The Oklahoma Eagle Editorial

 

Garner Lives Matter As Activist Dies

A prominent leader in police tactics reform has died in the aftermath of her own father’s death from a banned chokehold in 2014. Erica Garner was the eldest daughter of Eric Garner who tragically died at the hands of a New York City police officer. He was not charged after a grand jury investigation and a federal civil rights investigation. Eric’s assault by Officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on tape. While he was on the ground he said, “I can’t breathe.” He died an hour later of a heart attack. The medical examiner stated it was caused by the choke hold. In the aftermath of investigations Erica and members of Black Lives Matter led protests across the country to protest brutal arrest tactics. Erica was only 27 years old when she suffered from a heart attack last week. She died several days after her heart attack. In those three short years she fought in the name of her father and others who were assaulted and at times shot.

The investigation and grand jury are still subjects of much speculation and unanswered questions about how they reached their decision. The grand jury investigation is completely sealed. It’s not known what prosecutors wanted to charge the accused policemen for, or what evidence was offered. The cell phone recording of the incident was clear and showed Garner being choked for around 15 seconds. After Eric was handcuffed on the ground he said, “I can’t breathe” before he passed out. He was not given medical attention at the site or by emergency medical technicians on the way to the hospital. He suffered a fatal heart attack at the hospital. A federal civil rights investigation under then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder began. At the time Loretta Lynch was the U.S. Attorney in New York She then replaced Holder as the U.S. Attorney General and under her watch they concluded no charges should be brought against the officers of New York Police Pepartment.

Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal attorneys were not happy with the decision. Lynch replaced all the agents and lawyers assigned to the case. Pretty unusual. This and other developments kept Erica involved nation-wide. She found a friendly ally in then presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. She endorsed Sanders and after learning of her death Sanders sent his condolences to the family and acknowledged her prominent role in discussing police reform. She carried all of this on her shoulders.

A new mother, she learned she had an enlarged heart and was told by her mother to slow down her constant campaign to raise awareness to the national problem of police brutality. Everything about this tragic American tale of the unrequited search for justice seems doubly painful. Perhaps Erica’s passing will remind us the torch is not always passed, it must be picked up from the fallen.

Dollar Store Ban Wrong Approach To Nutrition Needs           

Approaching public policy solutions using absolutes seldom brings good results. The proposed permanent ban on dollar stores in Tulsa north is based on the notion it will force businesses to open a grocery store in what amounts to “food deserts.” Meaning no nutritious stores full of fresh food is found in the area. Supporters of the ban point to well documented problems of a community that receives too much of their food from stores like the Family Dollar, The Dollar Tree, and Dollar General. There are better ways to lure business to Tulsa North.

For one thing is there is an opportunity to make money because there is a population that doesn’t have vital resources they need? They would have no competition and would have the assistance of city and community leaders. There is no shortage of people and organizations to lead this effort. There are opportunities to offer generous tax benefits for the grocery store that decides to come to Tulsa north. Past failures were not always the fault of customers not doing enough business. The community needs to set out the welcoming mat not a barbed wire fence. The moratorium is still in place, let it phase out and start this effort in a business-like manner. Hopefully, there is more effort to saying “yes” not “no.”

Commission To Curb Opioid Crisis Ignores Treatment           

There is an old west adage that says, “it’s a bad wind, what doesn’t blow someone something a little good.” Consider the case of the Attorney General’s Hunter Commission on the opioid crisis that is hurting the nation and Oklahoma. True enough the commission came up with some well-meaning recommendations that hopefully will help curb the symptoms of the crisis. What appears to be missing is any mention of treatment. It’s here we see an opportunity to solve some of the State’s budget and services crisis.

It’s been years since the State of Oklahoma has adequately provided mental health services for the needy in this State. State funded treatment centers for substance abuse have shrunken. Close to 900 Oklahomans died last year from overdoses. It costs money to treat addicts. However, State leaders have looked at addicts from a moral perspective and alcoholics and addicts were thought to be lazy. Others felt those addicted to drugs and alcohol merely lacked will. This kind of wrong-headed thinking has landed the State in a number of problems and budget woes. The State was in no hurry to end the policy of sending thousands of Oklahomans to jail and prison. This had no effect on addiction rates and only created a burden on the community and families. It also placed a burden on schools and prisons. All this is connected by our current approach.

What if the still fat Department of Correction budget was trimmed to pay for State funded treatment centers? That would divert addicts to get help instead of prison records. These same people have trouble finding jobs because of the stigma of a prison record for drugs and alcohol abuse. Even more could be sliced off to fund schools. Ninety (90) percent of those in State prisons are functionally illiterate. Would literate students be less likely to break laws? Many states believe that is the case. In this case, perhaps it’s true: we don’t have a budget problem, we spend money in the wrong places.

 

 

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