One of the ways we present NonDoc is as a responsible public forum for news and commentary. We attempt to publish commentary from diverse voices on many topics, and this week we published a commentary about former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys and John Rex Charter Elementary titled Kirk Humphreys highlights service paradox in governance.
After its publication, we heard from individuals familiar with the MAPS for Kids program, John Rex Charter Elementary and the Humphreys family’s private development projects. Concerns were raised that the commentary — linked above — made an argument that deconstructed itself when one looks at timelines and other facts related to Kirk Humphreys’ role in pushing for a new city tax program to benefit schools across town (not just near property he and his family would ultimately purchase).
In making editorial decisions about how to address these concerns, we had four options:
- Edit and issue a correction on the already published commentary to remove wording that said Humphreys owned property investments that he had not yet made at the time of MAPS for Kids;
- Pull the published commentary from our site;
- Publish a response piece from those affected by the commentary to ensure their voices were heard on the topic;
- Write our own separate piece discussing this situation and offering our understanding of what we missed when editing and deciding to publish the original piece.
After much discussion, we have moved forward with the first and fourth options for a few reasons. Pulling any piece from publication is something we generally avoid for a simple adage: Doing so does not “un-ring the bell.” Option three was offered to an individual closely associated with this topic who respectfully declined to comment on the record about the commentary.
As a result, we have issued a correction concerning the timeline of events implied in the original piece, and we are publishing this piece to note how its implications — that Kirk Humphreys’ actions were broadly or narrowly taken for “personal gain” — do not appear to be based in provable facts.
Among those facts important for consideration:
- The Humphreys family purchased the properties linked in the original piece between five and 10 years after the MAPS for Kids program was created;
- John Rex Charter Elementary is operated as a private-public partnership that has not resulted — to our knowledge — in “personal gain” for any of the citizens involved in its operation;
- John Rex Charter Elementary’s boundaries do not include the Wheeler District development plot owned by the Humphreys family, nor have public moneys been received by Kirk Humphreys or the Wheeler District;
- Municipal law was changed to allow the City of Oklahoma City to use its tax dollars to pay for public education facilities;
- MAPS for Kids provided funding for schools across Oklahoma City, and that funding is overseen by a public trust.
These facts, while we wish we had recognized them while editing the original piece, are important to note during ongoing public discussion of John Rex Charter Elementary and downtown development.
We certainly appreciate the original author’s intent to examine these issues, but in the end the job of ensuring the accuracy of these public discussions falls upon us, the publishers and editors of NonDoc.
This serves as a good reminder of our obligations in operating this public forum, and we hope that all voices continue to submit pieces for publication with a knowledge that we strive to be accurate first and foremost.
When mistakes are made, our pledge is to own them, clarify the situation to the best of our ability and foster positive discussions about the facts of a situation.