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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council of Oklahoma City discussed and decided on a resolution to encourage mask wearing to prevent COVID, as well as a number of items concerning the spending of public money for certain incentives for corporate entities in Oklahoma City.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Mask Resolution

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper brought a resolution to the Council asking that the body endorse the wearing of masks as a protective measure against the further spread of the deadly pandemic COVID-19 that has been killing people in our community for over a year.

As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant climb across the country, and particularly in Oklahoma, Cooper urged his peers on the Council to support the resolution. He also pleaded with members of the public to get vaccinated and to continue wearing masks, washing hands, and observing safe social distance to discourage the spread of the disease.

“Our hospitalizations are up. This is not a conspiracy theory,” Cooper said.

Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher asked to amend the resolution by removing language that specifically urged following “CDC recommendations,” as some people have been confused by what might be interpreted as “mixed messages” from the organization of professional scientists studying infectious disease. He also asked to add language that declared that the resolution “is not a mask mandate.”

Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon countered that adding the language declaring that it was not a mask mandate was redundant, and also lessened the impact of passing such a resolution.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell stated that he doesn’t like resolutions, historically. He suggested that an actual mask mandate be brought to Council instead. Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice immediately stated that she would happily bring such a mandate to the next meeting of the Council.

Nice went on to say that she was going to vote for this resolution because, “We need to do something.”

Nice, Cooper, and Hamon each suggested that the pandemic is worse right now than it was when the City Council implemented a mask mandate last year.

Stonecipher’s amendments were adopted with only Hamon and Ward 1 Councilman Bradley Carter voting against.

The resolution passed with Carter being joined by Greenwell in voting “no.”

Outlet Mall

The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust requested an item on the Council’s consent docket. 

The Trust would like to give incentives to OKC Outlet Malls, LLC, for continued development and marketing of the “destination-based” Regional Outlet Center in Oklahoma City’s far western reaches.

The amount requested is not to exceed $1,350,000. That reimbursement will be parcelled out over the course of five years.

Hamon expressed concerns about development that is not built for people, but for cars. She said she finds it hard to invest in something that requires an automobile to access.

The Trust and the City gave some statistics about the sales-tax revenue from the outlet mall, which is significant. Tax revenues are reported per industry, not per location, but the existing contract with the Outlet Mall requires reporting on sales from the shops there, giving the City the opportunity to extrapolate the sales-tax collected from the Outlet Mall’s collection of shops.

Cooper, Hamon, and Nice each expressed some concerns. Nice asked if this agreement could be revisited annually. City Manager Craig Freeman said that it could.

The item passed as part of the consent docket.

Apartment building subsidy

Reflecting the previous Council meeting of two weeks earlier, The Economic Development Trust returned with an agenda item to subsidize the building of an apartment complex containing what the developer is calling “affordable” housing.

Free Press reported then that affordable housing was a hot topic during the meeting.

The developer is asking for $5,743,571 in TIF money for the building of luxury apartments next to the new Omni Hotel across from Scissortail Park in downtown Oklahoma City. 

The apartments, called Boulevard Place, are touted as including affordable units. The developer of the project bragged at Council two weeks ago that the affordable unit program was a voluntary program they chose to implement.

Cooper, who was briefed about the project in its nascent stage in 2018, shared his dismay that the affordable studio unit was 450 square feet but cost $1050 per month, putting those units out of range for most single working people.

Free Press published an explainer earlier in the month about how “affordable” is defined:

Demystifying ‘affordable’ housing in OKC – Who benefits and how?

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cooper, Nice, and Hamon each reiterated their frustration over that point.

Cooper spoke of a housing shortage in America. Hamon gently corrected him by saying, “We don’t have a housing shortage, we have a shortage of safe, affordable, and decent housing.”

“We need to double down on [creating that housing],” she continued.

The item passed, 5-3.

Griffin Communications

The Council passed a resolution with the Economic Development Trust to award $2,700,000 to home-grown communications giant Griffin Communications, LLC, the owner of Channel 9 among other television and radio stations.

Griffin will receive this money to relocate their main headquarters downtown to the building commonly known as the Century Center, currently the home of The Oklahoman legacy newspaper.

According to the resolution, the move will relocate approximately 195 jobs with an average salary of $100,952.

Griffin is already in the process of planning renovations on the Century Center. The staff of the Oklahoman will remain in the building, but in different offices.

To learn more: TV News 9 parent company to purchase home of The Oklahoman

Colleague retirement

On a personal and professional note, this author would like to recognize our dear colleague William “Bill” Crum from The Oklahoman.

Bill has been on the City beat for what seems like forever and is retiring soon. Tuesday was his last morning in the Press Box at City Council.

In my short time covering the City, I’ve been grateful to spend time with Bill and discuss the mechanisms of local government. 

Bill is always willing to chat with me and offer insight about this City as he was with Brett Dickerson, our founder and editor, who appreciates the collegiality Bill brought to the City Hall beat for each of us.

Happy retirement, Mr. Crum. Thanks for all the stories.

City Council will meet again on August 31 at 8:30 a.m.

Last Updated August 17, 2021, 4:17 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor