NORMAN — Norman mayoral candidates Tom Sherman and David Kempf are challenging incumbent Cindy Rosenthal for the city’s leadership over the next three years.
Vows to keep the race for mayor of Norman clean and issue-focused appear to have been kept by the three candidates vying for the post, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t heated up.
The city election is slated for April 2.
A recent campaign mailer sent out by Tom Sherman for Mayor challenges Rosenthal’s leadership in three areas, saying she “wanted to sell water to Goldsby in 2009,” that the roads in east Norman are “crumbling and dangerous” and that she “rejected the Warren Theatre, which then went to Moore,” resulting in the loss of tax dollars for Norman.
Research does not support Sherman’s campaign flyer specifics.
· Warren Theatre: The Warren Theatre in Moore is the top grossing megaplex in a four-state area, according to the movie theater’s official website, and the traffic that floods into surrounding businesses in Moore — including a top grossing Freddy’s Frozen Custard — has increased Moore’s sales tax numbers.
However, Bill Warren made the announcement that he would build the $30 million theater in Moore on July 9, 2005 — two years before Rosenthal took office as mayor.
Former Norman mayor Harold Haralson said no one from Warren Theatre ever approached him and, to his knowledge, the city council did not reject any proposal by Warren. Haralson was mayor in 2005.
Additionally, the existence of Hollywood Theater in Norman was a prohibiting factor.
University North Park developer Brad Goodwin said UNP developers had wanted a theater, but the Hollywood Theater was not interested in selling, which meant a theater in UNP would not have first-run movie rights.
“You can’t go really close to a first-run movie house, so they have industry standards about no encroachment,” Moore Economic Development Director Deidre Ebrey said. “We did not have a movie theater at all, and it gave our government an opportunity to woo them because it would not hurt an existing movie theater. We certainly rolled out the red carpet and made the whole agreement easier for them.”
While Rosenthal was not mayor, she was on the city council at the time Warren Theatre went to Moore, Sherman said.
“We live and die by sales tax. That’s mandated by the constitution,” Sherman said. “Somebody should be going after that sales tax dollar every day.”
Rosenthal maintains that she has no memory of Warren Theatre ever coming to the city council and being rejected by council members.
Ebrey said she does not believe the Warren Theatre representative ever had a formal conversation with Norman.
“The available land was the most important thing,” Ebrey said.
· Roads in east Norman: In response to a question by Ward 5 Council member Dave Spaulding, City Street Superintendent Greg Hall researched Norman’s current paving and maintenance, according to an email to the council by Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary.
“When we complete the FYE 2014 Street Maintenance Bond and CIP rural road projects next year, the city will have only 6.2 miles of remaining unpaved rural section line roads. The FYE 2015 Street Maintenance Bond Projects will further reduce that inventory of unpaved public streets by another 2.5 miles,” O’Leary wrote. “So, by July 2015, only 3.7 miles of unpaved rural section line roads will remain in Norman, consisting of 10 locations with short segments of roadway.
“Staff hopes to program the paving of those remaining rural roads through the Annual Rural Roads CIP Program in 2016 and beyond. This reduction of unpaved streets in Norman, particularly in Ward 5, is a remarkable accomplishment for the city of Norman over the course of the past 20 or more years.”
The recent transportation bond approved by Norman voters includes projects in east Norman.
· Goldsby water contract: The Norman City Council voted on a proposed water contract with Goldsby on Aug. 11, 2009. Rosenthal was part of the unanimous vote against the Goldsby contract. The 8-0 vote did not include Council member Rachel Butler, who was absent that night.
“I never advocated for the Goldsby contract,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal has not sent out a mailer yet, but she has distributed a push card citing increased citizen involvement and taking credit for a balanced budget, lack of layoffs and high bond ratings.
Rosenthal also points to Norman as a leader in public safety, energy efficiency and water conservation, as well as protecting Norman’s quality of life. She is pictured in front of Norman Fire Station No. 8, which opened in May 2011.
The city has maintained a balanced budget and is required to do so by state law.
Layoffs of city staff were avoided by a smart hiring freeze, which left spots unfilled on city staff when those people retired or resigned.
Sherman said the balanced budget wasn’t based solely on revenue.
“They have balanced the budget the last several years by taking money from the fund balance,” Sherman said. “You take money from the fund balance because your expenses are exceeding your revenue.”
However, Rosenthal has been a staunch advocate of the city’s Rainy Day Fund.
Public meetings and committees filled by Norman residents have continued or increased during Rosenthal’s years as mayor, giving legitimacy to her claim of increasing citizen involvement.
Kempf has not sent out a mailer yet, but he has a website. On his site, Kempf blasts both the Norman Chamber of Commerce — “‘Incentivizing’ is an invented word to cover up the chamber’s desire to bribe businesses to move here,” he says — and the Sierra Club.
Asked by the Red Earth Group (Oklahoma Sierra Club) in the 2013 Candidate Survey “Do you support multiple approaches to solve Lake Thunderbird's water pollution issues?” Kempf responds, “The question assumes Thunderbird is suffering from a major pollution problem. There is no substantive evidence that is the case. Even if there were, there is even less substantive evidence explaining the cause or source of the pollution.”
Lake Thunderbird has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as an impaired water source.
While Kempf criticizes city government as a whole, he does not attack the mayor directly, either personally or on the issues. He expresses concerns about Agenda 21, condemns corporate welfare and proposes himself as a guardian of property rights and liberty.
Sherman retired from the family owned McClain Bank in 2010. He is currently the controller for Fowler Holding Company. Sherman grew up in Purcell and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1973.
He and wife, Dee Dee, have been married for 44 years. The Navy veteran has strong business ties, having served as past chair of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Norman Business Association.
Kempf is a small business owner and entrepreneur. He has been a Norman resident since 1991. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is married and has two children. He grew up on the plains of central Kansas. Kempf’s wife, Starr, was born and raised in Norman.
He has experience in the construction, real estate and computer software industries. He is currently the president and CEO of Port 40, an Oklahoma corporation producing computer software.
Kempf has a BA in mathematics and an MS in computer science, both from the University of Oklahoma.
Rosenthal was elected mayor in 2007 and recommended Carol Dillingham to her unexpired term in Ward 4, which she had held since 2004.
She is the director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma. She and husband, Jim, have two adult children, Caitlin and Aaron.
Her work as mayor has earned her numerous recognitions, including the 2009 Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Society of Public Administrators and 2010 Journal Record Woman of the Year. Re-election would mark Rosenthal’s third term as mayor.