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Norman City Council discusses shutting down house parties, OU game day protections at special meeting

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City Council Meeting 9/1

Image from YouTube.

The Norman City Council met Tuesday night to discuss committee appointment, response to Greek life party concerns and game day preparation.

The special session, live-streamed on the city’s YouTube channel, featured OU leaders like Dean of Students David Surratt and Associate Dean of Students Kristen Partridge. 

Surratt demonstrated OU’s new COVID-19 dashboard and addressed concerns about how positive cases are reported.

Mayor Breea Clark questioned if some students may be using their permanent address or their parents’ home address instead of their local Norman addresses, which could skew case numbers reported on campus, in Norman and in Cleveland County.

Ward 3 councilmember Alison Petrone requested clarification regarding the university’s response to outbreaks in student housing and in Greek housing. 

Surratt said while the university cannot directly enforce any policies in Greek housing, they have provided suggestions for how a potential outbreak could be prevented and addressed. 

“We’ve … given them recommendations to do the same thing we’re doing in housing, but I emphasize it is a recommendation,” Surratt said. “Some houses are definitely better than others when it comes to that, but they have the same expectation to isolate individuals who have symptoms or test positive.”

Regarding parties occurring at Greek houses, the City of Norman’s city attorney Kathryn Walker said the city adopted an ordinance in 2004 to address “nuisance parties.”

Walker said a party can be labeled a nuisance party once the police witness at least three violations. These include consuming spirits in a public place, furnishing of alcohol and/or narcotics and disturbing the peace. 

Once there have been three convictions for violating this ordinance within a year, that property will be labeled a public nuisance. 

Clark said this law is being considered to combat Greek house parties. 

“I would love for you to communicate to our Greek community that we are now prepared to start using this law to crack down on these large social gatherings,” Clark said to Surratt. 

Surratt also clarified several students are choosing off-campus testing centers instead of utilizing the free tests offered at Goddard Health Center. 

“Some of our students are really nervous,” Surratt said. “There is an element of shame associated with testing positive.”

Clark said she appreciated the collaboration that has happened between the city and the university in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus.

“We will do a better job managing this if we do it together,” Clark said.

Deputy Police Chief Ricky Jackson said a group of plainclothes officers observed several bars around Norman over the weekend in response to reports of city ordinance violations. 

Jackson said the group visited bars on Campus Corner and other parts of the city and witnessed successful capacity limiting that complied with mandates, as well as prohibiting standing-room-only sections and compliance with the city-wide mask ordinance. 

As for areas outside of these businesses, Jackson said officers observed long lines and groups not social distancing or wearing masks but were unsure if these groups arrived together. This occurred at three specific bars on Campus Corner: Logie’s, The Porch and Nompton Social. 

“It appears that people are trying to comply …” Jackson said. “(The officers) did observe that there was an attempt to comply with the mandate.”

Jackson recommended the city form a working team tasked with monitoring and enforcing the mandates. This team would include city code enforcers along with fire inspectors and fire marshal Fred Henderson.

During the meeting, councilmembers also discussed preparedness and protection for the upcoming football season. 

“I am looking forward to football season,” Clark said “However, we have had restaurants share concerns … they’re realizing that they’re about to be massively overwhelmed by very large crowds.”

Clark said Campus Corner is planning to offer more outdoor seating on game days and said there has been a suggestion posed from someone outside the game day planning committee that there be a 50 percent capacity limit all day in restaurants and bars.

“We all know game day is not a normal day,” Clark said.

Ward 1 councilmember Kate Bierman said she has talked with business owners and said they all seem to be okay with the proposal as long as additional outdoor seating becomes available.

The council voted to approve the appointment of 5 people to a search committee for a Ward 2 interim councilmember after the death of councilor David Perry. These individuals are Gabriel Bird, Melissa Houston, Ellen Kanak, Julie Knutson and Jermaine Peterson.

The council agreed not to take action on COVID-19 response protocols at this meeting and will instead take action at the city council conference scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m.

senior news reporter

Jordan Hayden is a journalism junior and a senior news reporter at The Daily. Previously she served as the fall 2018 and spring 2019 assistant engagement editor.

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