Transcript Candidate Forum

From left, mayoral candidates Breea Clark, Evan Dunn and Bill Hickman participate Monday in The Norman Transcript candidate forum at city hall. Tuesday (Feb. 12) is election day. Voters will vote on Norman’s next mayor, odd-numbered ward council members and the Norman Public Schools bond issue.

Tuesday is election day, and the city’s mayoral and council campaigns are coming to a close.

Last week was their last chance to lay out their platforms in two public forums, one hosted by The Transcript and the other hosted by the Norman Seniors Association.

At The Transcript forum, mayoral candidates Breea Clark, Evan Dunn and Bill Hickman talked about how they would move Norman forward and why they are uniquely qualified for the position.

Ward 6 council member Clark said she hopes to improve collaboration with community partners and connect with residents in a civil, productive fashion.

She said she would look to grow Norman’s sales tax base by first addressing the city’s budget, expanding experiential sales tax dollars and working with state legislators to close the online sales tax loophole.

“We need to do a better job with our budget and strengthening our economy,” she said.

She said she is uniquely qualified to be Norman’s next mayor because of her cooperative leadership style, interpersonal skills and years of experience serving on boards, commissions and on city council. She said she would set a positive tone and course for the city to make sure everyone feels included.

She said she would be sincere and authentic as Norman’s next mayor and focus on positive collaboration to solve problems.

“I’m not just going to just say what you want to hear,” she said. “I’m going to do what needs to be done.”

Dunn said he wants to bring a visionary approach to city government that would propel Norman into a statewide leadership role. He said Norman has to learn from successful communities and address wastefulness and materialism.

“I hate the idea of more spectacle,” he said. “We do not need more spectacle in this city. What we need is a way to balance what is lacking, a commitment to an environmentalist style of branding this community.”

Dunn suggested prioritizing local, sustainable food production and creative solutions to economic problems.

Ward 4 council member Hickman said rebuilding public trust and building a community vision are the driving forces behind his campaign.

“I’m willing to collaborate with [residents] to find common ground so that we can build a common community vision, and that would begin the process of restoring public trust,” he said. “Without restoring that public trust, we’re not going to begin to heal the divides and move the community forward in a positive fashion.”

He said his priorities are improving quality of life in Norman and delivering on issues most important to voters, such as the senior center and School Resource Officer program.

At The Transcript forum, Hickman talked about a five-point economic plan to improve Norman’s sales tax. 

He said his plan would bring quality jobs to Norman, promote Norman’s weather and aviation industries, protect and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs, improve quality of life and advance a first-class public transit system.

Hickman said he is uniquely qualified due to his years of experience and accomplishments as a council member, U.S. Air Force veteran and attorney.

“I’ve worked hard with people to solve problems and get results,” he said. “That’s the mayor I will be for you.” 

Odd-numbered city council races

• Ward 1: Incumbent Kate Bierman said transparency is a focal point. She said transportation is the top issue facing Ward 1. She said though OU’s decision to pull CART funding is a challenge, it also presents an opportunity for the city to shape a better transportation system to meet residents’ needs.

Economically, she said improving quality of life in Norman and simplifying the permitting process for businesses will be instrumental in promoting economic growth. She said Norman’s economic plan should take a wide approach, but tax incentives aren’t necessarily the best way to achieve sustainable growth.

“You’ve seen the results of what I’ve done on city council,” she said. “I’m approachable, transparent and I communicate. I mean what I say and I say what I mean.”

Challenger Shon Williamson-Jennings said affordable housing and transportation would be focal points.

She said addressing trauma is the top issue facing Ward 1. She said the city has a responsibility to take a trauma-informed approached and aims to put together a trauma-focused coalition.

“People are always first,” she said.

Economically, she said Norman needs to be business-friendly and look for ways to promote business — not through a TIF — like discounts and rebates for businesses that come to Norman.

“I want Norman to be the best place to live, work and play,” she said. “Action is going to take place, if I am elected.”

She said she looks forward to working closely with residents to find solutions for Norman.

“We know people support that which they helped create,” she said.

• Ward 3: Three candidates are running in the open race to fill outgoing council member Robert Castleberry’s seat.

Patrick Ahern said taxes are a top issue facing Ward 3 residents. He said he wants to take a critical look at how the city’s budget is impacting residents and find ways to soften the impact.

Economically, Ahern said the focus should be on core Norman and revitalizing areas that need help.

Richard Bailey said the most pressing issue for Ward 3 is growth. He said his aim is to improve growth, both business and residential, over the next 15 years through a comprehensive plan. The second major issue, he said, is addressing traffic.

Economically, he said incentivizing retail growth has been a mistake. He said the city should spend its time and money to incentivize growth in manufacturing and engineering by being more business friendly

Alison Petrone said the issues facing Ward 3 are diverse but identified child care scarcity, food insecurity and CART service as top issues. She said she would focus on listening to her constituents and finding solutions.

Economically, she said she favors focusing on infill development and resisting urban sprawl. She said she is against using public funds to promote development and businesses should carry their own weight.

• Ward 7: Challenger Kimberly Blodgett said eliminating discrimination and promoting a more inclusive community are top priorities for her campaign. She said transportation is part of that and improving public transportation is a top issue facing her ward.

She said the city and its partners, like the University of Oklahoma, can work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. She said her experience as a teacher will help guide her as a leader and as a voice for the people.

Incumbent Stephen Tyler Holman said he has the experience and historic knowledge to address the biggest issues facing Ward 7 — the top issue being flooding. He said he hopes to continue to serve the city, and, if elected, would be the most senior member on the council.

He said his vision for Norman is an inclusive one that promotes safety, education, city services and an environment where people and businesses will prosper.

Challenger Kyle Hurley said stormwater is the top issue facing Ward 7. Another important issue, he said, is the senior center. He said he intends to work to move both forward.

He said a good working balance is needed with OU and all city partners. He said his background in the health care field and in community organizations would make him a good choice to represent Ward 7 residents.

• Still raising money: After the pre-election report filing period and in the 48 hours prior to the election, if a candidate receives a contribution of $1,000 in the aggregate from any one individual, they are required to file a continuing report. Ward 3 candidate Alison Petrone filed such a report after receiving a $1,000 donation from retiree Linda McCormick after the pre-election reports were submitted.

Mack Burke

follow me @mackburke4

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.