City of Tulsa

Oklahoma, as you might've heard, is welcoming more Afghan refugees than any state in the US other than California and Texas. How many of these refugees will be settling in the Tulsa area in the coming weeks and months? And what's being done to welcome these new neighbors of ours? What is being done to help them find homes or jobs, to help them enroll in school or locate health care, to show them how to obtain a driver's license or speak English? How are various groups and individuals throughout the Tulsa area working to ease their transition?

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A quick Tulsa traffic quiz: Are drivers allowed to use bicycle lanes as turn lanes? How much room must drivers give when passing a cyclist?

The City of Tulsa is developing a public education campaign so more people know the answers to those questions. (No, drivers can't use bicycle lanes as turn lanes, and they must give cyclists 3 feet while passing them.)

KWGS News

The City of Tulsa and the Tulsa County Sheriff have reached an agreement for inmates over the municipal jail’s limit to be held at the county jail.

The city jail has 25 beds for men and five for women, and it can hold people for up to 10 days on local charges like public intoxication or shoplifting. Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg said TPD previously had agreements to take prisoners over the municipal jail’s limit to facilities outside of Tulsa County.

Tulsans will have the chance to weigh in on six city council redistricting proposals.

The city election district commission looked at five maps Friday, which reassigned between 12 and 30 voting precincts to new council districts, moving from as little as 6% of the city’s population, or 25,693 people, to as much as 15%, or 61,483 people.

Commission member John Eagleton pushed for a sixth option not initially presented at a Friday meeting to go to the public as well. It reassigns 11 precincts and less than 6% of residents.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A coalition of local organizations told city councilors they want to see transparency and community engagement as Tulsa spends its allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next two years.

ACTION Tulsa Project Organizer Christy Emig said the $88 million the city is receiving from the coronavirus relief package represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of Tulsans who are worse off just because of where they were born or the color of their skin.

"The Outsiders" -- both the well-known coming-of-age novel by S.E. Hinton and the likewise-titled 1983 film by Francis Ford Coppola -- certainly looms large in the cultural history of this community. On today's edition of StudioTulsa, we meet the California-based, Oklahoma-born grade school librarian who, back in 1980, encouraged her students to create a petition asking Coppola to make the film. Yes, this is really how "The Outsiders" got on the path from beloved young-adult book to cult-classic movie. That librarian is Jo Ellen Misakian.

City Lights Foundation

The City of Tulsa plans on spending another $885,000 from its share of federal coronavirus relief funds to help keep open awhile longer a hotel nonprofits are using to house people experiencing homelessness.

City Lights Foundation is running the hotel, which includes rooms where COVID-positive people can quarantine. People also stay there while organizations work to get them into permanent housing.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

State and local officials celebrated on Tuesday the opening of a tech incubator inside Tulsa City Hall.

There are now 50,000 square feet on the fifth floor of One Technology Center available for entrepreneurs looking to get their ideas off the ground through 36 Degrees North, which also has two coworking spaces in the Tulsa Arts District. CEO Devon Laney said the incubator is more than a place to bounce ideas off of other people.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Updated Sept. 1, 6:15 p.m.

Tulsa City Councilors on Wednesday approved a proposal to spend almost $1.8 million in federal virus relief program on a campaign encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

The city’s American Rescue Plan Working group pitched giving employees who are or who get fully vaccinated $250. They must do so by Oct. 15 to receive the stipend

Workers in departments that hit a 70% vaccination rate can receive another $250 beginning Nov. 1.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The group tasked with redrawing Tulsa City Council districts after the 2020 census will have some work to do.

The 2020 census showed the city gained 21,000 residents since the last count.

"That growth was not evenly distributed around the city. There were some council districts that had more growth. There were some council districts that did not grow as much," said INCOG Executive Director Rich Brierre, who is helping the City of Tulsa Election District Commission with its work.

Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

There’s a common problem facing Tulsa’s would-be marijuana dispensary owners.

They generally need to get a certificate of occupancy from the city permit office before they can be licensed by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, but the certificate can be derailed if one has been issued to another dispensary within 1,000 feet, even if that dispensary never opened or has gone out of business. In some cases, that’s happened after people sink money into required renovations to meet building codes and other standards.

The City of Tulsa is releasing five companies that own downtown property from their tax covenants after just a few years.

The tax covenants are part of agreements Valley National Bank, Vast Bank NA, PH Stadium Hospitality LLC, WPX Energy Headquarters LLC and 403 Cheyenne LLC have with the city in which rising property tax values in designated districts are set aside to help fund development assistance and public improvements.

The longest-standing covenants started in November 2018.

CVS Health

The City of Tulsa is considering putting federal virus relief money toward vaccination incentives, but only for city employees.

A working group is set to propose a $250 payment to employees who have been fully vaccinated or who get fully vaccinated. Employees in departments where 70% of workers get vaccinated would get an additional $250.

The incentives would be paid for from the city’s nearly $88 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is closing to the public until May 2022.

The closure is effective Aug. 30. The preserve is currently open Saturdays and Sundays. Chief Naturalist and Oxley Nature Center and Redbud Valley Nature Preserve Director Eddie Reese said attendance has boomed in the past year, and that’s meant more problems.

"And so, we have some plants being poached — some rare plants — and we have off-trail hiking, which causes erosion, graffiti on the rocks and the trees and things like that," Reese said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A portion of the Gilcrease Expressway is now designated the Don Ross Expressway.

The 2.2-mile stretch honoring the civil rights leader and former state lawmaker is between Lewis Avenue and L.L. Tisdale Parkway.

Ross served in the Oklahoma House from 1983 to 2003. In the early 2000s, Ross helped secure $32 million in funding to build the Gilcrease Expressway. One of his sons, Ed Ross, told his father at a dedication on Wednesday that was just a small part of what he accomplished for his constituents.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa on Tuesday officially launched a 12-month process to plan the redevelopment of publicly owned land in north Tulsa — land taken from Black and Native communities over the past 100 years.

The city, Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity and Tulsa Development Authority chose Philadelphia-based architecture firm Wallace Robert and Todd to lead the Kirkpatrick Heights/Greenwood Master Plan. Several local firms and an 11-member leadership committee have been tasked with making sure the plan aligns with the community's wishes.

On this edition of ST, we learn about the Tulsa Higher Education Consortium, which is, per its website, a "multi-institutional collaborative effort to meaningfully improve students' journeys toward degree completion, professional independence, and mobility." Our guest is Dr. Laura Latta, the executive director of the THEC. Seven Tulsa-area higher-education institutions, as Dr.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa will continue not to have a mask mandate until at least Aug. 25.

A special meeting Monday night to consider a proposal for those 4 years and older to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 went without a vote after a procedural motion to call one failed to get the required two-thirds majority.

The five councilors agreeing to call a vote were Mykey Arthrell-Knezek, Lori Decter Wright, Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kara Joy McKee. The four opposed were Jeannie Cue, Connie Dodson, Jayme Fowler and Phil Lakin.

Tulsa Fire Department

The Tulsa Fire Department is trying to fix a problem within its ranks: Current firefighter demographics aren't representative of their communities.

TFD officials say they have far too few people of color. Recruitment Officer Anthony Payne said they’ve been in talks with City of Tulsa officials about changing one application requirement in particular to help change that.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission plans to take a $1.5 million request for American Rescue Plan funds to the mayor and city council next week.

The virus relief money can be used to support industries that saw business drop during pandemic.

Members of an oversight committee in Tulsa’s search for mass graves holding victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre expressed to city councilors their displeasure over last week’s reinterment of remains.

The committee held a meeting July 27 after being invited to a reburial ceremony at Oaklawn Cemetery and voted to postpone it. The reinterment happened last Friday.

NIAID-RML

Despite rapidly rising numbers of new COVID-19 infections, the City of Tulsa’s mitigation working group is not moving toward reimplementing a mask mandate.

City Councilor Kara Joy McKee said there have been calls for that from the community. Right now, the city is going to focus on messaging and other actions that support the Tulsa Health Department’s work to to increase vaccination rates. Currently, 53% of county residents are fully vaccinated.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

As the Tulsa City Council begins consideration of a 4% employee retention bonus to be paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds, a signing bonus has been tacked on to the proposal.

The retention bonuses would spend about $8.7 million from the city’s $87.8 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funds. Those would go to employees with at least one year of service by the end of 2021.

Tulsa Planning Office

Tulsa voter-approved sales tax funding used last year to help organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic are going back to their original purpose: grants supporting arts projects that encourage tourism and economic development.

Vision Arts program funding was repurposed as relief grants last year with many organizations severely limited in what they could offer or shut down entirely. A significant portion of applications’ scores, 30%, will come from their anticipated economic impact.

Our guest is Carlos Moreno, a Tulsa-based graphic designer, researcher, and freelance writer who originally hails from California, and who's been living and working in Tulsa since the 1990s. Moreno joins us to discuss his new book, "The Victory of Greenwood." This volume presents a novel and engrossing history of Tulsa's Greenwood community by offering more than 20 different biographical portraits of such key "Black Wall Street" figures as John and Loula Williams, B.C. Franklin, the Rev. Ben H. Hill, Edwin McCabe, George Monroe, and various others.

The CDC moratorium on evictions is ending Saturday, July 31st. At a press conference today, Eric Hallett, the coordinator of housing advocacy for Legal Aid Housing Services of Oklahoma, said next week is going to be a busy one in court.

“We have more than 60 cases on the docket Monday, more than 100 on Tuesday. Next week is going to be very hard on tenants in Tulsa. We probably have 300 families facing eviction next week,” said Hallett.

Tulsa Police

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum wants to put a permanent property tax for public safety on the ballot in August 2022.

Bynum told city councilors Wednesday that’s his plan under a new state law allowing public safety districts, which cities can create to dedicate generally stable property tax revenue to their police and fire departments rather than just sales tax.

Another round of emergency rental assistance funding is on its way to Tulsa.

The city is receiving a $3.8 million initial disbursement from a total award of $9.5 million in the American Rescue Plan. The new funding is on top of $12 million in a previous coronavirus relief package to help pay late rent and utilities. 

City COVID Relief Funds Manager Alisa Dougless said the guidance for the new funds is less restrictive.

Wikimedia

Tulsans really enjoyed their fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday, even though setting them off is illegal within city limits.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright described what she saw that night to her colleagues during a discussion last week. 

"There were up-in-the-air fireworks, 360-degree view; from [I-244] along [U.S.] 169, a haze of sulfur smoke everywhere. And then, even upon arrival to my house, you know, all kinds of things going off well into the wee hours," Decter Wright said.

Updated July 18, 7:40 a.m.  

The City of Tulsa is now the proud owner of 30 undeveloped acres near 71st Street and U.S. 169, land that will eventually be combined with 27 adjacent, city-owned acres for a new park.

City Chief of Culture and Recreation and Parks Director Anna America started working toward a new park there when she was the District 7 city councilor from 2014 to 2018. She said there isn't enough access to parks and green space in the densely developed area.

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