In a meeting that was, at turns emotional, contentious, and extremely boring, the City Council narrowly approved spending tax money on a surf machine, heard financial reports, and changed personnel policy to be a more inclusive employer.
The MAPS 3 White Water facility had an item on the consent docket to approve a bid from a contractor to build a proposed surf machine.
Surf machines are expensive. More expensive than the Boathouse Foundation or the MAPS director originally said, in fact. Instead of the estimated $1.45 million, the project bid came in at $1.965 million. But what, truly, is a half million dollars among friends?
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Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon* said that she has called similar surf attractions in peer cities in our region. She said that those attractions reported entry fees of half the price (or less) than our Boathouse District’s planned entry fee of $20.
She said further that she has trouble trusting any financial estimates from the Boathouse Foundation as they’ve deliberately offered misinformation about their finances in the past.
Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell echoed that sentiment (in a rare moment of the two Councilors agreeing on a topic), saying that he believed the Council should wait to approve a bid on a contract of this type until all the other MAPS 3 projects are finished so the Council may determine if there is an actual surplus and what might be done with it.
Greenwell moved to defer the item indefinitely. Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner and Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee joined Greenwell and Hamon in voting to defer the item, which failed by one vote.
Congratulations, Oklahoma City. You may surf.
An initiative petition was delivered to the City Clerk’s office for a 1/8th cent sales tax to be brought for a vote of the people. The Council approved the date of March 3, 2020 – Super Tuesday – for that election. If passed, the tax will be dedicated to fund operations of city parks, not including Myriad or Scissortail Parks, both of which are operated by private foundations.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper introduced an item to update personnel policy for the city of Oklahoma City. As of 2015, the City’s employment codes were in keeping with Title XII including a parenthetical phrase about sexual orientation.
The contention of the new code update was that persons should be likewise protected from discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Cooper gave an impassioned testimony to his own experience and called members of the community to speak.
Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee said that he would vote no on the proposed change, saying that he thought the City should wait for federal policies to change first.
The proposal ultimately passed with McAtee and Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner voting no while sitting on either side of Councilman Cooper.
The Council will meet again in the new year.
*This reporter is the husband of Councilwoman Hamons.
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