The Norman for All group is organizing in opposition to speak out against claims made by Unite Norman, which is leading efforts to recall the mayor and several City Council members.
“The individuals driving the activities in this group are like-minded Norman citizens who have come together in a ‘think tank’-like setting in order to drive strategy around correcting the misinformation being disseminated by Unite Norman,” said Norman for All spokesman Troy Tumberlinson.
Unite Norman, a 501c4 organization, began circulating petitions July 10 to recall council members from wards 1, 3, 5, 7 and Mayor Breea Clark. Ward 5 Sereta Wilson resigned Thursday.
Norman for All is not a tax exempt, not-for-profit organization and has not hired a political consultant.
Both groups have raised money through GoFundMe. To date, Norman for All has raised $845 while Unite Norman’s contributions have reached more than $50,000.
Norman for All’s funds pay for yard signs to show support for recent actions such as the city’s mandatory mask ordinance, Tumberlinson said. The group’s signs read, “I Stand and Mask Up With City Council.” Besides Tumberlinson, Norman for All is represented by Matthew Davidson, Stefanie Voth and Jeremy Wance.
“We are not using these funds for political strategists, a PR firm, lawyer on retainer or any other administrative expenditures,” Tumberlinson said. “All money is being used for public outreach to counter the misinformation being disseminated by Unite Norman.”
Norman for All has decried the accusation that the City Council defunded or cut the Norman Police Department’s budget. The council’s June 16 vote left the department with a 0.034% increase from the previous year while it asked for a 3% increase, the city’s financial services director has said.
“First and foremost, the reasons being given to the public by Unite Norman for the recall are based on a false narrative,” Tumberlinson said. “The police have not been defunded and the City Council has not implemented a radical agenda.”
Unite Norman has criticized the move as an increase on paper only after the $865,000 reallocation from the NPD budget cut nine unfilled police officer positions, many from patrol. The funds then were earmarked for community programs, such as a mental health response and for a city auditor department, The Transcript reported in June.
Tumberlinson said residents should assess the NPD’s budget from a needs perspective in terms of the number of officers.
“We believe it’s not responsible to blindly increase funding without an analysis of what we need to be funding,” Tumberlinson said. “We are not advocating for abolishing the police. We do advocate looking at ways to lighten the burden placed on officers as they are often called upon to deal with issues that might better be handled by people trained in mental health, social work, health care, etc. This is just common sense.”
Russell Smith, co-chair of Unite Norman, said it is “widely perceived that this council does not want economic growth and would prefer it go to neighboring communities.”
Smith said critics can look at how the council handled the Norman Regional Health System bond proposal and how Norman missed luring Costco and sales tax revenue to the community.
Norman for All took exception to Unite Norman’s accusation that the council is not pro-economic growth and leans toward far-left policies such as including Norman as a sanctuary city.
“Just last week, council approved a new (92)-room hotel for Campus Corner, against the protests of some citizens,” Tumberlinson said. “We would challenge Unite Norman to point to any actions council has taken to impede growth.”
Smith said the council’s decision to entertain the idea of a sanctuary city also stirred opposition. The council declined to vote on a committee recommendation to designate Norman as a sanctuary city on February 6, 2020.
“In reality, the proposal to become a sanctuary city came from a citizen-based committee and Mayor Clark and the council chose not to take action on this item — which was only one of many recommendations made by the committee,” Tumberlinson said. “Defunding the police often comes up again here, an in reality, the mayor and City Council moved to the center on this issue. They had one group of citizens calling for a drastic reduction in the police budget and a restructure of the police department itself, and another group calling for a large increase to the budget. Instead, council came to the middle and increased the budget while also providing for an auditor and for a mental health support unit to assist the Norman Police Department.”
While the council has not voted on a mental health support unit, it was discussed in the City Council Oversight Committee July 9 meeting. Further discussion on allowing 16 year olds to vote in local elections is scheduled for the committee’s Aug.13 meeting, Clark told The Transcript Friday.
Finally, Norman for All finds the recall petitions a waste of taxpayer dollars and time. City Clerk Brenda Hall said the special election could cost approximately $28,000. If signatures are submitted by the deadline on Aug. 14, the earliest an election will be called is in January, one month before the regularly scheduled election. A deadline passed July 20 to get on the November ballot.
“A broad recall, such as that being sought by Unite Norman, is a slap in the face to all the voters who made an informed choice and cast their ballot at the regular election,” Tumberlinson said.
Smith said the urgency for recall is to prevent the existing City Council from “voting on the NPD budget next year.”
Despite being elected in February, newly elected council members are not sworn in office until the first week of July, after the council has voted on the fiscal year budget in late May to early June.