Stephen Tyler Holman

Candidate for Ward 7

1. What is your position on requiring masks to be worn due to Covid-19 concerns?

“I always consider carefully the power I can wield as an elected decision maker. I generally prefer that people do the right thing instead of having the government mandate things. In the case of Covid-19, we have been dealing with an unprecedented situation unique to most of our lifetimes and we have had to make very difficult decisions to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community. I am not a medical or health professional, but I believe in listening to people like Doctor Gary Raskob, Doctor Dale Bratzler, and Doctor Kate Cook who are.

All the decisions the Council has made in regard to Covid response have been based on the advice from these professionals in their field and I will continue to listen to them. For those reasons, I support the mask mandate.”

2. What are your views on policing in Norman, including the budget, FOP contract, and SRO program?

“I believe the function of a police department should be to solve crimes that have been committed against the people of our City, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. The Constitution says “Liberty & Justice for All”, but far too often our system of justice falls short of living up to that standard. I have seen the Norman Police Department do good things in my lifetime growing up here, but I have also seen first hand that there is waste of resources and that priorities in the department are not always aligned with the pulse of the community they are sworn to serve. It took me going to the State Supreme Court to hold NPD accountable three years ago and that experience has made me unafraid to always publicly hold them accountable, even when it may be the politically unpopular thing to do.

The police budget is the single largest departmental budget for the City every single year and any good City Councilmember should be very critical of how those funds are spent.

Re-allocating police department funding to better address mental health and crises response in our City would be beneficial to our citizens and our the members of the police department in my opinion.

I am definitely someone that supports workers rights and unions, but I feel the political activities of the FOP have only served to hurt the image of the police profession in the eyes of most people. Like the military, the police department should always remain publicly neutral as to not alienate large segments of the population that they again, are sworn to serve. When people are afraid to call the police for help, you know there is a serious problem.

The SRO program is voter approved in its current form so I do support fulfilling the will of voters until that otherwise changes. I do feel strongly that school security should not be a City funded program since the school system is an independently governed entity from the City. The PSST does not generate enough revenue to support itself so the City really just cannot afford it. I also have many concerns about police in schools as a national trend and what that means for minority students specifically when it comes to how they are being policed/disciplined.”

3. What are your views on the militarization of police and acquisition and use of military-grade weapons by the police department?

“I have consistently opposed spending requests to make the Norman Police more militarized over the 8 years I have served on the Council. I will continue to do that as I strongly believe a local police department should be distinctly different in appearance, equipment, and attitude on the job than the military.”

4. What should the city of Norman do to address the numerous racial justice issues that have come up in recent years?

“We have done a better job in recent years of acknowledging these issues exist than in the past which I think has been a positive thing for us as a community. We must continue to listen with open and understanding minds to the experiences people in our City are telling us about and take seriously the pain that these issues cause throughout our society. City Hall has an obligation to set the public example that racial injustice and hate has no home here. If we are silent as a City, then we are complicite in these problems.”

5. How should Norman address the needs of the homeless population?

“Compassion and understanding are paramount. There are so many factors that could lead anyone into a situation of being unhoused and our main objective should be to help in any way possible. Housing first is a great strategy that is working, but there are gaps in that which must be filled in the immediate time. I believe housing is a basic human right and that should be our motivating factor above all else.

My dad was not on the streets, but he was living at the Jesus House in OKC when I first got elected to City Council. That experience has helped guide my advocacy and support for measures to address homelessness in Norman. Among other initiatives supported the creation of the new Food & Shelter for Friends and their 32 tiny homes (with room to expand)  in addition to the creation of a permanent warming shelter/non profit service hub that we hope to have ready for next year. I am open to considering innovative concepts like a designated campground to address the issue of several unregulated campgrounds popping up on private property around the City. We have to understand and accept that there may always be people that prefer to live outside. How can we compassionately help instead of being angry at them.”

6. What are your views on infrastructure and environmental justice issues in the city, including stormwater, public transportation, accessibility, and land use?

“The built environment plays a major role in the ability of people to live, work, and enjoy life. Low income, racially diverse, and people with mobility challenges have often been underserved or not served at all when it comes to City planning in this Country. When it comes to planning City projects, I have always pushed for spreading them out in an equitable way that makes sure all parts of Norman are benefiting from them. The approval of all development projects need to take into consideration the impact the project may have on all surrounding residents. Something we would not approve of next to a wealthy neighborhood should have the same standard applied in regard to all neighborhoods in our City. 

I grew up on the East side and rode the City bus pretty often as a kid. That experience gave me firsthand knowledge of how vital that type of service is to people that need it.

Public transportation, parks, water/sanitation services, sidewalk accessibility, housing accessibility, among many more factors,  are things all Cities have an obligation to provide in a just and equal way.

We are about to finish the very first new street with dedicated bike lanes in East Norman soon (24th from Lindsey – Robinson) and I think that is a major step in the right direction for this area of Norman specifically.”

7. What do you think about the numerous Inclusive Community Subcommittee of the Human Rights Commission recommendations surrounding the homeless, a sanctuary city, updating Norman’s history of oppressed communities, etc.? Which of the recommendations from the Inclusive Community Subcommittee would you support?

“I definitely support most of the recommendations of the Inclusive Community Subcommittee and have already voted to move forward with some of them. Homeless and unhoused issues have been a priority for me personally due to my own experiences with it. Everyone in this City that wants a home should have one, but we also need to understand that we need to be prepared to help people suffering from mental health issues that may not be capable of maintaining housing on their own.

The first point in the Sanctuary City policy is problematic due to our lack of control over how the County Jail operates since it is a County Government function. That said, I strongly support the statement from the Norman Police that it is not their job to enforce Federal Immigration law or to assist ICE in doing so. We need to make sure our local PD is following through on that word and is not engaging in activity to break up or harm the families of our City. The Chief of NPD has stated on the record that he does not want anyone in our City to hesitate calling the police to report a crime out of fear their immigration status will be questioned by responding officers. This is another point we must stay vigilant on.

 The other two points, (Develop relationships with other sanctuary providers (i.e., churches, city services, and state non-profits). ○ Adopt a Family First Policy to keep immigrant families intact.) are policies that make sense, are compassionate, and should be supported by everyone.

Norman needs to continue recognizing the history of the land our City now resides on and the people who were displaced to make it happen in the beginning. Recognizing past policies that caused harm like the Sundown Town ordinance has been something I have supported with my vote and will continue to support when educating residents about our history.”

8. More Oklahomans are facing housing and food insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. How would you address this issue as a city council member?

“The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly exacerbated housing and food insecurity problems we were already facing, especially in a State like Oklahoma. I have viewed my role as being a resource for people to turn to for answers and information. My position gives me a platform to advocate to State officials and medical professionals and to efficiently let people know what is going on. The City government needs to use all the resources available to us to help those in need make it through. Grace with municipal utility bills and the municipal court actions are two of the best ways the City Council can act with compassion towards people suffering from hardships related to Covid-19. I also think the City needs to lobby the State for some kind of eviction freeze or incentive to rental property owners to address the dire housing security situations many people have been put in by this. Allowing hundreds or thousands of Norman residents to lose their homes would be devastating.”

9. Do you support Unite Norman? Did you support any of their recall efforts? Why or why not?

I do not support Unite Norman or their attempt to recall me and my colleagues on the Council. We were all elected by a fair and democratic process that takes place every February in Norman.

Anyone that is concerned about the direction of our City has the ability to support candidates and make changes without pursuing something as extremely divisive as a recall. Some of the people involved with Unite Norman may have good intentions, but the organization as a whole and its founders have consistently spread misinformation while being very hateful, and divisive while doing so.

10. What are your thoughts on the economic development of Norman, such as TIF, Norman Forward, and Norman central city and Porter Avenue areas?

“Economic development is important for the sake of jobs and education, but it must be done so in a way that benefits the community as a whole and not just a select few. We are not a community that can afford to offer massive tax incentives to lure business here like others prefer to do. We must rely on investing in infrastructure and services that improve the quality of life for residents in the City. This in turn is what will bring in the jobs we want and Norman has seen success with this strategy.

A TIF can be a valuable tool for local governments to address infrastructure needs in a particular area that otherwise might not get them. These improvements can then lead to the area being more attractive to residents and businesses looking to locate in our City. I generally support the use of property tax based infrastructure TIFS like we put in place for the CENTER CITY area. It is not siphoning off sales tax revenue from the City and is only for fixing things like streets, sidewalks, alleyways, and storm drainage issues. The Campus Corner TIF was successful a few years ago at putting in new ADA sidewalks, lights, landscaping, and parking for the area. Once it did those things, the TIF account was closed out and ended as promised.

In regard to the UNP TIF, a sales tax based TIF should have never been created for that area in the first place in my opinion. I did not create it, but I did support a plan that I strongly believed was the best way to end it as early as possible. Not everyone agreed with that plan, but I do think it was the right thing to do given all the circumstances involved. Hopefully our community has learned from that experience and the same mistakes will be avoided in the future.

Norman Forward has done a lot to improve quality of life in Norman and will continue to do so as more projects get completed. NF is responsible for a new Central Library, the first ever East Side branch library, new Westwood swim complex, four new City parks, new Skatepark, and first accessible playground in the City just to name a few things already done.

Making sure projects are located in places that serve the most people is not always possible due to land availability, but we need to always be taking that factor into strong consideration when making these decisions.

Center City is very important due to the desire to provide an alternative development option to counter suburban sprawl and car centricity. The policy has a lot of work left to do, but the aim is to better connect Campus Corner and Downtown Norman into and area that is more walkable and has multiple different housing types. Housing affordability is the biggest concern I personally have about this and I support continuing to explore ways to formally address that problem.”

11. What should the city do to be more inclusive of all residents in city governance and decision making?

“The City must be proactive about making sure all voices are heard and at the table for decisions we are making. We cannot sit back and just wait for people to come to us, we have to make that effort if we really value inclusivity as a community. I believe we do and I will continue to advocate for our City government to always strive to do better in this regard. Diversity and inclusion in how we form and appoint committees that advise the City Council are probably the most directly impactful things we can do to make sure the most voices are being heard.”

Link to Stephen Tyler Holman’s campaign website

Link to Stephen Tyler Holman’s campaign Facebook page