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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Tuesday morning, the City Council of Oklahoma City met for the final time during the 2021 Fiscal Year.

The relatively short meeting saw the Council finishing budget amendments for the past year, and approving allocations for Fire and Police for the coming year. 

The Council went on to rename a park after a former Councilman, and to extend the ticket amnesty program that has been going on for two years at the municipal court.

During Items from Council, Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper shared a moving reflection on the history and meaning of Pride, which will be celebrated this weekend in Oklahoma City at Scissortail Park.

Budget Finalization

The Council had three remaining budget considerations to consider before the close of the current fiscal year, which ends on the last day of June.

The first budget item to be heard was on a resolution amending a previous resolution of June 16, 2020 approving some sales tax expenditures for Fire Department items and projects. This amendment sought to ratify three additional expenditures for tools, salary, and project costs in a total of $1,022,000. The resolution passed unanimously.

A second item, also relating to the Fire Department, was to approve appropriations to the Fire Department for the coming year from the Fire Sales Tax. Listed appropriations from the resolution include 

  • 202 employment positions for firefighters, tools and equipment, 
  • the Fire Compensation Project, 
  • Fire Support Personnel Project, 
  • advanced life support, 
  • wellness projects, 
  • fire technology, 
  • fire recruit overage salaries, 
  • facility repairs, and 
  • construction and remodels. 

The total amount of the Fire Department appropriations is $48,163,339. The resolution passed unanimously.

The final budget item for Tuesday’s meeting was a resolution for appropriations for the Police Department from the Police Sales Tax. The appropriations listed were 

  • 219 employment positions for Police Officers, 
  • maintenance for vehicles and equipment, 
  • Police Compensation Project, 
  • Police legal services, 
  • non-commissioned support personnel, 
  • DNA laboratory, 
  • Capital and non-Capital improvements, 
  • recruit services, 
  • property crime specialist program, 
  • supplies and equipment, and 
  • a crime analyst. 

The total amount of these appropriations was $48,689,564. The resolution passed 8-1, with Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon voting against.

McAtee Park

A resolution came to the Council on Tuesday to consider the renaming of a park in Oklahoma City’s Ward 3. The park, currently named Crystal Lake Park at 6625 SW 15th Street, boasts fishing and wildlife learning opportunities in the Southwest part of the city. On Tuesday the Council was asked to consider renaming the park after long-time Ward 3 City Councilman Larry McAtee.

McAtee represented Ward 3 on the City Council from 2001 until his retirement this year. McAtee is well regarded among City leadership and staff, as well as many people in Ward 3. McAtee, it has been suggested, holds the record for the number of neighborhood association meetings he attended while in office.

The vote to rename the park passed unanimously after kind words were spoken about McAtee by his replacement on the Council, Barbara Young, and Council ally Mark Stonecipher of Ward 8.

Ticket Amnesty

A program introduced by the City in July of 2019 created a path to dispose of old tickets and city-issued warrants by offering a no-arrest option for residents to address outstanding tickets. The program, originally set to expire in March of 2020, has been extended more than once. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Council voted to extend the program again until the end of 2021.

Any person with an outstanding ticket can go in person to the municipal court building at 700 Couch Drive and ask for help settling their old ticket.

Through this program so far, over 3,000 cases have been closed, Council Judiciary Committee chairman Mark Stonecipher said. The City has managed to collect over $500,000 in fines.

The program was extended unanimously.

Pride Recognition

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Hannah Royce of the OKC Pride Alliance, spoke to the Council about the Pride activities that will be held this Friday through Sunday at Scissortail Park.

The volunteer-led organization has raised a great deal of money and attention for the new location and program for this year’s Pride festivities.

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper thanked Royce and her team of dedicated volunteers, and told them how proud he is of their continued work in our community.

During “Items from Council,” Cooper spoke more about celebrating Pride in Oklahoma City.

Cooper spoke at length, delivering a moving and insightful reflection of events in the past fifty years since the Stonewall Uprisings in New York City. Cooper talked about the opening of Angles at NW 39th and Penn in 1982. The club quickly became a national attraction for people from the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

But as that happened, the owners, staff, and customers were subjected to brutality at the hands of local police, who would enter the club and write citations for any possible infraction they could find, while other police would wait outside and beat and arrest patrons leaving the club.

A former City Councilor and active attorney Eric Groves represented Angles in a successful lawsuit against the City, wherein members of the Police Department came forward and pointed the finger at bad actors on the force who were creating this destructive problem in the community.

Cooper also invoked the memory of Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington in 1961. 

Rustin was an openly gay man, which speaks to why he is not included in our history books, Cooper suggested. He said that if he, as a young person facing trauma and fear while still being in the closet, had known about Bayard Rustin and others of his strength of character, maybe Cooper would not have gone through dangerously isolating experiences in his youth. 

He said that he might have sooner recognized the sacred worth of himself and others who were like him.

Cooper’s stirring comments may be found on the City’s YouTube video of Tuesday’s meeting.

The Council will reconvene on July 6 at 8:30 a.m. for the first meeting of the new Fiscal Year.

Last Updated June 22, 2021, 4:50 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor