News briefs: Streetcar stop locations, fracking film, quotable and more 

click to enlarge Pedestrians on their way to Bricktown cross E.K. Gaylord Boulevard at Sheridan near the train overpass, underwhich the new Maps Streetcars will pass.  mh
  • Pedestrians on their way to Bricktown cross E.K. Gaylord Boulevard at Sheridan near the train overpass, underwhich the new Maps Streetcars will pass. mh

Off wire

City officials and engineers are in the process of finalizing streetcar stop locations and exact rail placement along the proposed downtown route.

Oklahoma City Council received a presentation last week on the status of the streetcar, which is expected to be operational in 2018. The proposed route includes 22 stops along the nearly 4.6-mile route and an additional stop in front of the future intermodal transit hub at the Santa Fe train station. That stop will not be in use, as the initial streetcar line will not travel past it.

Additional engineering work includes determining the exact locations the streetcar will be on and off an overhead wire system. The city is purchasing cars that have the capability of running on battery power for limited amounts of time, which means overhead wires will not be necessary throughout the entire route.

The railroad bridge over Sheridan and Reno avenues required some off-wire capability, as there is not enough room under the bridge to include wires.

Ed Shadid during the mayoral candidate debate, held at Fairview Baptist Church, 2-17-14.  mh
  • Ed Shadid during the mayoral candidate debate, held at Fairview Baptist Church, 2-17-14. mh

Quotable

“It seems to me there needs to be a public process before you demolish a home when you apply for the permit.”

That was Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid speaking at last week’s city council meeting about the issue of businesses acquiring residential property and tearing down homes for parking. Shadid said the issue was prevalent along Western Avenue and area residents were complaining to him.

City staff told Shadid that a business would have to rezone any residential property to commercial prior to making it a parking lot. Shadid said he was interested in having each case of demolishing a home for parking be reviewed.

Fracking film

Sierra Club chapters from Oklahoma and Kansas will host a meeting in Medford on Saturday to discuss the threat of earthquakes, which the organizations believe is directly linked to fracking practices in the region. Governments in Kansas and Oklahoma have also acknowledged a link between fracking and earthquake activity.

“At a time when residents and business owners of Kansas and Oklahoma are left with thousands of dollars of damage caused by the swarms of earthquakes in our two states, we need our local and state governments to intervene and act immediately in developing and enforcing rules and regulations the oil and gas industry must abide by when conducting hydraulic fracturing and using injection wells,” said Oklahoma Sierra Club Chair Barbara Vanhanken. “We feel the responses by our respective corporation commissions have been slow and they have been reluctant to establish strong enough rules and regulations on the disposal of fracking waste fluids into injection wells for the oil and gas industry.”

The meeting is noon to 3 p.m. at Medford Civic Center, 123 S. Main St., in Medford. The agenda includes lunch; a screening of the film Groundswell Rising; a conversation with the film’s director, Renard Cohen; and a discussion with Todd Halihan, professor of hydrogeology at Oklahoma State University.

Reading teams

After a one-year authorization, Gov. Mary Fallin approved the extension reading teams under the Reading Sufficiency Act, which allows students who do not pass the third-grade reading test to be evaluated by their parents and educators.

“The Reading Sufficiency Act puts into place a rigorous system for measuring student reading and provides extra attention and instruction for children who are falling behind,” Fallin said in a statement last week after she signed Senate Bill 630 into law. “The extension of the reading teams ensures that parents are well-informed about their children’s progress and working cooperatively with teachers to get those children up to grade-level.”

SB 630 made other changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act, including the requirement that an individualized remediation reading plan be created for any first- or second-grader not reading at grade level.

click to enlarge Forrest-Bennett.jpg

Bennett bid

Forrest Bennett (pictured above) announced his candidacy for the 2016 race in House District 92, a seat held by Richard Morrissette, who terms out next year.

Bennett, a Democrat, is a college government teacher and said education and public schools are a major focus for his campaign.

“We have hardworking families in the heart of Oklahoma City who don’t have access to good schools or jobs with a livable wage, through no fault of their own,” Bennett said. “My view is that we should do all we can to meet hard work and responsibility with opportunity. That means creating a business-friendly environment and ensuring that public schools get the resources they need to educate our kids at a competitive level.”

House District 92 includes downtown Oklahoma City and runs south to Interstate 240.

Last week, Bennett appeared on Oklahoma Gazette’s Capital City Podcast and discussed his views on education in Oklahoma and civic participation among young adults, another topic he is passionate about. You can find that episode at okgazette.com.

“I’ve followed the Legislature for several years now, each year hoping they will tackle the tough issues that are keeping our kids and our families from the opportunity to realize their full potential,” Bennett said. “Each year, they choose instead to waste their time and our taxpayer dollars on unnecessary and sometimes unconstitutional bills. I’m running for the Legislature to make sure that the people of House District 92 have a representative who will make tough issues like education, jobs and safe streets a priority.”

By the numbers

43 percent. That’s the increase in homeless students in Oklahoma from 2012 to 2014, according to the Oklahoma Department of Education. Oklahoma Watch recently reported on this trend and said reasons for the increase are complex and include rises in poverty, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and high rates of incarceration and mental illness. Oklahoma Watch also reported that a bill by Sen. Kay Floyd was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this year and will require the state to gather more detailed information and statistics on the issue of student homelessness.

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