Updated: 9:13 a.m.
In Tuesday’s special election, Oklahoma City voters approved two propositions by wide margins.
One called for changing the city charter to allow state and federal employees to serve on the City Council, which 68% of voters approved.
The change could have a direct effect on sitting Ward 2 Council member James Cooper.
He told Free Press Wednesday morning that he had already turned in his leave of absence request to Oklahoma City Public Schools for the 2019-2020 school year because of the rule and will be teaching adjunct classes at two universities this fall. But, he may request to return to OKCPS in 2020-21.
Voters approved the other proposition by 62%, which makes changes in the franchise agreement the city has with Oklahoma Natural Gas. The result will be a slight rate increase for consumers but yield hundreds of thousands of dollars more in fees to the city.
Final election results are on the Oklahoma State Election Board website and below.
The charter amendment now goes to the Governor for a signature because cities exist by charter from the State of Oklahoma.
In the current rule, state and federal employees are lumped together with state and federal elected officials in the charter language restricting who could serve.
If the governor approves, the change will take effect immediately and allow employees of the state and federal government to serve on the Council. But, it will continue to restrict elected officials of those governments.
For example, an Oklahoma teacher like Cooper or an engineer employed by the federal government now will be allowed if the Governor approves the change.
In our earlier coverage about the upcoming vote, we passed along incorrect information provided by City Public Information staff indicating that the charter change would not take effect for a sitting member of the Council.
Although the charter modification was not officially about James Cooper, it really was to a good number of voters.
The popular newcomer to the Oklahoma City Council representing Ward 2 on the near north side took office in April.
But, he had to give up his position as a teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools when he took office this year because of the way the rule was written in the city charter.
“I knew before I even ran for office, I’d have to give up my job,” Cooper told Free Press Wednesday morning. “And I made plans to return as an adjunct to UCO and OCU, which I will do this next school year.”
“And the election last night was such a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s given me options now.”
He was unsure about when he would start talking with OKCPS about returning to city classrooms.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Sara Jacoby in the Free Press group on Facebook. “I think it was terribly unfair to keep amazing candidates from entering an election because they would lose their livelihood.”
“As a teacher myself, I believe this is a win for Councilman Cooper and for the City of Oklahoma City,” said Josh DeLozier in the group. “Teachers are public servants who now, thanks to this change, have an incredible opportunity to contribute to progress in our communities.”
Cooper represents several firsts on the Council.
He is the first council member of African-American descent to represent any other ward than Ward 7, which has included the historically black east side of the city.
And, he is the first openly LGBTQ member of the Council.
On Tuesday evening of the week, he provided background and led a discussion on the film Paris is Burning about the then-underground ballroom drag scene in the late seventies and early eighties.
He talked with Free Press at the event about how the film shows how queer youth were homeless then and added that 40% of the homeless youth in Oklahoma City now are LGBTQ.
Cooper used the event to promote discussion on the upcoming MAPS 4 proposal about ways the city can have a better impact on reducing homelessness.