2017 Oklahoma municipal & school runoff elections
It's the first Tuesday in April, April 4, 2017, and for many municipalities around Oklahoma (mainly those without their own charters), it's the day for electing city councilors or town trustees. Here's the complete list of April 4, 2017, elections in Oklahoma.
(It's great that we can now find info about any election in the State of Oklahoma in one central location. Wouldn't it be nice if all of the campaign finance and ethics reporting information were just as centralized and electronically searchable?)
Here in Tulsa County, there are two council seats each in Broken Arrow and Bixby, four seats in Jenks, and one seat each in Skiatook and Sperry up for election today.
Sperry also has a proposition on the ballot, a 20-year, 0.6% sales tax for capital improvements.
Two longtime Broken Arrow councilors, Craig Thurmond and Richard Carter, have drawn challengers, Rick Thomas and Debra Wimpee, respectively. Even though Broken Arrow is now the fourth most populous city in Oklahoma (only OKC, Tulsa, and Norman are larger), it is still governed by the "statutory charter," the default form of city government specified in the state statutes. This means that every seat on the council is elected at-large by the entire city. Thurmond currently serves as mayor and Carter as vice mayor; they are appointed to those positions by their peers on the council, so if either is defeated, the successful challenger would not automatically inherit the mayor or vice mayor position.
Debra Wimpee has the endorsement of a number of conservative legislators and activists, including State Sens. Nathan Dahm, Dan Newberry, and Joe Newhouse, State Reps. Kevin McDugle, David Brumbaugh, Michael Rogers, and Scott McEachin, Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, and Wagoner County Assessor Sandy Hodges. Tulsa 9/12 Project leader and Broken Arrow resident Ronda Vuillemont-Smith has endorsed Debra Wimpee and Rick Thomas, saying, "It is PAST time for new blood on our city council," and noting that Carter has served on the Council for 24 years and Thurmond for 16.
It's also runoff election day for a handful of school board seats in which no one received a majority of the vote at the primary election in February.
One of those school board seats is here in Tulsa: Incumbent Lana Addison-Turner received 474 votes to 454 for challenger Jennettie P. Marshall. A third candidate received 60 votes, enough to keep either candidate from reaching the required 50% majority.
Here is video of Turner speaking at the "Exploring Equity community conversation" in February. The Oklahoma Eagle has endorsed Marshall for Office 3. Given the school board's insistence on lavishing big paychecks on executives in a time of tight budgets, it's time for a change, and I would vote for Marshall if I lived in District 3. (Here is a map of Tulsa Public Schools board member districts
MORE: The Tulsa County Republican Party has posted information about the party affiliations of council candidates in Broken Arrow, Jenks, Skiatook, and Sperry.
Edmond is electing a mayor and also has two propositions on its 2017 city ballot. The propositions would alter the comprehensive plan and zoning classification to enable a proposed mixed-use development consisting of 260,000 sq. ft. of retail and 350 residential units, to be called the Shops at Spring Creek. I can't think of another example of zoning changes going to a public ballot. If I'm understanding this story correctly, the Edmond City Council voted to approve the changes, but a citizen petition was filed to put the decision before the voters.
As a result of SQ 750, which was narrowly approved in 2010, it takes the signatures of 5% of the number of votes cast in the previous race for governor to put an ordinance passed by a legislative body (such as a city council) before the voters for final approval. (CORRECTION: SQ 750 only affected statewide referenda; the threshold for municipal petitions is governed by Article XVIII, Section 4(b), and remains 25% of the "total number of votes cast at the next preceding election," which state courts have interpreted to mean the next preceding election at which all qualified municipal voters, and only they, could vote.
RESULTS: Edmondites voted down the zoning and planning referenda by nearly a 2-to-1 super majority. With this precedent in place, it will be interesting to see if citizens in other Oklahoma cities use this tool to override development-related legislation. The threshold would be easy to reach in Oklahoma City, which tends to have low turnout for its mayoral elections, but hard to reach in Tulsa, which has moved its municipal elections to coincide with state and federal general elections. This could be an interesting tool for citizen activists in metro suburbs. In Edmond, the previous city general election in April 2015 drew 2,808 voters, so the threshold to put this referendum on the ballot was a mere 702 signatures.
Congratulations to Jenni White and Rob Ford, elected to town trustee boards in Luther and Mounds, respectively. In Broken Arrow, Mayor Craig Thurmond was re-elected, but 24-year councilor Richard Carter was defeated by challenger Debra Wimpee. Jeannettie Marshall defeated incumbent Lana Turner for a seat on the Tulsa Public School board. Full results are available on the Oklahoma State Election Board website.
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