Ward 6 candidates address issues facing Norman in public forum

Jan. 30—Ward 6 city council candidates discussed homelessness, TIFs and other issues facing Norman in an election forum Monday.

Both candidates, Joshua Hinkle and Jerry Drewery, each took 45 minutes to answer moderated questions from the audience at the event, located at Wildwood Community Church, 1501 24th Ave NE.

Hinkle, who addressed the audience first, began his introduction talking about his history with Norman and the commissions he's been a part of like the Social and Voluntary Services Commission, the Economic Development Advisory Board and the Norman Arts Council.

Questions quickly divulged into issues like the proposed entertainment district that would be located in the University North Park area.

Hinkle said that he would prefer to have the city "get a little skin in the game," but is "not a huge fan of the site plan that they've put forward."

"I think that it can be done a little bit better. But I haven't seen the final plan," he added.

Hinkle also addressed the ongoing debate of establishing a 24/7 shelter for the unhoused population by saying he would prefer to have "different levels of shelters."

"More than one facility, I don't think a facility in Ward 6 alone or just one facility would have benefit. Normally, I think you'd have to have wraparound services that meet people where they are and potentially happen in different parts of the city," he said.

He also stated his support for local law enforcement and his commitment to work with others with differing opinions.

"There are lots of good people that work on city council, people with great ideas, and you know, they're given their time to be up there," he said.

Drewery began his time establishing his two main goals which are public safety and establishing "common sense."

"That's what we're having trouble right now with our city council. No one's thinking things through. There's no common sense anymore," he said.

He elaborated by claiming the City has been sustaining the "lifestyle" of the unhoused population in Norman.

"The shelters the way they're set up right now are attracting the people we don't want to attract. We've got enough people that are normal people that need help, let's just focus on that and quit doing things [that is] attracting more and more vagrants."

He compared the City's current shelter and services as a "free hand out."

"My opponents are not listening to you. They're right now proposing to add more shelters. We said 'No,'if they're going to do that, anyway, we need to change these people out, get somebody in there that's going to listen to us," he said.

While homelessness was the main issue Drewery addressed, he also expressed his plan to continue to support law enforcement and enthusiastically favored the proposed entertainment district.

"I think it's a great idea. As long as it has a place where it cuts off, because it's the sort of thing but we're not really investing anything into it because there's nothing there right now. But if we can do that, and build it up, encourage businesses and companies to come in," he said.

The next City Council candidate forum involving every even-numbered ward will take place at the Norman Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 5. The candidates from Wards 4, 6 and 8 will speak at 3:30 p.m., and the candidates from Ward 2 will speak at 5:30 p.m.. Registration is required beforehand at business.normanchamber.com/chambercalendar.