Ward 1 council candidate wants to bring back business, safety and housing | News

Austin Ball decided to run for city council because he saw a community descending into crime, homelessness and economic disinvestment.

Ball hopes voters will trust him to keep Ward 1’s neighborhoods from further deterioration. His opponent, Brandy Studley, recently announced that she will move from Norman by the end of January.

However, Studley’s name will appear on the ballot and voters can choose him.

Council elections are held every two years, with odd-numbered wards in odd-numbered years and even-numbered wards in even-numbered years.

Ball said he’s seen businesses like the Super Saver grocery store leave behind empty buildings and large parking lots as homelessness and crime move in.

“My wife doesn’t feel safe going to 7-11 anymore,” he told the Transcript. “I live across the street from my kids’ school. They go to school with my cousins ​​and my in-laws live across the street.

“I love this neighborhood, but what has happened in the last two years has completely broken my heart.”

Ball said he felt the need to run after seeing his ward dwindle and after he said he wasn’t listening to his council members.

“I think we need to change,” he said.

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The change doesn’t mean Ball won’t support initiatives the incumbent has championed, like affordable housing and resources for the homeless.

He called the impact of homeless camps “a crisis” that he knows because he has a family member who is homeless.

“We’ve done everything we can,” he said. “If someone is willing to give up their family, their children, their identity, you know you’ve reached a point where none of us can.”

Ball said family members are an example of the reality that some don’t want help but will use the emergency resource system to stay on drugs “and do what they want.”

“We provide warm food and a roof in the cold night, but we take them out of the house in the morning … We don’t hold them accountable and we don’t want them to succeed,” he said. “We’re just giving them the tools to stay complacent and stay in the hole they’re in.”

While Ball said he supports emergency heat shelters, some resources such as job and financial counseling, or mental health counseling should be needed.

“I think we have to do everything we can,” he said. “In an emergency we need to get people in but we don’t need them to be satisfied.”

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Ball supports affordable housing and noted that the city’s months-long waiting list for housing assistance is “where we need to be.”

“Of course temporary housing is needed, but what we don’t need to do is allow tent cities behind food and shelter,” he said.

Food and Shelter is a non-profit organization that offers case management for housing with area housing units and food assistance at 2001 Reed Avenue.

Homelessness has also created public safety concerns and hindered potential business development, he said.

A local business owner told them that homeless people had used the building’s window unit to gain access to the roof next to the door where the building’s owner found evidence of the fire. After the owner removed the sleeping bag under the unit, the glass broke the next day.

This is not the only negative story Ball has heard.

“We have to look out for our neighbors,” he said. “We want businesses to come here but when we come here to show, there are three homeless guys and a broken window. Nobody wants to open a business in an area like that.”

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Keeping a neighborhood safe from vandalism and crime also means trusting the police when they can help.

“We have to stop thinking that the police are bad people,” he said. “They’re there to help us, but they have to know what’s going on. We have to report it but we have to look out for each other.

Ball made an effort in that direction when he invited residents to attend an East Norman community safety and awareness event on January 10 to help prevent crime. The Norman Police Department shared tips for increasing safety and how residents can help investigate crime.

Crime prevention is a topic right along with Ball’s education. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2006 with a BA in Sociology and Criminology. He also served in the US Marine Corps and the Oklahoma Army National Guard before being injured in 2012.

He’s a fully disabled veteran, but his day job as a stay-at-home dad is one he loves.

“I missed a lot of birthdays and holidays working in the military,” he said. “It’s amazing because it gives me the opportunity to really be involved in my kids’ lives and be here.”


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