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

The last five years have seen soccer take off in Tulsa, with Athletic, the Roughnecks and now Fortuna Tulsa.

Fortuna, named for the Roman goddess of fortune, begins its inaugural season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League on Friday night.

The team is stocked with current, former and potential NCAA Division I players.

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is preparing for the July 1 cigarette tax increase by budgeting more for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.

The helpline offers free resources to Oklahomans who want to quit smoking, including coaching and a two-week supply of nicotine replacement patches, gum or lozenges. TSET Executive Director John Woods said they usually devote $3 million to the 24 hours a day, seven days a week resource.

KWGS News

A year after climbing one spot to 59th, Tulsa slides back to 60th in annual park rankings of America’s 100 biggest cities by the Trust for Public Land.

ParkScore rankings consider park amenities, acreage, access and per-resident spending. The trust's Center for City Park Excellence Program Coordinator Ali Hiple said Tulsa’s drop isn’t so much because it’s doing worse in any area.

Matt Trotter

Patriot, veteran, classic car fan or Route 66 enthusiast — all are welcome at the fourth annual Route 66 PatriotFest on Saturday.

The marquee event is a 13-mile cruise on Route 66 from East Central High to Crystal City Shopping Center. PatriotFest Chairman Matt Rose says the cruise drew a record number of cars in 2017.

"And I really hope more people and more cars want to cruise this year. It’s a rare opportunity that the police department actually shuts down the roadway for your to cruise down Route 66," Rose said.

OEA

Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and other states may be over, but their message has reached Capitol Hill, where Senate Democrats are proposing a more than $100 billion increase in federal education spending.

The plan calls for $50 billion over the next decade for states to put toward teacher pay and recruitment, and another $50 billion to spend on school infrastructure and classroom resources.

File photo

Tulsa has already had as many Ozone Alert days this year as last year, and a summer that’s expected to be hot and dry means there could be many more.

"It’s looking like we’re going to have a summer where there will be the need to do what we can do on certain days. You know, postpone your mowing until a non-ozone alert day," said INCOG Air Quality Program Manager Nancy Graham.

The Tulsa area has had three alert days in May. There have been four or fewer alert days every year since 25 of them in 2011 and 21 in 2012.

Oklahoma Office of Highway Safety

Dozens of Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are participating in the "Click It or Ticket" seatbelt crackdown now through June 3.

Oklahoma Highway Safety Office Director Paul Harris said there will be zero tolerance for people not wearing seatbelts, but tickets aren't the intent.

"So many times we hear about the enforcement part, we’re trying to raise money or we’re trying to infringe on people’s rights. That is not the case," Harris said. "We’re all Oklahomans. We love Oklahoma, and we want Oklahomans to be safe so that we can have you around for years and years."

A Gathering Place for Tulsa

A Gathering Place for Tulsa is on course to open this summer, and local experts anticipate an economic boost.

Some of that will come from out-of-state visitors traveling to see the 100-acre, $465 million park. City Councilor and Tulsa Community Foundation CEO Phil Lakin said a study found each those visitors leaves behind an average of somewhere around $200 in new money.

"And that’s great because all you’ve really done is use a little bit of our water and a little bit of our road," Lakin said.

City of Tulsa/Tulsa Transit

The owner of a handful of properties around 11th Street and Peoria Avenue is taking advantage of a City of Tulsa program to encourage new development near coming bus rapid transit lines.

Group M Investment’s holdings there total almost two acres and include the entire southeast corner. INCOG’s Dwayne Wilkerson said the zoning should be changed from office and commercial uses to pedestrian-focused mixed-use with unlimited building height.

"That unlimited height is consistent with the existing [commercial] zoning that is all along this area," Wilkerson said.

NASA

From a November Senate nomination hearing to his first town hall as NASA administrator this week, Jim Bridenstine seems to have changed his position on climate change.

"Humans are contributing and have contributed to the climate change that we have seen," Bridenstine told the Senate panel Nov. 1.

"Are they the primary cause?" said Sen. Brian Schatz.

"In some years, you could say absolutely. In other years, during sun cycles and other things, there are other contributing factors that would have maybe more of an impact," Bridenstine said.

City of Tulsa

City Hall’s efforts to get Tulsans’ help to solve problems gets international recognition.

The city’s Urban Data Pioneers program helped Tulsa win a Cities of Service Engaged Cities Award. Through the program, more than 120 residents have used data to tackle issues like prioritizing street repairs, collecting blight data and identifying the biggest drivers of per capita income.

file photo

Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation are tackling opioid abuse among veterans.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin has introduced H.R.5829, the VA Opioid Prescribing Rates Accountability Act, which would apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The bill simply requires the VA to show its doctors their individual opioid prescribing rates compared to their peers. The top 10 percent of the prescribers each year must then receive additional training on pain management," Mullin told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa County Sheriff and more than 40 partners have had a successful three years under the Stepping Up Initiative.

Tulsa County signed on to the national effort to put fewer people with mental illness in jail in 2015. Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO Mike Brose said they need treatment but are disproportionately represented behind bars.

"People with serious mental illness make up about 5 percent of the general population, but incarcerated settings, it comes up to about 18 percent," Brose said.

KWGS File photo

With the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing sports betting, you can expect it in Oklahoma casinos — eventually.

"We look forward to being able to embrace that and bring it to the market. Obviously, our main focus is providing a steady revenue stream to our shareholders, and it’ll create some jobs," said Cherokee Nation Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Mark Fulton.

But, by some estimates, it may take up to five years for sports betting to get off the ground in Oklahoma.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office faces a religious discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim woman.

When Suha Elqutt went to the courthouse last month to finalize a divorce from her abusive husband, she set off the metal detector. While she removed her earrings and the pin holding on her hijab, a different hairpin turned out to be the problem.

City of Broken Arrow

With a rate of 6.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents, Business Insider ranks Broken Arrow ninth on a list of cities with the lowest crime rates.

Broken Arrow Police Chief Brandon Berryhill thinks there are a couple factors at play.

"Crime prevention has a lot to do with hardening the target: locking your doors, keeping lights on at night in dark areas, watching out for your neighbors. The other part of that is as we train officers, we have to make sure we instill that mindset of customer service and citizen engagement," Berryhill said.

The Osage Nation hopes the final Bureau of Indian Affairs budget will help continue work to plug abandoned oil and gas wells on its land.

Osage Minerals Councilwoman Cynthia Boone said those projects can run from $10,000 to $100,000.

"After almost 130 years of continued development, there are about 2,000 unplugged, abandoned wells on our reservation. These wells are an environmental and health hazard. Some are near schools and playgrounds," Boone said.

Tribes are not happy with President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"The 2019 president’s budget for Indian Affairs would be a 15.6 percent decrease from the FY2018 CR level. Nearly every line item in the BIA budget would see reductions," said National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel.

BIA's budget under the 2018 continuing resolution was $2.5 billion.

Oklahoma Watch

A task force begins work to solve the problem of Tulsa kids missing school.

It’s part of City Councilor Karen Gilbert’s work to craft a truancy ordinance. The task force includes representatives of Jenks, Tulsa and Union public schools, and Gilbert said what they had to say at the group's first meeting reinforced how big of a problem truancy is.

"TPS alone, we were told that there are 6,714 students that are chronically truant. So, right there, that number is pretty alarming," Gilbert said.

State of Oklahoma

You have until Wednesday at 3 p.m. to bid on around 55 free-range Oklahoma bison being auctioned off by the state.

The herd lives at Foss State Park. Despite some recent rain, western Oklahoma is still dealing with a prolonged drought.

Right now is when Oklahoma teachers’ new contracts are typically drawn up, but there’s a hitch.

It should be an exciting time because new teacher contracts would include raises averaging $6,100.

"But it comes with a time of uncertainty due to the landmark legislation that passed pay raises yet there is a referendum to undo the funding stream," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

Hofmeister has asked Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for guidance on 11 specific points related to the repeal effort.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has proclaimed May as bike month, and a new safety campaign is part of the city's investment in street improvements that take cyclists and pedestrians into account.

The campaign is WalkBikeTulsa, and it aims to teach drivers, cyclists and pedestrians how to co-exist. Bike Club Tulsa co-founder Mike Wozniak shared a few basics.

Pixabay

Besides likely costing some of their citizens health coverage, new federal policy making Oklahoma tribes subject to Medicaid work requirements has broad financial implications.

In April, the Trump administration contended tribes are a race, not sovereign governments, making an exemption for them from work requirements illegal preferential treatment. The change in policy means tribes will have to follow Oklahoma's proposed work requirements if they are approved by the federal government.

file photo

More than two dozen bills intended to fight the opioid addiction epidemic have advanced from a congressional committee.

A day after taking drugmakers to task in a public hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed 26 measures to do things like encourage the development of non-addictive painkillers, expand the availability of overdose-reversal drugs, increase the number of substance abuse treatment providers, heighten public awareness of prescription abuse and mandate electronic prescribing for some patients.

drug free.org

The totals are in, and a total of 1,160 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs were turned in at sites in 11 northern Oklahoma counties during a take-back event last month.

"That is approximately 256 pounds more than we collected last year in the fall, and we’re looking ahead to doing another prescription drug take back this upcoming fall based on the success of these last two take-back initiatives," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores.

Trip Advisor

With its first of 15 annual funding allocations coming July 1, the Tulsa Route 66 Commission is finalizing its budget.

While the commission has been meeting since August 2016, its $262,500 in annual Vision sales tax funding doesn't start until fiscal year 2019.

"There are opportunities for marketing in various forms, beautification, actually marking the route, building improvements. I think that we’re doing a good job of being public stewards of these dollars and really crafting a plan that I think will be effective," said Tulsa Route 66 Commission Chairman Ed Sharrer.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa’s police union threw its hat into the ring on Monday and officially endorsed Ben Fu in the four-way race for Tulsa County district attorney.

The Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police has been a vocal critic of current Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler since he charged former Tulsa cop Betty Shelby with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in 2016. FOP Chairman Jerad Lindsey said he realizes the endorsement can be perceived as police having found a friend to occupy the DA's office.

OPMX

At least 99 Oklahoma lawmakers are determined to have the 10 Commandments displayed on state property.

That's how many senators and representatives voted for House Bill 2177, which allows for the display of documents historically significant to the United States or Oklahoma, including the 10 Commandments.

"Do you think any of these other historically relevant religions should be able to display artifacts as well?" Rep. Jacob Rosecrants asked HB2177's author, Rep. John Bennett.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler’s first term looks to be the focus of this year’s election for the office.

A debate this week hosted by the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police touched on relationships with law enforcement and turnover in the DA’s office. Republican challenger Tammy Westcott said she had a trial with Kunzweiler.

"He has tons of trial experience as a prosecutor. That doesn’t make a good leader. Doesn’t make a good manager of a DA’s office," Westcott said.

ICES

Oklahoma hopes to attract more business from auto makers and aerospace companies.

Lawmakers approved a slate of incentives to start next year: a 50 percent credit for tuition reimbursement and up to 10 percent on salaries for engineers, along with a $5,000 credit for those engineers themselves.

Rep. Scott Fetgatter said it’s to land an undisclosed company set to invest up to $1 billion in the state and need as many as 2,500 workers.

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