OKLAHOMA CITY — For the first time this year, the City Council of Oklahoma City was able to meet virtually for their business on Tuesday because of recent changes in state open meetings laws that allow it again.
Economic Development spending was approved for two projects, and the Council heard an update on debris removal.
The meeting was not without technical and human problems, but the Council still managed to handle business in the tidy three-hour meeting.
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A joint resolution with the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust was approved by the Council.
Corken Incorporated gave a presentation to the Council at their last meeting. Corken has previously had a facility in Oklahoma City but now intends to move its headquarters and a manufacturing facility to Oklahoma City’s northeast side. The Economic Development Trust asked the City Council to approve $300,000 for quality job incentives.
Corken expects to add 120 quality jobs in the next five years.
In the previous meeting, Ward 7 City Councilwoman Nikki Nice and Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon both asked Corken representatives if they disqualify people who have previously been convicted of a felony.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Nice said that she had been in contact with Mr. Lazslowfrom Corken, and that he had reassured her on many points of concern. She said that Corken does not initially ask an applicant if they have been convicted of a felony, but that it may come up in a background check.
However, Corken has hired persons with past felonies on a case by case basis, meaning that a felony conviction does not necessarily preclude employment with the company.
Nice said that public transit connectivity to the proposed site is still of great concern.
The resolution passed with only Hamon voting against.
The Council was asked to consider using Community Development Block Grant money, funds that come from the federal government, to assist Restore Food, LLC in opening a grocery store and cafe on NE 23rd Street called The Market at Eastpoint.
Here is our coverage of that opening:
The $560,000 will be used to build out the 6000 square feet grocery and cafe, as well as leasing and building a parking lot next door to offer fresh food opportunities in a part of Northeast Oklahoma City that is labeled as a food desert.
The item passed unanimously, but not before a tense exchange.
Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell asked what the breakdown of the square footage would be for the location. He wanted to know, specifically, how much of the space would be for groceries, and what would be for the cafe. It was estimated by Chris Varga that the groceries would take up 5000 sq. ft, and the cafe 1000.
Greenwell responded, “And no fried foods, right?”
Nice responded saying, “Having food options is really the goal.” She said that she would like to see this being mimicked in other parts of the city that are also food deserts.
“I want to say to the young people, whose vision this was… we are excited about what is to come,” Nice said.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper said that among his students, concern about food insecurity is top of mind.
Nice then said, “I am kind of curious why ‘fried food’ matters.”
Cooper agreed, saying, “Yeah, that was my concern, too.”
At that point Mayor David Holt announced that he had to step out of the meeting and that he would hand over the meeting to Mayor Pro Tempore David Greenwell.
“Then maybe he can answer that,” said Nice. “I’ll wait.”
What followed was a bizarre silence as Greenwell did not respond to the Mayor, Nice, City Manager Craig Freeman, or Hamon, who pointed out that Greenwell was unmuted and looking at his cell phone.
Since Greenwell refused to respond, the City Manager called on Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone to chair the meeting, making a joke of calling him the Vice-Vice Mayor. Other members of the body were not amused.
Stone took over and Greenwell did not speak again until items from council, at which point he only talked about OG&E’s responsibility to provide power to customers in Oklahoma City.
During her comments, Nice said that we all need to be more aware of our implicit and explicit biases when talking about communities that lack resources.
After the ice storm in late October that took the electrical power away from over 300,000 customers in Oklahoma, the City undertook the massive project of collecting downed limbs from residential areas, public roads, medians, and parks.
Debris collection was headed up by three departments of the City. The Utilities Department was responsible for residential areas. Public Works was responsible for streets. Parks and Recreation took on the work of collecting debris from parks and medians.
On Tuesday, Chris Browning of Utilities said that the second and final major pass had been completed early and that they had collected more debris than expected.
If customers still have storm debris in their yards, they can place near the curb for their regular bulky trash collection dates. Browning explained that emergency debris response must be terminated so that the Department could complete the work of receiving reimbursement in the amount of $15 million.
Eric Wenger of Public Works said that they are almost finished clearing hanging limbs from the storm. He said that they, too, needed to move forward on FEMA reimbursement.
Doug Kupper from Parks said that collection from medians is 57% complete for fallen limbs, and 18% completion for collecting hanging limbs. In our parks, he said, 60% of ground debris has been collected and over 50% of hanging limbs. The hanging limbs in the parks were prioritized along walking and biking trails and other high traffic, high use areas.
The City Council got negative feedback recently when new language was added to the rules for public comment.
That language included not allowing a member of the public to provide slides, photos, or audio without supplying that to the City Clerk’s Office three business days before a meeting.
The language was also changed to express that speaking beyond one’s allotted three minutes would be grounds for expulsion from the meeting. City Manager Craig Freeman said that they added the language after seeing county meetings disrupted by concerned citizens.
Only one person signed up to speak during this virtual meeting. That person is Lou Brooke, one of very few members of the public who has, in fact, brought a powerpoint to a City Council meeting in the past.
Brooke’s comments were in the form of a poem she wrote. Free Press will publish that poem in its entirety at the end of this article.
The City Council will meet next on March 2 at 8:30 a.m. That meeting will be virtual.
A poem by Lou Brooke, Oklahoma City:
3 minutes: to write that speech, we’ll need to spend the day
3 minutes: to make an impact, we’ll find the words to say
3 minutes: we’d better plan —or, we’ll run out of time
3 minutes: we can’t stammer, faltering costs us lines
3 minutes: it’s official, 3 minutes: no more
3 minutes: no visual, unless it’s 3 days before
3 minutes to an empty room, where the mayor looks away
3 minutes FINALLY over zoom, so it might be safe to say
3 minutes worth of what it is, that weighs upon our hearts
3 minutes to share how clever it is, the wisdom we impart
3 minutes: we’re on a roll, members will speak with us afterwards!
3 minutes: we’re too droll, our ears hear your laughter, it’s
3 minutes we have to wait for, for hours that hurt us
3 minutes we have to pay for, today, I took off work for this
3 minutes: we’d better wait for ‘em, or something we’ve learned, is
3 minutes: when we’re late for ‘em, the meeting has adjourned, it’s
3 minutes and not long enough to convince y’all of anything
3 minutes: we don’t belong enough, to speak on many things
3 minutes until we have to prove, 3 minutes where we’re tested
3 minutes until you’ll have us removed, 3 minutes until we’ll be arrested
3 minutes is all we have before y’all’ll call the cops
3 minutes and we’re scared, they will kill us off
3 minutes, We proclaim: ‘paying taxes make us complicit’
3 minutes, We’re ashamed, our cops murder our residents
3 minutes: it’s clear, police presence won’t help with things
3 minutes: I fear, this poem is a death sentence, it’s
3 minutes to remind myself, ‘my white vagina protects me’
3 minutes to rhyme for those who the police *do* get, see
3 minutes isn’t very much time, to tell y’all all that’s wrong
3 minutes, but it is *all* mine, and I’ll keep up the song, for
3 minutes: our police killed Tilford, Bennie and Stavian,
3 minutes—our police killed Michael, Brandon, James and
3 minutes—our police killed Kyle, Samuel, Elray, and Justin
3 minutes—our police killed Micheal, Leo, Bryan, Quentin
3 minutes—our police killed Vincense, Jacob, Tony, Chris, and
3 minutes—our police killed Haydon, William, Magdiel and
so many I haven’t named in these 3 minutes.
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