(Editor’s note: Earlier this month, NonDoc emailed questions to more than two-dozen candidates running for various offices. More than half of those sent questions did not respond by the Oct. 20 deadline. The appearance on our site of a candidate’s responses, which have been lightly edited for style and grammar, in no way represents an endorsement from NonDoc.)
Democrat James Cook opposes Republican Roger Ford in the race for State Representative of Oklahoma’s House District 95, which is currently held by term-limited Rep. Charlie Joyner (R-Midwest City).
Cook, a former Rose State College president, answers general and specific questions about his platform below. Ford did not respond to the same questions, or else his answers would have been included.
Why are you running for office?
With the state facing a $1.3 billion budget deficit and education, health and safety services for our citizens being negatively impacted, I felt that I had to try to serve my home state by using my knowledge of education, budgeting, planning and leadership in the State Legislature to help prioritize and align our income and expenses.
What have you done in the last 10 years that most qualifies you to hold this office?
I retired from the presidency of Rose State College 10 years ago after a lifetime of service in higher education. Since that time, I’ve been engaged in educational and civic activities that have expanded my knowledge and practice of servant leadership. These experiences have allowed me to remain engaged with young people, work with professionals from around the state in matters of planning and budgeting, and be an active and informed community citizen.
Some of the significant experiences I have had relate to my development and teaching of leadership classes for college and university students and professional staff as well as service to my community through service as a member and chairman of the OETA Foundation Board; continued involvement with area employers as a member and former president of the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce; and current service as a member of the boards of the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum and the Rose State College Foundation.
I understand working cooperatively with diverse constituents, the challenges of long-range planning and the difficulty of budgeting effectively for efficient productivity and results. I think legislators should also understand these things and have some experience in dealing with them.
Oklahoma’s education funding has been a topic most relevant this election year. Are you voting for or against State Question 779 on Nov. 8?
I’m voting for SQ 779 because our state leaders have failed, year after year, to provide adequate funding for our public schools. I recently learned that Oklahoma now ranks 50th in the nation in state funding per pupil. It’s shameful that we cannot provide proper funding for a core governmental responsibility like educating our youth. No one is a fan of sales taxes, but when you’ve been waiting for the Legislature to take care of the problem for almost a decade, something has to be done.
Aside from education, what topic are you most passionate about? What is one piece of you legislation you are considering filing next year?
The state budget is the most important thing that needs to be addressed. All of our core services are being negatively impacted by the lack of revenue. I would be favorable to legislation that reviewed and modernized our state tax code to eliminate loopholes and make it fairer for everyone and supportive of actions that eliminate tax credits and tax exemptions that have not produced the jobs or enhanced the state’s overall prosperity as anticipated. Tax incentives that work to make our state more prosperous on a broad scale basis should be continued to bolster our economy.
While stabilizing our funding and ensuring that core governmental services are able to provide Oklahomans with a high quality of life, our business-recruitment and job-training efforts could be expanded to attract new businesses that will employ Oklahomans for good salaries and benefits. Right now, what major company would locate in a state with a $1.3 billion budget deficit that’s defunding education, the Department of Public Safety, agencies that serve the mentally or physically ill, etc.?
We must establish priorities and then develop the funding streams to help those priority state functions flourish for the benefit of current and future Oklahomans.
Tinker Air Force Base is in HD 95. What can the Legislature do to improve the quality of life of all veterans and military members living in Oklahoma?
I am a very strong supporter of our citizens in uniform and the civilian employees at Tinker who help keep the U.S. Air Force the strongest air power in the world. As the state’s largest single employer of our residents, TAFB is also vitally important to the economic health of our state. The Legislature should make sure that all of our residents enjoy a high quality of life while in Oklahoma via the provision of quality schools, colleges, roads, public health and safety standards and personnel.