City hall report
BY KEVIN CANFIELD & ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writers
Sunday, January 13, 2013
1/13/13 at 3:06 AM
Find complete coverage of city
Week in review
Downtown demolition ban: City Councilor Blake Ewing has proposed extending a temporary ban on demolishing downtown buildings for surface parking lots until the council can consider permanent restrictions in the zoning code.
A six-month moratorium took effect July 18 and is set to expire at the end of the month.
"It's basically just to put the brakes on and to say we're developing something that will affect downtown forever," Ewing said during a council committee meeting Thursday. "Let's make sure nothing crazy happens in the next short period of time."
Planning Director Dawn Warrick said the city is drafting code amendments that would ban most new surface lots and create a stricter application and review process for businesses seeking to demolish buildings.
That would empower the city to preserve historic buildings after decades of watching its skyline erode, Ewing said.
Extending the moratorium for six months should allow city personnel to finish the proposed code amendments during a time when "there has been a general murmur that some properties may be on the chopping block," Ewing said.
The moratorium, he added, would "keep someone from doing something ridiculous" before the council can consider any amendments.
Changes in the demolition application process likely would include requiring businesses to explain the purpose of their demolition and "to make the public aware of what they're doing," Warrick said.
Ewing said the current process gives the city no say in what is built after the demolition and requires only a small amount of paperwork.
Holiday trash service: Tulsans recycled more in the two weeks after Christmas than in any period since the Oct. 1 launch of the city's curbside trash and recycling service as the program marked a successful first holiday season, officials said Tuesday.
The city's 116,500 households put 452.96 tons of material into recycle bins last week and 412 tons the week before - up from a weekly average of 374.1 tons over the previous three months, city spokeswoman Liz Hunt said.
Meanwhile, calls for missed trash service seemed to increase only slightly - if at all - in the two weeks following Christmas, when some collection schedules were adjusted, Hunt said.
The solid waste helpline fielded 2,763 calls last week, up from 2,519 during the week of Dec. 10, but that includes complaints unrelated to missed trash service, Hunt said.
Those numbers are misleading because the city's call center was closed for three days around Christmas and New Year's Day, but there was little indication of widespread collection problems, said Eric Lee, the city's solid waste manager.
Increases in trash collections were modest.
During the week of Dec. 24, tonnage increased only slightly from the week of Dec. 10, when the city set a three-month weekly low at 1,510.7 tons, Hunt said.
Both figures were well below the previous three-month average of 1,649.12 tons per week.
The figure increased to 1,817 tons during the week of Dec. 31, falling short of the three-month high of 1,891.2 tons during the week of Nov. 26.
Christmas trees are being collected through January for free - without the need for a 50-cent green waste sticker - and can be dropped at the city's green waste site at 10401 E. 56th St. North from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
For curbside pickup, trees must be no longer than 6 feet and must have no lights, tinsel or ornaments. Some residents may have forgotten those stipulations, which are among "a host of reasons" a tree might not be collected, Hunt said.
Residents can call 918-596-9777 to report accidental missed collections or find out why their tree has been passed over, she said.
Tax credits: Three city councilors said last week that they have no regrets about supporting $14 million in federal affordable housing tax credits over 10 years for the acquisition and rehabilitation of the apartment complex where four women were gunned down Monday.
The City Council approved a resolution Oct. 18 expressing the city's support for the application by Midwest Development Partners of Kansas City, Mo., which is putting together a deal that could place the Fairmont Terrace apartments, 1111 E. 60th St., in the hands of local owners.
Support of the local governing body is required as part of the application process for federal affordable housing tax credits, which are administered by the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency.
"The reason I was supportive was that that area needs all the help it can get, and there is only so much local government can do," said City Councilor G.T. Bynum, whose District 9 includes the apartment complex. "So when you have the private sector that is willing to step up and improve the overall security of the facility, I thought it (was a good idea)."
City Councilor Jeannie Cue, whose District 2 also includes part of the crime-ridden 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area, said it is her understanding that a local company is among the investors interested in purchasing the apartments.
"Our agreement was that they would improve security because that was a concern residents had expressed to me," Cue said.
The real estate purchase contract lists Midwest Development Partners as the buyer at a cost of $18 million.
A separate document lists the overall development cost at $42.6 million.
Bynum said the local investment in the project played a big role in his support for the tax credit application.
"I wanted to make sure this just wasn't another in a long line of out-of-state investors who use the apartments in that area to get federal subsidies at the expense of our community," he said.
City Councilor Phil Lakin was one of several councilors who questioned representatives of Midwest Development Partners about the company's security plans for the property.
"They said all the right things to indicate to me that they are really going to work here to make that a safer apartment complex," Lakin said. "Then that will provide a lot of momentum that could cause the rest of the neighborhood to change."
Public safety group: Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Thursday that he would support an effort by the City Council to establish a public safety intelligence working group immediately to explore ways to improve communication between residents and the police.
"In areas of the city where we have had tremendous success - Washington Heights (a neighborhood near Apache Street and Peoria Avenue) is always one I like to point to - it has been community involvement that has been the tipping point that has gotten us over the edge, so we encourage and solicit any community help we can get," Jordan told councilors during an afternoon committee meeting.
The police chief was asked to attend the meeting to answer questions in the wake of Monday's quadruple homicide at the Fairmont Terrace.
Jordan acknowledged the limits on what can be gained through crime tip lines and other anonymous methods of gathering information from the public, noting that often it's criminals looking for lighter sentences who provide important leads.
Still, he added, "If we know we've got people dealing dope in an apartment, if we know we've got people committing violent acts, we need to be told about it and who it is. That would help us tremendously. We could then get on it before a tragedy occurs."
Bynum proposed creating the working group.
"What I am hearing is, 'What can we (as residents) be doing to make the community safer?' " Bynum said.
Representatives of the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshal's Office, the Mayor's Office and local media outlets will be invited to be part of the working group, Bynum said, as well as anyone law enforcement might suggest.
The working group is expected to report back to the council in 30 days.
Human Rights commissioner reappointed: City Councilors voted Thursday to reject a request by Mayor Dewey Bartlett to hold off on a vote to reappoint Dennis Dubois to the Human Rights Commission and then voted 7-2 to reappoint him.
Bartlett failed to nominate a replacement for Dubois within 60 days, giving the council the right to reappoint him.
Bartlett sent a letter to councilors last month noting concerns about Dubois' nomination that came to light during the city's investigation into Lana Turner-Addison, the city's former Human Rights Department director.
Turner-Addison was fired in September.
Reporter to be honored: City councilors and Mayor Dewey Bartlett agreed Thursday to name the City Council Chamber's media area for former Tulsa World reporter Brian Barber.
Barber, 39, died Wednesday after a long struggle with heart failure and complications caused by anti-rejection drugs related to two heart transplants.
He became a reporter for the World in 1996 and started covering City Hall in 2004.
"I know that whenever I walk into this room, I always looked at that chair in that box to where he sat and did his work, his craft," Bartlett said during Thursday night's City Council meeting.
The mayor suggested that a plaque with Barber's date of birth, date of death and the position he held at the World be affixed to the short room-divider wall that designates the area where journalists covering meetings sit, "to make note that this is Brian Barber's box and chair."
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