In a nearly six-hour meeting Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City repeatedly heard from outspoken critics of the City’s Police Department. Members of the community also called out City Manager Craig Freeman and Mayor David Holt for what they said was a dereliction of duty in not holding the police accountable.
A gathering of medical marijuana industry professionals also attended Tuesday’s meeting, having heard of some potential code changes to restrict business practices industry-wide in Oklahoma City.
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The Council approved by a vote of 5-3 the hiring of a consulting firm to help guide the Law Enforcement Task Force that was created this summer. 21cp was approved as the contractor for consulting services for the Task Force.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice expressed grave concern over approving the contract, as the vote in the Task Force’s committee was split on the hiring. Nice pointed out that three City staff members had votes in that committee. She explained that she didn’t believe the City should be steering the choices made by the Task Force.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon also expressed hesitance for approving the contract. She said that since the beginning of the Task Force she has heard reports of toxic behavior by some City staff members involved in the process. She also cited the resignation from the body by one member who claimed the City was treating the Task Force as an afterthought.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper joined Nice and Hamon in their votes against the contract. He explained that while he believes in the resolution he brought that resulted in the Task Force, he couldn’t bring himself to approve the contract over the protest of the members of the Task Force who felt left out of the process.
The contract will cost $193,000, though the Task Force was given a grant by the Inasmuch Foundation in the amount of $175,000. The remainder of the cost is expected to come from the General Fund, though Nice asked if the money could come from the Public Safety sales tax.
Criticism of police
A cadre of local activists and concerned members of the community attended the City Council meeting Tuesday to criticise the City and the Police Department for the killings of Stavian Rodriguez and Bennie Edwards.
Some of the activists have also notably been at County meetings over the last six months, but have now turned their focus to the City of Oklahoma City.
During discussion of the 21cp contract and during discussion of several other items on the consent agenda, activists and community members took to the podium to criticize the Police Department and City, specifically singling out Freeman, Holt, and Police Chief Wade Gourley.
Speakers called the Mayor and City Manager cowards for not having met with civic groups or families of people killed by the police.
Some referred to the OKCPD as predatory, and called the Fraternal Order of Police a lobbying organization that runs the City.
Many attending the meeting expressed continued frustration and anger that the Mayor and City Manager were, in their opinion, obfuscating the truth about the recent deaths at the hands of the police.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner attended the meeting for a very brief time. He introduced a potential ordinance restricting zoning for medical marijuana businesses to be delivered to the Planning Commission for their review. This would be the first step in a long process of getting new zoning requirements created.
To the chagrin of the many marijuana industry professionals, the restrictions suggested include a ban on drive-thru sales and a list of narrow rules for where marijuana businesses may be located.
While introducing the ordinance, Greiner said it was an industry that “is hardly regulated at all.” This infuriated some of the crowd, who shouted back at him from their seats. The Mayor used his gavel to quiet the crowd and implored the guests that everybody would get a chance to speak.
The ordinance package was not sent to the Planning Commission but was instead deferred until some time in the future. Greiner left the horseshoe as soon as the vote was cast, to boos from the crowd.
There followed a long list of growers, processors, and dispensary owners who had signed up to speak on the item. They universally claimed that the industry has many regulations and does not need more of the type they suggest. One speaker claimed that a lot of the restrictions described in the document mirror existing regulations from the state.
The City Council will meet again on January 5 at 8:30 a.m.
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