Reflections: My three year term as Mayor will end on July 2. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed, how naïve I was and how much I have learned. Learning is one of the most fun parts of being Mayor. It is learning about the workings of your City government, the things that we need to do, and then taking part in doing those things.
At the start of my term, I did not know how political things would be or understand the growing impact of social media. I was surprised at what zealots some of our residents are, how negative people can be, and how easy it is to fail. Probably the most frustrating thing I learned was how long everything takes.
I also learned what an amazing community we have. We have an engaged citizenry, a passionate council, and a professional staff that know how to stretch a dollar. We are the home of a major University, an award winning school system, and have an outstanding Technology Center. We have an active art scene, festivals, good restaurants, multiple entertainment venues, beautiful parks, and a growing network of trails and bike paths. We have much to be grateful for.
Looking back over the last few years so much has transpired and there have been some enormous challenges. The council has had some successes and some failures.
We spent so much time struggling with the issues of a site and funding for a Senior Citizen Center. Finally, this past April the council and senior advocates agreed on funding from Norman Forward and Reeves Park as the location.
We faced another year of structural budget issues and mounting public pressure.
The Council has now tentatively accepted a term sheet, worked out with the developers, to end the TIF increment early. I commend our Interim City Attorney Kathryn Walker for the outstanding job she did on the city’s behalf to end the TIF in a financially and legally responsible way. If approved by the Statutory Review Committee, Planning Commission and Council, it not only will help complete some anticipated TIF projects, but will help the Norman Economic Development Coalition and provide a site and some extra funding for the Aquatic Center and Multi-Sport Center, both are Norman Forward projects.
Despite all of the furor around the University North Park TIF, we were able to finalize and adopt Center City form based code, basically rezone an entire area between Main and Boyd, and did an ad valorem TIF to help pay for the needed infrastructure. All without fanfare. This spring a citizen group has been working on some changes and updates to the ordinance, which will be brought to the Council in July.
The Council’s biggest failure was not getting a Stormwater Utility approved. We simply could not come up with something the voters would accept in terms of a fee structure. The problem remains a critical one for our City. We simply do not have sufficient funds to continue improving our prevention and maintenance programs for our stormwater infrastructure. It will be interesting to see how future Councils handle this difficult issue.
I enjoyed so many of the wonderful opportunities and experiences. I have met so many new interesting and committed people, and there are so many more things I would like to say, but I can’t say it all. I took this job to be a public servant. I took it to do my part to make Norman a better place. I tried very hard to make it about what I saw the need was and not about my personal agenda.
As I come to the end of my six years on council I find that I am both relieved and sad. I planned to be a Council member but I did not plan to be Mayor. There were many times over the last three years that I questioned that decision and myself. There were days I wanted to walk out, and there were days that I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world. Maybe that is the way with all things worth doing.
I cannot thank the City of Norman staff enough for their professionalism, hard work, and commitment to our community. To our residents I say thank you for giving me this opportunity, and for the support, guidance and sweat equity that many of you have contributed to our community. I leave the council with the utmost belief in their commitment to make this a better place, and to Breea Clark our new Mayor I wish the best of luck!