News Briefs: Classen Boulevard improvements, Wall of Fame, police body cameras and more 

click to enlarge Jonathan Dodson speaks during a Better Classen presentation at City Pres Church in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Jonathan Dodson speaks during a Better Classen presentation at City Pres Church in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

Classen improvements

On Classen Boulevard, the car is king.

Twenty to 25,000 cars travel the “urban highway” every day, according to traffic count figures from the city. What used to be a streetcar route connecting residents in northwest Oklahoma City with jobs downtown is now a six-lane thoroughfare where pedestrians, cyclists and transit users are often at odds on how to cross from one side to the next, let alone travel along the boulevard.

“We have really great walkable and bikeable streets in our neighborhoods [along Classen],” said Shane Hampton, a fellow at the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities (IQC). “But we also have some streets that act as barriers to cyclists, and I think Classen is perceived as one of those barriers.”

Following a grassroots effort to reconsider the use of Classen, IQC began studying the corridor earlier this year and presented a slate of ideas during a public forum last week. Proposals ranged from immediate improvements using paint and movable planters to create protected bike lanes to long-range plans that could include lanes dedicated for public transit.

The key principles Hampton said his team sought were allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross Classen safely, keep the boulevard as a commuter corridor, make improvements to the appearance of the road and its surroundings and develop Classen into a critical transit thoroughfare.

Jonathan Dodson (pictured), a local developer and resident near Classen, spearheaded the effort to reconsider the boulevard and said the project also represents a movement among average citizens who are willing to get more involved in civic decisions.

Councilwoman Meg Salyer has also been involved in the project, lending her support and encouraging the group to dream big.

“I had an opportunity to see a draft of this report a couple weeks ago ... I can’t tell you how blown away I am by this finished project,” Salyer said. “As we are looking out over a 10-year horizon, we can pilot some program to see what works.”

Salyer added that a future bond might be easier to use for permanent projects that are shown to be successful through the trials.


Foundation inductees

Three Oklahoma City Public Schools graduates will be inducted into the Wall of Fame this year.

Hosted by The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, the award honors OKCPS alumni who have made great contributions to the local community, and each inductee will be honored at a November ceremony.

“Our 2015 honorees embody everything that is possible within the Oklahoma City Public Schools District, both in the past and for the future,” said Mary Mélon, president and CEO of The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The three inductees are Dr. Benton Clark, Commissioner Willa Johnson and Kathy Taylor (pictured).

Clark, who graduated from Classen High School, studied biophysics and has worked with Lockheed Martin and NASA to study space. Johnson, a graduate of Douglass High School, was the first African-American woman elected to the Oklahoma City Council and was later elected an Oklahoma County commissioner. Taylor, a graduate of John Marshall Mid-High School, has an accomplished business resume and served as mayor of Tulsa.

click to enlarge Sargent Travis Serna's patch and shirt at the OKC Police Training Center.  mh
  • Sargent Travis Serna's patch and shirt at the OKC Police Training Center. mh

Body cameras

In a memo to the Oklahoma City Council, City Manager Jim Couch said Oklahoma City police officers could be wearing body cameras by the end of the year.

“We had outlined a program [for body cameras last year] but had run into some concerns with the Open Records Act,” Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry told the council last week. “We were successful this legislative session to get some changes made to the act that will allow us to stay with the program.”

The city originally sought vendors to provide the cameras in February and has received 13 responses, according to Couch’s memo. Presentations from selected vendors will be made later this summer, and following a 30-day testing period, cameras will be deployed to officers in December, according to a proposed timeline from the city.

The use of body cameras for police officers became a national talking point following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked a national debate over police tactics in minority communities.


“The Oklahoma City Fire Marshal’s Office wants all of our residents to have a safe and enjoyable holiday. Leaving fireworks to the professionals and enjoying a public display is a wonderful way to celebrate our country’s birthday.”

Those were the words of Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Kellie Sawyers, who wants to remind residents that fireworks are illegal within city limits.

Sawyers also said violators of the ban could face a $167 fine plus court costs. See more about fireworks safety on page 29.

By the numbers

$18 million. That’s the amount of federal funds that will be available for this year’s Summer Cooling Program in Oklahoma. The funds will be used to assist low-income residents who are vulnerable to summer-heat stresses. The Department of Human Services will begin taking applications for assistance on July 7. Citizens who are at risk for heat-related health problems due to a lack of adequate cooling are encouraged to apply.

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