Lawmaker says black voters angered by Langston flap

Saturday, March 19th 2005, 12:07 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A black state lawmaker said Friday black voters feel betrayed by Democratic leaders who agreed to a higher education bond plan he said threatens the future of the Tulsa campus of Langston University, a historically black college.

Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, also said he plans to apply for the president's job at Langston and is considering running for statewide office as an independent when his term in the state House ends next year. Toure did not specify which statewide office he may seek.

Langston President Ernest Holloway, 73, is retiring after 25 years but will continue to serve until a new president is hired. Toure is serving his sixth two-year term in the House and cannot seek re-election due to term limits.

Toure said Langston supporters and other blacks were angered by Thursday's passage of the $475 million higher education plan agreed to by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, Republican House Speaker Todd Hiett and Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson, D-Lexington.

Among other things, the measure, which was sent to the Senate for action, asks state regents to examine expanding course offerings at colleges in the Tulsa area, which include branches of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

Toure said no one consulted with members of the legislative black caucus before the provision was inserted in the bill and that additional courses could destroy Langston's Tulsa campus.

``I can assure you emotions range from outrage to outrage,'' Toure said. ``There is a betrayal of African-American folks by Democrats.''

He said a growing number of black voters are refusing to support Democratic candidates and that passage of the bond deal will result in a ``severe response'' in next year's statewide elections.

``There are political consequences to political actions,'' he said.

Hiett, of Kellyville, has said it was not the intent of the bond proposal to harm Langston.

``I don't believe him,'' Toure said.

New course offerings could violate provisions of a 1998 agreement in which the state authorized Langston to offer exclusive courses in Tulsa, Toure said. The agreement was reached to compensate for years of discrimination against blacks in state public education policy, he said.

But enrollment at Langston's Tulsa campus has dropped dramatically in recent years as other schools offer similar courses, he said.

He blamed the legacy of racism for legislative efforts to expand OSU in Tulsa because of ``the whole notion that a black school is inferior to what is perceived as a white school.

``It is racism behind getting Langston out of Tulsa,'' he said.

The bill is House Bill 1191.