Published: Sept. 6, 2017
By: Jason Doyle Oden, Red Dirt Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Tuesday evening’s Oklahoma City Mayor Race forum was an example of when two statesmen refrain from calling names and laying blame, and instead address issues.
The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police hosted the event which featured the two top candidates, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan and State Senator David Holt.
Supporters and interested onlookers, like the American Civil Liberties Union, and other civic interest groups packed the room.
The focus of the forum was public safety. Something Oklahoma City voters will address on September 12th with a vote on a quarter penny sales tax to fund 129 new police officers and 57 new fire fighters.
In opening the forum, Maughan said he wants to be the next mayor of Oklahoma City so he can continue to serve as a stern steward of the taxpayers’ dollars.
“I want to balance the budget which we are constitutionally obligated to do at the county, but also be able to put in the prioritization. It’s not enough just to balance the budget and say we did the best we could. It’s about really making sure you’ve done the best that you can with the dollars that you have,” said Maughan.
Candidate Brian Maughan. (Jason Doyle Oden / Red Dirt Report)
Holt opened by outlining the importance of public safety to the success of the city.
“We’re here tonight because public safety is unquestionably a core government function. It is one of the top priorities of the City of Oklahoma City and certainly would remain so if I were to be elected mayor. I think there’s a few aspects within the police side of that are worth revisiting tonight, and I suspect we will,” Holt said.
Manpower is a major concern for the FOP. The sales tax election on September 12 could help boost those numbers. Maughan supports the sales tax, but believes more must be done.
“I think that is a step in the right direction, but I also think that it’s just a band-aid for this right now. I don’t think that chronically Oklahoma City has dealt with this over and over in the past four decades leading back to 1975 when there was a walk out by police. It was about under duress situations. I believe we are really going to have to look at budget prioritization because hopefully the renaissance will continue and our population will theoretically go ahead and expand.
We may even have more developments in other parts of the city which are currently rural, so the demand will go out even further to divide and spread our resources,” said Maughan.
He also said there are only so many times that leaders can ask voters for more money.
“They’ll give us so much to a point and then we’re going to have to manage from there,” Maughan added.
Holt agrees the city must do more for public safety as it enjoys the benefits of economic growth and attracting more people to central Oklahoma.
“We’ve had this population growth. We’ve also had significant growth in the developed area of the city. Think about what that adds to response times when people have to drive further. Officers have to drive further to respond to calls,” said Holt.
Candidate David Holt. (Jason Doyle Oden / Red Dirt Report)
Whoever is selected as mayor next year, the September 12th vote will have a significant impact.
“Here’s what needs to happen. This vote needs to pass on Tuesday. The next mayor and council need to lead the way and make sure the promises are kept. It is going to take a few academies to ramp up these 120 new officers. Then, I think even beyond that, it’ll take years and beyond that we’ll take a look at what it takes to get to 13-hundred,” said Holt.
“I think we are on agreement on this. I would just expound that if it should fail we’re obviously going to have to sharpen our pencils because the crisis won’t go away just because the voters didn’t agree with it,” added Maughan.
While there wasn’t much difference in the stances of Holt and Maughan, they did have their own approaches on how to help bring the community and police together. Holt would like to see more community policing, while Maughan would like the SHINE Program to be adopted by the city.
The mayor’s election will be held in February 2018.