The March 1 municipal primary is fast approaching, and among the four City Council races, Ward 6 is one of two races with more than two candidates.
Ward 6 covers most of central Oklahoma City. Current representative Meg Salyer, who filed for re-election, has drawn two challengers: Adrian Van Manen, who is backed by local police and fire unions, as well as the Sooner Tea Party, and Jessica Holstein, the youngest candidate across all wards.
Oklahoma Gazette asked candidates why they are running, their thoughts on MAPS 3 and what ideas they hope to bring to the council.
Jessica Holstein, 21, is a student at the University of Central Oklahoma and works with war veterans as a research assistant at a psychiatry clinic.
Holstein said she was inspired to run by what she saw as a city government disconnected from average citizens. Holstein addressed the City Council on Jan. 18, expressing concern that attending Mayor Mick Cornett’s State of the City address cost $75 for non-Greater Oklahoma City Chamber members.
“It shocked me they wanted to charge the civilians of Oklahoma City $75 to go hear the mayor speak about Oklahoma City,” Holstein said. “I thought an event such as that should be free to the citizens.”
She said some of the issues she hopes to bring to the table are making police and firefighter protection a higher priority, making sure no eminent domain cases arise to obtain property for MAPS 3 projects and promoting small businesses.
“You can vote for me, who stands for the common people, or you can vote for my opponents, who stand for the elite,” Holstein said. “What our city needs is a lot more young and dynamic people, and a lot less people who are stuck in their ways. That’s what this election is about.”
Holstein said she did not vote for the MAPS 3 program, but if elected she would be sensitive to citizen concerns about MAPS 3, and be a watchdog, making sure Oklahoma City companies were contracted, rather than out-of-state companies.
The Gazette conducted research and background checks on all council candidates. Among the findings were festive pictures on Holstein’s public MySpace page, showing the candidate in revealing poses during a Halloween party.
Holstein said the pictures capture her at a different time in her life and that she has moved on.
“It was three years ago,” she said. “I’ve changed a lot since then. I’m a homeowner, I’m getting married, and I have a career I love and plan on doing it for as long as I can. I never said I was perfect — I just said I represent the common people. And I don’t know many common people who don’t have a past or skeletons in their closet.”
Meg Salyer, 55, is president and CEO of Accel Financial Staffing Solutions and was elected when former City Councilwoman Ann Simank vacated the post.
Salyer, who has served for two and a half years in the seat, said she wanted to be re-elected to make sure the city’s promises are kept.
“My interest in going forward is that I believe so much in the vision for the city,” Salyer said. “I’m encouraged by the momentum we experienced in the last 15 years.”
Salyer said she has worked to increase graffiti abatement and reduce gang violence in south Oklahoma City, as well as public safety, code enforcement, street repairs, and will continue to look at ways to improve those services within the city’s budget.
“We all, I think, would like to see more officers and more firefighters on the street,” Salyer said, “and I’m anxious to look at ways we can figure out how to do that within the constraints of the budget we’re working with.”
Salyer said she supports all of the MAPS 3 initiatives, and that each one was a sign that citizens want to move the city forward.
“I think the MAPS franchise is a referendum of how positively our citizens view their city and our future,” Salyer said. “We now have (new job) announcements on a regular basis because the quality of life here, because the citizens invested in themselves.”
Donors for Salyer’s campaign include Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Chairman Carl Edwards, who donated $2,500, and maximum donors of $5,000 include Chesapeake Energy’s political action committee, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, Devon Energy Executive Chairman Larry Nichols, Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clayton Bennett, and Love’s stores President Gregory Love.
Salyer is one of four candidates who got maximum donations from Chesapeake’s PAC, as well as McClendon. The other three are Ward 8 incumbent Patrick Ryan, Ward 5 challenger David Greenwell and Ward 2 candidate Charles Swinton.
Adrian Van Manen, 61, who serves as music director at Windsor Hills Baptist Church and music instructor at the church’s Oklahoma Baptist College, declined an interview with the Gazette.
On his campaign website, Van Manen states that his priorities would be to increase the number of police and firefighters, have a fire station previously promised by the city be built in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and increase attentiveness to street and road repairs.
Van Manen’s campaign has received maximum $5,000 donations from both police and fire organizations.
In researching the candidates, the Gazette found photographs from an Oklahoma Baptist College spring 2010 event known as the North-South School of the Prophets, in which several student evangelists are pictured holding both United States and Confederate Battle flags. In the background of the photographs, people in both Union and Confederate regalia are pictured.
Cliff Hearron, a candidate for Ward 8 who has attended the event, said it was meant to inspire friendly competition among the students.
Windsor Hills pastor and college president Tom Vineyard did not return a phone message from the Gazette.
Vineyard made headlines recently reacting to comments from OKC Police Chief Bill Citty that there is no practical reason for owning an AR-15. The pastor called for the chief’s resignation on National Rifle Association News.
Hearron said the duo’s decision to run for office was not based on Citty’s comments and was made far in advance.
View a map of Ward 6’s boundaries and the exclusive story, “Challengers in Oklahoma City Council races discuss online photos.”