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PM NewsBrief: Sept. 12, 2022

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

OTA Supreme Court hearing

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will soon find out if it can proceed with new turnpike routes in central Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is set to weigh in Tuesday morning.

The OTA’s controversial ACCESS Oklahoma turnpike project has been challenged by two lawsuits since the announcement of the plan in February. Because of the legal questions raised by the suits, the agency asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in before moving forward. That court will decide whether to validate the issuance of half a billion dollars in bonds. The OTA also wants the court to deny any challenges to future bond issuances for the project.

This all comes as the two lawsuits are still making their ways through district court. One alleges the OTA violated the state’s Open Meeting Act by not making clear in its meeting agenda the intended location of the new routes. The other argues the agency doesn’t have the legislative authority to build the extensions at their proposed locations and has no legal funding mechanism for the projects.

Abortion alternatives task force

Gov. Kevin Stitt is moving forward with a task force he created to study how the state can support abortion alternatives.

Stitt signed an executive order to create the task force in July, after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturned Roe this summer, and after he signed several bills that ban — and even criminalize — abortion. Its aim is to study how policymakers can support unplanned pregnancies.

On Friday, his office announced its members, including leaders of several Christian organizations, nonprofits and pregnancy services. The group will report their findings to the governor in late October.

The task force will — among other things — look into how to make adoption easier and how to support controversial crisis pregnancy centers.

Those centers are quasi-medical, and not subject to many health care regulations, including privacy requirements under HIPAA. They exist largely to urge patients not to seek abortions.

Offensive name removed from public spaces

A term that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women, has been removed from 650 geographic locations according to the Department of the Interior.

The S word can be traced back to the Algonquin language and originally meant woman but has been wielded as a slur by white colonialists since the 1600s.

In 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, formally declared the word a racial slur and ordered the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board of Geographic Names Task force to find replacement names for valleys, creeks and lakes that sit on federal land.

During the comments period, U.S. officials consulted with 70 tribal nations and received more than 1,000 suggestions about the renaming.

Last year, a ski valley in Lake Tahoe was renamed to Palisades Tahoe to rid the site of the racist slur.

The new names for the other sites can now be found on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website.

Woodward pipe organ comes back to life, dedication to be held

A pipe organ in Northwest Oklahoma is coming back to life with a dedication and blessing.

The pipe organ in St. Peter Catholic Church in Woodward sat unused for over a decade after the death of the organist who had played it for many years.

Following the arrival of a new priest, his desire was that the pipe organ be used at every mass, but the instrument needed an upgrade.

Peggy Kitchens is the music director at the church.

"I looked to see if Reuters was still in the business, the company that built it out of Lawrence, Kansas. And they said, ‘yeah it’s possible to upgrade it,'" said Kitchens.

She says the pipe organ was installed in 1980. Over this summer, the instrument received numerous upgrades including a new solid-state control relay and other digital enhancements.

"All I can say is that we’re upgraded to the 21st century," laughed Kitchens.

Parishioners in Northwest Oklahoma raised funds and, along with a grant from the Oklahoma Catholic Foundation, the upgrade is complete.

According to Kitchens, it is believed this is the only pipe organ in Woodward and one of the few in Northwestern Oklahoma.

St. Peter Catholic Church is holding a dedication and blessing for the organ Sunday Sept. 18. beginning at 4:30 p.m.

"We’re just inviting the community to come and celebrate with us that we finished our fundraising, and we were able to get the organ upgraded," Kitchens said.

Noah Smith, an OU student pursuing a degree in organ and piano performance, will be the featured organist.


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