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Celebrating New Art, Saying Goodbye to Two Council Members - July 2, 2017

In my last column I spoke about the groundbreaking for the new downtown library. Well, in the last two days I have participated in three more dedications. These are celebrations of significant additions and improvements to our community.
Thursday morning was the dedication of an incredible 17 foot concrete sculpture covered in beautiful hand carved tiles. The sculpture was commissioned by our Norman Economic Development Coalition and installed in University North Park. It was the work of local artist Alejandro Bagajewics, whose family immigrated to Norman from Argentina.  When I was a child the only public art was on the University campus. The first significant City public art was the statue of Abner Norman in front of City Hall. It was the winner of a community contest.  Installed during the same period were the Pioneer Woman and the Sunflower girl. These works were part of the same contest and were donated by the artist.  I believe there has always been significant citizen interest in seeing more art in our public spaces.  We are one of the only cities in Oklahoma to dedicate a portion of our hotel motel tax to the arts and humanities. In 2015 when NORMAN FORWARD was passed, one percent of the cost of each big project was set aside for public art.
Immediately following that dedication, NEDC celebrated the opening of its new business incubator program in OU’s Research Center. NEDC has had an incubator since its inception, but this location is larger, more technologically sophisticated and will be staffed. This is a space that can support new entrepreneurs as they experiment with innovative ideas for new businesses and products.  The City of Norman is proud to be a part of the Norman Economic Development Coalition (NEDC) which is a partnership between the City, the University, the Chamber of Commerce and Moore Norman Technology Center. The main function of the Coalition is to attract business and industry to our community to provide jobs for our residents. It is another example of a collaborating partnership that helps make Norman such a great place. 
This morning we did the groundbreaking at our water treatment plant $33 million Phase II upgrade. This facility opened in 1965 to treat the water from the newly built Lake Thunderbird. It has had several earlier expansions and this one will enhance water quality, repair infrastructure, implement new safety and efficiency technologies, and comply with disinfection regulations. It is paid for by the water rate increase authorized by 67% of our voters in 2015.
At our Tuesday Council meeting we said goodbye to outgoing Council members Greg Heiple (Ward 1) and James Chappel (Ward 5) appointed to fill my term.  CM Heiple served for four years, responding to his residents needs with interest and enthusiasm. He is an avid bicyclist and supporter of bike path expansions. He worked tirelessly on a solution to get the high hazard dam and Summit Lakes brought up to standards.  James Chappel was always on call for his residents.  A great listener and problem solver, he always seemed to know who to go to get things done. I consider them both friends and will miss working with them. 
Serving on Norman’s City Council requires a significant time commitment, a willingness to be available to residents at almost any time, and the patience to turn the other cheek when folks are not happy with you. On July 11 we will seat our two newest Council members Sereta Wilson, Ward 5 and Kate Bierman, Ward 1. I look forward to working with them for the next two years.

In my last column I spoke about the groundbreaking for the new downtown library. Well, in the last two days I have participated in three more dedications. These are celebrations of significant additions and improvements to our community.

Thursday morning was the dedication of an incredible 17 foot concrete sculpture covered in beautiful hand carved tiles. The sculpture was commissioned by our Norman Economic Development Coalition and installed in University North Park. It was the work of local artist Alejandro Bagajewics, whose family immigrated to Norman from Argentina.  When I was a child the only public art was on the University campus. The first significant City public art was the statue of Abner Norman in front of City Hall. It was the winner of a community contest.  Installed during the same period were the Pioneer Woman and the Sunflower girl. These works were part of the same contest and were donated by the artist.  I believe there has always been significant citizen interest in seeing more art in our public spaces.  We are one of the only cities in Oklahoma to dedicate a portion of our hotel motel tax to the arts and humanities. In 2015 when NORMAN FORWARD was passed, one percent of the cost of each big project was set aside for public art.

Immediately following that dedication, NEDC celebrated the opening of its new business incubator program in OU’s Research Center. NEDC has had an incubator since its inception, but this location is larger, more technologically sophisticated and will be staffed. This is a space that can support new entrepreneurs as they experiment with innovative ideas for new businesses and products.  The City of Norman is proud to be a part of the Norman Economic Development Coalition (NEDC) which is a partnership between the City, the University, the Chamber of Commerce and Moore Norman Technology Center. The main function of the Coalition is to attract business and industry to our community to provide jobs for our residents. It is another example of a collaborating partnership that helps make Norman such a great place. 

This morning we did the groundbreaking at our water treatment plant $33 million Phase II upgrade. This facility opened in 1965 to treat the water from the newly built Lake Thunderbird. It has had several earlier expansions and this one will enhance water quality, repair infrastructure, implement new safety and efficiency technologies, and comply with disinfection regulations. It is paid for by the water rate increase authorized by 67% of our voters in 2015.

At our Tuesday Council meeting we said goodbye to outgoing Council members Greg Heiple (Ward 1) and James Chappel (Ward 5) appointed to fill my term.  CM Heiple served for four years, responding to his residents needs with interest and enthusiasm. He is an avid bicyclist and supporter of bike path expansions. He worked tirelessly on a solution to get the high hazard dam and Summit Lakes brought up to standards.  James Chappel was always on call for his residents.  A great listener and problem solver, he always seemed to know who to go to get things done. I consider them both friends and will miss working with them. 

Serving on Norman’s City Council requires a significant time commitment, a willingness to be available to residents at almost any time, and the patience to turn the other cheek when folks are not happy with you. On July 11 we will seat our two newest Council members Sereta Wilson, Ward 5 and Kate Bierman, Ward 1. I look forward to working with them for the next two years.