Holt the clear choice as OKC’s next mayor

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

THREE peo­ple hope to win Tues­day’s pri­mary elec­tion for Ok­la­homa City mayor. State Sen. David Holt is clearly the best choice to help the city build on the gains made dur­ing Mick Cor­nett’s 14 years in of­fice.

Holt, 38, faces Ran­dall Smith, 58, and Uni­ver­sity of Ok­la­homa stu­dent Tay­lor Neigh­bors, 21, in Tues­day’s elec­tion. If no can­di­date gets more than 50 per­cent of the vote, then a runoff will be April 3.

Holt is a strong fa­vorite to avoid that ne­ces­sity. He has se­cured more than 1,300 en­dorse­ments and raised roughly $435,000 (from 647 donors) for his cam­paign. Sim­ply put — he’s the one se­ri­ous can­di­date for the job.

Neigh­bors has said the mayor’s race struck her as a “dy­nas­tic suc­ces­sion, not a demo­cratic elec­tion,” al­though Cor­nett faced op­po­si­tion each year he ran for re-elec­tion, in­clud­ing a spir­ited cam­paign four years ago by City Coun­cil­man Ed Sha­did.

Smith, who isn’t run­ning a cam­paign, says he wants to see Ok­la­homa City be­come more at­trac­tive to mil­len­ni­als by de­vel­op­ing moder­ately af­ford­able hous­ing and adopt­ing poli­cies to pro­mote re­new­able en­ergy. He also wants to see the city coun­cil be­come more ac­ces­si­ble to cit­i­zens, by meet­ing in the evening once a month.

Holt, a li­censed at­tor­ney who is manag­ing di­rec­tor of in­vestor re­la­tions at Hall Cap­i­tal, is a prod­uct of Put­nam City Schools and well-versed in the work­ings of City Hall, hav­ing served five years as Cor­nett’s chief of staff. Holt won elec­tion to the state Se­nate in 2010, rep­re­sent­ing Dis­trict 30, and has proven to be a prac­ti­cal politi­cian. He has worked ex­ten­sively to im­prove gov­ern­ment trans­parency and in­crease voter par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“I like to move the ball for­ward, even a lit­tle,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view in late 2017. “I love Ok­la­homa City and I want to see the re­nais­sance con­tinue.”

Ok­la­homa City’s “weak mayor” sys­tem pro­vides the mayor with less clout than in other cities, but the per­son in the job has a sig­nif­i­cant role in lead­ing ini­tia­tives and serv­ing as the face of the city. Cor­nett thrived in that role, push­ing to drive down obe­sity in Ok­la­homa City, and play­ing key lead­er­ship roles in bring­ing the NBA to town and in pro­mot­ing pas­sage of var­i­ous MAPS it­er­a­tions.

Holt says he wants to en­sure that mil­len­ni­als “have a seat at the ta­ble” and plans to reach out to parts of the city that are “not as ex­cited with the re­nais­sance” be­cause they don’t be­lieve they have ben­e­fited as much as down­town. He also rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of pub­lic safety.

He is com­mit­ted to lead­ing “a com­mu­ni­ty­wide con­ver­sa­tion about our schools and the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem” and says he wants to build a re­la­tion­ship with the school dis­trict. This is a de­par­ture from the norm — mayors have tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered schools out­side their baili­wick — but Holt says that can’t con­tinue.

A vote for Holt is a vote for some­one who is in­tel­li­gent, ar­tic­u­late, op­ti­mistic, col­lab­o­ra­tive and pas­sion­ate — just what Ok­la­homa City needs in its mayor.

One last point: Mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions tra­di­tion­ally pro­duce a low turnout. Our hope is that res­i­dents will take the time to cast a bal­lot Tues­day. Turnout has ram­i­fi­ca­tions — for ex­am­ple, Tues­day’s to­tal will im­pact how many sig­na­tures will be needed on fu­ture city ini­tia­tive pe­ti­tions. It’s im­por­tant, so vote!

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