Celebrate independence by getting out of your bubble

by | July 3rd, 2017

It’s not the Divided States of America, is it?  Sometimes the partisanship and tension make it feel that way.  That is why Together Oklahoma offers a place to step outside those bubbles.

Are you trying to get out of your Urban or Rural bubble? How about your liberal or conservative bubble?  Do you know which bubbles you are in? Chances are, we are all separated from our fellow Oklahomans more than we should be.  It is essential that we make friends with others all over the state! We are in this together, right?

I’m inviting Together Oklahoma members (that’s you) to join Normanites on the 2nd Friday Art Walk on July 14th and to come with me to the Porter Peach Festival on July 15th! These are only a couple of the many opportunities we have coming up. Thanks to Brian Pelts, I fixed the link I sent last week, so please sign up for a shift or two.

Just to be clear, we aren’t going out to debate anybody on either of these adventures. This is a time to make friends and fully hear and see each other. If we can get to know each other in the good times, we’ll be in much better shape to slog through the tough times together.  Are you available to join me for one, the other, or both? (If you want to offer to help set us up at another event, let me know at events@togetherok.org or in the Together OK Facebook group.)

We found the Budget Bash video!

Guess what!  It turns out we didn’t actually lose the video of the Better Budget Bash. Hooray!!! Our TOK Norman tech guru, Emilie Giustozzi, just saved it in a very logical place that didn’t occur to me.  We’ve now posted it on YouTube, so check it out if you weren’t able to be there on the day.

Have a safe and inspirational 4th of July and remember-

” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  

Our consent is necessary to institute proper government.  In the coming year, let’s get even more informed so we can help shape what we are consenting to! To secure Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness we must fully participate.  Let’s encourage each other as we Americans continue to learn and relearn how to act like citizens and not subjects!


The Good News, The Bad News, and the Beautiful

by | June 29th, 2017

Good news!  We had a great turnout for our Better Budget Bash last week! Nearly 100 Oklahomans participated across Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, and Lawton. For an event geared toward thanking our advocates from the past year, that is fantastic! And with our new livestreaming tool, the advocates in all four locations were able to join together in celebration. We honored four of TOK’s “All-Star Advocates” for their great work in this past legislative session — Emma Thadani was our Events All-Star; Debbie Hill was our Capitol All-Star; Nik Majdan was our Research All-Star; Merleyn Bell was our Communications All-Star; and Shay White was our All-Around All-Star.

The Bad News is that the recording of our video didn’t work. We hope we can do that again soon, and next time we’ll have a back up in case our recording doesn’t download. I know there are more of you who wanted to attend but were away; you can find out what you missed at this link.

(Correction! The Bad News is now canceled because we found the Better Budget Bash video! Feel free to check it out here.  If you have any feedback for us send it to events@togetherok.org)

OKC Good News!  Tonight, Together Oklahoma members will be joining Let’s Fix This for a West Wing watch party at the Wheeler Ferris Wheel at 1701 S. Western Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73109 from 8pm-10pm. The episode will be followed by a panel discussion with four former White House staff members, including former TOK intern Cody Minyard.  Find out more details about that event here!

Tulsa Good News! An ACTION accountability session for everyone who lives in House District 75 will take place next Sunday, July 9, 4 – 5:15 p.m., at St. Matthew United Methodist Church. It’s the first accountability session that ACTION is doing. Since TOK is a member institution in ACTION, we’d love for everyone who lives in House District 75 to come, as well as anyone else who wants to see what an accountability session is all about to inspire them to think about their own districts. If you aren’t sure which districts you are in, you can double check them here

Lawton both Good and Sad News — Our hearts our heavy with the news that advocate Kelly High is one among the many Oklahomans who have had to seek work outside our state.  She was instrumental in hosting the Better Budget Bash in Lawton and she will be missed. The good news is that there are many Lawtonians who are ready to join the TOK Lawton chapter, and we will be having a meeting there in August.  If you are in Lawton, or anywhere else in the state, make sure you have filled our our membership form so we know how to get in touch with you.
Finally the beautiful!  Summer in Oklahoma is a time of Festivals and a great time to make new friends with good folks across the state.  If you’d like to help make sure everyone knows their own two legislators and knows how to get our useful information at either the Norman 2nd Friday Art Walk or the Porter Peach Festival, let me know on this little outreach form.  If you’d like to help sign us up for another event near you, email me at events@togetherok.org.
Thanks so much and have a beautiful holiday weekend!

Let’s party with a purpose!

by | June 22nd, 2017

Since we left the Capitol, our team of advocates have been taking this show on the road! Everywhere we go, from the Turkey Mountain Outdoor Expo in Tulsa to the Ice Cream Festival in Tuttle, we find people who seriously want to get our state on the right track. But we also found that most of the folks we meet don’t know who their own two state legislators are.

How can we expect our legislators to know what we want if we don’t even know who they are?

We need your help to change that. NOW is the time to be building those relationships in our communities without the pressure of controversial bills coming to a vote at the Capitol.

That is why we’re taking the time to gather you together. This coming Sunday, June 25th, 2pm – 4pm, Together Oklahoma is hosting the Better Budget Bash at FOUR different locations across the state, and each of the locations will be connected by an online livestream:

  • Lawton –Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, RSVP to BBB Lawton HERE
    Ted’s Café Escondido (Lawton, OK) 3807 NW Cache Rd, Lawton, Oklahoma 73505
  • Tulsa- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, RSVP to  BBB Tulsa HERE
    Asbury United Methodist Church, 6767 S Mingo Rd, Room 2818, Tulsa, OK 74133
  • Norman- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm RSVP to  BBB Norman HERE 
    Norman Public Library, Lowry Room, 225 North Webster, Norman, OK 73069
  • OKC- Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm RSVP to  BBB OKC HERE
    Paseo Plunge, 3010 SW 28th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103

Here’s the Budget Bash Party Plan:

  • 2PM Sign-in, Eat, Connect, and Enjoy; Take a picture and post it with the #TogetherOK hashtag
  • 2:20 A toast to TOK all over Oklahoma
  • 2:30 Year in Review
  • 2:45 A Toast to our Efforts
  • 2:50 All-Star Advocate Awards
  • 3:00 A Toast to our All-Stars
  • 3:10 Our Vision for the Future
  • 3:25 A Toast to the Future
  • 3:30 End Webinar
  • 3:30-4:00 Socializing & Next Steps in your Local Area

What’s next?

Next we’ll be headed to the Porter Peach Festival on July 13th, 14th, and 15th.  We’re going out there to enjoy some peaches, make friends, and be sure everyone is registered to vote, that they KNOW who their two legislators are, and that they get the invitation to join Together Oklahoma and learn how to become an advocate for fair and adequate funding of Oklahoma services.  They are already with us, but they don’t know we are here!

Sign up for a shift with the Together Oklahoma table at the Porter Peach Festival HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday for the Better Budget Bash!  If you need more reasons to join us on Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, I have 18 good ones for you right here!

See you there!

On June 25, are you meeting me in Lawton, OKC, Tulsa, Norman, or elsewhere?

by | June 15th, 2017

Are you wondering how we can be in Lawton, OKC, Tulsa, and Norman all at once?

Here is the deal: part of our upcoming Together Oklahoma Better Budget Bash will be streaming live, and you should join us to see how it goes.  Our venues are set and the cakes are ordered!  Some of our Better Budget Bash locations are even offering free professional child care. All 4 locations will include an inside look at what is going on behind-the-scenes to make sure that next year we get on the path back to fully funded schools, nursing homes, state parks, safe communities, good roads and bridges, and more! 

Everyone is welcome, but please RSVP at one of the events below so we make enough punch.

Here are the details:

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Ted’s Café Escondido (Lawton, OK)
3807 NW Cache Rd, Lawton, Oklahoma 73505
Childcare: Available
RSVP to  BBB Lawton HERE

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd, Room 2818, Tulsa, OK 74133
Childcare: Not confirmed yet but watch event for updates

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Norman Public Library
Lowry Room, 225 North Webster, Norman, OK 73069
Childcare: Available 
RSVP to  BBB Norman HERE

Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm
Paseo Plunge
3010 SW 28th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Childcare: Not confirmed yet but watch event for updates

If you need more reasons to join us on Sunday, June 25th, from 2pm-4pm, I have 18 good ones for you right here

Not interested in traveling to one of these 4 locations?  You are still welcome to host your own TOK Better Budget Bash.  If you are interested in that option, fill out this little form and I’ll get you what you need. 

If we are serious about wanting to make this state better, coming together is the first step!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there and then.

Is it possible for Oklahoma to climb out of this hole we are in?

by | June 12th, 2017

I know many of you feel stressed out about the state of politics in Oklahoma and nationally. That makes sense, a lot of things are a mess! But please, bear with me as I explain why Together Oklahoma is having a party. As you’ll see below, we have some really good reasons to celebrate.

Our next event will instead be a statewide celebration of our efforts called the Better Budget Bash, to be held on June 25th from 2-4 pm in multiple locations across the state.  We will take the time to recognize each other for our dramatically increased efforts this year and the impact we had on this past legislative session. You can find out more about how to join the fun HERE.

If you are not sure what we are celebrating, here are 9 things to consider:

  1. We had many more constituents visit the Capitol than ever before!
  2. We finally managed to cancel the next auto-triggered income tax cut.
  3. We finally got gross production tax and combined corporate reporting on the table for discussion.
  4. Lawmakers on the left and right and all the way up to the governor were saying “structural budget deficit” and “need for new recurring revenues.” Those are our words!
  5. We helped build a very strong coalition with the dozens of other member organizations in Save Our State at saveourstateok.org.
  6. Very few terrible bills passed this year! (We can’t usually say that.)
  7. We are actually winning the argument on key issues around the budget and taxes. This is the first year in a VERY long time when none of our legislators were arguing for more tax cuts or more budget cuts. Almost all of the legislators finally realize that we need to invest more in public education, health, and public safety.
  8. Some of the newer legislators seem much less interested in passing wacky bills that are horrible or unconstitutional. (Much of the worst didn’t even get out of committee.)
  9. We have large and growing groups of citizens and organizations mobilizing for a better budget. You and so many others like you are now actively engaged on the issues!

That is a lot to celebrate!  If that isn’t enough for you then consider these other 9 things:

  1. The Better Budget Bash will be a great way to find out more about what you can do.
  2. There are tough times ahead, and it is important to take time to bond with your teammates.
  3. Celebrating helps keep us on track and motivated toward our goals.
  4. Seeing who else is with you in this can help you feel less alone in your frustrations than you did this time last year.
  5. We need to take time to honor those who have worked so hard to make things better!
  6. You probably did something new this year, maybe it made you nervous, but you did it and that is worth celebrating!
  7. Celebrations can be incredibly fun and you like fun, right?
  8. It is important to cultivate a sense of community with other people who care.
  9. We all need to hear the year in review to remind ourselves and each other why there actually is hope.

Those are the reasons why we decided to have a celebration to kick off our summer efforts. There will be plenty of time for work days later.  I hope you agree, I hope you fill out this little form if you want to help out with the fun on the 25th, and I really do want you to know that, from where I stand, in the thick of public policy in Oklahoma, there are a lot of strong signs that times, they are a changin’.

You’re invited to the Better Budget Bash!

by | June 8th, 2017

It is a statewide party and you are invited! Let’s gather and celebrate all the work we all put in as citizen advocates this session. It is no coincidence that legislators were feeling nervous about passing a bad budget this year. This time YOU WERE THERE and that made a difference!

We have almost 9,000 Oklahomans receiving these emails from Together Oklahoma. Our reach is growing daily, and that means we’ll have to get creative to get all these folks in the same Better Budget Bash celebration on June 25th!

In addition to a few large gatherings in Tulsa, Norman, OKC, and Lawton, we are asking members to help us host small house parties with their friends, TOK members in their area, or a mix of both.  This way we’ll be able to get together all at once, online or in person, to hear a wrap-up from the session, thank each other for all our efforts, get a look at the future, and raise a toast to coming together to make Oklahoma better!

Anyone in Together Oklahoma with a computer, internet access, and a way to display the webinar to guests can host or co-host a Better Budget Bash on June 25th from 2pm-4pm. Here are the necessary elements:

  • Sign up using our online form if you would like to be a host, co-host, or volunteer, or if you just want to attend.
  • Let us know if you will be hosting a private event or if you want to publicly invite other TOK members in your area.
  • Have an internet connection that will allow you to briefly join the other groups around the state at the beginning, middle, and end of the party.
  • This is a non-partisan group, so we cannot have any candidates campaigning during the official event from 2pm-4pm, although everyone is welcome to attend.
  • Some sort of snacks and drinks should be provided.
  • Take a picture of your group so we can see who is with us all over Oklahoma.

Tuning in for the online portion of our party is necessary, but there are also some optional elements that you can include to connect with your fellow Together Oklahoma members, such as:

  • Costume Theme: Invent your own superhero! Oklahoma needs help and we obviously can’t just wait for the legislators to do it.  What might a hero look like to you?  Examples: Super State Savior, Recurring Revenue Rescue Ranger, Fight for Funding Fabulous, and so forth. Remember, this is optional so don’t let a lack of costume keep you away.
  • Activities: Speed Friending is our time-tested favorite way to connect Together Oklahoma members to each other.  We’ll be doing this at the big events, and small event groups can join in too.
  • Shared Recipes: We are still gathering recipes for the best budget themed drinks and snacks, so send your ideas to events@togetherok.org.
  • Slide Show: We’ve got a lot of great photos from our letter writing parties, phone banks, days at the Capitol, and more.  If you have some photos you’d like to share, post them in the Together OK Facebook group or email them to communications@togetherok.org.

As you can see, this is going to be a great time and a meaningful way to bond with your fellow Oklahomans who agree that we can do better than what our legislature passed this year. Remember to fill out this form if you would like to be a host, co-host, or volunteer for either a private or public Better Budget Bash. Now is the time to celebrate how much momentum we gained so that next year we’ll be an even greater force to be reckoned with!

As always, I am with you when we must lament our legislative losses and there when it’s time to celebrate our success. Now may feel like a time for both, but like grandma always says, “At least it’s not the Dust Bowl.”

Oklahoma can and must do better! Let’s not be shy about it.

by | May 29th, 2017

Well friends, our Oklahoma legislature didn’t go into special session to fix the budget crisis. More damage will be done to our state, and there’s no point in waiting for someone else to fix it. Our trust is eroded and our frustration is high. Oklahoma can and must do better!

But that is not the only story this session! I want to remind everyone how extremely proud we should be of our statewide team effort as part of the Save Our State Campaign!  In years past we’ve invited citizen advocates to join us at the Capitol and almost no one took us up on that offer.  This year was different and it showed in the way our legislators reacted to us. We all kept calling and coming to the Capitol to witness their work and share our stories. There were deals being made at midnight and tense discussions to try to get a good deal. They are not used to having so much input from their constituents, but I reckon they’ll have to get used to it. Usually a bad budget passes without much push back but those days are past. It is time for ALL of them to learn how to work WITH their constituents as a team. Those of us most enmeshed in the work see the tides turning and your continued involvement is vital to keep that momentum. Many of us read OK Policy’s statement in response to the bad budget and the disappointing end to session, took a look at this spreadsheet of how our own two legislators voted, and immediately began writing letters to our legislators to express our thanks or to ask questions about our concerns, because we know that to get them to do better they need to see that we are paying attention. Thank you all so much for your efforts both great and small!  The session may be over but our resolution to make Oklahoma better is enduring.

Budget update and what to do

by | May 23rd, 2017

Events at the Legislature are flying fast. Here’s the update!

Yesterday, Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt, Policy Director Gene Perry, and myself, Together Oklahoma Coordinator Kara Joy McKee, hosted a Budget Update Webinar and you can watch or listen to that update here.  We discuss what revenues are being considered so far, then what may be put on the table, and finally what you can do.

What you can do?

Build the enthusiasm is the name of the game!  Make calls, visit the Capitol, bring your friends!

We are building our legislators’ enthusiasm for passing good revenue bills.  We want them to know all their constituents WANT them to restore the gross production tax on oil and gas drilling to 7% on all wells all the time! Beyond that, we know the budget crater is big, and we want them to choose responsible solutions to fill it that don’t put all the burden on working Oklahoma families.  

  • Coordination of groups of Capitol visitors is happening in our Together OK Facebook group every day!
  • We will keep updating this Advocacy Alert on raising the gross production tax and putting out tons of info in blogs and on social media.
  • Strategy conversations are happening in Slack and on Facebook.

We’ve got your back so YOU can let legislators know that we all have their backs if they do the right things. 

  • Visit
  • Invite your friends to do so
  • Call
  • Write
  • Repeat

Keep it up!  You are making the most difference in this conversation that I have ever seen!

Budget, Breakfast, Wear Black

by | May 19th, 2017

Legislators will be at the Capitol tomorrow, so we are going to be there too. We need to make sure they have the support they need to do the right thing. We are Oklahoma and we are worth it!

Our legislators need to hear from you because big oil is coming on strong. On Wednesday, the oil and gas industry threw a party for legislators and handed out gifts, On Thursday, a big oil company bused their employees to the Capitol to counter-protest our group of advocates delivering letters, On Friday, they held a press conference to pressure lawmakers to settle for an inadequate revenue package to plug the FY18 budget shortfall.  

We don’t have to settle for more cuts when these same companies are paying much more in other states. (see chart below)

Our partners in the Save Our State Coalition gave a full response to that press conference here.  On Thursday, advocates just like you engaged in civil debates with the oil and gas employees, and many of them agreed with us once they got accurate information.

Any sacrifice by the oil industry to pay a fair tax rate is dwarfed by the losses that would follow more cuts to schools, road maintenance, public safety, and other key services for Oklahoma communities. It’s time for lawmakers to put Oklahomans first, end the generous giveaways to oil companies, and stop bargaining away the revenues needed to save our state.

If you can’t come in person invite others to join us and keep calling!

Beyond your continued calls to your own two state legislators (found here), please #Call McCall and #Shout 2 Schulz!

Call House Speaker McCall: (405) 557-7412 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that Speaker McCall allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

Call Senate President Pro Tem Schulz!: (405) 521-5612 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that President Pro Tem Schulz allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling.“

For more information and talking points on this issue, click here.

You are making a difference!  Now is the time to increase our efforts and show that we mean what we say.  I hope to see you at the Capitol tomorrow!

Shall we shuffle the deck chairs while the ship is sinking or do you want a raft?

by | May 17th, 2017

Last night, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted down the revenue proposals that leadership announced yesterday afternoon.

That means we are back to the drawing board and calling on you to keep doing one or all of these things!

  1. Call legislative leadership to demand a vote on restoring the gross production tax
  2. Join us Thursday at the Capitol OR give someone who is going to the Capitol your letters to House Speaker McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Schulz

Call legislators!

A LARGE majority of legislators understand that restoring the gross production tax on oil and gas drilling is the key to a budget agreement that will avert catastrophic cuts — but House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz are refusing to allow a vote to restore the gross production tax. Our advocates at the Capitol are hearing this same song in almost every office they visit right now.  Our Capitol team needs you to back them up with calls to the leaders who are blocking this vote!

Beyond your continued calls to your own two state legislators (found here), please #Call McCall and #Shout 2 Schulz!

#CallMcCall: (405) 557-7412 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that Speaker McCall allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

#Shout2Schulz!: (405) 521-5612 “Hello, Oklahoma is in a crisis and I am calling to insist that President Pro Tem Schulz allow a vote to restore the gross production tax to 7% for ALL oil and gas drilling. “

For more information and talking points on this issue, click here.

Join us Thursday at the Capitol!

The expression “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic” has come to mean frivolous activity in the face of an impending disaster. Are you noticing that some of our leadership seems to be similarly oblivious? Let’s NOT let them ignore the crisis one more year.  Join us in drawing attention to the absurdity of planning to pass another horrible budget when there are options to SAVE OUR STATE!

Our advocacy team will be there to welcome you at the 4th floor rotunda of your state Capitol beginning at 9:30AM, Thursday, May 18th.  We’ll look like Titanic passengers, so we’ll be hard to miss!  Updates will be posted throughout the day in the Facebook event and in the TOK Slack so if you have any questions post them there.

Attendees are encouraged to do the following:

1. Know we need you even if you can only come for a moment.
2. Feel free to dress as an oblivious passenger of the Titanic who kept on partying as the ship was sinking, or come as you are.
3. Bring a couple of brief letters addressed to the legislative leaders who MUST decide to hear our request to restore the 7 percent gross production tax on ALL oil and gas drilling. You can find them here: Template letter to McCall. Template letter to Schulz.
4. Gather letters from your friends to bring with you. We will be delivering these letters one at a time, so more letters is better!
5. If you can only be there for a little while, come early so we have a big group at the start in the 4th floor rotunda at 9:30am.
6. If you are coming later than 9:30am, check this Facebook event or TOK Slack to see if we are in need of something or have moved to a specific gathering place other than the 4th floor rotunda.
7. If you have questions consider asking the group instead of one person so we can collaborate successfully.

Give someone who is going to the Capitol a letter!

THIS is how we get enough revenue to get out of this mess. We’ve been at it all session and now is the time to band together and PUSH!  Keep those contacts coming!  Keep checking in with the team and check out this online advocacy alerts for updates.  Know that you are essential to our success and everyone on this team appreciates your efforts!