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Emphasis on downtown Oklahoma City development takes a hit in election, council member says

Voters reacting to a perception that the balance in public investment has shifted away from their neighborhoods sent a clear message by voting two city council veterans out of office on Tuesday, a council member says.
by William Crum Published: April 4, 2013

A perception that elected leaders care more about downtown development than neighborhoods may have cost two veteran Oklahoma City Council members their seats.

Voters on Tuesday chose James Greiner, 32, over Gary Marrs in northwest Oklahoma City's Ward 1, while John A. Pettis Jr., 30, beat Ronald “Skip” Kelly in northeast's Ward 7.

Results in both runoff races were decisive. Greiner won 57.1 percent of the vote against a three-term incumbent; Pettis won 61.7 percent to defeat Kelly, who served two terms.

The $777 million, 10-year MAPS 3 construction program is heavily weighted toward downtown, and residents in outlying areas wonder “when is some of this going to trickle out to us,” said Pete White, who represents southeast's Ward 4 on the council.

With $600 million in public money being discussed to complete a downtown convention center and hotel complex, White said the election results were no shock to him.

“If they don't see that it's trickling out to them, it's going to be hard for me to convince them that another $600 million spent downtown is going to be good for them,” he said. “I believe that's the perception, that we've lost our balance.”

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) poured $10,000 into the election — $5,000 backing Marrs and $5,000 for Pettis. A complicating factor was the pending drunken driving charges against Kelly, who FOP President John George said had been a strong supporter of law enforcement.

“With his legal problems, it would have been hard for a police organization to endorse him,” said George, who's been an Oklahoma City police officer for about 22 years.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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