Lee Hall, Gale Hobson face off in Ward 4 city council race

Mindy Ragan Wood / The Transcript

Norman City Council Ward 4 candidates Lee Hall, left, and Gale Hobson participate in a Norman Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Monday.

Lee Hall and Gale Hobson will face off for the Ward 4 seat in next Tuesday's city council election with just days to convince voters they can help solve the city's problems. Early voting begins Thursday.

Hall was appointed to the Ward 4 seat in September following Bill Hickman's resignation. Hobson serves on the senior citizen ad hock committee.

Both candidates have lengthy backgrounds in leadership: Hobson as a medical director for Mercy Health Systems, Hall as the director of First Year Experience and Student Disability Services at Oklahoma City University and librarian for the Pioneer Library System.

Hall may have an advantage as an incumbent who has had time to catch up on council matters for several months, but Hobson said she has remained informed of the issues and how the council has voted. Both candidates are pleased to see the city address homelessness and both want to see better efforts to preserve historic beauty of their neighborhoods. Both women are passionate about seeing the development of a health complex for senior citizens and those in need of better healthcare and preventative behavioral and mental healthcare.

Where the pair split is the University North Park tax increment finance district. Hall voted no on Nov. 26 when the council ultimately passed an amended agreement to end allocations to the TIF fund. The new agreement was the council's solution to plug a $5 million cash hemorrhage in the general fund for the rest of the year and into the next fiscal year which begins June 30. The agreement is in dispute following a petition to rescind it and a protest to the petition filed in Cleveland County District Court. Despite a hearing set for Feb. 24, the matter could be tied up for several months or years. The original TIF agreement, forged in 2006, will pay out at full price early next year.

"I would have voted for the TIF," Hobson said of the November agreement. "Sometimes you take your hits and move on."

Hobson, a longtime negotiator as a licensed psychologist and medical director, hopes to see future problems solved outside the courtroom.

"I think I'm a good candidate for this office because I've spent all these years as a negotiator and I understand people," Hobson said. "We need to continue to find ways forward, where we find solutions, not problems. We don't go to court, we talk it out because once you're in court somebody else decides for you."

Hall was one of four council member to vote on the issue based on a "deep dive" into the issue after taking office, she said. She learned the TIF "is a complex issue" that has taken "many twists and turns." Hall characterized the negotiated settlement as a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Even with the agreement's patch to the budget shortfall, there is not enough money to fund remaining projects such as the indoor aquatics and sports complex to the scale it was originally promised, she said.

Moving forward, Hall has turned her attention to projects that have been placed in question with the TIF dispute. Hall will continue to focus on the public transit system, homelessness, and a stressed business sector along the Porter Corridor that has been troubled with ongoing road construction.

"Since September, we have addressed big issues that affect all of Norman" Hall pointed out.

Whatever the city's problems, Hobson said she will work to make Norman a better place.

"I want to see it improve," she said. "I want it to be a community we are proud to live in."

Hall hopes to keep up the momentum she started in September.

"I decided to seek another term to continue the work I have started and to continue to provide a strong and proactive voice for the unique challenges that face Ward 4 as well as develop effective public policy for the City of Norman," she said.

Mindy Ragan Wood366-3544 mwood@normantranscript.com

Name: Gale Hobson

Age: 70

Education: PhD in psychology from OU

Occupation: Licensed psychologist

Years in public or nonprofit service: 40

Years in Norman and in ward: 20 (non-consecutive), 6.

Name: Lee Hall

Age: 66

Education: Bachelor of Arts in history, master's degree in library and information science from OU

Occupation: Retire librarian and higher education administrator

Years in public or nonprofit service: 44

Years in Norman and in ward: 49, 18 (non-consecutive)

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