to 60.” The low Saturday night will be around 34 degrees. Sunday is probably the better bet for outdoor activities.  NWS is reporting cloudy skies and the high will be close to 67 degrees.   The Tulsa area could reach 72 degrees by Monday.