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March 25, 2014

Norman City Council candidates clarify views at public forum before April 1 election

NORMAN — The candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on Monday at city hall allowed city council candidates to showcase their ideas and viewpoints.

While all of the candidates support the Public Safety Sales tax and agree that quality and quantity of water is one of the most pressing issues facing Norman now and in the future, differences are beginning to emerge.

“Smart growth is planned growth,” said Ward 6 Council member Jim Griffith, an incumbent who is defending his seat against challenger Jerry Lang.

Griffith used his knowledge of the issues moving forward to deflect the challenge to his seat. Lang put forth a low budget, let people pay their own way approach.

“Everybody’s quality of life is different,” Lang said of big projects like a sports complex or aquatic center.

Areas where Griffith and Lang appear to differ most includes how to manage growth and economic development. Griffith supports connectivity between downtown and Campus Corner and sees the Center City Vision project as a means to that end.

Griffith does not oppose high density but believes location and quality are crucial, as is providing a variety of housing models to keep those who graduate from the university but who aren’t ready for houses and yards.

Lang opposed high density.

“I think it’s changing the rules in the middle of the game,” he said.

Lang also opposes “picking winners and losers by giving tax rebates.”

He criticized spending money on amenities like fountains at Legacy Park and bike lanes around town.

“Let’s take care of what we have right now,” Lang said.

The contest in Ward 4 continues to heat up. Rhett Michael Jones and William Hickman are challenging incumbent Greg Jungman for that seat.

Jones said he lives downtown in the arts district, where there is mixed-use housing with second-floor residential. The low vacancy rate shows those apartments are popular, he said.

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