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March 11, 2014

Candidates for council wards turn out for forum

NORMAN — The Norman Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Monday night was the public’s first official introduction to the current field of Norman City Council candidates.

Wards 2, 4, 6 and 8 are up for re-election this year. Council member Chad Williams did not draw an opponent, so he will retain his seat.

In Ward 2, four candidates are vying for the open seat being vacated by Council member Tom Kovach, who decided not to run again. Running are Gary Caissie, Aleisha Karjala, Matthew Leal and Clint Williams.

In Ward 4, incumbent Greg Jungman has two challengers, Rhett Jones and Bill Hickman.

In Ward 6 incumbent Jim Griffith is being challenged by Jerry Lang.

The forum allowed candidates to air their views, share their vision for Norman and show what they know — and sometimes do not — about the current state of the city.

The first topic was the Public Safety Sales Tax initiative, which will be on the April 1 ballot with the council election.

The PSST is a citywide sales tax measure that will allow voters to renew a half-percent sales tax already collected as a designated tax for public safety jobs and equipment. The renewal measure on the ballot would make the tax permanent.

Candidates unanimously said they support the PSST renewal. One of the most striking elements to emerge from the evening, however, was Jungman’s confusion over the proposed tax renewal.

Twice, Jungman said he likes that there is a permanent element to the PSST to support the jobs and that there is also a temporary element that will allow voters to weigh in again on the capital expenditure portion of the tax, but that is not accurate.

The provision that the city council — including Jungman — approved unanimously to put on the ballot is a permanent tax.

In the words of a public information brochure on the city’s website, “The Ordinance specifically approves permanent funding to retain Public Safety personnel added from the revenues of the Public Safety Sales Tax of 2008 and new Public Safety personnel. PSST II also provides specific equipment and facilities through the sales tax. Once these purposes are accomplished, the tax will continue to permanently fund the Public Safety personnel positions and provide for additional Public Safety and Capital expenditures, as needed.”

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