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In Tuesday’s regular meeting of the City Council of Oklahoma City, the Council debated extending a city-wide mask requirement, ultimately extending the current ordinance until October 20.

The Council went on to vote on allocation of $18 million of surplus collections from the Better Streets Safer City tax.

How the sausage gets made

Government according to columnist Marty Peercy

Mask Ordinance

An extension of the existing mask ordinance for the city came before the council. The mayor first called on experts from the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OKCCHD) to present some data on COVID-19 in Oklahoma City currently.

Stats are showing that the use of masks is working on reducing the number of new cases in Oklahoma City. Dr. McGough of OKCCHD said that we’re doing a good job but that there’s much more work to do to get new cases further down.

The Council heard from five callers who wished to share their opinion. Four of them were against extending the mask ordinance, one was for it.

As amendments were suggested for the ordinance, Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee suggested an amendment changing the word “mandatory” to the word “voluntary.” The amendment ultimately failed.

Also failing was an amendment suggested by Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon. Hamon’s amendment would have stricken the exceptions in the ordinance providing that masks are not required in office spaces or at some religious gatherings.

Narrowly passed was an amendment from Ward 5 Councilman David Greeenwell to shorten the length of the extension to late October, instead of the end of November as originally indicated. When voting on this amendment, the council was split 4-4.

Mayor David Holt then spent several minutes explaining the vote to McAtee who had voted against. The Council then reconsidered the vote–which is to say they voted a second time–and the amendment passed with McAtee changing his vote and Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner joining the meeting in progress.

Ultimately, the mask ordinance was extended to October 20, effective immediately.

Better Streets

The Council took on an item deferred from the last meeting concerning the allocation of $18 million in surplus collections from the Better Streets Safer City sales tax.

City staff brought a slate of recommendations to the Advisory Board that oversees the Better Streets Safer City program. The committee changed many of the dollar amounts pushing the lion’s share of funding toward multi-use trails. Some on the Council wanted to revert to the recommendations of staff.

Four citizens called in to be heard on the subject, three of whom advocated for a reversion to staff recommendations and one, a member of the advisory committee, advocated for following the recommendations of the committee.

After some debate, the Council voted 5-4* in favor of the changes made by committee.

Small Business

Cathy O’Connor of the Alliance for Economic Development gave a report on the Small Business Continuity Program.

Round one of the program has “basically wrapped up.” Round two opened applications from August 12 through August 17. They received 587 applications for $25 million in requests, 249 of those having been approved. There are still 86 applicants whose requests are currently unfunded.

The recently approved $2 million in assistance for live performance venues approved by the council in August is in motion. The application process was only open for a few days but received 14 applications for a total of $2.5 million in requests.

The City Council will meet again on September 15 at 8:30 a.m.

*UPDATE (September 8, 2020) In the original version of this story we showed the vote was 6-3. It has been corrected to show the vote was 5-4.


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