*Updated: 9-11-19, 6:23 p.m.
Oklahoma City’s City Council heard a lot of functional business and had some real arguments at this week’s regular meeting. The police came, some citizens spoke, and one reporter got a real headache.
Bart Schott, Personnel Department, received a commendation from the City Council for his selection as the September 2019 South Oklahoma City Kiwanis Club Employee of the Month.
It’s a big deal because only 12 receive this award every year and there are more than 4,500 city employees. Congratulations to Mr. Schott, who is a man of few words, judging from his acceptance speech.
A commendation and hearty word of thanks was given to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma “for the nourishment and hope they provide to those in need.” The month of September has been proclaimed as “Hunger Action Month” in Oklahoma City.
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Revocable permits were granted to the following:
The Redman Triathlon and Half-Triathlon, a profoundly problematic name for an event.
Fallen Heroes Half Marathon
Lunar Moon Festival
Fassler Hall’s Oktoberfest
Red Coyote Runtoberfest 5k
The public information office gave a presentation about the upcoming census. There are neighborhoods in Oklahoma City where many residents do not speak English as a first language, and this has proven to result in lower response rates.
The census results impact federal funding for programs like SNAP, Medicaid, HeadStart, and the School Lunch Program. The City would like to advertise the census in some of the neighborhoods most likely to have a low response rate.
A number of items came before the City Council for public hearing.
Utility easements, building code updates, and fire code updates all came and went without any members of the public making comment.
An item for temporarily banning a great many things that are definitely not guns came on for hearing.
A man who has real estate interests and runs a YouTube channel spoke about the ban on certain kinds of cameras. He expressed concern that banning press from recording in a public park might be a violation of the 1st amendment.
The mayor explained that Scissortail Park—a park for everyone—is public except when it is private, which is when they decide it is private for a concert or what have you.
This conversation was followed by a public hearing on the penny sales tax for MAPS 4. Nobody said anything.
The Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority sought the Council’s permission to incur debt for building a parking garage near the MAPS 3 Convention Center.
This is necessary because downtown Oklahoma City has so little parking, one assumes.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon (spouse of this reporter) asked City Finance Director Brent Bryant what the dollar amount broke down to per parking spot.
Bryant said they don’t really think of it that way.
Hamon pointed out that the new garage is just a few blocks from other parking garages that are not full.
Ward 2 City Councilman James Cooper, a COTPA trustee, said that he hopes this is the last parking garage that Oklahoma City ever builds.
City Manager Craig Freeman then made a bizarre argument in favor of the new garage. He said that the reason the Arts Garage was not full is because there is other parking. The mind reels.
Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher and Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell again introduced an ordinance about limiting which parts of city government can initiate a process for protecting a structure or district by historic preservation. See further coverage later this week.
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I’ll leave it at this: It was a long and irritating conversation and at one point Greenwell said, “I am not going to listen.”
New Chief of Police Wade Gourley brought a presentation about initiatives to increase social justice and reform criminal justice.
Gourley said that according to a survey last year 50% of Oklahoma City respondents felt safe in their city. He said that the PD is awaiting polling for this year, the goal is 55%.
He said that there are now 345 body cameras being used in the field by 700 officers.
Gourley provided some impressive numbers related to incarceration. Since 2015 the number of people incarcerated on municipal charges has been reduced by 52% from 12,908 to 6186. The number of days of incarceration for municipal charges has been reduced by 57% from 48,045 to 20,761.
Gourley gave no statistics about any change in the number of arrests per year.
To see the slide deck Gourley used in the presentation scroll to the bottom.
Per usual, Ronnie Kirk addressed the Council and had concern for the kids. Michael Washington also addressed the Council and used the phrase, “United Snakes of America.” It was wild.
*UPDATE: Our apologies for very poor wording about the employees of the month in the original version of this report. Our original language discounted the award, which was not our intent. It has been corrected.
Last Updated September 11, 2019, 10:06 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor