Local News

May 4, 2012

Cole chats with local newspaper

CHICKASHA — In large part, Oklahoma was isolated from the harshest realities of the recession that began in 2008.

Now four years later, there are signs that the rest of the country is drawing closer to the Sooner State’s stability.

Yet for all that, the long recovery has had little to do with the federal stimulus program that sought to pull the nation out of an economic tailspin.

That’s the belief of Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole whose Thursday in Chickasha included a visit to The Express-Star.

“The stimulus didn’t do what the President told us it would do,” he said.

Still, Cole sees encouraging economic news in the energy sector, noting a number of states not traditionally thought of as “energy states” are tapping petroleum reserves.

“With energy comes industrial revitalization,” he said.

Evidence of that is seen in the companies that took their business offshore in the 1990s and are now bringing those jobs back to the States.

A report released this week projects the nation’s unemployment rate will drop below 7 percent by the election in November.

If true, Cole said, “that’s good news.”

Cole touched on many topics, but said the one over-riding concern he hears over and again from his constituents is the economy.

“The things that benefit Chickasha and Grady County are the things that benefit the rest of the district,” he said.

Cole also visited with his friend and former classmate, USAO President John Feaver, who told him “we are on the cusp of great changes in Grady County.”

“There’s a lot of growth from central Oklahoma that’s already moving this direction,” Cole continued. “Grady County has a diverse industrial base. Chickasha has always been a manufacturing hub. I feel pretty good about longterm prospects here.”

Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said he’s friends with people on both sides of Oklahoma’s water divide and called what is happening now the “right thing.”

The issue of deciding ownership rights to the plentiful water resources across southern and southeastern Oklahoma is now in federal court, but both sides appear open to negotiation.

“You can’t tell me that we can’t all sit at the table,” he explained. “If you don’t negotiate a settlement, there will be litigation and that could take 30 years. I think we’ll find a way to work this out. I see it as how we organize together and preserve these resources for all the state.”

Particularly in the southern part of his district, Cole said residents feel caught in the middle.

“They worry about Texas on one side and Oklahoma City on the other,” Cole said, “and they see the tribes as protecting their resources.”

Cole noted that Oklahoma tribes - particularly the Chickasaws and Choctaws - are “huge employers” with thousands of Oklahomans on their payrolls. The tribes’ economic growth has been spurred by gambling and diversification. Indian gaming alone, he pointed out, funnels more than $140 million into state coffers every year. And without that influx of gaming revenue there “wouldn’t be any talk about lowering the state income tax.”

Cole also addressed the 2012 Farm Bill which is still being developed, saying fellow Congressman Frank Lucas is the lead negotiator for the legislation in the House of Representatives and is making sure Oklahoma interests are met.

“Peanuts may not make a big difference in a northern agricultural state, but they do here,” he explained.

Cole expressed confidence in the GOP’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. He called both Romney and President Obama “honorable” men who have achieved enormous success in their lives and who will run on “very different ideas and platforms.”

A tragedy would be to get into the campaign and allow “playground” rhetoric to blur the issues.

“I think this is a very big issue election,” Cole said, expressing hope that the two men will run a “classy” campaign. “I think the country is hoping for that.”

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