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UPDATE: Deon Osborne running for Norman Ward 2 seat

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Norman activist and resident Deon Osborne will be vying for the Ward 2 Norman City Council seat.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Deon Osborne has announced his candidacy for the Norman City Council Ward 2 seat. Ward 2 is situated between the University of Oklahoma and Interstate 35, up to Robinson Street. Elections are slated for February 2018.

Osborne, 24, is a currently a senior at The University of Oklahoma, majoring in strategic political communication.

Osborne is also a seasoned community activist. He began participating in community service at 14 years old when he began volunteering his time to his aunt’s nonprofit, Touching Lives Compassionately in Lawton, Oklahoma. Since then, as a freelancer videographer at IndepthwithDeon Films, Osborne has brought attention to and participated in numerous protests in Norman.

Most recently, Osborne helped spearhead the successful campaign to rename the controversial DeBarr Avenue. The victory propelled Osborne to run for city council. 

“It really inspired me to want to make a more active role in the community,” Osborne said during an interview with Red Dirt Report. “We really should have more representation of young people from different backgrounds because we bring unique perspectives.”

The Ward 2 City Council seat that is currently occupied by Aleisha Karjala, whose current term ends in 2018. Osborne will be running against Traci Baker, a Political Science/Pre-Law junior at the University of Oklahoma.

Infrastructures, environment, transparency and inclusion 

If elected, one of Osborne's priorities would be to improve public infrastructure including public transportation and sidewalk and bike-route connectedness. 

“I think it will solve the problems of accessibility and traffic congestion,” he said.

Osborne would also work towards a new stormwater utility fee solution that would be fair for everyone. He also supports a transition to 100 percent renewable energy production in Norman and wants to renegotiate the OG&E contract that would benefit more Normanites.

“We need to stand up to the state when he comes up to the limitations on what cities can do,” he said.

Osborne would like to see the implementation of a new service for Norman residents, dubbed “The Taxpayers Right to Know”, the report would provide regular progress reports of the city’s projects.

Concerning minorities' issues, Osborne sees the potential for the Ward 2 seat to be a liaison between the city and the government of the Absentee-Shawnee tribe. The tribe is primarily located in Central Oklahoma and has a large presence in Little Axe and Norman. 

Osborne doesn’t support the Arena project at the University North Park because he believes there are more important projects, like the stand-alone Senior Citizens Center. 

“We need to place people over profit,” Osborne asserted. 

He supports the Norman zoning ordinance that allows no more than three unrelated people to live in a house together. He believes a balance should be found between student-housing and keeping the integrity of the neighborhoods.

Finally, Osborne supports criminal justice reform and decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana. He added fines and jail time should be replaced by community service for first-time offenders in possession of less than an ounce.

“Medical marijuana will be legalized in 2018. And we need to prepare for it,” he said.

In response to why people should vote for him, he said, “I want to bring transparency and communication to the City Council. I believe I can help bring marginalized voices to the decision-making table and encourage more trust and communication between all Norman citizens and the leaders who serve them."

To learn more about Deon Osborne’s campaign, visit his Facebook page.

EDITOR'S NOTE (Nov. 21, 2017 4:43 p.m.) Since publication of this story, Mr. Osborne decided to exit the race, offering this statement to Red Dirt Report:

NORMAN, Okla. -- I'm disappointed to say this, but I've decided to exit the Ward 2 city council race. I was so excited about running for local office that I overlooked how my decision might affect those around me. Luckily, we had only just begun the fundraising process, and my campaign manager has already contacted the handful of donors for refunds.

For the past two years I've been volunteering with nonprofits in Norman that are doing some amazing things for the community. They are at a crucially pivotal time in their existence, and due to their status as a 501c3, they are forbidden from being involved or perceived to be involved in any political campaigns or individual political appointees.

I've already stepped down from my volunteer video marketing position from one shortly before announcing my candidacy, but after learning just how little I would be able to personally contribute my work to the nonprofits as a politician, I've privately struggled with my decision to stay in the race.

I chose to run because I was constantly being asked to and after seeing the lack of cultural competency among citizens and city leaders during the Debarr debate, I felt that a young and minority voice was needed. It still is. However, at least for the present time, I feel I'm needed more and can do more as a citizen in the community.

To those who may feel disappointed, sad or even angry with my decision, I'm sorry if I've let you down. What I do know is that we need more young people getting involved at the decision-making table, which is why I plan to apply for Norman's Human Rights Commission, among other citizen citizen boards.

I ran on three main issues: environmental justice, expanding public transportation infrastructure, and minority representation/cultural competency. If city leaders think my decision to exit the race means I will be quieting down, they are sadly mistaken. I will continue to elevate the underepresented voices in the community. I hope you'll do your part by elevating your voice too.

There is a formula to getting what you want. It involves 4 key points: Educate, advocate, initiate, elevate. 1)educate your peers on the issue. 2) advocate for solutions to that issue. 3)initiate campaigns and direct actions to get the attention of citizens, city leaders, and the media. And 4) you MUST elevate by raising the stakes when you get pushback.

Thank you so much for your support. And don’t ever give up. I won't. 

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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