In a quick meeting of the City Council on Tuesday normal business was handled under less-than-normal circumstances.
In keeping with CDC recommendations of social distancing seating was placed outside council chambers to enable people to sit with significant distance in and outside the chambers. Changes to the normal configuration of the horseshoe were also made to physically distance the Council from each other. Seven Council members and the Mayor sat at the horseshoe while City Manager Craig Freeman, City Clerk Francis Kersey, and Municipal Counselor Kenneth Jordan took a seat in front of them.
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At most meetings of the Council, revocable permit applications are heard. These are temporary permits for use of right-of-ways or streets for events like festivals, races, parades. With the declaration of a state of emergency, all revocable permits already issued for the coming few weeks were revoked. At today’s meeting, all four applications for permits were stricken, though some of them are scheduled for outside the timeline of the declared state of emergency. If the state of emergency is lifted, Council will be able to revisit those applications.
An ordinance was introduced and set for public hearing March 31, and final hearing April 14 to ban the feeding of wildlife in City Parks. There are concerns about the negative effects of feeding birds and fish and animals in parks and waterways, though the ordinance does not apply to fishing. Importantly, this ordinance does not affect the feeding of feral cats.
An application was approved for the paving of a surface parking lot on NW 36th Street behind Cock of the Walk. This is because a bar in Oklahoma City seems incomplete unless there is ample parking. Parking for drivers who drive to the bar to drink alcohol before unparking their cars and driving again. This item passed, like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.
In the first of two budget items, a resolution came on relating to the use tax levied by Ordinance No. 25,345.
City Manager Craig Freeman said the city is generating significantly more revenue from use tax than they used to, thanks to online shopping. Previously, the use tax was generated when goods like concrete and steel were purchased out of state and brought here. But now, for example, Amazon shopping gets the use tax applied and the money comes into city coffers.
The resolution renames the use tax the “MAPS Use Tax Fund.”
The money generated by this tax will be split into three parts. 24% of the tax will go to the operation of the MAPS 4 office. 65%, as has been the case in the past, will go to fire and police fleet replacement. The final 11% will be used to establish a capital reserve for MAPS projects past and present.
The second budget item set for public hearing an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. When that budget was established, according to Mayor David Holt, the MAPS 3 tax was set to expire and the MAPS 4 tax had not yet been approved by the voters. That meant there was no choice but to plan the budget without that tax. The proposed amendment will address the shift in tax revenues.
During items from Council, Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper, Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon, and Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice each addressed the Covid-19 virus crisis in our community. Cooper spoke largely to people in the service industry who are now finding themselves without work or steady income. He encouraged the Chamber of Commerce to work with business owners to find solutions for hourly service workers.
Hamon echoed Cooper’s concerns about service industry professionals, as well as low-wage hourly workers. She said that the cascade of damage in times of crisis tends to run downhill to our most vulnerable neighbors. Hamon read a letter from the ACLU addressed to the Mayor and City Councilors. The letter included a list of strong requests including, among other items, these:
- Developing a plan to house those affected by the virus, including those experiencing homelessness
- Setting up testing centers
- Dispatching medical teams to jails and other “locked facilities” to treat affected persons
- Release of all who are jailed on municipal charges
Nice said that her chief concern in this crisis continues to be the staggering food insecurity in parts of the Ward she serves. Nice said we have still yet to hear definitively how school children will be fed during this crisis.
The next meeting of the City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31.