Candidates for the Ward 3 seat on the City Council for the City of Oklahoma City revealed once again in a candidate forum Saturday the diversity of perspectives held by people in the city’s large, suburban/urban wards.
The election is February 9. Nineteen candidates filed for four City Council ward seats.
Most notable in the hour-long forum were comments about infrastructure and sprawl.
This was the second of two public forums sponsored by the Westen Neighborhood Association and the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber. The first on Saturday, January 17, featured candidates for the Ward 1 race.
Two of the candidates were missing from the forum. According to moderator Robin Jones, Barbara Young had a calendar conflict and Tim Long did not respond to an invitation to participate.
Jessica Martinez Brooks has worked in education for 20 years and grew up on the south side. Her family has deep roots in the city’s history. She said her great-grandfather’s house would be in the middle of the new Scissortail Park.
Allen Swanda is an Oklahoma City native who has completed a long military career in the U.S. Army and “is ready to serve” as an Oklahoma City Councilor.
Trey Bishop said he was born at Deaconess Hospital (now Integris-Portland Ave), grew up in Yukon where he graduated from high school, and graduated from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany. He now lives in the far western reaches of the ward deep into Canadian County where he works in real estate management.
Kelli Payne lives in and knows two of the divergent realities of Ward 3. She engages in farming and ranching in rural Canadian County south of Mustang while serving as the President of the Oklahoma City National Stockyards located in an old area with some of the most intense urban problems of the city.
The need for more infrastructure development dominated the comments from all of the participants in response to the question about the biggest issues for Oklahoma City.
Swanda and Martinez-Brooks focused the most on roads and bridges. They both live in Canadian County where industrial, retail, and housing development have been intense over the last decade putting pressure on city-owned infrastructure.
Payne mirrored those concerns but also believed that the impact of the pandemic has created economic circumstances that demand attention from the City in continuing to develop economic expansion.
Bishop also believes that infrastructure is an issue but with some differences from the others. He said that he thought where he lives the infrastructure is good. But, around the area where the church is, there are some streets that need replacing seeming to be the same as when they were first built. He believes that the larger infrastructure needs where he lives is for quality of life developments like public parks.
This need for quality of life developments was echoed later in the forum by several others who said that the further out from the center of the city the less there were quality-of-life investments in infrastructure.
Veteran Hall of Fame journalists Billie Rodely and Jim Palmer were asking the questions in the first forum and then, this one.
Unlike the first forum for Ward 1 candidates, these Ward 3 candidates seemed to have watched the first one and came prepared for similar questions. Or, they were just very much better informed.
They all reported that they had voted in the last city elections.
And all but one, Swanda, said that they had attended a city council meeting in person. Swanda said that he does watch proceedings of the council on a regular basis on TV and engages through phone and email with city hall about issues that he is interested in.
Law Enforcement Task Force
And, unlike the Ward 1 forum where the whole group whiffed the question about the 21cp Solutions consultants that had been hired for $175,000 by the Mayor’s Law Enforcement Task Force, this group all gave answers that showed they knew about the engagement.
Swanda said that he believed hiring the consultant was “unnecessary” and referred to “after action” evaluations that he was familiar with in the Army. He said that the police should be allowed to do their own evaluations without the interference of the task force or the consultants.
Martinez-Brooks took a different approach no-doubt because she has been close to that process serving on several boards and committees at City Hall.
“It’s really important for us to look at policies and procedures that we are using for policing and I believe the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police union] is also a part of that committee as well,” she said. “So, just ensuring that we are having appropriate training and policies and procedures.”
Bishop said that he had friends on the OKCPD who didn’t know about the actions of the task force and thought they should. However, he tempered his statement with a positive one about hiring the consultants. “And $175,000 if it improves our police department is probably a better way to spend money than $15 million on a Energy Center.”
In response to the question about what to do about urban sprawl Swanda, Martinez-Brooks, and Payne all had their own variations on proposing that the city do a better job of coordinating the building out of infrastructure and services when new developments are allowed to come in.
Bishop’s response to the problems of sprawl is to allow de-annexation of parts of the city that are in the country for those who want it. “My answer to this is, Oklahoma City doesn’t need all this land. And the people out in a lot of these areas don’t want to be a part of Oklahoma City.”
To learn more
A few other topics were also discussed in the forum.
The election for City Council Wards, 1, 3, and 4 will be February 9.
See our previous coverage of the Ward 4 race.
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