Wards 2, 5, 6 and 8 are all up grabs in the primary election scheduled for March 1, with a general election scheduled for April 5. Since Oklahoma City’s elections are nonpartisan, in the races in which no candidate gets a simple majority during the March 1 elections, the two highest vote-getters will face each other a runoff election on April 5.
The councilman for Ward 2, which makes up the north-central part of the city, Sam Bowman, did not file for re-election, and a field of six candidates is looking to fill the post.
Meanwhile, in Ward 5, located in the far south-central portion of the city, incumbent Brian Walters has drawn one challenger.
The six candidates in Ward 2 are a diverse set, with careers ranging from students and small business owners to doctors and bankers.
All candidates were asked by Oklahoma Gazette their occupation, why they hoped to be elected, if there were any specific issues they hoped to bring to the table, their thoughts on the MAPS programs, and why voters should choose them over their rivals.
John Milner, 26, is the youngest of the Ward 2 candidates, and is a co-owner of Tree and Leaf Clothing Company.
Milner said he chose to run for the office because he wanted to become civically involved and he hoped to bring the voice a younger generation that would be responsible for the upkeep of many of the city’s current projects to the council.
He said some of the issues he hopes to bring to the table are city beautification and advocating for the individual neighborhoods in Ward 2.
“If someone does feel more prideful about where they live, that resonates within a neighborhood,” Milner said. “It’s kind of a ripple effect throughout the neighborhood. I don’t think it’s so much the big ideas, but the little ideas that people have within their neighborhoods and small businesses that’s going to make the difference.”
Milner said his candidacy is a change of pace, and that, if elected, he hopes to bring greater civic awareness and education to voters.
“If we educate people on how to think about things and how to ask questions we get far better results,” Milner said.
He said he did not vote for or against the MAPS 3 proposal, but does see it as a positive development for the city.
“You can’t deny the fact that growth and development is a good thing,” he said. “You have to push yourself to grow and everything else, you have to believe it will catch up with you.”
Janis Powers, 55, is a former attorney and currently sits on the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.
Powers said she chose to run because she is a strong neighborhood advocate and worked closely with Bowman during her time on the planning commission.
“I feel really strongly that the city council person from Ward 2 needs be person a strong neighborhood advocate,” she said. “Those neighborhoods are not only backbone of Ward 2, but the city in a way.”
Powers said she believes the city is on the right path, and hopes to keep city initiatives such as MAPS 3 and MAPS for Kids on schedule.
“We need to keep faith with voters who voted for all the projects, keeping them on schedule, making sure they get done and done right,” Powers said.
She said it is her experience working on a public board as well as her legal work in the field of planning, zoning and public-private partnerships that give her an edge.
The MAPS initiatives have been a positive force for Oklahoma City, Powers said, and is the source for civic pride among longtime residents and newcomers to the city.
“MAPS instills a confidence in citizens,” Powers said. “I think the MAPS projects have instilled in all those groups of people that the city can take on these projects and do them right, pull itself up by its bootstraps and move on into the future.”
Ed Shadid, 42, is a spinal surgeon and former independent candidate of Oklahoma House District 85 who ran last year with the backing of the Green Party.
Shadid said he hopes to be an independent voice on the council who brings the concerns different neighborhoods, local businesses and senior citizens to the table.
“I think pressure on councilpersons from powerful corporate and special interests are intense,” he said. “I would best be situated to maintain my independence and withstand that kind of pressure. My campaign is largely self-financed. I’m not dependent on special interest or corporate donors and I would maintain fierce independence on council.”
He said MAPS 3 projects should be prioritized according to a poll taken prior to its approval that ranked voter enthusiasm for the different projects, and that the projects must be closely monitored to make sure they do not exceed costs.
“I think the people have spoken; the people have indicated they want capital improvements,” Shadid said. “If we start getting into these things costing more than anticipated, you can’t build certain things on backs of the neighborhoods.”
The senior wellness centers in the proposal should have more priority than they currently do, he said.
“It’s about prioritizing our neighborhoods and businesses and doing the greatest amount of good for greatest amount of citizens, “ Shadid said.
Jeffrey Stark, 39, is a union representative with the state’s Painters and Allied Trades union.
Stark said he chose to run for council because he was concerned that many of the city’s projects, including the MAPS projects, do not require that local businesses or workers be used in contracting, and that many are brought in from out of state. In addition, he is concerned that police and fire resources are stretched too thin.
“It concerns me that we’re three MAPS projects deep and there are no requirements for that,” he said. “I know for a fact we have a qualified workforce here in the metro area. I don’t understand why we have to keep sending our tax dollars out of state for no reason at all.”
If elected, Stark said he hopes to propose language that would require some of the city projects to be contracted to local labor.
“When you have people out of work in Oklahoma City and out-of-state contractors are bringing their employees here, that’s a concern for me,” Stark said, adding that the police and fire stations should be bolstered. “If you’re going to stand up and boast about growth of Oklahoma City, you’re going to have to expect the growth of police and fire with it. If you don’t, you’ve got a problem.”
He said he is more down-to-earth than other candidates, and best reflects the values of Ward 2 voters.
“For us to have doctors and bankers and all that running for these positions, that’s the same thing we’ve always had,” Stark said. “If you want the same results, keep electing the same people. I don’t think they always reflect the values of what normal people are going through every day.”
Stark said he is for the MAPS 3 program, but that it should be spread over a wider area, rather than focusing on downtown.
Charlie Swinton, 61, is senior vice president of BancFirst.
Swinton said he decided to run to advocate for good government and economic growth in the city.
“I think government can be a good thing when done right,” he said. “I think government can have a positive impact on people lives and I want to make sure Oklahoma City government runs efficiently and effectively to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
If elected, Swinton said his priorities would be creating a friendly job-creation environment, supporting the school district, and adding police and fire resources.
“You don’t have a city, you don’t have a neighborhood unless you have jobs,” he said.
Swinton said he is uniquely qualified for the position because his degree in public administration and his work with government in the past.
“I think I can be one to work with other council members to keep this city moving forward,” Swinton said. “I want to be the councilperson that makes neighborhoods betters, helps small biz grow, that keeps Oklahoma City moving in right direction.”
Swinton said he voted for the MAPS 3 program and continues to support all of the MAPS initiatives.
“I think MAPS has been a godsend to this city and will continue to be a benefit to this city,” he said.
Sam Tichenor, 32, is a full-time student at the University of Oklahoma majoring in petroleum engineering and a youth leader at Kehilat Rosh Pinah, a Messianic Jewish Synagogue.
Tichenor said he hopes to help city government run smoother and more efficiently, while promoting economic growth.
“I’m interested in helping in whatever aspect I can to help the city run smoothly and improve some of the day to day aspects of city life,” he said. “Mostly, my main focus is the economy here in the city and making sure that stays strong. Our economy is doing better than in any area of the United Sates and just keeping that going and building on it.”
Tichenor said he is a man of principle and, if elected, would do what is in the best interest of his constituents.
“For the city as whole, my goal is to promote growth and help us here in the city with a more prosperous and happy life here,” he said.
He said he does not agree with all of the MAPS 3 projects, but as a whole the MAPS programs have been a boon for the city.
A background check of all candidates showed that Tichenor pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled, dangerous substance: LSD, in 1998. The arrest occurred when he was 19, and he said he did not use the drugs, but that he was the homeowner where the drugs were located.
“At that time, I was a teenager and made some regrettable choices of who to associate with and what behaviors I’ve let slide at that time in my life,” Tichenor said, adding that he has moved on and “chose a different path for my life from where I was then.”
breakdowns of Wards 5, 6 and 8 races, see next week’s Oklahoma Gazette.