Normanites will chose between two candidates Tuesday when they vote for mayor. The candidates are current Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and Hal Ezzell, a member of the Norman City Council.
Mayor Rosenthal graduated from Illinois’ Northwestern University and later from the University of Oklahoma with a doctorate in political science in 1995. Her interest in public service started as a newspaper reporter in Ohio and California. She is a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures and a faculty member at OU, where she serves as director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center.
Rosenthal said her accomplishments during her first term as mayor made the city government more accessible and accountable.
“I think that we have achieved a high level of accessibility,” she said. “The city is more citizen-driven than it’s ever been. “¦ In terms of accountability, we totally revamped the city Web site after the 2007 ice storm. I convened with a group of social service agencies on how we can deal better with crisis, which is a better communication system.”
During her first year, Rosenthal said she launched a beautification project to give the city a better first impression.
“We launched a strictly volunteer initiative on city beautification and litter pickup,” she said. “We did an awareness campaign around it and the appearance of the community. I’ve convened a group working on bridge designs to tell Norman’s story.”
The beautification process also includes replacing trees the city lost in recent ice storms, which Rosenthal said also aids the city in its green effort.
“We are taking steps to be more environmentally conscious,” she said. “We’ve planted 5,494 trees since the ice storm.”
Councilman Ezzell, who currently represents Norman’s Ward 3, was raised in Norman and attended Norman High School. He graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma and later OU with a law degree in 1996. Ezzell is a private-practice attorney. He has served on the board for the Center for Children and Families and the board for Independent Living Services for Youth. He is also on the board of directors for the First Presbyterian Church of Norman Foundation.
Ezzell said he believes his experience as a local public servant has qualified him to run for mayor.
“I think my history is reflective of that,” he said. “I think my prior experience qualifies me to have the proper perspective as mayor from a civic point of view. I also think my professional experience uniquely qualifies me.”
Ezzell said he believes this race will be critical to Norman’s future in deciding where to direct fiscal decisions.
“There will be major issues accruing over the next three years,” he said. “I disagree with where the current mayor wants to go; that’s why I’m running against her. We have an operating budget, and we are in a critical year. We are trying to figure out how to diminish the shortfall by the end of the fiscal year.”
Ezzell said he disagrees with Rosenthal on several issues, including spending decisions. He said he doesn’t agree with the funds used in creating speed humps. On Facebook, more than 560 people have joined the “Please Don’t Hump My Norman” group.
“At a time when we can’t roof a firehouse, why does the city continue to pour money into speed humps?” he said.
Ezzell also said he would re-think the Porter Avenue Corridor Project.
“We’ve spent $80,000 of taxpayers’ money and the community doesn’t want (the Porter Avenue Corridor),” he said.
Rosenthal disagreed. She said the amount spent on the project was much less.
“The amount we’ve spent on Porter is less than two-hundredths of a percent of our general fund,” she said. “It’s a major commercial corridor. Councilman Ezzell hasn’t been to any of the public meetings where there has been a lot of public participation about traffic safety and balancing interest of the residential areas. I think saying the public isn’t interested about the Porter Corridor is incorrect.”
Rosenthal questioned Ezzell’s attendance, saying he has missed nearly one-third of finance committee meetings. She also claimed that, despite his opposition to some projects, Ezzell voted with her.
“We’ve had 19 votes on these issues since he has been on council, and he’s voted 16 of 19 times in the affirmative,” Rosenthal said.
Ezzell defended his voting record, saying he only voted to put them into legislative record, not necessarily for the project.
“Her voting record is playing fast and loose with the facts,” he said about Rosenthal. “We’ve criticized her on some hard-hitting policy things she is pushing forward, like Porter Corridor and the Storm Water Master Plan. Her only response is to try to claim that I’ve voted the same as she has.”
In terms of attendance, Ezzell claimed he has been present for nearly 90 percent of council meetings. He said there are several types of meetings he isn’t required to make, leaving the issue somewhat distorted.
“She’s trying to count every meeting the city has had since 2007,” he said. “I have 22 employees and three children. I have to prioritize my time.” “Luke Atkinson
photos Top, Hal Ezzell (photo/Mark Hancock); Bottom, Cindy Rosenthal (photo/Shannon Cornman).