Briefs: Two Oklahoma City referenda coincide with first MAPs4 meeting, Police Chief named, Holt deepens involvement with mayors’ conference
Published: July 8th, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Tuesday, July 9, as MAPs4 community meetings begin, Oklahoma City voters will decide on two important ballot propositions.
On Monday (July 8), veteran police officer Wade Gourley was named Oklahoma City Police Chief.
Mayor David Holt, fresh from a working trip to Hawaii (where he was elected to a top post with the National Conference of Mayors) will lead the city into a busy two months of summer activity.
Charter Amendment, Franchise Agreement on Tuesday ballot
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday as voters decide on a City Charter Amendment and a revision in the franchise agreement with Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG). All city voters who were registered by June 14 are eligible to vote on the pair of measures.
The proposed charter amendment would allow more state and federal government employees, such as engineers and public school teachers, to serve on the city council.
If passed, the charter change would tinker with the traditional ban on government employees serving on the council, which sets policy for the city of Oklahoma City.
(http://city-sentinel.com/2019/03/oklahoma-city-council-considers-july-9-election-for-charter-amendments-ong-franchise/). Existing laws and new policies are administered by the City Manager, who reports to the mayor and City Council.
The measure is written in such a way that it would leave in place restrictions on higher-ranking officials, such as state legislators and school superintendents.
Across the country, over recent decades many communities have ended or amended restrictions on some individuals having public employment in combination with elective posts on local government policy-making bodies.
However, in the future teachers such as James Cooper, elected to the council this year, could retain public school teaching jobs while serving on the council. (https://oklahoman.com/article/5635559/franchise-charter-changes-on-ballot) According to a city staff press release, “The amendment would take effect starting with the next election for each Council seat, not during the current term.”
The Oklahoman reported last weekend, in a story by William Crum, that Cooper took a leave of absence from his local public school job to become an adjunct at the University of Central Oklahoma, a tax-funded institution, and Oklahoma City University, a private school.
The proposed change to the ONG franchise accord clarifies the definition of “gross cash receipts.” Acccording to a city release “After negotiations, the City and ONG agreed the definition should include certain receipts the City had contended should already be included.: If the measure is approved, “ONG’s residential and commercial natural gas customers in Oklahoma City could see an increase in their gas bill of about 0.1 percent (10 cents on a $100 gas bill).”
Meetings on potential MAPs4 projects July 9, July 11, July 31 and August 5
Also on Tuesday (July 9), the first in a series of four special meetings covering potential MAPs4 projects begins at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber on the third floor of City Hall, 200 N. Walker, Avenue.
The dates and subjects for the envisioned series are sketched here:
Tuesday, July 9: Palomar; Parks; Sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, streetlights; Freedom Center; Thursday, July 11: Youth centers: Beautification, State Fair coliseum, Senior wellness centers; Animal shelter; Wednesday, July 31: Transit. Homelessness, Chesapeake Arena & NBA enhancements, Diversion hub; and Tuesday, Aug. 6: Mental health; Multipurpose stadium; Innovation District; Other projects brought forward by Councilmembers; Overview of format, timing, revenue estimates, sustainable design, 1 percent for art.
New Chief of Police named
Wade Gourley has been an Oklahoma City police officer for 30 years and was most recently one of the department’s four deputy chiefs. He succeeds former Police Chief Bill Citty, who concluded a 41-year career when he retired in May after 15 years in the top job.
“We held a thorough and deliberative hiring process, and choosing a Police Chief is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions I’ve had to make as City Manager,” said Craig Freeman (http://city-sentinel.com/2019/04/mcdermid-tsoodle-hired-as-assistant-managers-oklahoma-city-manager-craig-freeman-announces/ ).
“Chief Gourley fits the mold of what we’re looking for: He’s open, honest, innovative and experienced, and he will lead by example. I’m confident he will lead our Police Department to continue to serve and protect all residents in a fair and equitable manner.” Gourley will report to Kenton Tsoodle, one of Oklahoma City’s three Assistant City Managers.
Gourley is Oklahoma City’s 50th Chief of Police. He will oversee the 1,235 uniformed officers and 304 other staff members in the Police Department.
Gourley, 51, has been involved in some of the most notable evolutions in the modern Police Department, according to the city: de-escalation training, new approaches to problem crime areas, improving the work environment for officers, developing leaders and community outreach.
Gourley began his career as a police officer in Chickasha, then joined the Oklahoma City Police Department in September 1989. He is a lifelong Oklahoma resident with roots in Ardmore, living in south Oklahoma City for most of his career.
Holt elected to Advisory Board of U.S. Conference of Mayors
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt was elected, with nine others, to the Advisory Board of the U.S. Conference of Mayors during the recent meeting in Honolulu. In this capacity, Mayor Holt will help steer the direction of the organization as it advocates for cities nationwide.
“I’m honored and excited at this opportunity,” Holt said in a press release sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations. “I’m grateful for the confidence my fellow mayors have shown. I look forward to working with them to ensure that America’s cities continue to thrive.”
In addition to Mayor Holt’s attendance at the plenary sessions of the meeting, he appeared on a panel regarding Opportunity Zones.
While in Hawaii, Holt also visited the USS Oklahoma Memorial at Pearl Harbor that was championed by residents of Oklahoma City and dedicated in 2007 (http://city-sentinel.com/2016/12/so-memory-wont-die-pearl-harbor-ceremony-set-for-wednesday-december-7/). The memorial pays tribute to each of the 429 sailors and marines who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941 (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/after-11-years-at-the-capitol-property-tax-cap-champion-jim-reynolds-bids-farewell-to-the-senate).
The memorial stands on the shores of Ford Island, next to the former berth of the Oklahoma. Those who escaped and swam ashore may have walked across this same ground where the memorial now stands.
Speakers at the national mayor’s conference included “Second Lady” Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
Pence met with military families to address housing and other concerns. Kennedy, whose father (John F. Kennedy) addressed a mayor’s conference meeting in 1963, criticized the Trump administration’s policies impacting cities.
U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, and several leaders of the Conference of Mayors also spoke at the meeting (https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2019/06/30/second-lady-pence-caroline-kennedy-among-notable-speakers-national-mayor-conference/).
Note: Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper and founder of CapitolBeatOK.com, contribued to this report. It is adapted from press releases circulated by Oklahoma City communications staff and from news reports.