MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

July 3, 2014

Group files second storm shelter petition

OKLAHOMA CITY — Supporters of a proposal to build storm shelters in every public school in Oklahoma will begin collecting signatures for an initiative petition Thursday — more than a year after a massive tornado destroyed a school in Moore and killed seven students.

David Slane, an attorney for Take Shelter Oklahoma, said Wednesday that the initiative petition was filed last week with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office and supporters will begin collecting signatures once a five-day period has passed for the Attorney General’s Office to object to its ballot title.

Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the office has until Thursday to notify the Secretary of State whether the ballot title meets legal requirements. Organizers will then have 90 days to collect the signatures of 155,000 Oklahoma voters to have the measure placed on the November ballot.

“We find ourselves over a year after the last tornado and Oklahoma still has no comprehensive plan to protect our children,” Slane said. He said 61 percent of all public schools in Oklahoma do not have shelters to protect the children who are inside them.

“Currently there’s over 506,000 students and faculty who remain unprotected from tornados each day,” he said.

The initiative petition calls for a $500 million bond issue for the shelters to be repaid from the state’s General Revenue Fund. It comes more than a year after a tornado struck Moore on May 20, 2013, killing seven children at the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Danni Legg, whose son, 9-year-old Christopher Legg, was among the children who died at Plaza Towers, urged the parents of Oklahoma schoolchildren to “not just sign the petition but to grab one and pass it to your friends.”

“We need them to help us move forward in the right direction by protecting our children.” said Legg, who held a color photograph of her son as she talked to reporters. “They’re required by law to go to school. They should be safe at school.”

“No parent should have to bury their child,” said Mikki Davis, the mother of 8-year-old Kyle Davis, another student who died at Plaza Towers. “We’re fighting for all the kids in Oklahoma. We want them to be safe.”  

The petition is the second launched by supporters seeking a statewide vote to fund the storm shelter plan. Advocates launched a signature-gathering campaign last September that also called for a $500 million bond issue to fund the initiative.

But they abandoned it in April after complaining that changes to the ballot title by Pruitt’s office shifted the focus from the construction of school storm shelters to how they would be funded — through a franchise tax on businesses.

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