by Patrick B. McGuigan
For The City Sentinel
Big cities, including ours, face ever-more-complex challenges.
Government is expected to do more and more. That makes it hard to find adequate resources for core functions, including law enforcement.
The Oklahoma County Jail is overcrowded and plagued with the problems that face nearly all prisons and corrections facilities in all large metropolitan areas. Details are well-known known due to the work of concerned citizens, a variety of government reports, and the candor of Sheriff John Whetsel.
Citizens are safer on the roads and streets of central Oklahoma than they were when Whetsel became sheriff in 1997. Despite recent belt-tightening, the sheriff’s office as a whole operates with more professionalism and dedication that ever.
The jail is a constant challenge. It was a problem 20 years ago, and it remains a problem today.
The path toward jail reform is challenging, but there is no reason to think that state Rep. Mike Christian, Whetsel’s opponent in the November election, is the right man to oversee any important aspect of county governance.
Whetsel is a law enforcement veteran, a steady hand and influence in a growing city with continued need for his prudence, care and stewardship of the public interest. Christian is a polarizing figure in his own party. His history includes antagonism toward institutions of governance.
Whetsel holds discussions with civility and decorum, while sticking to his own strongly held and well-informed views. Christian verbally shreds political and other foes, making wild assertions while questioning the worthiness of nearly everyone but himself.
In a recent debate, Whetsel was calm, reasonable and informed, praising his staff and local citizens. He expressed hope about the future and honesty about the past. Christian was bombastic and irritable. He claimed the sheriff has too many cars, too much equipment and too many people. He was wrong on most details.
Christian asserted the county mounted patrol is as an example of unnecessary spending.
In his closing statement at the recent forum, Whetsel countered, “I thought it was interesting … that my opponent could do nothing but attack. He even attacked reserve deputies who own horses — their own horses. They volunteer their time. They volunteer their horses to serve the citizens of Oklahoma County. They work the State Fair, they work the Stockyards. He just attacked men and women who went through a training program and serve our citizens for free.”
Whetsel’s background fits the important job he now holds. Christian has worked in law enforcement, but had a less-than-distinguished record during his Highway Patrol hitch.
Whetsel earned his way to the top in his field of work. Christian is best known as part of the dubious deal a state House colleague (ultimately convicted of bribery) tried to engineer to put his pal Christian into the state Senate.
Whetsel is steady, reliable and professional, a man of integrity and of compassion. Whetsel said at the forum “To me the most important thing is the safety of our citizens.”
Christian is temperamental and hyper-partisan, having provoked negative scrutiny in his varied workplaces.
This year, in this particular race, John Whetsel is the best choice for Oklahoma County Sheriff.
He should be reelected.