In Tuesday’s regular meeting of the City Council of Oklahoma City, the body voted in favor of extending the City’s mask mandate. The Council went on to discuss the progress of tree debris removal from residences and parks and medians after the 2020 ice storm.
The first order of regular business at Tuesday’s mercifully brief City Council meeting was to hear from Phil Maytubby, Director of Public Health Protection at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department in advance of considering yet another extension to the City’s ordinance mandating the wearing of masks.
Maytubby ran through the familiar numbers of infections and hospitalizations and deaths. He stated simply, “We’re not in a good place. We need to extend the mask mandate.”
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Two members of the public signed up to speak on the issue, both saying that the Council didn’t have the proper authority to limit the freedom of individuals to spread this deadly disease.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper asked Maytubby some pointed follow-up questions, including a question about spreading the virus through your nose. Maytubby explained that one carries the most viral load in their nose. For masks to be effective, Maytubby pointed out, it must be work over one’s nose, not as a chinstrap.
The extension needed to be passed with an “emergency” in order for the extension to go into effect immediately. The ordinance passed 6-3 with Ward 1’s James Greiner, Ward 3’s Larry McAtee, and Todd Stone of Ward 4 joining to vote against the ordinance. For the emergency, which needed seven affirmative votes to pass, Stone changed his vote to join the majority.
The mask mandate is extended until March 5, 2021.
Doug Kupper of the Parks Department came to the Council to update them on tree debris removal from public parks and medians. He asked for an additional $1 million for debris clean up.
Kupper explained that a lot of the damage from the October ice storm has been exacerbated by the recent high winds. Many trees have dead and damaged limbs high in the canopy. Special contractors are needed to do the dangerous work of climbing into those trees to service them.
When asked if he thought the Parks Department was making good progress on debris clean up, Kupper pointed out that the Parks Department has over 6,000 acres of land, but only 67 employees to take care of them.
Cooper and Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice both asked if the residents of the city could be of any help. Kupper was careful to discourage average residents from trying to climb high into trees to remove limbs. He went on to say that if people wanted to drag fallen limbs to a central part of the park, “that would be a blessing.”
A recently introduced proposal to change certain zoning regulations related to medical marijuana growth, processing, and distribution was rescinded at the meeting.
Sponsor of the ordinance, James Greiner, explained that he wanted to rescind it for now because of the “bad timing” of the proposal. He said that the proposal was rushed. The Council will wait to reconsider the regulation changes after the coming legislative session.
Many members of the medical cannabis industry were on hand for the meeting. Those who signed up to speak thanked the council for reconsidering and invited council members to come and tour industry facilities and operations to gain a better idea of how the industry works.
The City Council will meet again on February 2 at 8:30 a.m.
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