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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) – In a meeting more brief than usual, Tuesday the City Council of Oklahoma City approved an allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a road project associated with the impending closure of Douglas Boulevard for the Tinker expansion project.

The Council also voted in favor of introducing an ordinance to re-establish a Human Rights Commission, something that has been in process since 2020.

Finally, the Council appointed Matt Weller to be the new City Auditor, a position left vacant after the untimely passing of Jim Williamson in February.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

ARPA

Assistant City Manager Aubrey McDermid gave a brief presentation to the Council regarding “revenue replacement” funds distributed to the City through the federal ARPA plan.

With the impending expansion of Tinker Air Force Base, a large portion of Douglas Boulevard will be closed to through traffic. Recent traffic studies show that 40% of the drivers using that portion of Douglas are not specifically Tinker-related traffic, but rather using it as a thoroughfare.

Traffic engineers and planners are planning for that off-loading of traffic to Post Road, which is currently, in the words of Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone, two lanes with bar ditches.

The current idea for Post Road expansion is to create a wider road with a center turn lane so as not to create bottlenecks for residents trying to safely turn into and out of driveways and neighborhood roads.

While a decision by the federal government is resulting in the need to do this road expansion, Tinker AFB authorities have told the city that they are limited to spending infrastructure money within the base, and can’t help with the cost of expansion.

McDermid said that the City will use $16 million of “revenue replacement” funds for the road widening, and potentially more if a water line must also be moved.

The item passed with the remainder of the consent docket.

Human Rights

Free Press reported in February that the Council received a report on the final findings and recommendations of the Human Rights Task Force.

The Task Force was co-chaired by Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice, Dr. Andrea Benjamin, and Maurianna Adams. The task force included 40 members from diverse backgrounds, belief systems, and points of view.

On Tuesday, the Council voted to “introduce” an ordinance for the re-establishment of the Oklahoma City Human Rights Commission.

The duties of the Commission would include addressing alleged harm to people who have been discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender, national origin, age, family status, genetic information, or disability related to employment, housing, and public accommodations under the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Law.

The proposed committee would have nine members, one recommended from each Councilor to the Mayor for selection, and one at-large member chosen by the Mayor.

The City had such a commission from 1980 until 1996 when an ordinance disbanded the Commission.

In the summer of 2020, after uprisings across the country and around the world fighting against police brutality and other forms of discrimination in the public sphere, members of the community demanded the Mayor and Council work to re-establish the Commission.

On Tuesday, two members of the Council voted against introducing the ordinance.

Ward 1 Councilman Bradly Carter and Ward 3 Councilwoman Barbara Young both voted against the introduction, telegraphing their likely vote on the ordinance itself.

The public hearing on the Human Rights Commission ordinance will be during the Council’s meeting on June 7. The vote on the ordinance will be on July 5.

Dr. Benjamin, when invited to speak, encouraged people to come and let their voice be heard on June 7.

You may access the proposed ordinance and a feedback form on the City’s website. Feedback must be received before June 21.

City Auditor

The Council met in executive session to discuss the appointment of a replacement for longtime City Auditor Jim Williamson.

Upon returning to open session, the Council voted unanimously to appoint Matt Weller as City Auditor.

Weller has been acting as the interim City Auditor since Williamson’s passing.

The salary for the new City Auditor is $176,227.20 with a $7,000 car allowance.

The City Auditor is one of three City employees appointed and “supervised” by the Council, alongside the City Manager and Municipal Attorney, which means the auditor cannot be fired by the city manager.

The City Council will meet again on Tuesday, May 31 for another budget hearing. The next regular meeting of the Council will be on June 7 at 8:30 a.m.


Last Updated May 24, 2022, 5:51 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor