By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A VOICE Accountability Session will be held on Sunday, January 27, at 4 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 600 NW 13th St., in Oklahoma City. The twelve candidates running for Oklahoma City Council have all been invited. The event is free and open to the public.
Elections for city council Wards 2, 5, 6, and 8 will be held on Tuesday, February 12. There are two candidates running in Wards 5 and 8, three in Ward 6, and five in Ward 2. Run-off elections will be held in April if no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in a ward election.
Oklahoma City Council candidates are:
Ward 2: Suzanne Broadbent, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission; James Cooper, a teacher and trustee of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority; Marilyn Davidson, president of a consulting firm; Mike Dover, a member of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board; and Tracey Halley Terrell, a small business owner.
Ward 6: JoBeth Hamon, education coordinator at the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma; Nathaniel Harding, oil and gas company president and member of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board; and retired automotive businessman Jim Holman.
Ward 8: Mark Stonecipher (incumbent) is an oil and gas attorney and former neighborhood association president; and Lauren Durmus has an international teaching background and is on the staff of Teach For America Oklahoma City.
During the event, candidates will answer questions related to VOICE’s agenda of issues. They will include topics such as panhandling, homelessness; TIFs (tax increment financing), public education; sidewalks, public transportation; fair wages; and a new MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects Plan).
“City Council is an extremely important institution in Oklahoma City,” noted Pastor Lee E. Cooper, Jr., Senior Pastor at Prospect Church and VOICE leader, “It is where decisions are made that impact city residents and communities every single day. This is a race where voters need to inform themselves and vote, because every voter who turns out is critical in a local election like this.”
The accountability session will include stories from Oklahomans who share real life perspectives on the issues that city council members decide. Candidates will be asked to state their positions and willingness to work with citizens on those concerns.
“Oklahoma City is at a critical juncture in our development,” stated the Rev. Lori Walke, Associate Minister at Mayflower Congregational UCC and VOICE leader. “Some aspects of city life are going well, but our city councilors need to be responsive to city residents – from all parts of our city – and ensure that every neighborhood can access services and share in the improvements we are seeing in some pockets of the metro area.”
City council seats are nonpartisan terms held for four years. Council members earn $12,000 annually.
“This VOICE session is an opportunity for Oklahoma City residents to learn about some of the critical issues that our city is facing,” said Nick Singer, First Unitarian member and VOICE leader. “Those present will hear why we need to pay attention to those concerns and this race, and candidates will have an opportunity to share how they will respond to our concerns and work with us should they be elected.”
The VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) Action Fund is a nonpartisan coalition of congregations, nonprofits, and worker associations in the Oklahoma City metro area that has come together out of a deep sense of mission to address some of the challenges that people in their institutions face.
The organization does not endorse or support specific candidates. It does work to develop members’ skills in working effectively within the democratic process with civic leaders and public officials on issues of concern to families.