As the Oklahoma City mayoral campaign heads toward the Feb. 8 election date, candidates are increasingly making their positions known.
Frank Urbanic, a 41-year-old local defense attorney, has touted his efforts to combat COVID restrictions on local businesses.
After the Feb. 8 general election, if no candidate receives a majority vote, a runoff will be held April 5 between the two candidates receiving the most votes.
The Oklahoman sent seven identical questions to each of the candidates.
Below, you will find the answers received from each of the candidates in alphabetical order of their last names, the only parameter being answers be kept within 200 and 300 words.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges the city is facing now and will face over the next four years?
David Holt has turned a blind eye to much of our city. He focuses on downtown while the rest of our city is ignored. We need a mayor that represents all of Oklahoma City. The value the Cleveland and Canadian County areas bring to our city must be recognized and appreciated. What’s going on now is taxation without representation. It’s time those areas see a return for the money they pay in taxes in the form of better roads and law enforcement response time.
Public safety. We are not safer here now than we were four years ago. A primary reason for this is the disrespect shown to the police by our current mayor. Our law enforcement needs to know that their mayor has their back. The climate created by the media and people David Holt aligned himself with has created an environment that makes it difficult to recruit and retain officers. For the risk our law enforcement officers undertake, they need to be paid more. Our police must be the top-paid force in the state again.
Homelessness has worsened under our current mayor. A change in leadership is clearly what’s needed to address this problem.
Keeping businesses open. Our current mayor shut businesses down, and I opened them back up. As I was fighting him to open businesses, he was fighting me to keep them closed.
How would you address the growing problem of homelessness in the city?
Overall, my plan to address homelessness is to take the best practices of cities that have been successful in reducing homelessness. A housing first approach appears to be a successful strategy. In a “housing first” approach, the barriers to housing are reduced to make it easier to get the homeless into housing. Once one aspect of that person’s life is stabilized, it’s easier for providers to work on the other issues the person is facing, such as substance abuse or mental health. My plan would take housing first one step further. An issue identified in cities that implemented housing first is that they run out of capacity because people are staying in these places for years. A housing first approach in Oklahoma City should be coupled with a “moving up” program to help long-term residents in these units find housing in a more traditional residence.
How would you address the continuing COVID crisis facing the city?
I would follow the law. Our current mayor abused his power when he unlawfully shut down restaurants and bars at 11 p.m. in the fall of 2020. He never had the authority to use the Riot Control and Prevention Act to regulate businesses in that way. COVID shined a light on who our mayor really is. He’s someone who didn’t care who lost their job and didn’t care what businesses permanently closed. There are real people behind these businesses. Shutting down our economy clearly did not stop COVID. However, our mayor’s actions had real consequences for people who depended on these businesses for their livelihoods. We are at a point in this virus where people must take individual responsibility for their actions and do what they feel is right. If someone wants to take the vaccine or wear a mask, they should do that. I do not support any mask or vaccine mandates.
Given the city's notable growth over the last decade, what would you do to continue to attract new residents and businesses?
We need to focus on the things city government has traditionally done. This means making sure people feel safe and making sure our infrastructure is taken care of. Holt has failed at both. Our city is constantly chasing shiny new objects and dreaming up new ways of spending money rather than maintaining our current infrastructure. The Bricktown businesses pay a BID tax. That money is supposed to go to upkeep in Bricktown. Instead, numerous lights are burned out and owners are scrubbing graffiti off walls. That money is clearly not going to fix Bricktown. Visitors don’t feel safe there. A clean and safe city without potholes everywhere is what’s needed to attract new residents and businesses.
What city services would you like to see more money invested in, and how would you pay for those increases? What services would you like to see reduced?
Our police should be the top-paid police in the state again. Our other focus should be on repairing our crumbling infrastructure. I want to see the streetcar eliminated. This would save almost $5 million per year that could be reallocated to things people use and care about.
The Oklahoma City Police Department has among the highest rates of police killings in the nation. Do you support the recommendations put forth by the Mayor's Law Enforcement Policy Task Force or believe some or all of the recommendations should be rejected, made stronger or weakened? Please explain.
First, I would sit down with the FOP to discuss their opinions on the recommendations. My work as a criminal defense attorney gives me an insight into our police that no other candidate has. I would use my perspective and the inputs from our police to make an informed decision. One recommendation that stood out to me is the youth outreach. I would support a program that had local criminal defense attorneys going to talk to high schoolers. They could discuss their rights and what to do when they have an encounter with law enforcement. Some people may be more receptive to someone other than law enforcement talking with them about these issues. This program could also be done as a panel with a law enforcement officer on it as well.
Why do you want to be mayor and what makes you the most qualified candidate for the job?
In 2020, Mayor David Holt unlawfully shut down businesses using the Riot Control and Prevention Act. I filed a lawsuit against Holt, and we removed the threat of arrest from the workers of our great city. Throughout the lawsuit, I became so disgusted by Mayor Holt’s attitude towards workers and businesses in our city. He simply didn’t care which businesses went out of business or who lost their job. Workers in this city deserve someone who cares about them. I’m running for mayor to ensure that businesses will be kept open here — not shut down. Throughout his time in office, Mayor Holt has focused on downtown and ignored the rest of our city. The streetcars, which he believes are an “unquestioned success,” are the biggest example of this. They are a financial disaster. In the year ending on June 30, 2021, the streetcars earned a paltry $52,405 in fares. During that time, the city subsidized the streetcars over $4.7 million from its general fund. Every citizen of Oklahoma City should be outraged by how badly their money is being wasted.
Mayor Holt does not share my values. He took a knee with BLM against our police and supports the Biden agenda. I’ll work with other local and national leaders to promote conservative values.
I bring a conservative and liberty mindset to Oklahoma City government. I believe our community does best when the government gets out of the way. My instinct is not government-centric. In the military, I’ve worked many situations — some under the pressure of combat — with people from a variety of backgrounds. I’ve led many teams and managed numerous projects.
I’m a businessman. My undergrad degree is in business management, and I have an MBA from OU. In my law firm, I’ve had to deal with paying staff and the bills while managing to have enough left over to provide for my family. Unlike our current mayor, I know what it’s like to operate a business under the conditions the government imposes.
Regular General Election: Tuesday, Feb. 8
Early Voting: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 and Friday, Feb. 4 at the Oklahoma County Election Board, 4201 N Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City.
Runoff Election: April 5, 2022, if necessary. In the event no candidate receives a majority of all the votes cast at the general election, a runoff election will be held between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the general election.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: 2022 Oklahoma City mayoral election: Q&A with candidate Frank Urbanic