North Tulsans turn out for debate on moratorium

City council meetings are notorious- ly boring. But occasionally, as with last Wednesday, they are a great forum of public debate.
“It’s not an economics issue, or a legal is- sue … it’s a moral issue,” Ewing said.
More than 100 Tulsans of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds turned up to discuss an ordinance creating a 180-day moratorium on the issuance of building per- mits for small box discount stores.
Ewing then began to list off some of the decisions the city council has made in the past that were upsetting and detrimental to Tulsa’s black community.
The discussion lasted nearly three hours, with 24 citizens speaking on the issue, and extreme disagreement among the city coun- cil members.
“We decided moratoriums were okay at 69th and Riverside, but not in North Tulsa, We decided that it was okay to complain about the proliferation of vape stores and used car dealerships and service parking lots, but a discount dollar store, now that’s a legitimate business,” Ewing said with some sarcasm in his voice at the end.
Those in favor of the moratorium argued that there are already more Family Dollar and Dollar General stores in North Tulsa, District 1, than in any other district. North Tulsa has 14 Dollar Stores, while the next closest district has 9. Instead of approving the construction of more such stores, the citizens of North Tulsa asked for a tempo- rary stay on new construction while making plans to develop grocery stores in the area.
“We’ve had opportunities before to show that a diversity of perspectives and ideas and influences can lead us to hear and support our black neighbors,” Ewing said, referring to when the city met to discuss changing the name of Brady Ave. to a name less offensive to Black Tulsans, and yet voted against do- ing so for the convenience of businesses on Brady.
The goal of this effort is to bring quality produce and meats to the North Tulsa food deserts and to increase the life expectancy of North Tulsa’s citizens to be equivalent with the remainder of Tulsa.
“Instead of hearing you we offend our- selves. Instead of working to understand and empathize we argue,” Ewing continued.
North Tulsans in opposition to the plan agreed that bringing the standard of living up to s was the goal, but said the moratorium was not the way to do it. A moratorium, they argued, would only discourage businesses from opening stores in the area.
Following Ewing’s speech, the council spent some time debating the language of the ordinance, determining that there was an appeals process if one of the councilmen did want to approve a dollar store in their dis- trict, and emphasizing that the moratorium had a definite start and end date.
After an hour and half of citizen com- ments, the council began discussing the is- sue amongst themselves.
Still, District 1 Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper offered an amendment to the ordinance at the last minute to get the ordi- nance to apply solely to District 1 in an ef- fort to appease those councilors who would have voted no if the moratorium applied to their districts.
District 9 councilman Ben Kimbro ac- knowledged that District 1 was “beset by predatory retailers,” but was concerned about the legal action dollar stores might take against the city if the moratorium passed..
The amendment passed, so the council will revisit the issue in their next regularly scheduled meeting.
“That’s not the type of fight I’m looking for,” Kimbro said.
“I am stridently against a moratorium, because I am not handing you all another band-aid,” Kimbro added. “If we want to work on a solution that brings us to our next level, that substantively, meaningfully improves the situation in District 1, I will, like a good partner, work my ass off on that.”
District 4 councilman Blake Ewing start- ed out by talking about the responsibilities of city councilmen. Among filling potholes and paying firefighters, Ewing said the council was responsible for community morale.
“It’s not an economics issue, or a legal is- sue … it’s a moral issue,” Ewing said.
Ewing then began to list off some of the decisions the city council has made in the past that were upsetting and detrimental to Tulsa’s black community.
“We decided moratoriums were okay at 69th and Riverside, but not in North Tulsa, We decided that it was okay to complain about the proliferation of vape stores and used car dealerships and service parking lots, but a discount dollar store, now that’s a legitimate business,” Ewing said with some sarcasm in his voice at the end.
“We’ve had opportunities before to show that a diversity of perspectives and ideas and influences can lead us to hear and support our black neighbors,” Ewing said, referring to when the city met to discuss changing the name of Brady Ave. to a name less offensive to Black Tulsans, and yet voted against do- ing so for the convenience of businesses on Brady.
“Instead of hearing you we offend our- selves. Instead of working to understand and empathize we argue,” Ewing continued.
Following Ewing’s speech, the council spent some time debating the language of the ordinance, determining that there was an appeals process if one of the councilmen did want to approve a dollar store in their district, and emphasizing that the moratorium had a definite start and end date.
Still, District 1 Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper offered an amendment to the ordinance at the last minute to get the ordinance to apply solely to District 1 in an effort to appease those councilors who would have voted no if the moratorium applied to their districts.
The amendment passed, so the council will revisit the issue in their next regularly scheduled meeting.
In the meantime, North Tulsans will persist, as Hall-Harper said, “We will continue to demand what we, the people of North Tulsa, want for our children and future generations, even in the face of the powers that be.”

For the moratorium:
“I know that some of you were highly offended at the idea that someone would insinuate that you are racist because you voted no on this moratorium. This community is equally offended that some think that we are anti-development because we are protesting for a higher standard of living.” – Lakesha Johnson

For: “I stand here today with my child because I am fighting for his future. So I ask the question: Why do we need
a 16th dollar store in our neighborhood? There is an obvious cognitive dissonance about the needs of North Tulsa. What we need is sustainable economic development. What we need are grocery stores to address the food scarcity in our neighborhood. What we need is access to fresh fruits and vegetables.” – D’Marria Monday

For: “The funny thing is, North Tulsa isn’t even the so-called poorest part of Tulsa. It’s not the most crime ridden. It’s not the most abandoned. But it is the most disenfranchised and picked on. We’re asking just to be valued.” – Charles Wilkes

For: “There are some among you who will reject the idea of a moratorium out of hand as anti-business and anti-development. My community definitely needs economic developments, and I certainly don’t want to do anything that hinders that. However, we do, as a city, have a long-standing public policy of discouraging business developments and activities that go against the wishes, values and long-term economic prospects of our communities. In our desperate need for economic growth, we cannot continue to allow developments which exploit the poor, sap the economic resources from our community with nor reinvestment in the community, and goes against the long-term prosperousness of the community.” – Mikeal Vaughn

Against the moratorium: “It’s a temporary ban. That’s all it is. So we are wasting our time focusing on the wrong things. We have to focus on the real issues if we want a better quality of life.” – Mareo Johnson

Against: “Although the moratorium is being presented as a temporary measure, it is not in the best interest of the North Tulsa community, nor the city of Tulsa. What we would like to see is more economic development supported by elected officials, and the community working with NTEDI (North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative) to positively impact opportunities to contribute to workforce development and increased income for many members of the community.” – Bobby Burnett

Against: “I grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina, so economic development is very important to me. My father had his own business, he was a builder, and what he did to help out our community … he gave all the men in the community who were the heads of households jobs, and my brother gave the young men jobs. It wasn’t up to the city council to take care of our families. It was up the men in the community to do their jobs.” – Darlene Carroll

Post Author: tucollegian