In these highly divisive times, it’s easy to forget that some issues are universal. In Oklahoma, that would be the state’s mired-in-revenue-shortfall budget, which in turn short changes all aspects of society, from social services to infrastructure to health care.
The dire nature of last spring’s state revenue shortfall is largely what led licensed therapist Andy Moore and his friends to organize the advocacy group, Let’s Fix This. At that time, Moore began organizing friends and building a network of people to go one step beyond phoning and writing legislators and instead be physically present in the chambers. Eventually, hundreds of people began showing up.
“I realized that people were interested and started to understand that they really do have a voice in how our government runs,” Moore said today during his group’s event, Hall & Oaths.
Billed more as a casual convention of constituents rather than a rally, Hall & Oaths was designed to get citizens face-to-face with lawmakers on the day they are sworn in so as to make members’ concerns personally known from the get-go.
The timing of Wednesday’s event fit.
Tuesday, OMES announced that general revenue fund collections for October were down 10.8 percent below estimates, and sales tax collections have remained below the estimate for 20 of the last 21 months.
Moore, an OKC Democrat who serves as executive director of Let’s Fix This, said his group’s name was borne from the universal nature of civic involvement and Let’s Fix This’s lack of a specific agenda.
“We’ve tried to be very inclusive with everybody, because the issues that are most important to us — to our state — should be nonpartisan,” he said.
Inclusion in action
Wearing a hijab, Aliye Shimi came all the way from Tulsa for swearing-in day. Although she wore a green pin to show solidarity with other Muslims, she had added one of the red Let’s Fix This pins after encountering the group at the Capitol.
As a Muslim and as associate director with the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, Shimi wanted to make her presence known in light of recent comments from a certain Oklahoma Representative.
“Of course we have the concern of certain individuals who have been re-elected who want to single out us particularly because of our faith and because of our nationalities and who want to marginalize us,” Shimi said, referring to Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), who in October branded local Muslim leaders as terrorists. “So we are happy that the overwhelming majority of representatives today are more aligned with what the United States stands for and what our Constitution stands for than his bigoted ideas.
“I’m trying to put it as delicately as possible,” she said with a laugh.
Oklahoma City resident JoBeth Hamon, also a Democrat, referenced local artist Jack Fowler‘s most recent cartoon for the Oklahoma Gazette as an apt summation of why she got involved with Let’s Fix This. In it, a voter considers all of the negative things happening in Oklahoma before deciding just to vote in the same people again.
She said she likes that Lets’ Fix This can increase accountability on the part of lawmakers.
“Hopefully we can encourage people who care about mental health issues and education to go talk to their representatives,” she said. “Those are kind of my two big things.”
Hamon serves as education coordinator at Mental Health Association Oklahoma.
For people unable to make in-person visits with their lawmakers, Moore said phone calls are the easiest way to increase accountability.
“People don’t understand that just five or six phone calls is enough to kill a bill sometimes,” Moore said. “Writing letters and emails is great, too.”
Missed Hall & Oaths? Join the Capitol Crawl
Those whose work obligations or other daily needs prevented them from attending the Let’s Fix This event during today’s swearing-in ceremony can still meet the members and get involved during the Capitol Crawl from 6 to 10 p.m. tonight in OKC’s Uptown district. The event is also sponsored by Let’s Fix This.
Several senators, representatives and Let’s Fix This board members are scheduled to be on hand at Guyute’s, The Pump and Rockford to socialize with constituents and talk about the matters most important to them.