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Ready for a pet? Saturday is Clear the Shelters Day
Annual event held for pet adoption at a reduced fee

Jean Letcher’s office is always a little crazy. After all, she manages the Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter, so she never knows what furry friend she might happen to find herself caring for.

On Thursday, it was a seal point Siamese cat. The feline was lounging comfortably in a cat bed on Letcher’s desk, recovering from a broken pelvis.

It’s all in a day’s work for Letcher, and no day of work is more important to the shelter than Saturday’s Clear the Shelters Day.

“Clear the Shelters is a major adoption event that helps our animals find homes and gives our citizens a day when they can adopt for a reduced fee,” Letcher said. “That helps make room for the animals that will come into TAW next week.

“We want all our animals to go to happy, loving homes and hope that the public won’t forget about us the rest of the year.”

During last year’s event, the city found homes for 63 cats and kittens, 99 dogs and puppies, and two guinea pigs. On Saturday, the shelter will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Adoptions, which usually cost $75 for dogs and $25 for cats, will cost only $10 during the event.

“It will be the same (adoption) process, just on a grand scale,” Letcher said. “Those people who want to see cats we’ll bring in the front doors. Those who want to see dogs, we’ll bring them in the side door directly into the kennels.”

The Animal Welfare Shelter, 3031 N. Erie Ave., is not the only local animal welfare organization taking part in Clear the Shelters Day. Dozens of groups, including the Humane Society of Tulsa and Tulsa SPCA, will have animals available for adoption.

“I think there are about 20 area groups participating,” Letcher said. “There are various and assorted spots, and you can go to the Clear the Shelters website.”

As of Thursday, the city animal shelter had about 100 cats and 75 dogs available for adoption. All adopted animals — if they have not been already — will be spayed, neutered and vaccinated before they will be released to their new owners.

Letcher expects the animals to go quickly. Last year, every animal the shelter had available for Clear the Shelters Day was adopted.

“Last year was incredibly hot, and we had people standing in line for hours,” Letcher said. “I don’t think it will take till 6 (p.m.) to get everybody adopted” this year.

Clear the Shelters Day comes at a good time for local animal shelters. As is common in the summer months, shelters are seeing a spike in the stray dog and cat populations.

Cats breed in the warmer months, Letcher said, and the dog population — while not as prone to sharp increases — will occasionally rise because of accidental litters and backyard breeders who haven’t found homes for their newborns.

“There is not the same kind of seasonality with dogs as there is with cats,” Letcher said.

'It's not over': Petition to put medical marijuana on ballot as a constitutional issue fails to collect requisite signatures
The proposal would have put medical marijuana in the state constitution

Green the Vote’s failure to deliver enough signatures to place a constitutional question seeking to legalize medical marijuana on a statewide ballot has not affected one organizer’s expectations for the petition about recreational use.

The Secretary of State’s Office counted a total of 95,176 signatures for proposed State Question 796, which would have enshrined legal medical marijuana in Oklahoma’s Constitution. The successful SQ 788 petition legalizes medical marijuana, but Green the Vote sought a law that would be untouchable by the Legislature.

The SQ 796 initiative required 123,725 signatures, 15 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Officials say the number of signatures on the SQ 797 petition aiming to make recreational marijuana legal for adults 21 or over is expected to be released next week.

Joshua Lewelling, cofounder and board member of Green the Vote, said he was not surprised to learn SQ 796 failed Friday. If the petition passed, he expected it to be by “the skin of its teeth.”

After all, most public attention centered on the recreational marijuana petition.

But Lewelling still thought SQ 796 would have garnered more names than it did.

“There was such a flood of signatures coming in while we there at the Capitol that I was honestly expecting it to be a little higher,” he said.

Regardless, Lewelling believes the collection of nearly 100,000 signatures is quite a feat. The total wasn’t too far off from its goal and is significantly higher than previous constitutional amendment petition efforts.

So when asked whether the outcome either improved or deflated his confidence about SQ 797 securing enough signatures, Lewelling said it did neither.

“It’s up in the air,” he said.

The controversy surrounding the signature-collection process makes it hard to predict the end result.

Green the Vote’s leader and another board member originally said they had gathered the necessary signatures for a public vote on SQ 797, before announcing Aug. 7 that the signature count had been inflated. The group, which never claimed SQ 796 had crossed the signature threshold, submitted the petitions with an unknown number of names the next day.

Lewelling said he’d guess — optimistically — that SQ 797 has about a 40 percent chance of succeeding.

In addition to the malaise caused by the inflated signature count, public confusion about how state questions work and their requirements also vexed organizers.

Many signatures for both petitions, according to Lewelling, weren’t accepted by the Secretary of State’s Office due to technical errors, though that number was not nearly enough to reach the required number for SQ 796.

The group also continues to receive signatures for recreational marijuana despite the deadline already having passed.

“The vast majority of the people of Oklahoma really don’t understand the petition process, which makes it very difficult to make something happen in 90 days, especially something like a constitutional amendment,” Lewelling said. “... It’s heartbreaking.”

And more roadblocks await, as the signature requirement for future state questions is expected to increase because of an expected spike in voter turnout during the current gubernatorial election cycle.

Still, the outpouring of support and encouragement for the petitions leaves Lewelling and fellow organizers excited to continue the movement of fully legalizing marijuana.

“This is just going to continue in momentum,” he said. “Where another constitutional amendment petition may be unrealistic because of the signature requirements, it’s not over. We still have lobbying. It’s a lot easier to get people to turn out to the ballot box (during elections) than it is a petition site, so I’m very optimistic about the future of legal cannabis in the state of Oklahoma.”

Is Kevin Hern's financial advantage turning Republican CD 1 runoff in his direction?
Harris has spent less than his opponent, Hern, but has a lead of 5 to 10 points

A rhubarb over conflicting polls on the Republican 1st Congressional District runoff election has highlighted a central element of the race: Can Kevin Hern’s huge financial advantage overcome Tim Harris’ five- to 10-percentage-point lead coming out of the June 26 primary?

Hern’s total campaign expenditures through Aug. 8, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Thursday, were approaching $1.9 million. He appears to be spending about $100,000 a week on advertising — broadcast and mail — heading into the Aug. 28 election.

Harris had spent only one-sixth that amount through Aug. 8 and hasn’t been on television or radio at all. His main expenditures so far have been for some mail pieces and door-to-door canvassers, although Harris said Thursday that he expects to begin airing response ads within a few days.

That Harris led coming out of the primary is indisputable — he finished first by five percentage points. And there doesn’t seem to be much argument that polling gave him around a 10-point lead just a few weeks ago.

But Hern’s campaign says its more-recent polling now shows Hern up by as many as 16 points, a turnaround it attributes to its media blitz.

Independent pollster Bill Shapard has challenged that poll, in part because of the result but also because Hern’s campaign has not released the survey’s questions and other information considered the industry minimum for public disclosure. Hern’s people say they can’t do that for proprietary reasons, but the larger question is how much Hern’s much-greater ability to spread his messaging affects the final result.

Hern, who became wealthy operating McDonald’s franchises and expanded into several other businesses, including one that makes furniture and fixtures for fast-food restaurants, has put $900,000 of his own money into the campaign. He’s also underwritten a $650,000 bank loan, bringing his total investment to more than $1.5 million.

But Hern has also raised a lot of money — more than $180,000 since the primary and $890,000 overall. That is significant, because it indicates other people have bought into his candidacy, too.

“In general terms, money is a good indicator of where you stand, especially in respect to the elites,” said Charles J. Finocchiaro, associate director of the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma. “It means they think you have a chance and are willing to invest in you.”

Hern’s latest FEC report includes many well-known state and local business leaders. About 20 percent are from outside the state, with the McDonald’s connection featuring prominently. He has also gotten some money from current members of Congress and some prominent political action committees.

Hern’s campaign manager, Johnny Moyer, said the report “is another example of the continued momentum our campaign has achieved since the June 26th election. Because of the backing of people in our district, we will continue to spread Kevin’s message supporting the president and against more spending by career politicians in Washington.”

Finocchiaro said money usually plays a bigger role in open seats like the 1st District because none of the candidates are established. But he also noted Hern outspent the opposition by a wide margin before the primary and still finished second to Harris.

Through Aug. 8, Harris had reported a little over $240,000 in contributions and had put $115,000 of his own money into the campaign. He reported $53,000 in contributions since the primary, about 30 percent of Hern’s take.

To this point, Harris’ most valuable asset seems to have been the network and name recognition built up over 16 years as Tulsa County district attorney.

But Hern’s media blitz is trying to turn that against Harris by labeling him a “career politician.” That seems to infuriate Harris, who says he took a sizable pay cut to join the DA’s Office in the late 1990s.

“I got in the (CD 1) race because public service is in my heart,” Harris said. “Some people may laugh at that, but it’s true.”

The rest of Hern’s basic message is that he’s a successful businessman and a closer adherent of President Donald Trump than Harris.

Harris says he would be a “representative of the people.” He says he agrees with Trump’s general agenda, although he has reservations about a few aspects of it as well as some of the president’s behavior.

A recent influx of cash, Harris said, will allow him to “straighten out some of the misrepresentations” about him.

But he admits he can’t compete with Hern’s cash.

“I’ll never be able to go toe-to-toe with him,” he said.