The landscape of collective action: Examining the concentration of opposition to Norman’s University North Park

Authors: Jonathan Craig*, University of Oklahoma
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: local government, political economy, discourse analysis, GIS
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


University North Park in Norman, Oklahoma, is, in many respects, a prototypical modern development: A set of retail shops and hotels in a vaguely new urbanist mold funded by public money via tax increment financing (TIF). However, the approval of this development by the Norman City Council in 2006 presents a classic example of a collective action problem: Its biggest proponents were representatives of the University of Oklahoma, particularly its fundraising arm, the OU Foundation, who held ownership of the 585-acre plot of land for which the development was slated. While opposition existed, it was not able to sufficiently coalesce around a counter to the OU Foundation's case. In 2017, a second phase of the development was proposed to the council that included a new basketball arena for OU and the local high schools, again funded by public money. This time, however, it faced significant political opposition from the public, largely organized on social media, and the council eventually compelled its withdrawl. Using this political economic context as a basis, this research examines the changes in the local economic and political landscape that allowed this opposition to coalesce. This will be accomplished by examining the discourse on each of the city wards' Facebook groups, and linking their concerns to relevant data. The end result will be a picture of what the opposition’s concerns were, and what they might mean for alternate development policies.

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