My first 90 days in office have deepened my belief in the importance of this fundamental advice. As a corporation commissioner, I'm now involved in critical areas affecting Oklahoma's economy, including regulating oil and gas drilling, production, and environmental protection, as well as utilities, and aspects of trucking, gasoline pumps, fuel storage tanks, pipelines and railroad-crossings. Many of these involve everyday, pocketbook issues of critical importance to Oklahomans.
However, in these first 90 days, I have found that too often a communications breakdown exists within government, creating hurdles in serving the public and hindering efforts to improve the way agencies work with each other. I have and will continue to reach out to government officials on all levels to find ways we can work together to make better use of your tax dollars.
As to Commission matters, we must strive to find ways to better inform you of our daily activities and explain our decisions. The Commission is 102 years old, and it greatly concerns me how little the public knows or understands what really we do.
I am working with the Commission administration and staff to find ways to improve the Commission website (www.occeweb.com) to make it more user-friendly, with easier access to information on Commission decisions and issues.
Informing the public includes meeting people face-to-face to learn of their issues and concerns. So I am traveling across the state, meeting with individuals, groups, and organizations. I want Oklahomans to know what the Commission does and can do for them.
I'm pleased to report these approaches are at work in some of the major issues currently before the Commission. A few examples:
Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company is seeking a $110 million dollar increase in its rates and charges. There is now a link on the Commission's web site which gives the public easy access to all the documents in the case, including filed testimony, schedules, etc. We will be holding public hearings on the case this summer.
The Commission faces the challenge of determining what to do about the fact that the 918 area code is running out of phone numbers. In addition to information and a survey on our web site, we are holding town hall meetings throughout the 918 area to explain the situation and get first-hand input from the public and industry.
Oklahoma's oil and natural gas industry is struggling. I have logged many miles traveling around the state speaking to those impacted and getting invaluable input as we work to improve our rules and policies and seek other ways we can help, be it within the agency or in working with other state and federal officials.
Communication—it's fundamental. But as any coach, business person, or teacher can tell you, it's the fundamentals that make the difference. I want to make that difference. And as I do that, I'll continue to say what I mean and mean what I say.