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Govt-and-politics
Vista Shadow Mountain tenants given until Friday to move out
  • Updated

The Tulsa Fire Marshal’s Office on Wednesday gave tenants at Vista Shadow Mountain apartments two more days to get out of their units.

The fire marshal and the city’s Working In Neighborhoods Department cited the complex earlier this month with multiple violations of the fire prevention and building maintenance codes and notified residents that they needed to vacate their apartments by Wednesday.

But in a statement issued late Wednesday, the Fire Marshal’s Office said the deadline had been extended to 5 p.m. Friday because of the extent of the work that goes into moving so many people.

About 100 residents of Vista Shadow Mountain were affected by the June 8 notice to vacate the apartment complex.

“In the meantime, a tremendous community effort has occurred to ensure every occupant has a safe place to live and a secure place to store their belongings,” the Fire Marshal’s Office said Wednesday. “The magnitude of this effort is indescribable and many partners were crucial to make this endeavor possible.

“To help in that process, the Fire Marshal’s Office is extending the deadline for all occupants to be vacated.”

Becky Gligo, executive director of Housing Solutions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing homelessness locally, has been overseeing the community effort to assist residents at Vista Shadow Mountain.

She estimated that fewer than 20 units in the south Tulsa complex remain occupied.

“We have over 60 hotel rooms currently occupied, and about 20 have moved to other permanent housing already, so then that leaves us our remaining folks,” Gligo said.

Rodney Hill, 32, was among the residents who got out before the original Wednesday deadline. Hill said Vista Shadow Mountain removed his living room floor and walls about two months ago after informing him that the structure had mold. When he moved out Tuesday, he still had no living room floor or walls.

“It’s been horrible. It really has,” he said.

Fire Marshal Andy Teeter recently informed city councilors that 83 of the complex’s 100 structures are in imminently dangerous condition. This came just days after Vista Shadow Mountain made a payment to the city to cover a past-due $108,000 water bill that, left unpaid, would have resulted in the complex’s being shuttered immediately.

Gligo said she was grateful to all of the organizations that have extended a hand to help Vista Shadow Mountain tenants in their time of need.

“We have had moving companies, hotels and storage facilities all across the city immediately jump into action and be really flexible because they knew what was going on and wanted to help their neighbors,” Gligo said, adding: “Literally, we have had the firefighters helping people pack and move.”

Other organizations providing help are James Mission, the Terence Crutcher Foundation, Legal Aid Services, the Tulsa Area United Way, Restore Hope Ministries and City Year, Gligo said.

City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, who represents the district in which Vista Shadow Mountain is located, encouraged residents forced to leave the apartment complex to email her at dist7@tulsacouncil.org if they needed assistance.

“Every resident of Vista Shadow Mountain, former or current, who has had to move out due to this property’s deplorable conditions and uninhabitable state, qualifies for assistance through our partners at Housing Solutions Tulsa,” Wright said. “There are both public and private funds available to help these tenants recover from this crisis.”

Gligo said Housing Solutions is still working to raise the estimated $624,000 needed to help residents transition into new housing. Donations can be made at housingsolutionstulsa.org.

Meanwhile, the City Council on Wednesday voted to make available $3.8 million more in federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds to help Tulsans facing housing challenges.

Vista Shadow Mountain, 6000 S. Memorial Drive, is owned by a New Jersey-based company named CiTYR, according to Tulsa County Assessor’s Office records.


Related video: Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright gives an update July 8 about the Vista Shadow Mountain apartments


Govt-and-politics
Proposed public safety district would raise $17 million annually without increasing taxes, mayor says

Mayor G.T. Bynum outlined a plan Wednesday to establish a permanent public safety district that would raise approximately $17 million a year without increasing property taxes. The proposal is scheduled to be on the ballot in August 2022.

“We can pass something like this in Tulsa, protect our public safety personnel and their jobs, and not increase taxes,” Bynum told city councilors.

The state Legislature earlier this year approved Senate Bill 838, creating the Oklahoma Public Safety Protection District Act. The measure gives municipalities, with a 60% vote of the people, the authority to impose a property tax of as much as 5 mills to fund public safety equipment, vehicles and personnel.

Municipalities across the state have been advocating for public safety districts and other means of diversifying their revenue streams for years. Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that does not allow municipalities to fund operations with property taxes.

Bynum said the additional revenue would help stabilize the city’s public safety funding and help ensure that police officers and firefighters keep their jobs during difficult financial times and are paid properly.

“We don’t want to be hiring folks or making salary commitments based on a temporary tax,” Bynum said.

The city does not plan to explicitly state on the ballot how the funds would be spent.

“We don’t want to try to predict what the city government ought to be spending on public safety 50 years from now. That is why we have an annual budgeting process,” Bynum said.

“The law is clear that it has to go toward police or fire operations, but beyond that, it would be subject to the annual budget process.”

In explaining the details of the proposal, city Finance Director James Wagner acknowledged that it would come with a cost. He estimated that the city would pay an extra $13.5 million on the Improve Our Tulsa bonds funding street and transportation projects because the city would extend the repayment terms.

“This is just like if you were to have a 30-year mortgage versus a 15-year mortgage,” Wagner said. “You are going to have to pay a little more in interest.”

But at the same time, he said, extending the repayment terms would decrease the city’s annual bond payment for capital projects, freeing up room for the $17 million for the public safety district without having to raise the millage rate.

One mill on a $150,000 home is about $15, Wagner said, meaning five mills for a $150,000 home would equate to about $75 a year.

Wagner said the proposed public safety district plan would not necessarily limit the city’s ability to issue bonds for future capital projects, noting that the city is repaying the principal and interest on its bonds much faster than it had in previous years.

“In past years we were issuing 20-year bonds, and even with this plan we are about half of that on average,” Wagner said. “So, yes, it reduces … the dollars of the levy that are available for debt service, but by extending those terms of those bonds we can still issue the bonds through the extension of the Improve Our Tulsa program just like we planned.”

Featured video: Mayor Bynum presents proposed FY22 budget


State-and-regional
topical
COVID-19
COVID-19: More than 5,000 new cases reported in Oklahoma last week; 413 hospitalized
  • Updated

Oklahoma’s seven-day average of newly reported COVID-19 cases shot to 750 last week, rolling the state back in time to late-February rates. 

The figure is only the latest development in a delta variant-fueled climb in cases health officials warned would come for the unvaccinated. The variant most known for devastating India's hospital system is believed to be 50% to 60% more transmissible than the original novel coronavirus and to carry twice the risk of hospitalization.

Virus sequencing data indicates that the delta variant accounts for 45.3% of cases in Oklahoma, up from 33.6% over the previous week.

Delta patients tend to have different symptoms from those the original virus presented, and their condition tends to rapidly worsen, so area doctors have advised residents to get tested immediately if they experience a headache, fever, sore throat and/or runny nose.

Oklahoma saw nearly 150 additional COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals over the past week. A total of about 413 COVID patients have been hospitalized in the state recently, with 139 of them in intensive care.

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Tulsa County saw a slight decrease in virus hospitalizations for the first time since late June, but the state's totals reached a high not seen since early March. Tulsa County hospitals housed 175 COVID-19 patients, with 70 in ICU, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data. 

In the past week, 5,249 new cases of COVID were confirmed across the state. That's about 1,800 more than the number recorded for the week before July 4-10 and up 80% since July 11. 

As of Wednesday, 5,799 documented cases were active in the state, which represents a steady climb from 1,731 four weeks ago. 

Nationally, Oklahoma continues to be in the top 10 states for some less-than admirable qualities. The state bumped up to the federal government’s orange zone for new cases per capita and red zone for test positivity rate in the most recent data available. 

Oklahoma ranks seventh for new cases per capita, trailing behind first- and second-place neighbors Missouri and Arkansas, respectively, and the state's positive test rate (currently 12.4%) ties with Florida for fourth, according to federal data as of Monday. 

The state now has a total of 1,416 vaccine breakthrough cases, up from 1,096 a week earlier.

As of Wednesday, there have been 130 hospitalizations and 19 deaths following breakthrough infections in vaccinated people since the state began its tracking, according to the state’s epidemiology report. More than 1.5 million Oklahomans are fully vaccinated.

All available vaccines provide a good deal of protection against the delta variant, but health officials still recommend that vaccinated people take precautions when necessary to reduce the possibility of transmission despite guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in public.

Doctors have advised residents who haven't yet been vaccinated to talk with their primary care physicians about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated. No treatment is 100% effective at preventing COVID-19, but those who are vaccinated and still become infected tend to have less severe illness, health officials have said.

CDC vaccination data indicated Wednesday that 45.4% of all Oklahomans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and that 38.9% of residents are fully vaccinated. Nearly 60% of the state's 18-and-older population has received at least one dose.

Those who wish to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment may do so at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov or find other vaccination opportunities at vaccinefinder.org.

By the numbers

The data below are current as of Wednesday:

Tulsa County

Confirmed cases: 78,445

Deaths: 1,438

State of Oklahoma

Confirmed cases: 468,401

Deaths (CDC): 8,677

Vaccine doses administered: 3,370,735

United States

Cases: 34,210,391

Deaths: 609,797

Vaccine doses administered: 339,102,867

World

Cases: 191,800,548

Deaths: 4,123,206

Vaccine doses administered: 3,700,788,809

Sources: OSDH, CDC, Johns Hopkins University

See all of the Tulsa World's coverage related to the coronavirus outbreak​ at tulsaworld.com


Govt-and-politics
Tulsa has no plans to return to mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions, mayor says
  • Updated

The city of Tulsa has no plans to reimpose a mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday.

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“In the last couple of days I have visited with (the Tulsa Health Department’s) Dr. (Bruce) Dart a couple of times; I have visited with the CEOs of each of our major health-care systems in Tulsa,” Bynum said. “None of them are requesting any action from the city at this time.

“All of them — and I agree with them — think we need to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. That is the No. 1 issue that we are dealing with right now.”

Bynum’s comments came as the state continues to deal with a steady increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with about 45% of those cases associated with the delta variant.

The Mayor’s Office released a statement later Wednesday in which Bynum noted Tulsa hospitalization trends while encouraging people to consider getting vaccinated.

The mayor pointed out that in early January, 27% of Tulsa’s hospitalizations were COVID patients. By June, that was down to 1%, which Bynum called “pretty remarkable progress.”

In recent weeks, the number has steadily risen, the mayor said, with COVID hospitalizations at 4.5% two weeks ago, 8.3% on Friday and 10.2% on Monday.

See all of the Tulsa World's coverage related to the coronavirus outbreak​ at tulsaworld.com

“Over the last few weeks, between 90% and 98% of the people hospitalized in Tulsa with COVID were not vaccinated,” Bynum said in his prepared comments.

The Tulsa Health Department reported Wednesday that the three-day average of hospitalizations has increased from 107 to 175 in the last week, with 70 patients in intensive care units. From July 14 to Wednesday, meanwhile, the number of new weekly cases jumped from 613 to 1,120.

“This is nearly identical to the same week last year, when 1,118 new cases were reported the week ending on July 21, 2020,” according to a Tulsa Health Department press release. “Unvaccinated individuals appear to be driving the spread, as the vaccines remain highly effective at reducing infection and serious illness.”

Dart encouraged Tulsa County residents, whether or not they are vaccinated, to take steps to protect themselves and others.

“A layered approach of vaccines, masks, social distancing and handwashing are the most protective steps people can take to ensure they stay healthy until the risk of exposure to the delta variant and COVID-19 wanes in Tulsa County,” Dart said.

Bynum said he continues to monitor the COVID-19 numbers and that he believes hospitalizations are the most reliable number to look at when contemplating restrictions on the public.

“The problem is the other data points that are relied upon are so heavily reliant on whether or not people get tested,” Bynum said. “With hospitalizations, the hospitals count the people that are in the beds, and they are either in the beds or they are not. It is the most black and white data point that we have to rely upon.”

The City Council voted 7-2 last July to approve a mask mandate ordinance for individuals 18 years of age and older. The mask mandate’s minimum age requirement was lowered to 10 in October, and the mandate was allowed to expire at the end of April.

Other COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines imposed by the city included spacing requirements in restaurants and a requirement that organizers of events with 150 people or more submit a safety plan to the Tulsa Health Department.

Bynum said that ultimately, he has relied on local medical experts to determine the best course for the city to take to combat the spread of the virus.

“For me, as the mayor, when we look at utilizing public policy and where that intersects with this pandemic, the No. 1 thing for me has always been to protect the ability of our local health-care system to save the lives of people who need it the most, and that is where you come into hospitalization levels,” Bynum said.

“And so whether it was the early action we took or the mask order, those came at the request of our local health-care providers who told us, ‘We need the city to do this to protect our ability to save lives.’ No one is asking us to do anything right now.”

Bynum said he will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. But he also encouraged the public to be mindful that some people have good reasons why they haven’t been vaccinated yet.

“There are people who are cautious, who, one, may not be old enough to get it … or who have compromised immune systems,” Bynum said. “There are other people who are just very cautious about being an early adopter on something that impacts your basic health, and that is a sincere concern.

“So I don’t come with any judgment towards folks who haven’t been vaccinated to date. It is not a decision that anybody should weigh lightly. I have chosen to be vaccinated, though. I have had no side effects whatsoever.”

Video: What can unvaccinated people expect if they get infected?


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