In my OKC Central column today, I noted the ongoing struggle by two Oklahoma City Council members to get an answer to a question about Project 180 and the rush to complete a $3 million makeover of Civic Center park while other street projects have been pushed back or cut all together.
As the Oklahoma City Council sets out to decide whether to approve designs for a makeover of downtown’s Civic Center park, one question, most recently asked by Councilman Pete White, has gone unanswered.
How, he asked, did a cosmetic makeover of the park take priority over the reconstruction of streets like E.K. Gaylord, the two-way conversion of Hudson Avenue — both streets deemed disaster zones for pedestrians?
I continued the column with a history of this discussion.
The changed implementation of Project 180, as confirmed by City Engineer Eric Wenger and Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers, boils down to this: the section of Hudson Avenue between Reno Avenue and Robert S. Kerr Avenue already being rebuilt will open as a two-way corridor.
The next section of Hudson Avenue between Robert S. Kerr Avenue and NW 6 will be a one-way street. North of NW 6 the street will then resume as a two-way corridor.
E.K. Gaylord Boulevard, meanwhile, will remain a six-lane-wide corridor separating the central business district from Bricktown and Deep Deuce, which are widely seen as downtown’s most pedestrian-friendly districts.
White’s question went unanswered at last week’s city council meeting. Will it continue to be greeted with silence as the council weighs whether to proceed with the makeover of Civic Center park?
We had a vote on the park. But did the question finally get a response?
White and Shadid did indeed try again to force an answer from city staff as to how a makeover of Civic Center park took priority over downtown street projects again went unanswered.
“Why is this a priority,” Shadid asked. “I know it’s not people’s elected officials making the decisions. And it needs to be.”
Shadid then went on to point out that Project 180 reports to the city council consisted of “fluff.” He quoted from the Devon Implementation agreement that showed the city has failed to meet most of the deadlines listed in the contract and that street projects, including E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Hudson Avenue, were also required in the agreement.
Both White and Shadid noted the city council was never asked to determine whether the park should be given higher priority over the street projects that are now indefinitely delayed.
“I can’t have it unanswered anymore,” Shadid said. “I can’t be told we have a contractual obligation to Devon when we clearly have many other obligations.”
It was this at this time that Mayor Mick Cornett ended Shadid’s comments.
“Ed,” Cornett said, “I think it’s time to let other people talk.”
Councilman Pat Ryan then noted some people like Chevys and some people like Fords in summing up the disagreement over the park design. Cornett then noted that he believes all the projects are worthy of getting done and he believes all of the work will eventually be finished.
Then Meg Salyer spoke up as the only council member fully endorsing the park makeover design. After speaking in favor of the park project, Cornett cut off the debate, asking Salyer to make a motion for approval of the work.