Council resolutions put focus on child abuse, sexual assault and more

Center for Children and Families Inc. CEO Brandon Brooks speaks Tuesday to the Norman City Council at city hall.

Tuesday was a day of proclamations at city hall.

Though they don’t have any impact on city policy, Mayor Lynne Miller said the five proclamations do have an impact.

“Even though we had so many proclamations this evening, I think this is a really important action the council does, because it brings attention to these wonderful organizations and individuals in our community that make it such a great place,” she said.

Among the proclamations was one designating April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Accepting the proclamation on behalf of Bethesda and CCFI, respectively, Travis Humphrey and Brandon Brooks had some moving words about their mission and the unfortunate reality that it is necessary.

“I recently gave a presentation to a civic organization and a gentleman came up to me afterward, very upset, and said, ‘I wish you didn’t exist.’ He was talking about my organization and that he wished Bethesda didn’t have to exist,” Humphrey said.

Bethesda, 1181 E. Main St., specializes in treating child victims of sexual abuse.

“Certainly, I can agree with that sentiment,” Humphrey said. “I wish we didn’t have to exist, but at the same time, I’m so glad we’re here, in our community, serving children who have gone through horrific trauma.”

Brooks said, even in the beautiful community that is Norman, CCFI sees children and families that are hurting. According to the resolution, Cleveland County reported 689 victims of child abuse or neglect in 2016.

“As we continue to grow with our work, it’s important for all of us to recognize that the traumatic experiences, great or small, that our children experience directly impact their development into adults,” he said. “We, collectively, have a responsibility to ensure that every child in our community has an opportunity to grow into healthy, happy adults.”

Humphrey also acknowledged the hard work of other Norman organizations — like Loveworks Leadership, CASA and CASP — that work to help kids and raise awareness.

The mayor then issued a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, noting that it’s an issue that affects people of all walks of life and one that requires continued attention.

Amber Scroggins, of the Women’s Resource Center, said she began working there as a volunteer nine years ago. In that time, she said she’s seen a jump in provided services and people who the organization serves.

“Last October, we set a record for the number of people served at the rape crisis center, and this month we’ve almost doubled that number,” she said. “I really attribute that to an increase in outreach efforts and people knowing that they have a place where they’ll come and be supported.”

The Women’s Resource Center has a variety of events planned to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month, including Paws for Consent, a dog-walk aimed at raising awareness.

Paws for Consent will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 14 at Andrews Park.

For more information about the Women’s Resource Center and upcoming events, visit wrcnormanok.org.

The city also proclaimed April as Autism Awareness Month. The neurological disorder affects more than three million people in the United States and 1 in 68 children. Miller said it is important to recognize their needs and value to the community. 

The resolution praised the efforts of several agencies that work with autistic adults (ABLE, Among Friends, Full Circle Adult Day Care Center and Transition House) and children (Norman Public Schools, Autism Norman, Easter Seals, the Early Foundations program at Northhaven Church and the Cleveland County Health Department’s Sooner Start program).

Another proclamation declared April 22 as Earth Day in Norman and designated March 22-April 22 as Earth Month. The city will host its 17th annual Earth Day celebration April 22 at Reaves Park.

The last proclamation recognized the young men of the Norman chapter of DeMolay International by declaring April International DeMolay Month. The group focuses on developing civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills.

• Tiny houses and rural wedding venues: On final reading, the city approved new rules and building codes allowing for tiny houses (400 square feet or less) in rural zoning areas. The city also approved a measure that allows rural establishments, like farms and vineyards, to operate as wedding venues.

There are rules governing both issues, but Ward 5 council member Sereta Wilson, who championed the ordinances, believes they are reasonable. 

She said the new rules will allow rural residents to explore new housing options particularly well-suited to aging in place and give the city’s vineyards and agri-wedding venues an opportunity to flourish.

Ward 4 council member Bill Hickman said Norman may be the first to adopt tiny home building codes in Oklahoma.

“We may be,” Planning Director Susan Connors said.

Ward 2 council member Aleisha Karjala said other Norman residents are interested in tiny homes, as well. She said she sees the new rules as a way to test the waters.

“If it works, maybe we can extend it,” she said. “Change usually gets implemented pretty slowly, but if it works, then we could possibly see it in Ward 4 or Ward 2.”

Wilson said she received similar feedback. If it plays out well in Ward 5, and there is support, she said she would get behind tiny home expansion into core Norman.

• City budget dates: City Manager Steve Lewis highlighted some key upcoming meetings related to the city’s annual budget:

April 17 — Council study session for general fund and special revenue funds

April 24 — Council conference for enterprise funds

May 1 — Council study session for capital budget follow-up

May 22 — Public hearing at city council meeting 

June 5 — Follow-up study session (if needed)

June 12 — City council meeting: consideration of budget for adoption

• Community cleanup events: Lewis also highlighted some upcoming community cleanup events.

April 7

• Ward 6 park and creek cleanup: 10 a.m.-noon

• 12th Ave. SE cleanup: 2-4 p.m.

April 15

• Second annual dual watershed cleanup: 2-4 p.m. at Falls Lakeview Park and William Morgan Park.

More information about community cleanup events is available at normanok.gov.

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