OKC City Council Ward 6 incumbent JoBeth Hamon and challenger Marek Cornett would prioritize addressing homelessness and reducing crime in the central-OKC ward and the rest of the city if elected, but how they approach achieving those goals differs.
Just two candidates filed to run in OKC Ward 6. Hamon is running for her second term, and Cornett is making her first run for office. So far, Cornett has led the way in fundraising, bringing in about $118,000 and spending about $67,000. Hamon has raised about $58,000 and spent about $26,000, according to filed reports. Cornett’s challenge of Hamon has also been supported by significant third-party advertising.
City councilors earn $12,000 per year and serve four-year terms. In their day jobs, Cornett owns a digital marketing firm in OKC, while Hamon works for a nonprofit that focuses on mental health.
Stretching south from Northwest 23rd Street to Southwest 59th Street, Ward 6 extends from Portland Avenue to Shields Avenue. It also includes Automobile Alley and Film Row within its boundaries.
Voters in Oklahoma City wards 2, 5, 6 and 8 will head to the polls Tuesday for the city’s primary election. With only two candidates filing in Ward 6, the election between Hamon and Cornett will be decided Tuesday.
NonDoc hosted a debate between the two candidates seeking OKC Ward 6, and a video of the debate can be viewed above.
Prior to the debate, however, the Ward 6 candidates also answered a handful of questions by email. Their responses appear below in an alphabetical summary of the candidates.
JoBeth Hamon (incumbent)
Hamon’s time on the City Council horseshoe coincided with the beginning of a global pandemic, nationwide debate over policing and social justice, and rising cost-of-living expenses that have left many of the most vulnerable in the city strained.
“Throughout these last years, I’ve been proud to work alongside the community to amplify voices so often ignored — but I know there is still so much more work to be done,” she wrote in response to NonDoc’s questionnaire. “While we’ve seen how our health is dependent on our neighbors through the pandemic, the same principle translates to the need for truly affordable housing, robust public transportation, effective and equitable public safety responses, and safe streets for all road users. When we create a city that works for those aged 9 or 90, we are creating a city that works for everyone in between.”
Hamon said addressing homelessness and infrastructure would be among her biggest priorities if reelected, as she said she hears frequently from residents about those issues while knocking on doors.
“Being the oldest part of the city, Ward 6 has very old utility and drainage infrastructure that needs significant upgrades to handle the capacity of a 21st century city and as we experience more extreme weather events,” she wrote. “Additionally, our housing infrastructure also needs significant investment in Ward 6, particularly to address homelessness and housing insecurity more broadly.”
Hamon said the cost of housing has become a problem for residents in her ward and in other parts of the city.
“Rents and other housing costs have increased dramatically in the past few years in particular, and many more people are struggling to continue to live in the core of the city where costs for land and housing are especially high,” she wrote.
Hamon said Oklahoma City’s uniquely large footprint strains already existing infrastructure.
“We are a very large city at 620-plus square miles and since I took office in 2019, the city has approved multiple new annexations of property into the city,” she wrote. “I have voted ‘no’ on these annexations, because we already struggle to provide adequate services to all areas of the city and have infrastructure that we struggle to maintain. Our land-use policies are not sustainable to meet the need of maintaining and improving infrastructure like streets, drainage, sidewalks, and more. Additionally, services like parks and recreation and public transit have not been well funded and we have to determine how to spread their resources out to meet needs across the city.”
Like Cornett, Hamon believes it’s time for some of the city’s outdated codes to be addressed in an effort to improve development.
“The planning department has been working on a development code update that would make infill development less difficult to navigate and more competitive with how easy it is to build sprawling, suburban type development that puts a higher strain on city resources,” she wrote. “However, I don’t think that code update has been prioritized as much as it should be by council and we could be moving more quickly to that goal.”
But when it comes to a new arena for the Thunder, Hamon believes the team should pick up most of the cost rather than taxpayers. Hamon said it’s an issue she has studied.
“In many cases the costs of public arenas are socialized but the direct profit is privatized for entities that most heavily utilize the arena — so I believe we must have a serious conversation about those entities making private investment in a new arena,” she wrote. “Particularly, if the justification for a new arena is largely to meet NBA standards and to largely serve the Thunder’s needs, I think the private sector needs to bear some, if not most of, the costs of construction.”
Experience and connections within the community were among the ways Hamon said she is better equipped to serve Ward 6 than her opponent.
“I think my experience and background uniquely equips me to serve on the city council. City councilors are advocates for the residents in our ward and should have experiences and connections to the diverse range of people that live in the ward,” she wrote. “As someone who bicycles, walks, takes public transportation, and works in social services, I have those connections to the ward and to the lived, day-to-day needs of Ward 6 residents. Additionally, I’m willing to think creatively about what kind of solutions we need to address entrenched problems in the ward, even when those potential solutions go against the status quo.”
During her first term, Hamon has called for changes OKC’s emergency response system and has clashed with the local Fraternal Order of Police over statements she made during the 2020 protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
During the Ward 6 debate, Hamon called the FOP “one of the most extreme groups in the country,” which prompted a response video from FOP Lodge 123 President Mark Nelson, who called Hamon “toxic” and asked people to vote for Cornett.
In a controversial tweet Dec. 6, Cornett said she is running “to return this position to the people and represent ALL within the ward.” In the questionnaire sent to all City Council candidates by NonDoc, Cornett reiterated the sentiment.
“I feel compelled to take what I’ve learned through my time in OKC to make our city more resilient, more accessible and a better place for all families to flourish,” she wrote. “My goal is to return this position to the people and represent all within the ward.”
Restoring confidence in public safety for ward residents would be among Cornett’s biggest priorities if elected, she said. That’s something she said has been reflected in her conversations with residents since she started her campaign.
“I’ve knocked thousands of doors, and Ward 6 voters want compassionate solutions for the unhoused that preserves public safety and produces cleaner, safer streets,” she wrote. “We want short- and long-term solutions, not political or ideological rhetoric. To make this possible, we have to unite as a community that incorporates everyone: residents, local business owners, public servants, non-profits, policy experts and city staff.”
Cornett said addressing homelessness with long-term compassionate solutions would be among her biggest priorities, especially in Ward 6. Promoting economic development is one way to reduce the cost of housing in the city. Cornett said that could be accomplished by changing some of the city’s codes.
“If we prevent and block density in our neighborhoods, the home prices will continue to rise,” she wrote. “We have double-digit percent increases in rent and home prices in OKC currently, and the demand has been surging. One of the only ways to maintain affordable units is to allow new units to be built. This does not mean large apartment complexes everywhere. There is a healthy mix of small-lot single family homes, garage apartments, duplexes, triplexes and cottage courts. These already exist in many of historic and most treasured neighborhoods. We made them illegal decades ago and through the code update and we have an opportunity to undo that.”
She said improving the city’s infrastructure to make it more livable would be another area of focus.
“Our built environment affects everything from public safety for commuters, a thriving economy that provides good-paying jobs and a city we are excited to call home,” she wrote.
To that end, Cornett supports some public financing for a new home for the Thunder, though she believes some of the cost picked up by team ownership. That proposal is expected later this year.
“I’ve certainly followed the early progress of the conversation so far, and I understand the realities,” she wrote. “Having a major league sports team has played a significant role in the city’s growth, and having a long-term relationship with a major league team requires certain facilities, especially for a smaller market like ours.”
Cornett said it’s premature to comment on a proposal that doesn’t exist, though she believes taxpayers may have to share some of the cost.
“There is no proposal to comment on yet, and I won’t speculate, but in my visits with voters, it is apparent they want a councilperson who is committed to maintaining a long-term relationship with a major league sports team,” she wrote. “Ward 6 voted for ‘Big League City’ and MAPS 4, so they understand that sometimes public investment is part of the equation. But they also want a deal that is fair to all parties, reasonable, and in line with what has been done in similar-sized cities.”
Cornett drew contrasts with Hamon when it comes to her view of how the City Council should operate. In October, Hamon voted against tax increment funding for Strawberry Fields, a mixed-use development near Scissortail Park.
“The City Council shouldn’t be a blockade for initiatives like economic development and public safety, rather they should work with the city staff and other community partners inclusively,” Cornett wrote. “In fact, voters overwhelmingly approved the 2017 general obligation bond, which includes funding an economic development incentive fund. Voting against opportunities to increase our availability of high-quality jobs isn’t what’s best for citizens nor is it what voters in Ward 6 want our representative to do. We should work together to find the best possible solution. I’m not an ideologue and I won’t work to score political points at the expense of improving people’s lives.”