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

file photo

Draft rules from the Department of Environmental Quality would allow Oklahoma cities to bolster their drinking water sources with treated wastewater.

Water Quality Division Manager Shellie Chard said cities in Australia have been doing that for years, but American cities so far are only reusing wastewater in industrial and agricultural settings.

"It’s just been in the last few years because of our last drought of record that we really started thinking about what could we do to ensure water supplies moving forward," Chard said.

Tulsa didn’t make Amazon’s 20 city short list for its second headquarters, and neither did Day 1, Oklahoma.

The Day 1 team, part of Tulsa-based Civic Ninjas, proposed Amazon be a partner in building from the ground up a 50 square mile city somewhere in a 600 square mile zone halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

File Photo

According to an analysis from Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, felony filings are down 26 percent since provisions of State Question 780 took effect July 1.

Over the past six months, prosecutors across the state have filed about 6,000 misdemeanor drug possession cases and 3,700 misdemeanor property crime cases. SQ780, which voters approved in 2016, reclassified most low-level drug and property offenses as misdemeanors.

ACLU Oklahoma Smart Justice Campaign Manager Nicole McAfee said that change has more impact than you might imagine.

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness

Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area is getting much bigger.

River Parks Authority accepted donations Thursday of 222 acres from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and 198 acres from the City of Tulsa. The city-county authority has one more hoop to jump through.

"There’s one technicality that has to happen yet. When the River Parks Authority receives property, it has to be approved by both the city and the county," said River Parks Authority Executive Director Matt Meyer. "So, we have to run the traps there, but I’m confident that will be approved."

Matt Trotter / KWGS

At his inaugural address Thursday, Tulsa Regional Chamber 2018 Chair Steve Bradshaw said northeast Oklahoma needs to focus on education funding, "new economy" jobs and direct flights.

Those are the things the BOK Financial Corporation president and CEO thinks will see the Tulsa region "soaring ahead" during 2018.

Bradshaw said underfunded schools are the single largest barrier to attracting new businesses to the region and to encouraging existing ones to invest more in it.

Bradshaw encouraged northeast Oklahomans to meet that challenge aggressively.

file photo

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA is again moving forward.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation again approved the nomination Thursday on a 14–13 party line vote. 

Bridenstine's nomination was returned to the White House at the end of 2017 after stalling in the Senate, and it was resubmitted. He was not at the hearing.

File photo

With Oklahoma’s prisons bursting at the seams, why aren’t more nonviolent offenders being considered for parole?

The Pardon and Parole Board granted early release in about one-third of the 2,458 cases it reviewed last year, which was an increase. Executive Director DeLynn Fudge said many more inmates are choosing not to be even considered for parole.

"Almost 4,800 people are waiving their parole, and we can’t parole them if we don’t see them," Fudge said.

Many inmates waive parole for one to three years in order to get out of prison on regular release.

KWGS News

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services told lawmakers Wednesday it needs a $2.5 billion budget next year.

The 4 percent increase would come largely from state appropriations to DHS climbing from $684 million to $749 million.

"This is sort of the sum total of, really, not necessarily advancing the cause. It’s sort of getting us back to where we were once upon a time not too long ago," said DHS Director Ed Lake.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services asked lawmakers Tuesday for $197 million for fiscal year 2019.

The agency's first priority is maintaining current service levels. That will take $40 million. Commissioner Terri White said that number could end up being less if Congress fully reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

"Because you gave us the responsibility for Medicaid for behavioral health for kids, if they do not reauthorize CHIP, it is a $12.2 million dollar hit to us," White said.

Wikipedia

Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford wants to bring back a Senate rule last used in 2015 to get through a long list of President Trump’s nominees.

Lankford wants post-cloture debate limited to two hours for district court judges; 30 hours for circuit court, Supreme Court or cabinet nominations; and eight hours for everyone else.

Currently, all nominations get 30 hours of post-cloture debate.

Oklahoma Watch

The chief financial officer of the Oklahoma State Department of Health quickly found out the agency was spending money it didn’t have.

Mike Romero took the job in mid-April. Within two weeks, problems with the agency's payroll came to his attention.

Romero told the House committee looking into alleged financial mismanagement on Friday initial briefings were heavy on narrative and program information and light on financial data, and that he was not in control of financial briefings made to the Oklahoma State Board of Health.

A program to streamline response to mental health emergencies in Tulsa gets funding so it can operate throughout 2018.

The Community Response Team puts a police officer, paramedic and psychiatric professional together to respond to mental health emergencies.

"Instead of a separate several police officers, a fire apparatus, and possibly an EMSA unit coming, all different units there, we're able to come in one vehicle as a collaborative team with a mental health focus," said Tulsa Fire Emergency Medical Services Chief Michael Baker.

Oklahoma is the first state in the U.S. to get a trial date in its lawsuit against the makers of opioid painkillers.

The state and drug companies will meet in Cleveland County Court in May 2019.

"The state’s case is solid and our team is prepared to hold these companies accountable for their role in the deadliest drug epidemic the state and nation have ever seen," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement.

drug free.org

The Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse is still fleshing out its full set of recommendations for state lawmakers, but one thing is clear: Many of their ideas will require funding.

Rep. Tim Downing proposed Thursday a 10 percent tax on opioid sales, which the commission will include in its final recommendations.

"The hope is that this would be something that manufacturers would bear the burden of. That money is going to be designated to go to mental health and treatment efforts specific for opioid addiction and dependency," Downing said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Labor will work together to make municipal employees safer on the job.

Tulsa is the first city in the state to join the department's Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health Consultations program. The public sector program is modeled after one for private companies the labor department said has saved businesses from $52 million in potential fines.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A traveling exhibition in the area for the first time aims to show how the Nazis used science to justify the Holocaust.

"Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" is at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. While the collection comes from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, most of the materials in it were produced by the Nazis themselves.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum recommended the city take it slow on changes to downtown parking.

Bynum told councilors Wednesday he’d like to hold off on a working group’s proposal to add paid parking to the East Village and expand hours people must pay to park to 8 p.m. weeknights and on Saturdays until the city can prove its metered parking is reliable.

To that end, Bynum said city attorneys are working on an executive order directing parking revenue be spent only on the parking system.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Picture this: A huge mermaid, crafted out of vintage car and motorcycle parts and glass, strumming a guitar and overlooking Tulsa’s stretch of Route 66.

It might be the first step in drawing tourists by making Tulsa weird.

Soul City owner Amy Smith plans to install the mermaid on the 11th Street business. The Route 66 Commission invited her to tell them about it. Smith said Route 66 in Tulsa is missing attractions and oddities people are interested in.

KWGS News

Monitors overseeing improvements of Oklahoma’s foster care system tied to a 2012 settlement report the Department of Human Services is making "discernible progress." 

The child welfare experts referred to as "co-neutrals" took notice of the reduction in cases of abuse and neglect of kids in DHS care, which spokeswoman Sheree Powell said exceeded their starting baseline for the first time.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Union Public Schools will ask voters to approve a $128.6 million bond issue next month.

Voters will be asked Feb. 13 to approve a five-year series bond, not the annual bond they may be used to.

"We kind of feel like it’s best now to ask them to approve a multiyear series bond, and part of the reason why we’re doing that is we’re entering into a very aggressive building period in our district," said Superintendent Kirt Hartzler

The construction is partly to keep up with students’ participation in extracurricular activities.

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford thinks Congress can come up with a fix for President Obama’s program known as DACA before President Trump pulls the plug on it in two months.

"If we need to be able to extend some access between now and then to be able to protect those individuals, that’s good, but the people who are exposed right now are people that, really, didn’t sign up again and didn’t renew in time again for DACA," Lankford told MSNBC this weekend. "Those that are in the DACA that did their renewal, they are still in protected status and will stay that way.

Catherine Scott

Looking at 42 different measures, financial website Wallet Hub ranked Oklahoma the sixth-worst state to raise a family.

"We got most of these numbers from places like the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, county health rankings and aggregated them to come up with this final number, and, unfortunately, Oklahoma ranked in the bottom 10 as far as places to raise a family," said analyst Jill Gonzalez.

A broad plan to transform neighborhoods north of downtown was heard by the Tulsa Development Authority this week.

The plan builds on the authority’s vision for the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods, calling for dense, mixed-use neighborhoods and walkable thoroughfares — some of which existed 60 years ago.

The first of three phases calls for development of mixed-use neighborhoods concentrated in the area bounded by Detroit and Denver avenues, I-244, and Independence Street; extending Greenwood Avenue to the north; and redeveloping the Evans Fintube site.

AAA Oklahoma

AAA had its hands full this week, helping 6,000 stranded drivers in Oklahoma, 30 percent more than the same time last year.

Persistent, below-freezing temperatures were to blame, sapping juice from batteries and air from tires.

AAA Oklahoma's Mark Madeja said with daytime temperatures above freezing, now is a good time to get those parts checked out.

"Batteries are the bugaboo, always, and then tire pressure — people want to make sure that their tires are properly inflated, because that changes as the temperature drops," Madeja said.

With Oklahoma set to redraw its legislative districts in a few years, a group is pushing to get state lawmakers out of the process.

"We are guided by one simple principle, and that's that legislators should not be drawing their own legislative districts. When we look at the legislature now, we see a vastly unpopular body. Last time the polling was done, it said they had a 30 percent approval rating," said Represent Oklahoma Executive Director Rico Smith.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Stadium Trust are laying the groundwork for a new downtown stadium.

They’re commissioning a study to see whether a 10,000 seat outdoor performance center makes financial sense.

"If you build this at $40 million or $50 million or $60 million, does it work? And does it generate enough economic impact and development around it to pay for those bonds?" said VisitTulsa President Ray Hoyt.

A funding mechanism for the venue has not been publicly discussed among local officials. The project missed the cut for the latest Vision sales tax plan.

State budget cuts forced the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to slide projects out of its eight-year plan for the first time last year.

ODOT Director Mike Patterson said the agency should look at that in a positive light.

"We never gave up on our fiscally constrained eight-year plan, and it worked exactly like it was supposed to. We did exactly what we were supposed to do," Patterson said. "If you have less money, you have to do less things."

File Photo

Builders in Oklahoma expect steady or increased business in most project types this year.

In a survey, 56 percent of Oklahoma builders said they anticipate more business this year than last year while none anticipate less. For the entire U.S., 53 percent of builders expect more business, and 9 percent expect less.

Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said there are two main reasons for their optimism.

File Photo

Another round of federal elections is just months away, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has a bill to guard them against foreign interference.

Provisions of the Secure Elections Act would help push out paperless voting systems and encourage all states to audit their elections after they’re finished. Lankford told CNN states will still be running their elections.

The Children's Society

Oklahoma schools are trying to cut their chronic absenteeism rates.

Overall, about one in 10 kindergarten through 12th grade students miss at least 18 days of school a year. In high school, it’s approaching one in five students.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said schools must take a role in reducing those rates by asking students why they aren’t coming to school and be ready for difficult answers.

"Oklahoma being ranked third-highest in instance of child abuse and neglect in the country is just staggering but is a factor that we must address," Hofmeister said.

Pages