McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 3, 2013

Ordinance targeting anti-discrimination defeated with standing ovation

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A vigorous 25-second ovation followed the dismissal of an ordinance designed to include sexual orientation as a protected class when hiring municipal employees Tuesday.

A majority of four commissioners is needed to pass ordinances. Only three voted in support.

Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser, citing the commission’s previous lengthy discussion of the ordinance in a meeting last month, successfully limited further debate and public comment from the packed commission chamber.

The ordinance was significantly altered since the last meeting. Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell worked with City Attorney Andrea Chism to clarify the original language, which Ezzell said was outdated and confusing.

“The effect of the ordinance is really the same, but the language was simplified,” Ezzell said. “There was an outdated process, a pseudo-judicial process without any teeth that dated back to some point in the 1970s. It’s long, it’s convoluted, it’s confusing and it caused a lot of confusion in the community.”

The earlier version of the ordinance, introduced by Ezzell and Ward 5’s Tammy Wilson, caused some to believe the ordinance would have applied to virtually every employer within city limits.

“All we’re doing is saying that we don’t discriminate for city of Enid employment. That we recognize the classes protected by state and federal law,” Ezzell said. “And, as far as employment protection goes for city of Enid workers, we also recognize sexual orientation.”

The previous ordinance also included gender identity as a protected class, but this was stripped from the presentation.

Ezzell and Wilson were joined by Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen in support of the ordinance. Voting against were Vanhooser, Mayor Bill Shewey, Ward 2 Commissioner Mike Stuber and Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm.

After the meeting, Shewey declined to comment further on his opposition to the ordinance, saying the vote speaks for itself. Vanhooser said the outcome was a reflection of what the community wants. Both officials were absent from the meeting two weeks ago when commissioners tabled the ordinance.

After the vote, Ezzell said providing discrimination protections to gay and lesbian city workers would take baby steps.

“It’s going to happen,” he said. “Some day.”



Park equipment

Commissioners approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in new playground equipment for six city parks.

The parks receiving the new equipment are Glenwood, Phillips Southern Heights, Don Haskins, Meadowlake North, Meadowlake South and Government Springs North.

In all, the city approved the purchase of $468,487 worth of playground equipment, including one at Meadowlake South that includes electronic games and another large fixture at Government Springs that will be the first of its kind installed anywhere.

The fixtures are manufactured by Burke and distributed by Child’s Play. Installation on the pieces will go through the bidding process.



Events, conferences

More than 180,000 people used Enid Event Center and Convention Hall during fiscal year 2013, General Manager Keller Taylor reported.

That number is expected to be larger because Enid Event Center was open less than a month before the fiscal year ended, and Convention Hall was open less than a year.

Taylor also said the 96 visitor surveys he has received show positive support of the facilities and staff.

Another benefit to the community is the fact that of the concert and event tickets sold, he said, more than 30 percent came from outside Garfield County.

Upcoming events include a concert by Justin Moore, a bull riding competition, Sesame Street Live and the Harlem Globetrotters. Taylor said he is close to announcing a circus that will be scheduled for late November.



Other business

Commissioners:

• Approved a zoning and land use amendment for a storage building along North Jackson.

• Approved an extension for improvements to the Chisholm Creek Village.

• Approved a contract amendment for relocating water lines for street improvements at Chestnut and Cleveland. Tetra Tech will receive no more than an additional $66,860 for the job.

• Rejected both bids for a sludge pumping modification project because they were not compatible with the engineering department’s estimates.

• Denied a resolution that would have awarded a contract for installation of an irrigation system for the city’s water reclamation facility. City Manager Eric Benson questioned the need to spend nearly $240,000 on the project.

• Put on hold a land swap between Gene Anderson’s development company and the city. Anderson previously conceded some land in his housing project at Cleveland and Chestnut so the city could build a water detention pond, so the city is giving him several acres across the street to construct homes.

• Clarified an ordinance that will allow Enid Woodring Regional Airport to use hangars for non-aircraft storage. The rent rate on hangar storage also was raised.