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Residents voice needs during input meeting with city officials

Locals gathered with Tahlequah officials Jan. 29 to discuss city services that pertained to an aviation club, the Tahlequah Community Playhouse, land and water conservation, and additional lighting.

Ward 4 Councilor Josh Allen told the audience that they wanted their positive and negative feedback but asked those speaking to be “careful” of their tone.

“Let’s be respectful of everyone because as everyone knows, we’ve all had conversations with people that starts really negative and then you just kind of shut off,” Allen said. “We have a lot of people up here so if you say something negative about streets and you just say it in a real harsh way, we don’t want people to just shut off and not listen.”

Additionally, Allen asked that anyone who had negative feedback to also have a solution, and not just “complain.”

“We want you to feel heard and we want you to feel respected and I would like everyone in this room to feel the same way,” he said.

Mayor Suzanne Myers said those with feedback had three minutes to speak with officials and then said officials had two minutes to discuss questions and answers.

Dr. Sarah Krein, a volunteer soccer coach, asked the city to consider putting lights out at the Anthis-Brennan Family Sports complex soccer fields.

“Maybe not all of the fields, maybe just a few of them but lights would allow us to practice for the duration of our season. Our season goes through the end of November and there’s a time change that happens that first weekend of November where we fall back an hour,” she said.

Dean Haynie said he moved to Tahlequah three months ago and he’s retired from the aviation industry. Haynie said he has a passion for model aviation, or radio-controlled flying (RC), and he’d like to start a club just for that.

“I’ve spoken with some of the people, Nathan Reed. Apparently, he’s got some property out by the [Industrial Park] and we’re kind of working on that. He wants a proposal and I’ve got to come meet with him and figure out exactly what to do,” he said.

According to Haynie, the nearest RC flying field is 45 minutes from Tahlequah and there is an interest with youth-age kids.

“This would be a perfect steppingstone for them to get into real flying,” he said.

Haynie has been in contact with Tahlequah Municipal Airport Manager Brian Lambert, and he said there will be an RC flying event April 23 wherein the airport will be closed.

“It’s not going to cost you any money yet but once we do get an agreement on the property, there’s probably going to need to be some landscaping done basically to make it usable. From there on out, the club would be responsible for all the maintenance, upkeep, and grooming,” he said.

Help In Crisis Executive Director Laura Kuester, Angela Rhea, and Carolyn Cox told the board they were there in October 2022 and requested American Rescue Plan Act funding for transitional housing. The housing would support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“What we believe is that with the additional funding, we would be able to put down payment or purchase a duplex and stand up transitional housing and give our survivors the opportunity to fully stand on their own, get their education, get what they need so they never have to return to those situations,” Rhea said.

Kuester said transitional housing would allow a survivor to be house for at least a year and not just 30 days.

Dr. Craig Clifford had, what he called, “three missions” to speak on. The first mission pertained to the Tahlequah Community Playhouse, which has been operating in Tahlequah for 50 years.

“We’re always looking for a home so we called the city’s attention to a need for a good, maybe multipurpose facility what we could call home,” he said. “A typical theater is not appropriate for dinner theater.”

Clifford added that the theater is active in the community, provides a service, and needs support.

For his second mission, Clifford applauded the city for its “cooperative spirit” with Tahlequah Mission Park Project.

He urged city officials to do what they can when it comes to litter issues in Tahlequah.

“I picked up litter along Mission Park this weekend and I know it’s not the last time I’ll do that,” he said.

Next up was Collin Downs, who echoed Krein when it came to lights at the sports complex.

“All I’m asking is you don’t have to light the whole thing up but give us some fields where we could at least take turns using the fields,” Downs said.

Briana Reese asked the city to consider planting public fruit trees within the community.

“Not only will it bring food for us in the community but also for the fact that don’t even have food,” she said. “I think it will just be a good experience for the community because food is a basic human right and public fruit trees is an easy way to accomplish that.”

Christopher Grimeldo proposed the prohibition or elimination of after-market LED bulbs in which drivers can be blinded and crashes could occur.

“LEDs have exacerbated light pollution in the United Stated, they give off harsher white and blue tones that contribute to increased brightness in the sky and have negative effects on human and animal health – disrupting sleep cycles and circadian rhythms,” he said.

Grimeldo’s second proposal had to do with the preservation of land and water as Tahlequah sits on Cherokee Nation reservation.

“We should be taking care of the ecosystem that feeds us and houses us. We need to stop trashing and polluting our home,” he said.

His third proposal to city officials was for them to come up with a resolution that would declare June as Pride Month to show support for the LGBTQ community.

Additionally, Grimeldo wants to a see a plan that would fund public transportation, mental health care, and homeless programs.

“And [my fifth proposal], I just want to end by saying; free Palestine; cease fire now; raise the wage; end corporate greed; and tax the rich,” he said.

Tabatha Hibbs wanted to address elected officials due to her frustration with the lack of communication between said officials and the community when it comes to decision-making.

“You all frequently act like all of us living out here in the houses are just like maybe paper cut-out dolls. You don’t talk to us. I’ve lived in other cities where there was a lot more communication and they were much larger cities,” she said.

Hibbs offered her suggestions and said city officials should do more to include Tahlequah’s residents in future decision-making.

“Too many decisions that impact residents are made without informing residents or allowing for public discussion,” she said.

Hibbs said it was a personal matter for her and added that city leaders have behaved as if Tahlequah is compromised on themselves and Main Street businesses and have forgotten about the residents.

“Mayor [and] council members, you are elected to represent us. Representing us means so much more than having monthly meetings to decide how to grow the local economy, who gets the next pay raise, and which pet project next gets funding,” Hibbs said.

Hibbs was addressing the board about not returning phones calls when she was advised that her three minutes were up. She protested that others were allowed more time before walking away.

Lastly, John Williams coaches his daughter’s soccer team and he said he was excited for the growth of the sport in Tahlequah.

He too echoed Krein and Downs and asked why all the fields can’t have lighting.

“There are a lot of teams, and the league is growing all the time. Not only do I coach my daughter’s team, but I also coach my son’s team,” he said. “There are opportunities for growth in addition to having more teams and more kids playing. We could have opportunities four tournaments in the future if we have fields that are well lit that we play into the evening.”

Brian Jackson informed the board that a screening card would give the city access to military bases that are Defense Reutilization Marking Office (DRMO).

“When they get rid of equipment, you can have access to that at not cost,” he said. “If you’ve never heard of a screening card, they’re issued by the government, and you have to have somebody that is willing to go looking.”

Myers said Monday’s public input meeting was enlightening and made a difference for city officials to know what matters to community members.


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