News Briefs: Plaza finds interim director, quotable, by the numbers and more 

Dustin Akers (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Dustin Akers

Interim director

Following Kristen Vails’ departure this month, the Plaza District Association named Dustin Akers as its interim executive director.

Akers has experience in urban planning, real estate and community development. He also serves on the advisory board for the Urban Land Institute Oklahoma District Council and is chairman of its Young Leaders Group.

“Right now, my full focus is on working with our board of directors and committees to continue the high quality programming our visitors have come to expect, while our search begins for a new executive director,” Akers said when asked if he saw the position as a long-term fit. “As a board member and nearby resident, I have a vested interest in seeing the district thrive and will continue to be dedicated to the Plaza District’s success in whatever way that may be.”

Akers said the district is at a “pivotal point” in its life cycle and leadership is exploring ways to find sustainable funding sources, along with implementing a parking study by the OU Institute for Quality Communities.

“Success brings challenges, and we are focused on a couple of key initiatives over the next year,” he said, “including working with property and business owners on finding a sustainable source of funding for district operations.”

Parking solutions, walkability and bikeability also are priorities.

Kristen Wilson, Plaza District Association president, said Akers’ appointment will help the district remain steady during the search for a permanent director.

“We believe Dustin is a great fit for this time of transition,” Wilson said.

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Earth Month

Oklahoma City will host a series of events next month in honor of Earth Day on April 22.

A full list of Earth Month activities are listed on the city’s website, including tire, ammo, computer and pharmaceutical recycling on April 11, an open house of the H.B. Parsons Fish Hatchery on April 17, Earth Fest on April 18 at Martin Park Nature Center and Faerie Garden Workshop on April 25.

Also, 10 a.m. every Saturday in April, there is a free nature story time for children ages 2 to 6 at Martin Park Nature Center, 5000 W. Memorial Road. Nature Story Time teaches children about the natural world through nature- themed books. Afterward, children can take part in a craft or outdoor activity related to that day’s reading. Visit

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Education rally

An education rally will be 12:30 p.m. Monday on the south steps at the Oklahoma Capitol, and the Oklahoma PTA encourages parents, educators and school board members to attend in an effort to show support for teachers statewide and for a reduction in high-stakes testing.

Speakers include Oklahoma State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett.

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“Oklahoma City’s pets are just as at risk as our most vulnerable residents when disaster strikes,” said Julie Bank, OKC’s animal welfare superintendent. “In order to serve our pets well during the time of a disaster, we are looking to link up with animal lovers across the metro who can help us and our animals when it is needed most.”

The Animal Welfare Division needs volunteers who are able to help pets following disasters as part of its new Animal Disaster Brigade. Volunteers will help at temporary shelters.

By the numbers

3.5 percent. That’s the size of OKC’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which is relatively small compared to comparably sized cities.

A new Gallup Poll, conducted between June 2012 and December 2014, shows OKC had the eighth lowest percentage of self-identifying LGBT residents out of the nation’s 50 largest cities. At 3.5 percent of the OKC population, the LGBT community here is slightly larger than Birmingham, Alabama; Pittsburgh; and Houston, cities that were lower on the list. The national average is 3.6 percent, the study shows.

“Eight of the 10 [cities] with the lowest percentages are in the South or Midwest, the two regions of the country where LGBT identification among adults tends to be lowest and where social stigma toward LGBT people can be relatively high,” wrote Frank Newport for Gallup. “Among the ranked [cities], Pittsburgh has the highest proportion of seniors in the population. Gallup research has shown that LGBT identity tends to be lower among seniors.”

While the LGBT population in OKC is small, the city with the largest population, San Francisco, is not quite double at 6.2 percent. Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; New Orleans; and Seattle rounded out the top five.

The Gallop Poll is the largest ongoing study of its kind, Gallup said.

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