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Doane F. Harrison announces Ward 4 bid
Norman Transcript - 11/28/2021
Nov. 28—Longtime Norman resident and local certified public accountant Doane F. Harrison has announced his bid for the Norman City Council Ward 4 seat.
Harrison has operated Harrison Henderson PLLC for 40 years, is a U.S. Army veteran of the Cold War era, is a member of the Rotary Club and serves on the Norman Regional Hospital Foundation Finance Committee.
Harrison is an elder, treasurer and Sunday School teacher at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church.
If elected, Harrison intends to tackle a variety of issues facing Ward 4 including infrastructure, police funding, homelessness and economic development.
Upon graduation from Norman High School in 1968, Harrison joined the Army, where he served as a finance officer in Munich, Germany before exiting the service at the rank of Captain. He graduated with an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972.
Police funding and a committee's recommendation to designate Norman as sanctuary city captured Harrison's interest to seek office, he recalled. The Inclusive Community Subcommittee of the Human Rights Commission presented the recommendation to council and was met with a room full of detractors and few supporters. The council declined to adopt the proposal.
Four months later, the council reallocated $865,000 from the Norman Police Department's proposed budget increase following protests in Norman and across the nation against police brutality. The money was set aside for community programs and a city auditor department.
The council later proposed using the money set aside to fund a mobile crisis unit program that provides response to people in mental health crises. The council is in talks with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which is expanding its existing mobile crisis units across the state and in Norman.
Harrison disagreed with the council's budget decision, but said he supported the possibility of mobile crisis units.
"I think the idea to replace some police officers with some sort of community policing effort might make sense if they can be done without compromising safety," he said. "It seems to me if you're not careful, a lot of times, police are going to end up going on that call anyway if it turns out to be a dangerous situation. So you may be duplicating resources to have the unit go and [then] followed up with police. I'm all for pursuing that idea, but I want to see if that's really going to work."
Harrison expressed concern about policies he saw that can solve one problem while creating another. He believes the University North Park Tax Increment Finance District and the city's homelessness programs are two issues that produced mixed results.
The tax district, which collects sales tax dollars as incentives for business growth and funds infrastructure projects, was a long relationship that began at University North Park in 2006 but did not end until 2019. While residents wanted the district incentives to end, some alleged the city did not negotiate the best deal on behalf of taxpayers with the owners of the University North Park.
Residents filed a petition to overturn the agreement, but it failed a legal challenge in district court and the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Harrison's concern with the district emerged when he saw some merchants struggle to compete after businesses flocked to the new development.
"On the one hand, to say that development has been a positive thing for Norman going forward, but on the other, I think there's sort of an unintended consequence to that. The Ed Lloyd Noble Parkway area was just cannibalized. There's a lot of empty storefronts along there, and that puts people out of work, empties buildings and closes businesses. You create one thing, but then you hurt something else."
While he praised Norman's response to homelessness through addiction and mental health recovery programs, the city's shelter and efforts in nonprofit organizations, Harrison wanted to ensure that the population does not grow as it has in other cities like Austin, Texas, he said.
"It seems to me that this population is growing," Harrison said. "I have a cousin who lives in and works in Austin. She's worked for a big clothing and sporting goods store right on Guadalupe Street. She said the homeless situation is so bad in Austin that they had to close their flagship store after 30 or 40 years because so many had encamped up and down the streets and sidewalks — customers just quit coming."
He works in downtown Norman and said he has noticed more unhoused people in the area.
"I don't have a solution, but I'm sure willing to jump in, do my part to find the right, compassionate solution," he said.
Another chronic issue in his ward is stormwater. Harrison said he supported the stormwater bond voters declined in 2019.
The $60 million dollar bond would have funded stormwater projects and instituted a stormwater utility fee.
He speculated the bond may have failed due to bad timing with voters. It was the second time in three years the city tried to pass it.
"I confess I don't know all the technical issues related to stormwater and what it takes to fix that, but I think it's part of the underlying issue of ignoring problems until it's too late, and the fix is much more expensive," he said.
Harrison said he believes his finance career will be helpful to the council to form good fiscal decisions.
Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at email@example.com or 405-416-4420.
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