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In a five-hour meeting of the City Council Tuesday, money was allocated to the city’s live entertainment venues that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The Council also spent time disagreeing about an allocation of surplus Better Streets Safer City collections.

A special election was called to let voters decide on charter changes that have been in committee for several weeks.

They also set a public hearing on renewing the mask ordinance and vote on September 1.

Help for live performance venues

The Council approved the reallocation of $2 million to assist businesses that rely on live performances for their revenue. Each business can apply for as much as $250,000.

One local business that could use this relief is the vaunted Tower Theatre in the Uptown 23rd District. Reached for comment by phone, Chad Whitehead, Talent Buyer and Operating Partner of the Theater, Beer City Music Hall, and Ponyboy Chad Whitehead, expressed enthusiasm for the news.

“Today’s City Council vote showed how vital live entertainment venues are in bringing culture and providing entertainment to Oklahoma City,” said Whitehead. “As we look at the rest of 2020, 2021, and 2022 with uncertainty for when tours will return, this vote gives us encouragement and hope for live music in OKC.”

Surplus Money

The Council was faced with an opportunity to allocate $18 million in surplus tax collection from the Better Streets Safer City sales tax extension.

City staff recommendations for allocations were heard by the Community Neighborhood Enhancement Committee which serves as the Better Street Safer City advisory committee at their August meeting. The recommendations from staff were to allocate the money as follows: $6.8 million for street enhancements, $4.3 million for sidewalks, $2.1 million for bike trails, $4.6 million for on-street bicycle infrastructure.

The Committee did their own debating and math and returned a recommendation to Council that was significantly different. Their changes included a reduction to $1 million for sidewalks and an increase to $8 million for bike trails, and only $2 million for on-street bike infrastructure. Representatives from Wards 2 and 6, Anthony Carfang and Kris Dahlgren respectively, were alone in voting no on that recommendation.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper asked for a corresponding item to be pulled from the consent docket for a separate discussion. What followed was debate on the merits of bike trails, bike lanes, and committee-driven local government.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell suggested dividing the entire amount up equally among wards, giving each $2 million to do capital projects as they deem fit.

Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher told the Council that he would support taking the recommendations of the committee or else dividing it up as Greenwell suggested.

Ultimately the Council agreed 5-3 to defer the item for further discussion. The Council will see the item again on their September 1 agenda.

Special election – charter changes

After introducing an ordinance for nine changes to the City Charter during the last meeting, a public hearing was held Tuesday.

Nobody signed up to speak on the issue and so the Council agreed to hold a special election on November 3.

City voters will be able on that day to vote for or against certain changes to the city charter, bringing the charter up to date with the operations of the modern city.

Mask Requirement

The Council introduced an ordinance to “re-enact” the current mask ordinance that expires on Labor Day. The new ordinance would extend the use of masks until October.

Three citizens called in to speak on the issue, two of whom claimed that the science this ordinance is based on is wrong and without evidence. Cooper of Ward 2 took the opportunity to dispel certain “conspiracy theories” in an impassioned speech about best recommendations from health officials.

The Council will hold a public hearing and a vote on extending the mask ordinance on September 1.

Last Updated August 18, 2020, 4:34 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor