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American Airlines hiring an additional 165 people at Tulsa maintenance base

American Airlines announced Thursday it plans to hire an additional 165 aviation maintenance technicians and support positions at Tech Ops Tulsa, the company’s largest aircraft maintenance facility.

The news follows a summer announcement that American Airlines was adding 400 jobs to assist with more work at the base.

“It is fantastic news, capitalizing on our hiring that we announced about a month and a half ago,” Erik Olund, managing director of base maintenance for American, said by phone.

“We’ve seen some huge success and turnout for those positions, and we think it’s a great thing to continue growing and doing some good things out here in Tulsa.”

Primarily Federal Aviation Administration-licensed mechanics, the new workers will focus on interior modifications to Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A321 aircraft to drive operational reliability and create a consistent product across American’s fleet.

Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said Thursday he was thrilled by the news.

“American Airlines continues to be an employer of choice in the Tulsa region,” he said in a statement. “… This announcement reflects the continued growth and significant impact the aerospace industry has on northeast Oklahoma’s economy.”

Of the 565 new jobs in Tulsa, Olund said he expects to hire half by the end of 2019 and the remainder by the first quarter of 2020. More than 95% of the jobs will be AMTs, but some entry-level jobs such as stock clerks and parts washers are open, he said.

“Tulsa is the center of heavy maintenance for our technical operations team.” Olund said. “It is just absolutely an epicenter of busyness for us now.

“The whole company is looking to Tulsa as a fantastic group that has done reliable, high-quality work. Internally, we are just incredibly proud of the work going on here.”

Tech Ops-Tulsa employs more than 5,200 people and is spread over 3.3 million square feet and 330 acres.


Law enforcement mostly unconcerned about gun law changes; activists say 'it's a big deal,' vow to keep fighting

The transition of Oklahoma’s firearms carry laws on Friday from licensed to permitless or “constitutional carry” seems to matter more politically and philosophically than in practicality, if some outlooks hold true.

Officials with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Tulsa Police Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol all said this week they are briefing officers, reviewing the new laws and training, but they don’t expect great changes in day-to-day operations or to have a larger number of firearms-related issues to address in the long run.

But representatives of the Second Amendment Association and of Moms Demand Action see it as a major political and social shift — and the “gun sense” lobby argues there may indeed be more gun-related incidents with the changes.

“I think I’d rate it slightly above no big deal,” said Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado. “Kind of the same things were asked prior to concealed carry and open carry, if you remember. People were worried that the Wild West would reappear here in mid-America and it didn’t. I know it sounds simple, but I’ve got to say your average, law-abiding citizen will see very few openly carrying and in the grand scheme of things I think the average Tulsan won’t see a difference.”

Oklahoma Highway Patrol offered only the following statement on the issue: “The Oklahoma Highway Patrol sent a comprehensive training bulletin to all troopers setting forth and explaining the changes in the firearm statutes. The way we interact with the public and conduct traffic stops will not change as we continue to uphold the laws and provide a safe and secure environment for the public.”

Concealed carry and open carry were already legal in Oklahoma. The change on Friday allows more opportunities for people to carry handguns, as well as rifles and shotguns, in more public spaces and allows the practice for qualified adults over the age of 21 and active military or veterans age 18 and older without a previously required license, which was only issued to people who took a training class and submitted fingerprints as part of a more detailed background check.

Also of particular interest for police officers is a change that says individuals are no longer responsible for notifying a law enforcement officer that they are in possession of a firearm. The onus now is on the officer to ask.

Jeanne Pierce, public information officer with Tulsa Police Department, said people can expect the question about firearms now as matter of course.

“It will probably become something that we will start making a regular practice. When you stop someone, a vehicle stop, you are asked for an ID and also asked if you have a firearm,” she said.

People who tell a law enforcement officer they aren’t carrying a firearm when asked but are later found to be carrying could face stiff penalties, she said.

Generally, however, she said the department expects no big challenges.

“I don’t think it will become a big deal,” she said. “We have been briefed by our counsel and we’ve gotten some training and there will be training at squad meetings. I feel like we’re prepared for it,” she said.

Regalado said he expects little if any change in law enforcement challenges due to the law, however.

“The reality is, and what I’ve always maintained, is that the law-abiding people will do what law-abiding people will do and the criminal element will still be doing what they’ve been doing,” he said.

He said he only expects limited issues with people who want to test the law and push the limits.

“When you put in a scenario like an individual walking near a park with a firearm and you have families and children in the park who may not be cognizant of what constitutional carry means and with all the things we’ve seen across the country with mass shootings, the paranoia understandably kicks in and they call law enforcement and you can always see the potential there for issues,” he said. “We’ve already seen that.”

In April, Broken Arrow Police arrested a man who said he was conducting an “audit” — said to be an public education effort — by testing police and public response to his carrying a long-barreled, semi-automatic pistol near a park. He was accused of pointing the pistol at people so he was arrested. The man was released on bail and no charges have been filed.

Law-abiding citizens should have no issues if they cooperate with law enforcement officials, Regalado said.

“At the end of the day for officers, deputies and law enforcement as a whole, hands are the most dangerous things that we have to be aware of,” he said. “If they’re in plain view with nothing in them, things are really good. If hands are moving in different directions and we can’t see them, and people aren’t listening to our directions, then that raises the concern for us and puts everybody on edge.”

Political stakeholders are more on edge. Asked if the change really was a big deal, Oklahoma Second Amendment Association President Don Spencer said, “we’re going to slide that toward the 10.”

His group plans a rally Friday morning outside the state Capitol. Members attending are encouraged to carry openly during the event. People carrying rifles are asked not to have rounds chambered, he said. Gov. Kevin Stitt has been invited to speak at the rally but has yet to accept, he said. The permitless carry bill, which was previously rejected by Gov. Mary Fallin, was the first bill Stitt signed as governor.

“When Oklahoma became a state, the first law that was passed in 1907 was that you couldn’t carry a rifle or a pistol,” Spencer said. “As of Nov. 1, Oklahoma will finally be back to where the United States Constitution and even the state constitution both say we should be, with a right that should not be infringed or prohibited. We’re enthusiastic that a right that was taken away 112 years ago is actually being reinstalled.”

Spencer said permitless carry isn’t the end of the political road for his group and that bills for gun rights will be introduced in the coming legislative session, including one for government employees to be able to carry at their places of employment and one addressing college campuses.

Christine Jackson, a state volunteer leader for Moms Demand Action, said the law change is a big deal for the opposite reason. She cited studies by EveryTown For Gun Safety that show marked increases in aggravated assaults involving firearms in constitutional carry states like Alaska, Arizona and Missouri.

Her group will continue the political fight as well, she said. A last-minute attempt to collect signatures that would have forced a public vote on the firearms law failed, but it motivated more people to become involved, she said.

“I think we will have more people engaged and making phone calls,” she said.

“It is a big deal,” she said of the new law. “People being allowed carry a gun in public places without a license or a background check, it just doesn’t make sense.”

Most Oklahomans can carry a gun without a license starting today. What you should know
These places don't allow your firearms, despite the new constitutional carry law


Sharply divided House approves Dems' impeachment rules

WASHINGTON — Democrats swept a rules package for their impeachment probe of President Donald Trump through a divided House Thursday, as the chamber’s first vote on the investigation highlighted the partisan breach the issue has only deepened.

By a vote of 232 to 196, lawmakers approved the procedures they’ll follow as weeks of closed-door interviews with witnesses evolve into public committee hearings and — almost certainly — votes on whether the House should recommend Trump’s removal.

All voting Republicans opposed the package. Every voting Democrat but two supported it.

Underscoring the pressure Trump has heaped on his party’s lawmakers, he tweeted, “Now is the time for Republicans to stand together and defend the leader of their party against these smears.”

Yet the roll call also accentuated how Democrats have rallied behind the impeachment inquiry after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent months urging caution until evidence and public support had grown.

She and other Democratic leaders had feared a premature vote would wound the reelection prospects of dozens of their members, including freshmen and lawmakers from Trump-won districts or seats held previously by Republicans. But recent polls have shown voters’ growing receptivity to the investigation and, to a lesser degree, ousting Trump.

That and evidence that House investigators have amassed have helped unify Democrats, including those from GOP areas. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she was supporting a pathway to giving “the American people the facts they deserve,” while Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said voters warrant “the uninhibited truth.”

Yet Republicans were also buoyed by polling, which has shown that GOP voters stand unflinchingly behind Trump.

”The impeachment-obsessed Democrats just flushed their majority down the toilet,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm.

Witness: Nothing illegal

Elsewhere at the Capitol on Thursday, three House panels led by the Intelligence Committee questioned their latest witness into the allegations that led to the impeachment inquiry: that Trump pressured Ukraine to produce dirt on his Democratic political rivals by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting craved by the country’s new president.

Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council the day before his appearance, testified — still behind closed doors — that he saw nothing illegal in Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president that is at the center of the Democrat-led investigation.

Yet, Morrison also largely confirmed much of what William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said in earlier, highly critical testimony about the call, which Taylor said he and Morrison discussed several times.

The Democrats are still waiting to hear if Morrison’s one-time boss, John Bolton, will testify. They have subpoenaed former national security adviser Bolton, who quit the administration after disagreements with Trump over his handling of Ukraine.

In the House inquiry vote, the only Democratic “no” votes were by Reps. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey freshman, and veteran Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats. Both are battling for reelection in Republican-leaning districts.

Also supporting the rules was independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP this year after announcing he was open to considering Trump’s impeachment.

Thursday’s House debate was laced with high-minded appeals to defend the Constitution and Congress’ independence, as well as partisan taunts.

”What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy,” said Pelosi. She addressed lawmakers with a poster of the American flag beside her and opened her comments by reading from the preamble to the Constitution.

She also said the rules would let lawmakers decide whether to impeach Trump “based on the truth. I don’t know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”

But her counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California cast the process as a skewed attempt to railroad a president whom Democrats have detested since before he took office.

”Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box,” he said.

No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., accused Democrats of imposing “Soviet-style rules.” His backdrop was a bright red poster depicting the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.

The House is at least weeks away from deciding whether to vote on actually impeaching Trump. If it does, the Senate would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. That GOP-run chamber seems highly likely to keep him in the White House.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., likened Democrats to a “cult,” accusing them of bouncing from “one outlandish conspiracy theory to another.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pointedly said she looked forward to Republicans “prioritizing country over party, just as we took an oath to do.”

Democrats said the procedures are similar to rules used during the impeachment proceedings of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Pelosi decided to have the vote following a GOP drumbeat that the inquiry was tainted because lawmakers hadn’t voted to formally commence the work. The rules direct House committees “to continue their ongoing investigations” of Trump.

Democrats hope Thursday’s vote will undercut GOP assertions that the process has been invalid. They’ve noted that there is no constitutional provision or House rule requiring such a vote.

The rules require the House Intelligence Committee — now leading the investigation — to issue a report and release transcripts of its closed-door interviews, which members of both parties have attended.

The Judiciary Committee would then decide whether to recommend that the House impeach Trump.

Republicans could only issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear if the committees holding the hearings approve them — in effect giving Democrats veto power.

Attorneys for Trump could participate in the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Democrats would retain leverage by empowering panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to deny requests by Trump representatives to call witnesses if the White House continues to “unlawfully refuse” to provide testimony or documents Congress demands.

BEYOND THE SIDELINE: A continuing fall feature looking at the stories that make Tulsa-area high school football unique
Tulsa-area high schools using food to enhance Friday night experience

BERRYHILL — Courtnie Fields has been at Berryhill’s football stadium since about 2:30 p.m. this particular Friday. The Chiefs don’t kick off until 7 p.m., but 2:30 is when the onions needed to be cut.

“Make sure you stress that it’s all about the onions,” Fields says when introducing Ashlen Bryant.

Bryant is the only person in the concession stand who knows the recipe for the sautéed onions credited for making the “Berryhill Burger” famous.

Fields opens the large metal door to the concession building to unveil a cramped space featuring two aisles, separated by a large cement wall and countertop. The counter features the same goodies every other concession does at a high school football game: Skittles, a half-full popcorn machine, empty plastic trays used for chips and nacho cheese. Then there are the three large slow cookers in the center of everything.

An older man pokes his head through the window to request a Diet Coke and a famous “Berryhill Burger.” While Fields scurries to the cooler for the Diet Coke, Brigitte Postoak opens the slow-cooker lids to place a patty, then cheese, then sautéed onions, then jalapeños between two buns.

“You have to get one of these here every game,” the man says, lifting up his burger on a paper plate.

It’s the first of about 300 “Berryhill Burgers” that will be sold during a typical game.

“Refs are known to request our games just so they can get a ‘Berryhill Burger,’ ” Bryant brags.

When the Tulsa World sent a mass email to school officials and shared a tweet asking for unique food options at Tulsa-area football stadiums, the “Berryhill Burger” was the first notable suggestion. Berryhill is one of several local high schools using food to enhance Friday night experiences at football games.

Owasso partnered with FanFood so fans can use an app to order from the concession stand on their phones this season to avoid lines and not miss any action. Union has its Turf Club and Redzone for a VIP pregame meal.

Lincoln Christian added food trucks four years ago. This year, Lincoln Christian has a food truck court at the stadium featuring Hoop’s Philly Steaks, Stu B Que and Sweet Butters Treats.

Kelly Birch, whose husband, Trandy, is an administrator at Lincoln Christian, is in charge of concessions at Bulldogs football games.

“(Trandy) wanted to have a really cool atmosphere out here and just a festive atmosphere,” Birch said. “People love the fair and food trucks — it’s kind of related. We just wanted something different for our people to be able to come out and just have a variety of stuff to choose from …

“It adds just a different festive atmosphere than the typical football game. We just try to make it festive. Our goal is just to make a place where families can come and just really enjoy being here.”

‘Trying to help the overall experience’

Fans go early to watch the Union Redskins, even on a Thursday night during Fall Break.

For an extra cost, the Union Redzone and the Union Booster Club’s Turf Club provide VIP dining options for fans before every home game.

Behind the south end zone at Union-Tuttle Stadium, tables covered with team decor are scattered around a room at the end of a hallway in the Union Multipurpose Activity Center that houses the Redzone. Two walls are lined with a makeshift buffet featuring filet mignon and shrimp wrapped in bacon, stuffed with green bell pepper.

Union has had the Redzone since 2003. Season membership for the Redzone is $250, which includes a pregame meal, general admission to every home game and a parking pass to the Reserved VIP lot.

To get in, you must check in at the table just outside the door, your name must be crossed off a list and a band is wrapped around your wrist. The wall across from the entry is home to a large projection screen displaying pregame festivities as kickoff nears. The screen also shows the game if fans don’t want to find a seat in the stands or avoid whatever weather Oklahoma conjures up that night.

Adjacent to the entry is a wall made up of windows overlooking the field. On the other side of the clear glass is another viewing option — a balcony perched just above the end zone.

“People want to be part of that game-time experience,” said Steve Dunlap, associate director of athletics at Union. “They’re around their friends, family. When people either eat at the stadium or eat in the Turf Club or the Redzone, that helps take care of that. I think it just makes them feel more part of the team that way.”

While Union is giving fans extra dining options before games, Owasso is trying to make sure spectators can eat during the action without missing any of it.

This season, Owasso launched the FanFood app at its home games. The FanFood app allows fans to order concession food from their seat. When the order is ready, fans get a notification and pick up their food at a separate window — no waiting in line.

Jeff Harrington, who used to manage concessions for the Rams, first brought the idea to Owasso.

“I was wondering how I can shorten the lines, because they just last forever,” Harrington said.

After some research, Harrington discovered FanFood. He said Owasso was the first in Oklahoma to use FanFood at events, but soon, the app will also be used at the BOK Center. And, eventually, fans in certain sections will be able to get their food delivered to them at Owasso football games through the app.

Although Harrington started the process, Joe Walker was in charge when FanFood first launched at an Owasso football game this season.

“For us, it’s a way that we’re trying to help the overall experience that people have when they come for concessions,” Walker said.

‘Because we love the team’

Bryant didn’t get to watch much of Berryhill’s 62-6 thumping of district foe Locust Grove. There’s constantly someone standing in the way of her view, asking for one of those “Berryhill Burgers” that were finished grilling and ready to serve before Locust Grove even arrived and stepped off the bus.

Bryant hasn’t seen much at all of the Chiefs’ 7-0 season. But, as a volunteer, the team’s success is her reward.

“We just do this because we love the team and coach (Pat) Harper,” Bryant said.

Bryant said many people still volunteer to help in the concession stand long after their kids graduate and their playing days end. Some have even stayed long enough that their grandkids start playing.

It goes back to what Dunlap said about Union fans wanting to find a way to feel closer to the team. At the end of the day, fans spend their Friday nights at high school football stadiums because of what’s on the field. But as fans expect the product on the field to be better each season, so should be the products throughout the venue.

“Our main product is the football game,” Dunlap said. “But we also have our spirit groups, cheer, pom and dance. We have an outstanding band, as well. We just want everybody to feel as involved as possible and feel a part of things, and give them opportunities to bring guests and maybe show them our stadium and our traditions and things like that and just be a big part of the whole program.”