Norman City Council presents its goals for the coming year during a 2-day retreat | New

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Members of Norman City Council met to set goals and priorities for the coming year, discuss updates from the previous year, organize future elections and train newly sworn council members at a a two-day retreat at the NCED Conference Center.

The first session included board training and guidance from David Weatherford, a city consultant municipal attorney from Sand Springs, Oklahoma. During a discussion about creating a council-specific manual, Ward 2 council member Lauren Schueler asked Weatherford how the council should move forward in the process and what the process might look like.

Weatherford called a manual an “evolving and growing” document over time, noting that it will change over time but should start in the hands of city staff. City Attorney Kathryn Walker said the city already has several documents — such as resolutions on meeting behavior and a code of ethics in the city charter — that would typically be in a manual, and that it would suffice to conform to a plan.

However, Weatherford suggested council members set a standard of conduct and strive to meet it.

Ward 1 council member Brandi Studley said she understands what Weatherford is saying, but she feels the council knows its code of ethics and was recently reminded of what the codes are. Weatherford responded by saying that bad behavior takes its toll on the person and that he has always opposed “weaponized” codes of ethics.

Studley asked when the council should intervene when a member “attacks” members of the public through the council pages. Mayor Larry Heikkila said there are two types of justice, restorative and punitive, suggesting council should define the point where action needs to be taken.

Walker briefly reviewed the city’s guidance for social media guidelines, which include keeping personal pages confidential and keeping a council member’s page open to the public. The city also advises against banning accounts or removing comments from their advice pages as it could be construed as a public forum.

The city doesn’t have “black and white” rules for social media behavior, according to Walker, because the issue isn’t “well-established law” yet. Walker said several cases are circulating in judicial circuits that should soon provide better guidance on how public officials should conduct themselves on social media.

Walker also said she receives an “inordinate” number of emails regarding online interactions and encouraged board members to be cautious about it. Heikkila asked that the subject be discussed further at a later city council study session.

“Personally, I believe that we are all responsible for our own behavior. We can’t force anyone else to do anything else because we’re all over 21,” Heikkila said. “We can advise you. We can do whatever we want to do. But, where does it end and where does it begin? »

City Manager Darrel Pyle delivered several updates, including an accepted offer from the city to buy a former retirement home in 1210 Robinson Street West for $2.45 million. This location, purchased with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, will be used as an affordable housing option.

Pyle said staff will be conducting talks next week with different organizations, including Food and Shelter, about homeless shelter proposals and affordable or transitional housing options. Food and Shelter’s proposal includes repurposing a vacant CVS pharmacy on Main Street into a low-barrier shelter, although more details will come after the interview.

Council members discussed Studley’s suggestion that the town start buying pre-existing homes in Norman and turn them into affordable and transitional housing, as well as Heikkila’s idea of ​​giving the Norman Housing Authority more money to work on proposals.

Ward 5 council member Rarchar Tortorello said council was ignoring Norman’s housing shortage by stopping the process of building new homes because it did not approve of new developments. Ward 6 council member Elizabeth Foreman said the only development council did not approve was the Eagle Cliff development. Tortorello went on to say that there is a “perception” that Norman is difficult to integrate.

Ward 8 council member Matthew Peacock said this perception exists because people continue to perpetuate that there is a “war on development”, as Council’s Tortorello described it. Schueler agreed with Peacock, adding that board members should “be better” than participating in negative conversations.

“I don’t understand why, as council members who are trying to move our community forward and talk about progress, why we continue to perpetuate this narrative that it’s hard to do business in this city,” Schueler said. . “We have to say all the positive things that we are doing in this community, for our residents, for the citizens, for the people who want to keep coming here.”

In the election, the council plans to place another vote for a water rate increase on the ballot next year. A water rate increase failed in April, which would have benefited groundwater treatment and water main replacement programs. Election dates for the public safety sales tax and stormwater have not been decided.

The second day of the retreat focused on the board discussing their priorities for future discussion and action. Each board member had the opportunity to suggest new priorities in addition to those that will be pursued last year.

Updates to the stormwater master plan, tourism initiatives for Lake Thunderbird, entertainment zoning overlay districts, a guide for property buyers and police accountability efforts will all carry over to the list of This year.

Heikkila said his ideas focus on growth opportunities for Norman, including changes to the corner of campus, downtown Norman and the establishment of a business district in the heart of Norman with a view of the OU’s move to the Southeastern Conference. The idea of ​​an arena at University North Park was also high on Heikkila’s agenda.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has proposed a turnpike, part of the ACCESS Oklahoma project, to run along Lake Thunderbird in eastern Norman. Heikkila said that although he doesn’t like it and wishes he could stop it, he expects the toll road to be built.

Heikkila also wants to emphasize mental health, business development and board and restructuring committee meetings, possibly placing them at different times on different days.

Increasing business and transportation in eastern Norman were shared priorities between Foreman and Studley, with Studley’s focus on the intersection of 12th Avenue and Lindsey Street. Foreman’s other priority was to set up staff awards banquets to show appreciation for city staff, and community engagement awards to recognize community involvement.

Schueler discussed updating the noise ordinance and the city’s mobile app, which is currently in progress and would include features such as Norman’s bill payment and city code. Schueler and Ward 4 council member Helen Grant focused on updating the city’s car shelter ordinance to make it easier for residents.

Grant introduced health privacy that supported members of Norman’s transgender community, which Studley endorsed and expanded upon by suggesting something similar aimed at women.

Updates to Norman’s park were shared between Peacock and Ward 7 council member Stephen Holman, with Holman wanting to improve Ruby Grant Park – dubbed the Duck Pond by Normans – by transferring ownership from OU to the town. Peacock presented several ideas ranging from video game trailers and food trucks to “pop-up” parks around town.

Peacock also suggested the city registry for the Fortified towns community action lab to increase community engagement. The organization will choose five cities for this two-year program in 2023.

Ward 3 council member Kelly Lynn wanted to focus on a tactical vehicle for the police department and a ‘resettlement assistance’ program for homeless people that would connect them with their families and provide financial assistance while disqualifying them from Norman’s homeless support programs.

Schueler and Foreman countered his idea with a bus pass program that would allow people without housing in Norman to return to their home states or towns.

The tentative schedule for the retreat originally included council committee assignments, but this was moved to Tuesday at the council conference. A list of Board priorities will be typed and finalized in the near future.

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