Norman residents will see new faces on the Norman City Council, a fleet of electric scooters and a new Parks and Recreation director following Tuesday’s meeting.
Two new councilors were sworn in to the dais – one elected and one appointed. Ward 1 Brandy Studley won the seat in the Feb. 2021 election for odd-numbered wards. The meeting was the last for outgoing Ward 1 Kate Bierman, who vacated her remaining term early after her family purchased a home in Ward 4.
“It’s going to be a challenge for me to no longer be sitting where you are,” Bierman said. “I’m going to do what I can from my end to bring the cavalry for all the things that you all are going to need public support for, moving forward.”
Bierman was given a commendation for her service to the city and council.
The council approved the Ward 2 selection committee’s nomination, Lauren Schueler, as interim councilor for the seat. It has twice been empty in a year after the passing of David Perry in August and resignation of the special election winner, Matt McGarry, just weeks after the election.
Mayor Breea Clark welcomed both to the dais, joking that if Schueler resigned, she would be “dead to me.”
Schueler plans to run for the seat during the next election in February 2022, The Transcript reported previously.
The successful appointment was not without criticism from a Ward 2 resident. Karen Shamball accused the committee of deliberately casting a deaf ear to the voice of voters because members did not interview Jay Wendorff, who, in a high turnout election in February, netted nearly 43% of the vote.
A face not new to the council will join the city’s department head staff as the new director for Parks and Recreation.
Former director Jud Foster retired last week, and after numerous interviews with candidates from across the nation, City Manager Darrel Pyle promoted the department’s recreation coordinator, Jason Olsen.
The council voted unanimously to approve a license agreement with Bird Rides, absent a vote from Ward 5 Michael Nash, who was not present.
The license agreement requires a $300 annual fee and “$1 a day” per-scooter fee to fund the infrastructure and promotion of safe riding costs the city will incur.
The vendor also would have to report rider data to the city, possess its own insurance and offer indemnification of the city. The agreement will allow up to 150 scooters in the city.
During a special session for which there was no action taken, the council considered a proposed ordinance to ban the use of city funds for conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation from LGBTQ to straight, but has been denounced by dozens of organizations as unscientific, unproven and harmful.
The proposed ban was not on the council’s agenda, but was met with no objection during the discussion session.
Several advocates from the LGBTQ community decried the practice and said some mental health practitioners either admitted to offering the service or referred them to other clinics who may offer it, said Pixie Quigley, vice president of Norman Pride.
Advocates cited statistics that demonstrated harm to those who have experienced conversion therapy. Adolescents who have subscribed to the treatment were found to be 8.4 times more likely to die by suicide thank those who have not.
While advocates asked the council to ban the treatment across the city, including licensed professional counselors, the city declined to draft such an ordinance. Staff from the legal department said the city does not have authority in state law to enact a ban that would impose civil fines, only criminal ones.
The city’s staff report also noted a ban of such magnitude would likely be challenged in court on the grounds of First Amendment violations.