ORC Candidate Forum

The Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council hosted a candidate forum on Saturday, and I was the only candidate from HD92 present. It was an honor to speak, but an even greater one to listen to the stories and ideas I heard there. So many people in this district rely on the work of the ORC and its partners, so it's important to understand their challenges.

The ORC partners with the Dept. of Rehabilitation, agencies and non-profits to serve Oklahomans with disabilities. Many of us know someone with a disability, but it's often hard to grasp the challenges they face everyday, from navigating public transit (many times, with no bus stop shelters or sidewalks) to jumping through seemingly endless hoops to get the help they and their child need to live independently.  I was struck by what I heard--regardless of the type of disability or condition these people or their children were living with, they were showing up and doing the work day-in and day-out to try to better themselves and the lives of others who may be worse off than them. 

Agencies and nonprofits, like NewView Oklahoma, which is located in HD92, are doing so much with so little. The work they do really is bridging the gap between available government services and what their communities need.  But the gap grows larger each year, especially under budget crises like we're experiencing today, when government leans on nonprofits to provide vital services, even when the nonprofits are experiencing the same economic problems that all of us are facing. A frequent topic of discussion was why it seems that the legislature has made tax credits more readily available for big business, while vital services aimed to help people are cut to the bone. The truth is, this is our reality. We have prioritized the needs of big corporations and have failed our responsibility of taking care of our core services. There's really no excuse, and if I'm elected, I'll make sure my colleagues know where I stand. When we invest in our communities, everyone benefits, not just key shareholders.

The forum lasted several hours, and one woman became frustrated when she asked why so few Republican candidates showed up, and why even fewer stayed after they spoke. It is true, the vast majority of candidates who showed up were Democrats, and it's obvious to see why, as the benefit of this forum wasn't raising money or endorsements, but was to listen to members of our community that don't often get heard. None of us had a good answer for her, other than to suggest that they all remember who showed up when they vote in November. I do not live with a disability, but I am so very inspired by the hardworking families of my district. I'll use that inspiration to continue to work hard to earn as many votes as I can between now and November 8th, and will fight for investment in communities, investment in people and for our most vulnerable citizens to be heard and get the help that they need to live independently.

-Forrest