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

State lawmakers will focus on finding more source of revenue for Oklahoma next session, some likely going to a stated goal of giving teachers a raise. State Treasurer Ken Miller has already put the kibosh on a couple proposals.

"There's been some ideas floated, I think even some bills filed. One, to take Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust fund money to pay for a teacher pay raise, another last year was to use the pension funds for a teacher pay raise," Miller said. "That's irresponsible. Those are not recurring revenue streams that will pay for a recurring expenditure."

Governor Fallin

President-elect Donald Trump passed over Gov. Mary Fallin for a rumored cabinet position. Fallin was asked Wednesday whether that means she's still looking for a spot within Trump's administration.

"I don't anticipate on getting an offer, so, no," Fallin told reporters after the State Board of Equalization meeting.

Though she's on Trump's transition team and was reportedly in the running for Secretary of the Interior, Fallin said she's happy here in Oklahoma.

KWGS News

Oklahoma follows up last year's $1.3 billion budget shortfall with another drop for fiscal year 2018.

The State Board of Equalization certified a fiscal year 2018 budget projection Wednesday $868.8 million less than this year's. 

Gov. Mary Fallin will craft a budget to present to lawmakers at February's state of the state address. 

"Listen, we've found ourselves in this position before, and we're going to provide the governor with a lot of options to mitigate the challenges that we face," said State Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger. 

A Broken Arrow recycling committee went out for some field research.

The citizen committee went to a Metropolitan Environmental Trust recycling center in Broken Arrow to see what the M.e.t does and how the city’s anticipated residential curbside recycling program could affect it.

The committee will also visit Covanta’s incinerator and where Mr. Murph dumpsters go.

A nonprofit helping abused children in Craig, Mayes and Rogers counties got a boost Tuesday from agencies it works with.

A sexual assault investigator and a special prosecutor from the district attorney’s office are now under the William W. Barnes Children’s Advocacy Center roof.

File photo

If you thought gas has gotten more expensive during the holiday season, you’re right.

"We're seeing prices creep back up again. We've risen about 17 cents since the latter part of November," said AAA Oklahoma's Chuck Mai.

Oklahoma, however, is tied with Arkansas for the nation’s cheapest gas right now at an average of $2.02 per gallon. Nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is $2.24, an increase of 11 cents over the past three weeks.

KWGS News File Photo

Besides telling the governor how much money she has for next year’s budget, the state Board of Equalization will also have news Wednesday on a possible income tax cut.

Relatively modest revenue growth of roughly $100 million would be enough to reduce the top income tax rate from 5 to 4.85 percent.

"That's a problem because we could have revenues grow by $100 million and still be upwards of $100 million below this past year's budget," said Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

It’s a holiday tradition in Tulsa.

The Salvation Army has received eight special gold coins in its red kettles over the past week and a half.

Three are the South African gold coins called Krugerrands, four are U.S. gold $20 pieces. Altogether, those coins are valued at $6,885.

All four $20 coins were found Dec. 14 from kettles at Reasor's at 71st and Sheridan, Reasor's at 41st and Yale, Mardel's at 51st and Harvard, and JC Penney at Promenade Mall.

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to the Tulsa region’s economy.

First, the bad news: Job growth is down slightly. Total job growth this year is projected to be about 3,500.

The good news: Tulsa is in the running for five major projects. Together, that’s potentially 2,500 new, high-wage jobs, and one project comes with nearly $60 million in capital investment. Tulsa Regional Chamber’s Brien Thorstenberg said the region is heading in the right direction.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Several City of Tulsa officials are calling for a change in management of royalties, license fees and bonuses for a warranty program.

The city partnered with Service Line Warranties of America in 2014 to give residents voluntary water and sewer line insurance. Although Tulsa is the only participant, INCOG manages the revenue from that as if it were a regional program, with its board of directors approving expenditures from the fund the revenue goes into.

KWGS News

Though it won’t open for almost three more years, OKPOP’s collection continues to grow.

Museum staff have been in touch with Steven and Charlene Ripley, who Leon Russell asked to take care of his personal archive. Before he died in November, Russell said he wanted it all to go to OKPOP.

The collection includes 2,500 master recordings, equipment, instruments and personal effects.

"In fact, we just got contact this morning from Jan Bridges, Leon's widow, that she wants his show piano that he toured with to come to OKPOP," said OKPOP Director Jeff Moore.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The long-awaited Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture has a home.

OKPOP will be at 422 N Main St. in downtown Tulsa, right across the street from the historic Cain’s Ballroom.

"We had other locations, but this was the right location that would not only bring that excitement to us, but add that special quality of history and to help make this sustainable," said Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn.

City of Tulsa authorities, boards and commissions under former Mayor Dewey Bartlett were criticized for being too male, too white, and too focused on midtown and downtown.

"You know, I have, I think, over 400 of these to make over the next four years, but our initial group does a much better job from a diversification standpoint," said Mayor G.T. Bynum about his first 52 nominations submitted this week.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa region should benefit from recently passed federal legislation known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation — or WINN — Act.

The bill directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize certain studies. Tulsa County's levees are covered by WINN Act funding for an Arkansas River flood risk management study in Tulsa and west Tulsa.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa’s city council isn’t quite ready to commit money to a parks consolidation study.

The group leading the charge, Tulsa’s Leadership Vision, wants $40,000 from the city for the final phase. Several councilors say they haven’t heard about the first two phases and need to before moving ahead.

Councilor Anna America said consolidating the city and county systems seems like a no-brainer.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Broken Arrow leaders say their public schools have stable leadership despite last week's sudden departure of Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall.

Interim Superintendent Janet Dunlop said she will carry on with the district mantra of 100 percent literacy, engagement and graduation.

State of Oklahoma-File photo

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out a law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges.

The court on Tuesday said 2014's Senate Bill 1848 violates the U.S. Constitution by creating an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion. The court also said the law violates the Oklahoma Constitution by including more than one subject in the measure.

Besides the provision on admitting privileges, the law directs the state health board to create several abortion-related rules.

KWGS News File Photo

Tulsa County will find out whether private security firms can provide armed courthouse guards cheaper than the sheriff’s office can.

Bids for armed security services will be accepted until Jan 20. Sheriff Vic Regalado said he’ll probably look at outsourcing other auxiliary jobs deputies currently do, like being hospital guards.

"We would be able to redirect our resources that we currently have to give to those parts of the sheriff's office and put them to other places that we truly need them at," Regalado said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa County commissioners gave a warm welcome to G.T. Bynum on Monday as he attended their meeting for the first time as mayor.

They presented him with a sculpture of a handshake, and Chair Karen Keith said the board of county commissioners is optimistic about working with Bynum.

"This new administration just has a whole different attitude about working with their other government partners throughout the county and the region," Keith said. "It's just an absolute new day. We are very excited."

Cherokee Nation Welcome Center

Cherokee Nation’s attorney general issued an opinion Friday saying the tribe should recognize and allow same-sex marriage.

In a 12-page opinion answering a tribal tax commission quandary about whether they could recognize same-sex unions from other jurisdictions when issuing a car tag, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the Cherokee Nation Constitution protects the fundamental right to marry, and the nation can’t deny a marriage license or refuse to recognize a marriage based on the individuals’ sexes.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Plans to renovate Zink Dam are nearing final approval, but River Parks has some new work to do a few miles downstream.

Lots of rain has meant lots of water flowing in the Arkansas River, and that’s caused bank erosion on the east side around 58th Street.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced his appointment for chief resilience officer Friday and said her efforts will focus on addressing racial disparities within the city.

DeVon Douglass comes into the Rockefeller Foundation–funded position from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. She said even if a focus on race seems political, developing a plan for Tulsa to have good and equitable transportation systems, education and health care access is a nonpartisan task.

Support for giving Oklahoma’s teachers a raise is high, but proposals on how to pay for it are in short supply.

At least one lawmaker has gone so far as to tell his colleagues not to file teacher pay raise bills if they don’t have an identified funding source.

One potential source is Oklahoma’s sales tax, which was created for a goods-based economy. OSU economist Dan Rickman said that worked 50 years ago, but now we have a service-based economy.

The passage of sweeping federal health legislation with several mental health provisions is being welcomed at the local level.

Besides boosting research funding and accelerating drug approval, the 21st Century Cures Act has several provisions to improve mental health care. In the absence of the legislation, Tulsa County has already developed some of the programs the legislation describes. Mike Brose with Mental Health Association Oklahoma said some aim to incarcerate fewer people with mental illness.

City leaders are asking Tulsans to help support the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma during the sixth-annual Stock the Station food drive.

People can drop off nonperishable food at any Tulsa city-county library, fire station, police station or city hall through Dec. 31. The food drive, which benefits the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, began under former Mayor Dewey Bartlett and is continuing under Mayor G.T. Bynum.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

One of downtown Tulsa’s iconic art deco buildings is coming back as a 98-room hotel, likely with $1.7 million worth of help.

The city council has taken up a proposed six-year property tax abatement for a $24 million renovation of the Tulsa Club Building at 115 E Fifth St. The abatement freezes the property’s taxable value where it is now.

City Economic Development Coordinator Jim Coles said the abatement is a useful tool.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City are expected to be the state's engines in a slowly growing economy. 

While the national rate is just over 1 percent, OSU economist Dan Rickman predicts 0.4 percent growth for Oklahoma. Rickman said Tulsa will reverse its recent negative rate and outpace the state, and Oklahoma City should lead the way with about 1 percent growth. 

"What that implies is that, for the rest of the state, there's contraction. And, of course, a lot of this is occurring in energy-producing parts of the state," Rickman said. 

Matt Trotter / KWGS

New Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum drew inspiration for his administration's goals from the city's youngest mayor in history: 31-year-old James Maxwell.

In Bynum's inaugural address, he spoke about what Maxwell achieved through hard work and what Tulsans today can do through the same means.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

G.T. Bynum was sworn in Monday as Tulsa's 40th mayor.

He's the third-youngest person to take the office. Bynum said that's not a hurdle to doing great things, as Tulsa's youngest mayor, James Maxwell, had a hand in creating the library system, tripling the city's geographic area and desegregating city government.

Bynum said a community effort now can accomplish just as much.

"Working together, first and foremost as Tulsans, we will accomplish great things," Bynum said. "So, let's come together. Let's work hard. It's time to build the city of our dreams."

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma lawmakers at a lunchtime forum in Jenks said teacher pay raises will be the top priority in the 2017 session when it comes to education.

State Rep. Michael Rogers said legislators need to not get ahead of themselves in proposing solutions, though.

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