City Council Considers Delay To Address Tulsa Food Deserts

Wednesday, August 9th 2017, 10:34 pm
By: News On 6

A packed city council meeting ended without an expected vote on a 180-day city-wide moratorium of small retail stores. 

For many, it's about ensuring all areas of Tulsa have access to good, healthy groceries.  This is really a fight about dollar stores in north Tulsa.

The meeting lasted more than three and a half hours.  At times, it got chaotic with people from the community shouting at councilors and speakers, sometimes interrupting them.

Many residents packed the meeting and spoke about the need for access to quality food.

Many said their only option for food is to go to one of 15 dollar stores scattered across communities in north Tulsa.

The moratorium would prevent these types of stores from opening for the next 180 days.

Seven people spoke against the moratorium saying it would not be good for the city's sales tax, that crime in the neighborhood must be addressed first, that the city needs to beautify the areas to attract quality grocery stores, and that having a moratorium would only stop businesses from coming. 

Seventeen people spoke for the moratorium, saying it's really about shirking the life expectancy gap between North Tulsa and South Tulsa which is nearly 11 years of life as well as balanced economic development. 

Some say the lack of access to quality food on Tulsa's north side is part of a larger racial issue in Tulsa, showing continued disparities between communities in the city. 

Councilors discussed other options and thought about amending the proposed ordinance to be only for District 1.

The city attorney told them he was worried that could open the city up to lawsuits.

“The plan will be to continue to next week with the idea that we will not take action next week, that we will have an executive session where we can discuss some of the legal implications,” said one counselor. “You heard tonight there is some interest among some of the councilors in seeing if there is a way to put this in just one specific geographic area."

After the executive session, the councilors would then move the process through public meetings where people from the community will again have an opportunity to voice their thoughts. 

This is a conversation that is long from over and is drawing high emotions from people on both sides of the issue.

Voting was delayed until next week.