Chamber forum sheds light council candidate policy

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Feb. 6—With City Council elections just one week away, candidates from Wards 4, 6 and 8 came together Monday to discuss the biggest issues facing Norman.

During a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, the candidates, Judy Moss and Helen Grant for Ward 4; Jerry Drewery and Joshua Hinkle for Ward 6; Scott Dixon and Kyle Hurley for Ward 8, each were given time to answer questions from Chamber President Scott Martin about issues ranging from homelessness, support for local businesses and TIF districts.

The event began with candidates providing mixed solutions and opinions about the issues regarding the temporary warming shelter on Gray Street in downtown Norman.

Hurley and Hinkle both said they do not support an expansion of the location, but would like to see more wrap-around services and have the shelter in a more desirable area.

"I'm glad that we have a warming shelter that's compatible for the unhoused now," but it should not be the go-to solution," Hinkle said.

Other candidates like Drewery, Moss and Dixon would like to shut down the Gray Street location all together.

"It's going to be a problem wherever it is," Drewery said.

Grant was the only candidate to support more funding for the shelter, stating their intent to vote on asbestos removal at the next City Council meeting on Feb. 13.

In terms of allocating city resources to the issue, most of the candidates stated their intent to establish better relations with Cleveland County and share the responsibility.

"This is not something that Norman faces alone," Hurley said.

He added that continuing the Norman Forward initiative with Norman Forward II would allow the city to provide more assistance when needed.

Collaborating with developers and other community agencies to create more affordable housing options was another stance each candidate could agree on.

"ADU's and everything else, ask the experts," Dixon said.

Grant also gave suggestions of a TIF masterplan that current council members have been considering, and also a stormwater utility fee.

In terms of TIFs or a TIF master plan, Moss and Drewery were the only candidates who were skeptical of the idea.

Depending on how it's developed, the initiative could be "just asking for chaos," Moss said.

Moss also stated her stance on being more responsible with Norman's sales tax funds. She said that the way it's been spent so far has been "wasteful."

When candidates discussed the proposed entertainment district at University North Park everyone agreed to the idea with one or two stipulations except for Grant, as they wished the plan had more opportunities for affordable housing.

City council elections will be held Feb. 13 with early voting starting this week on Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.