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In an absurdly over-long regular meeting Tuesday, the City Council heard the mayor make proclamations and commendations for a whole hour. They also heard arguments—literal arguments, I’m saying—about rezoning for the sake of billboards.

Additionally, further tax dollars for bailing out the Boathouse Foundation were approved, and several Business Improvement Districts were renewed.

The final vote for a one-cent sales tax in the MAPS 4 package sends it on for a December 10 vote of the people.

Free Press covered an unprecedented series of hearings this summer where the various groups who wanted to be included in the package had an opportunity to pitch their cause to the council in public.

Meanwhile, one local reporter experienced a spiral of existential dread as the meeting dragged on to five hours’ length while accomplishing very little for the time used.

Proclamations and Commendations

For the first time in this writer’s history of reporting on City Council, the entire first hour of the meeting was spent reading Proclamations of various awareness months and weeks. The gallery was full of people representing various organizations and associations being recognized.

  • Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, was recognized by proclamation of the Mayor, and of the Governor. The Governor was not present.
  • National Disability Employment Month is observed in October. The Mayor read a proclamation about this.
  • Prostate Cancer Screening Awareness Month is in September. The Mayor and staff got this proclamation in under the wire.
  • September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, also proclaimed in the 11th hour.
  • Finally, Molly Jaynes was commended as Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Month. She gave a very moving speech about how inspiring and concerned her students at Cesar Chavez are.
City Council
Molly Jaynes received the Teacher of the Month commendation from the City of Oklahoma City Tuesday. She teaches fourth grade at César Chávez Elementary in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Boathouse Bailout

An item for bailing out the Boathouse Foundation came before the Council. Since the Boathouse district began, the success of the MAPS 3 project has been questionable. The 2019 budget started with a shortfall of $3 Million. The City Manager requested, on behalf of the foundation, $1.5 Million for management fees.

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Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher said that he has looked into the audits and new organizational structure of the Foundation. He wants to see it be sustainable. He said it needs more accountability, recommending a reporting from Foundation leadership every 90 days before the Council.

Ultimately the bailout was approved with an amendment for Stonecipher’s 90-day report. Only Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell voted against the measure.

Billboard Brawl

The most absurd moments of the day’s meeting came during routine zoning votes.

A company wants to erect a new billboard along I-44 between N Pennsylvania and N May. Protest came in the form of another billboard. Not literally, unfortunately. Instead the entire debate was between two attorneys. It was a very Lincoln-Douglass scenario, provided the Lincoln-Douglass debates had very little dignity and were about the free speech and zoning rights of eyesores lining the interstate highway system.

Everyone on the council seemed to think both sides made fine arguments as far as the debate was concerned. Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper, most involved as Councilman for the area in question, said that he thought the fine arguments ignored the more important concerns of the neighborhood. The neighborhood wants placemaking, not more high speed advertisement.

The representative for Lamar Outdoor Advertising was asked by Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone if their position was to support a moratorium on billboards. “Well, yes under current rules,” came the answer.

The Council ultimately interrupted the arguing billboard attorneys and voted to defer the item for a month so that more research could be done. Cooper said that he would like to see the two sides sit down together and talk, however he has seen the movie There Will Be Blood.

Scissortail Bans

An amended list of items to ban for the opening night of Scissortail Parks was passed. It included most items you can think of but not guns. Definitely, guns are not banned. Never fear, guns will definitely not somehow be banned from the park during the concert. Don’t bring a lawn chair.

BIDs

Renewal of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) came up as they must. The process for renewal takes several Council meetings to finish. We reached the middle of that process with two BIDS today. Downtown Oklahoma City and Stockyards City both came for renewal and were approved with little complication.

A new BID is in the home stretch of the process of initial approval. Uptown 23rd was approved for the final steps of becoming a BID at today’s meeting.



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