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North Tulsans press for a larger say in who the next police chief will be

North Tulsans spent two hours at Rudisill Regional Library on Wednesday night urging Mayor G.T. Bynum to select a police chief who will hold officers accountable when they do not respect minorities’ rights or treat them as they would other members of the community.

Then they pressed him to do more than listen to their concerns and to commit to including them throughout the selection process.

Bynum left the door open for such future involvement, saying he and his staff have been discussing how community stakeholders from around the city could be included in the second or third round of interviews.

One idea being considered, he said, is to have candidates be interviewed by a panel of stakeholders.

“I think it’s important to view how they interact with those diversity of viewpoints that are all being thrown at them,” Bynum said.

He did not, as some speakers suggested, commit to holding meetings at which the public could ask candidates questions.

“Am I going to put the responsibility for hiring this person to a town hall meeting?” Bynum said. “No, because the citizens of Tulsa hired me to have that responsibility, and I am not going to shirk that off on other people.”

Wednesday’s town hall meeting was the second of three planned to allow Tulsans to share with the mayor what they want to see in the next police chief.

Chief Chuck Jordan last month announced his retirement effective Feb. 1.

Seven internal candidates — Maj. Luther Breashears, Deputy Chief Jonathan Brooks, Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish, Maj. Wendell Franklin, 911 Center Director Matthew Kirkland, Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen and Maj. Laurel Roberts — have applied.

Many of those gathered Wednesday were African-Americans, several of whom expressed frustration with the way they are treated by police officers.

“I hope you will look for a police chief that will work for equity,” said Damarria Monday.

To that — and to the other speakers who expressed similar concerns — Bynum reiterated that the next police chief must be dedicated to healing the racial divides in the city and must be able to ensure that the officers he has on patrol do the same.

“What is clearly obvious to me tonight — and it has been evident in all of the discussions that I have been a part of since I have been mayor — is that that is going to be the largest part of the chief’s job,” he said.

Bynum praised the field of candidates again Wednesday, saying he believes that an internal candidate with knowledge of the city and the Police Department would be best suited to move it forward.

That did not sit well with some of the 25 or so speakers.

The Rev. Robert Turner said he was one of approximately 40 north Tulsa ministers who met with Bynum earlier Wednesday to give their views on the next police chief.

“Not one of those preachers, not one, not one of those clergies who represent different faith communities, said that they wanted it to be limited to the seven (candidates) that we have,” Turner said.

The loudest exchange of the night came when a speaker asked the mayor to commit to canceling the city’s contract to have the police force appear on “Live PD.”

Bynum firmly rejected the idea.

“No, I will not,” he said. “Because I think it is important for the people to see what our officers actually deal with out in the field.”

Several people shouted back at the mayor, with one saying, “Let them come to your house.”

The final town hall meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Learning Center, Room 145, 4502 E. 41st. St.

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Regulators dial up additional area code for central Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Get ready to limber up those fingers.

By this time next year, you will need them to dial the 10 digits to successfully phone every number in central Oklahoma.

On Wednesday, elected members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a final order authorizing a new, additional overlay area code for the part of Oklahoma that already is served by the 405 area code.

Regulators were notified by the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which oversees much of the continent’s area codes for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, that the region is projected to run out of telephone numbers by December 2021.

Read the rest of this story online at oklahoman.com. A subscription may be required.

U.S., Iran step back from the brink of war; region still on edge

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Iran stepped back from the brink of war on Wednesday as President Donald Trump signaled that he would not retaliate militarily for Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. No one was harmed in the strikes, but U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert.

Speaking from the White House, Trump seemed intent on de-escalating the crisis, which spiraled after he authorized the targeted killing last week of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded overnight with its most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, firing more than a dozen missiles at two military installations in Iraq. The Pentagon said Wednesday that it believes Iran fired with the intent to kill.

Even so, Trump’s takeaway was that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

Despite such conciliatory talk, the region remained on edge, and American troops, including a quick-reaction force, dispatched over the weekend were on high alert.

Last week Iranian-backed militia besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Tehran’s proxies in the region remain able to carry out attacks such as the one on Dec. 27 that killed a U.S. contractor and set off the most recent round of hostilities.

Hours after Trump spoke, an ‘incoming’ siren went off in Baghdad’s Green Zone after what seemed to be small rockets “impacted” the diplomatic area, a Western official said. No casualties were reported.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that it was “perhaps too early to tell” if Iran will be satisfied that the missile strikes were sufficient to avenge the Soleimani killing.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the overnight strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.

“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a Wednesday briefing that “we should have some expectation that Shiite militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there.”

There is no obvious path to diplomatic engagement, as Trump pledged to add to his “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions. He said the new, unspecified sanctions would remain in place “until Iran changes its behavior.”

Trump, facing perhaps the biggest test of his presidency, credited the minimized damage to an early warning system “that worked very well” and said Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.

The strikes had pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to all-out conflict and left the world waiting to see whether the American president would respond with more military force. Trump, in his nine-minute televised address, spoke of a robust U.S. military with missiles that are “big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast.” But then he added: “We do not want to use it.”

Iran for days had been promising to respond forcefully to Soleimani’s killing, but its limited strike on two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq — appeared to signal that it, too, was uninterested in a wider clash with the United States. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Milley and Esper told reporters that a total of 16 missiles were fired from three locations in Iran. Eleven hit the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province, and one targeted a base in Irbil, in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The missiles were described as likely short-range with 1,000- to 2,000-pound warheads. Four failed to detonate, they said.

Milley added that the Pentagon believes that Iran fired the missiles with the intent “to kill personnel.” He praised early warning systems, which detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take shelter at both bases. He described the damage to tents, parking lots and a helicopter, among other things, as “nothing major.”

Officials also said the U.S. was aware of preparations for the attack. It’s unclear if any intelligence identified specific targets or was more general.

Trump, who is facing reelection in November, campaigned for president on a promise to extract the United States from “endless wars.”

On Wednesday, Trump said the United States was “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” That marked a sharp change in tone from his warning a day earlier that “if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly.”

Members of Congress were briefed on the Iran situation Wednesday afternoon in closed-door sessions on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and some Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with the administration’s justifications for the drone strike on Soleimani.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said it was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.” He said it was “distressing” that officials suggested it would only embolden Iran if lawmakers debated the merits of further military action.

He and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced their support of a largely symbolic war powers resolution to limit Trump’s military action regarding Iran.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the briefing that the House would vote Thursday on a war powers resolution of its own.

Trump opened his remarks at the White House by reiterating his promise that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” Iran had announced in the wake of Soleimani’s killing that it would no longer comply with any of the limits on uranium enrichment in the 2015 nuclear deal crafted to keep it from building a nuclear device.

The president, who had earlier pulled the U.S. out of the deal, seized on the moment of calm to call for negotiations toward a new agreement that would do more to limit Iran’s ballistic missile programs and constrain regional proxy campaigns like those led by Soleimani.

Trump also announced that he would ask NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” While he has frequently criticized NATO as obsolete and has encouraged participants to increase their military spending, Trump has tried to push the military alliance to refocus its efforts on modern threats.

Like the U.S. troops in the region, NATO forces have temporarily halted their training of Iraqi forces and their work to combat the Islamic State.

Soleimani’s death last week in an American drone strike in Baghdad prompted angry calls for vengeance and drew massive crowds of Iranians to the streets to mourn him. Khamenei himself wept at the funeral in a sign of his bond with the commander.

Ain al-Asad was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and it later was used by American troops in the fight against the Islamic State group. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces. Trump visited it in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. Vice President Mike Pence visited both Ain al-Asad and Irbil in November.

Trump spoke of new sanctions on Iran, but it was not immediately clear what those would be. The primary agencies involved in implementing such penalties — the departments of Commerce, State and Treasury — do not preview those actions to prevent evasion.

Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, the administration had already imposed harsh sanctions on nearly every significant portion of Iran’s economic, energy, shipping and military sectors.

Wednesday’s effort to de-escalate the conflict came after world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, appealed for restraint.

The fallout for Trump’s order to kill Soleimani had been swift.

Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, though Trump said they would not be leaving.

Trump and top national security officials have justified the Soleimani drone strike with general statements about the threat posed by the general, who commanded proxy forces outside Iran and was responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.

Tulsa could receive 2-3 inches of snow Saturday, but forecast still being refined

Weather update: Snow still expected Saturday in Tulsa; severe weather risk Friday

Snow is likely in the Tulsa area Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

However, the exact timing and amounts are still being refined as a winter storm system draws closer, forecasters said.

“Initially, we had Tulsa with an inch (of snow), but now 2 or 3 inches is what we are thinking as of (Wednesday),” said Steve Piltz, meteorologist in charge at the weather service in Tulsa.

He said both the track and the strength of the storm system will determine when and how much snow Tulsa could receive.

He said forecasters will have a better handle on what to expect once the system moves from the Pacific Ocean into the mainland U.S. observation system, likely Thursday morning.

“As the backside of the upper level low exits the region Saturday, a transition to a wintry mix then light snow will be possible Friday night and Saturday over northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas,” the weather service said.

As of Wednesday evening, the Tulsa forecast was for freezing rain or sleet likely after 3 a.m. Saturday and then snow and sleet likely, with a high of 34 degrees. Chance of precipitation is 70% Saturday morning and 40% Saturday before noon.

The precipitation is forecast to taper off and exit the region late Saturday afternoon. The weather service said precipitation type and amounts will be refined through the week.

The system will also bring a chance for thunderstorms on Thursday, with a chance for severe weather Friday in southeast Oklahoma, forecasters said.

“Moisture will rapidly return on Thursday ahead of an approaching strong cold front and upper system,” the weather service said.

“Scattered thunderstorms are expected to develop later Thursday night and become more widespread during the day Friday along with increased severe potential Friday afternoon through early evening across portions of eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.

“At this time, the greatest severe weather threat looks to be across southeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas with large hail, damaging winds and locally heavy rainfall. In addition, a few tornadoes will be possible across far southeast Oklahoma or west-central Arkansas.”

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman on Wednesday had parts of southeast Oklahoma in the “slight” risk category for severe weather, with the far southeast corner and much of northeast Texas, southwest Arkansas and eastern Louisiana in the “enhanced” category.

The “slight” risk is the second lowest and the “enhanced” category is in the middle of a five-tier scale for severe weather chances used by the SPC.

“Supercells capable of all severe hazards, some possibly significant, appear most probable across this area from late afternoon (Friday) into the overnight hours,” the SPC said of the “enhanced” risk area.

Tulsa averages 2.7 inches of snow in January, 1.8 inches in February and 2.1 inches in March, according to the weather service.

The city of Tulsa last month announced it is prepared for winter weather with:

• 66 truck-mounted salt spreaders

• Four truck-mounted Liquid Applicator Systems

• 47 truck-mounted snow plows

• Seven 4-by-4 pick-up trucks equipped with snow plows

• Three motor graders for use as plows

• Approximately 12,500 tons of salt

During winter weather response, city crews are assigned to 35 routes totaling 1,770 lane-miles, officials said.

The city is responsible for clearing the Gilcrease Expressway, L.L. Tisdale Expressway and all arterial streets.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for treating all other state highways and interstates, and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority treats turnpikes.

City spokeswoman Lara Weber said the city has used very little salt so far this season.

“We will continue to watch the incoming weather and place our employees on standby for the weekend as needed,” she said.

10 years ago: Tulsa’s last white Christmas was after a 2009 blizzard

10 years ago: Tulsa's last white Christmas was after a 2009 blizzard

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