Norman's $120M tops list of defeats in Oklahoma's local bond elections

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Norman, Oklahoma, voters on Tuesday rejected a bond measure to fund an aquatics and multi-sport center.

Oklahoma voters shunned some bond proposals in local elections Tuesday, including $120 million proposed in the city of Norman.

The bond vote was the first in the state since the coronavirus crisis struck the U.S. in March. The outbreak led to cancellation of elections in the spring.

Officials in Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma, touted four bond proposals as responses to the COVID-19 crisis that has weakened the state’s economy.

All were defeated.

One of the proposals, rejected by 59% of voters, would have provided $5 million to help small businesses stay in operation during the pandemic.

After the defeat, Norman Mayor Breea Clark tweeted that “2020 has certainly not been short on challenges, and the outcome of tonight will undoubtedly present added challenges going forward.”

The largest proposal on the Norman ballot would have provided $85.6 million to complete the remaining Norman Forward projects, an aquatic center, senior wellness center, softball and football complex, and park improvements.

Another Norman measure would have provided $24.3 million to renovate and expand the Municipal Complex, which includes emergency operations.

A $5 million proposal to help the homeless population also failed.

As a college town, Norman is facing a fall football season that will be dramatically downsized from previous years. While OU and its Big 12 Conference plan to proceed with this year’s football season, stadium crowds will be limited to prevent spreading of the COVID-19 virus.

In the town of Duncan, voters approved $28 million for the public schools, surpassing the 60% threshold needed for passage. The district will use the debt to upgrade schools and provide supplies.

Voters in the Woodward School District voters rejected two proposals worth more than $6 million, with nearly 54% opposing.

One proposal that did pass in the Bethel Public School District will provide $18.4 million for a new upper elementary building and remodeled gym. The measure won 67% of the vote.

A proposed $16.9 million school bond in Shawnee for roof work, heat and air improvements and other infrastructure and a new elementary school was approved by 57% of the voters but fell short of the 60% approval needed for passage. Another $1.2 million for school buses also fell short of the threshold.

A previous $12.5 million proposal in Shawnee failed in May 2019.

The bond vote was combined with runoffs in Republican Party primaries and elections of city officials.

All three GOP state senators that were on the runoff ballot Tuesday lost. Those defeated were Sens. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, and Paul Scott, R-Duncan.

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