UPDATE: Gov. Fallin responds to ‘Take Shelter Oklahoma’ organizers
UPDATE: There is new information involving a statewide effort to build safer schools for our kids.
NewsChannel 4 told you that Governor Mary Fallin is opposed to an initiative calling for bond money to be used to pay for safe rooms; if that bond money would eventually be paid back; using the state’s franchise tax.
“There are things that will have to be cut to fund $500 million of bonds so that people just need to be educated in how all that’s going to work,” Gov. Fallin says.
Tonight the people who are backing that plan say the governor simply isn’t telling the truth.
They claim nothing will have to be cut from current state spending.
In a press release from the organization “Take Shelter Oklahoma,” organizers write, “The fact is, no program at any level of the state government has been funded by the franchise tax since 2008.”
They go on, “For the governor to misrepresent the franchise tax as a source of current revenue for program spending is really disappointing.”
The governor also told NewsChannel 4 last night that her belief is that building safe rooms is a local issue and that local school boards should decide whether they want them or not.
To that statement “Take shelter Oklahoma” points out that under its effort, “No school district would be required to build a storm shelter. They call it, “One hundred percent local control.”
MOORE, Okla. -- The families of the children who died at Plaza Towers Elementary are surprised and saddened that Governor Mary Fallin has decided not to support their petition drive to get a bond issue on the statewide ballot to fund school saferooms.
A statewide survey recently revealed there are about half a million unprotected children in Oklahoma schools right now.
Most Oklahoma students have no place to go in the event of a large, damaging tornado.
The EF-5 that hit Moore on May 20th left breathless destruction in its wake.
Neighborhoods were leveled. Schools were destroyed. It was an excruciating reminder about what mother nature is capable of.
Kristi Conatzer left her first and third grade daughters at school that day because she thought they'd be safer in that building.
Their home was torn apart by wind and debris that afternoon.
Conatzer had no idea in those first moments when she emerged from her laundry room that her heart would be trampled next.
"Our house was destroyed around us. We came out and we entered into our own nightmare." said Conatzer.
Emily Conatzer, 9, was crushed by the weight of one of the walls of her school building as she huddled, head down, in a hallway.
She died with six of her classmates at Plaza Towers Elementary.
In those first days after May 20th, the Conatzers and the other six families were comforted by the support of Oklahomans and the support of the nation. President Barack Obama came to offer support, and Governor Mary Fallin promised she would help them anyway she could.
"She looked at us and said, 'Whatever we can do to help you. We'll help you.' I haven't heard back from her, until we heard her voice her opposition to the petitions we're trying to get signed. It was a huge slam to me." Conatzer said.
Through their grief, the seven Plaza Towers families came together in support of a statewide petition to fund safe rooms for Oklahoma schools because 60 percent of Oklahoma's students are unprotected at school.
"Our kids are required to go to school. They have to go to school. If my child is required to go to school I require their safety." said Conatzer.
Governor Fallin said Tuesday she is opposed to a measure that would divert $500 million state dollars from the general fund to help Oklahoma school districts pay for safe rooms.
"I do think it's a very important issue for our state but that's a local control decision that's made by school boards and the people in those school district areas who vote on bond issues. They have to chose where they want to put their money." Fallin said. "There are things that will have to be cut to fund $500 million of bonds. So that's what people will have to understand is how that's going to work. I'm not against someone having a petition drive. I'm just saying lets look at what you have to do to implement a bond like this."
We know the governor has a safe place to go during severe weather. The mansion has a basement. The Capitol complex has underground tunnels.
"All they were offered for protection that day were their little hands over their heads. That's what my daughter was offered. Not a safe room. Not a desk to put over her head. She was offered her hands. And she tucked her head down and you know. That's not how it should have been. So I'll fight Mary Fallin, and we will get her 160,000 signatures and we'll move on to the next thing." Conatzer said.
Bonded by the awful circumstances of May 20th, the Plaza families are moving forward united.
Seven sets of parents are fighting for their kids, the seven little ones who didn't make it, and the precious siblings of those victims who go to school everyday in buildings which offer little protection.