Matt Trotter

Reporter

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN. 

He has a master's degree from Arizona State University, where he spent a semester on the first reporting staff of Cronkite News Service's Washington, D.C., bureau. As a grad student, he won awards for multimedia journalism and in-depth TV reporting.

Matt is from Southern California, so he's slowly following Route 66 across the United States. He would have made it Chicago by now, but he's not a fan of long drives.

Ways to Connect

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

The state's top information technology official says benefits of Oklahoma government’s IT consolidation are being obscured by federal cybersecurity regulations.

Chief Information Officer Bo Reese told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday streamlining state agencies' online operations has saved Oklahoma $283 million, but too much time is being spent complying with thousands of pages of varying federal regulations.

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Oklahoma U.S. Senator James Lankford said Wednesday election officials across the country need to prepare for attempted hacks during the 2018 and 2020 elections.

"If they're able to engage in any state election system, alter any data or exfiltrate any data in 2018, I cannot imagine the pressure both on that state and on the federal government to be able to explain when we had two years of warning," Lankford said.

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Dozens of Oklahoma counties and the state health department are working to settle a billing dispute.

In all, 51 counties now receiving their third quarterly invoices from the state have been advised not to pay. The health department’s Tina Johnson said those invoices cover record systems and related IT costs county health departments use.

"When a client comes into Pontotoc County Health Department and has been seen in Comanche County Health Department, the clerk is able to pull that information up, continue that service without interruption," Johnson said.

Booking an Airbnb listing in Oklahoma will get more expensive in a couple weeks.

On July first, Airbnb will start collecting the 4.5 percent state sales tax, local sales and use taxes, and local lodging taxes on bookings in Oklahoma.

Airbnb is the latest major internet company to work with the commission on the issue of online sales tax.

"So, they will remit that to the state, and that's something that we will remit back to the local communities," said Paula Ross with the Oklahoma Tax Commission. "So, it's something that's good for the state of Oklahoma."

Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

Nearly two dozen school resource officers are training in Tulsa this week.

Tulsa County Undersheriff George Brown said whether they work in public or private schools, agencies are asking a lot of school resource officers nowadays.

"They have to be effective communicators. They have to be good mentors and examples for the young children that they work with," Brown said. "They have to be part medic and part communicator and part police officer."

Tulsa Police

Tulsa Police have released their video of last Friday’s fatal shooting of a mentally ill man armed with knives.

Besides three videos from patrol car dash cams, one video is from a body camera worn by Officer Donnie Johnson. TPD said Johnson’s body cam didn’t capture the shooting because it was powered off rather than in standby mode when it was activated.

The camera did capture the on-scene supervisor’s exchange with Johnson about two minutes after Joshua Barre was shot.

"Was that you?" the supervisor said.

Michael Shick

A study says Tulsa is the 10th best U.S. city for a certain kind of self-driving cars.

The recommendation comes from a review of trip, parking and congestion data by Inrix, and the study focuses on shared vehicles — think self-driving shuttles or Ubers. Autonomous Vehicle Strategist Avery Ash said that means they’d be best deployed staying within a certain radius of downtown or similar core area.

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There’s been a lot of talk since Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum took office about how data will drive city hall, and now there’s an example.

"We wanted to look at the relationship between blight and violent crime in Tulsa. To our knowledge, the two have been individually looked at, but we did not find any data that showed we've ever looked at both the data sets together," said Chase Mohler with the city's Working In Neighborhoods Department.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa’s newest police officer certainly knows how to be brave.

Five-year-old Aaliyah Alexander was sworn in as an honorary officer Tuesday after Officer Amley "Popsey" Floyd heard last week that’s what she wanted to be when she grew up.

"We put the wheels in motion to get the recognition from the mayor's office conferring upon her the title of honorary Tulsa Police officer," said Capt. Tom Bell, who swore in Aaliyah. "To my knowledge, it's the only time we've ever done that."

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Part of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ strategy for dealing with a $33 million budget cut may be freezing assistance for in-home care.

The ADvantage Waiver Program helps low-income elderly and disabled adults pay for simple care.

"There's about 300 individuals — frail Oklahoma elderly — that go on the program every month, and that means those 300 will not get service and, likely, go to a nursing facility at three times the cost," said Steve Goforth, president of home care provider Oxford HealthCare.

President Trump’s budget would put a substantial burden on Oklahoma to make sure poor families are fed.

The president proposes cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding 25 percent, or $193 billion, over 10 years. Earlier this year, House Republicans proposed cutting SNAP 20 percent over the next decade.

"Because 93 percent of SNAP spending goes directly to food assistance, a cut of that size would require restricting SNAP eligibility for needy people, slashing benefits or both," Carly Putnam with the Oklahoma Policy Institute said in January.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber and dozens of local business leaders are in the nation’s capital right now.

Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal said they’re meeting with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and other federal officials to lobby for policies in the OneVoice legislative agenda.

"We've worked diligently this spring around the state agenda. We're now turning up the heat on the federal agenda between now and the end of the year," Neal said.

C-SPAN

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford prodded former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday on the president’s alleged pressure to end an investigation of his former national security advisor.

Lankford told Comey a single request from President Donald Trump in February to stop looking into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia seems a "pretty light touch."

"Did any member of the White House staff ever come to you and talk to you about letting go of the Michael Flynn case or dropping it or anything referring to that?" Lankford said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The 12th annual Saint Francis Tulsa Tough is this weekend.

The cycling festival is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the bicycle this year. Tulsa Tough Director Malcolm McCollam said by the end of the 1800s, the bicycle looked a lot like today's models and could finally be ridden by women wearing skirts and dresses.

"And it gave women unprecedented mobility. So much so that Susan B. Anthony … she said, 'It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.'" McCollam said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A newly famous Tulsan was given a key to the city Wednesday after her recent return from Washington, D.C.

Six-year-old Edith Fuller was the youngest National Spelling Bee competitor ever. She was 5 years old when she qualified by winning the Scripps Green Country Regional Spelling Bee in March.

Fuller spelled both her words correctly on stage in Washington but didn’t score high enough on a written test to go to the finals. She said she wants to make it back to the national bee next year.

Oklahoma Senate

A Republican state senator from Tulsa announced Tuesday he will leave the legislature early next year.

Sen. Dan Newberry is resigning, effective Jan. 31, 2018. Newberry was re-elected to a third term representing District 37 in November and chaired the Senate Business and Commerce Committee this session.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

South Korea’s first oil refining company is the latest booster for science, technology, engineering and math education in Tulsa.

SK Innovations will give the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance $50,000 over two years.

TRSA's Xan Black with said the money will go to programs and training to benefit students.

"That could be anything from camps to mentorship to after-school programming, and then professional development to get out teachers confident and competent to engage and inspire the next generation of STEM workforce," Black said.

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Oklahoma’s streak of having one of the nation’s lowest prices at the pump continues, this week higher than only South Carolina.

Oklahoma’s average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.09, tied with Alabama and Mississippi for second-lowest in the U.S. Oklahoma’s average price is down a few cents from last week, but it’s not volatile.

TYPros

Tulsa’s Young Professionals look to bridge the gap with this year’s community redevelopment event known as Street Cred.

TYPros will focus on Main Street North of the Inner Dispersal Loop. Executive Director Maggie Hoey said the highway presents a barrier between north Tulsa and a more prosperous downtown.

"It certainly is a physical barrier, but it also creates cultural differences in our community, racial disparities, socioeconomic differences, health disparities," Hoey said.

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Finance and economics site WalletHub has ranked the states from best to worst for jobs, and the news for Oklahoma isn’t good.

"Oklahoma ranked 45th, so it stands as the sixth-worst state for jobs right now," said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.

While Oklahoma was middle-of-the-road for economic environment indicators like median annual salary, the state’s scores on job market measures were near the bottom.

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The latest evaluation of pre-K programs across the U.S. is in.

"The state of pre-K in Oklahoma has been good — historically, a national leader — but since the recession, it slid. And that's clear when you look at the funding numbers," said Steve Barnett, director of Rutgers’ National Institute for Early Education Research.

Oklahoma ranked 31st in state pre-K funding and had the second-highest drop in spending from 2015 to 2016: $5.6 million.

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The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety lifted Thursday a 100 mile daily driving limit on Highway Patrol troopers across the state.

The limit was put in place in December in response to midyear budget cuts. DPS lifted it after the 2018 state budget became official.

"What that mile restriction did is it made us more of a reactive force. Now we can be proactive, where we can go out and we can look for these distracted drivers and, ultimately, reduce crashes, which is what our goal is," said Trooper Dwight Durant.

TCC

Less money for higher education in Oklahoma’s 2018 budget translates into a loss of $1.8 million for Tulsa Community College.

That means TCC’s state allocation has fallen $9 million since 2015. President Leigh Goodson said the college must keep up with the changing needs of its students, but all it can do right now is make cuts.

"It's nearly impossible for us to invest in different methods in terms of educating our students. We're doing it — it's proceeding much slower than our students need," Goodson said.

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Gov. Mary Fallin approved lawmakers' 11th hour budget Wednesday afternoon.

Fallin signed the $6.8 billion for fiscal year 2018 budget into law five days after it passed the legislature on the last day of session. The 2018 budget is about $38 million, or 0.5 percent, less than this year's actual budget.

In a statement, Fallin said while the budget minimizes cuts to core services and includes some recurring revenue, state leaders missed an opportunity to address structural problems with the budget.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The State Department of Education has some Food for Thought this summer.

That’s the name of the program to offer free breakfasts and lunches to students across Oklahoma. Oklahoma is among the worst when it comes to getting food to kids in need when school is out for the summer.

"Sixty-two percent of our kids in public school qualify for free and reduced lunch, but in the summer, only 6.4 percent are receiving those meals," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Making Tulsa a more equitable community is the city's latest data-driven endeavor.

The city and the Community Service Council have received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to look at data on education, health, housing and racial justice disparities. The first report will come this winter.

"We see this as being an annual release of data and information to share so we can check ourselves and see how we're doing toward erasing barriers that might keep our city from being the best it can be," said Heather Hope-Hernandez with the Community Service Council.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma lawmakers agree the $6.9 billion budget they passed isn't perfect.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz and Minority Leader John Sparks, however, disagree on how well it addresses the state's recurring deficits.

"We made some very difficult decisions as a caucus, as a body, as a chamber, to make votes that would bring revenue to the state that would be ongoing," Schulz said.

Tulsa climbed one spot in a ranking of park systems in America’s 100 largest cities.

Tulsa is 59th in the Trust for Public Land's sixth annual ParkScore.

The Trust for Public Land looks at park acreage, facilities and investment, and access, which is how many people live within a 10 minute walk of a park.

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Tulsa entrepreneurs struggling to get financing will get help later this year accessing crowdfunded loans.

Kiva is an international, online microfinancing platform whose users have already loaned more than $20 million dollars in the U.S.

The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and Access Ventures are behind an initiative to make Tulsa a Kiva City. The Kiva platform allows dozens of people to pitch in $25 or more to fund zero-interest, no-fee loans.

Oklahoma lawmakers tell the Department of Human Services to allocate $250,000 less next year to local child abuse investigators and advocates.

Senate Bill 848 tells DHS to allocate $2.55 million of its 2018 appropriation to CAMA — the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Account, which is distributed to local investigators and child advocacy centers.

Rep. Ben Loring said that will strain child advocacy centers.

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