An OKC first: Openly gay man elected to City Council

Oklahoma City's Ward 2 Councilman-elect, James Cooper, giving his victory speech to supporters. Photo by Robin Dorner.

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

At 36, James Cooper has many goals. One of them is to make Oklahoma City a better place to live. In line with that, another goal of his is to become OKC’s Ward 2 City Councilor.

Tonight, he achieved those goals by winning the Ward 2 City Council seat with 53.1 percent of the vote. He is the first openly gay man to serve on the OKC City Council.

“Tonight, Ward 2 made history together by voting to preserve and revitalize our diverse, historic districts like 39th St., Paseo, Uptown23rd, Old Downtown Britton District, the Asian District, The Windsor District, and The Western Avenue District,” said Cooper. “We will strengthen OKC’s northwest side neighborhoods. As a teacher, I’m honored to serve as our next councilperson to honor our local history and make public schools the backbone of neighborhoods again.

The Ward 2 OKC City Councilperson represents a major part of OKC’s northwest neighborhoods.

Cooper is a teacher at an Oklahoma City Public School; he has served as a trustee on OKC’s transportation board, is an accomplished writer and has been an activist in the city for many causes. He was an original member of the 39th St. District renovation planning team.

Cooper said in an earlier interview with The Gayly that he'd work with Council members and Ward 2 residents to reconnect its neighborhoods with better streets, ADA-compliant sidewalks, improved bus service, and extending streetcars beyond downtown.

“I’m committed to service,” Cooper said. “As someone who participated in our two-week teacher walkout, I’m ready to fight for better schools, safer and stronger neighborhoods, reliable public transit, and to preserve and revitalize our diverse historical districts.

“With MAPS 4 coming soon, we have an opportunity to connect residents and neighborhoods to our city’s recent renaissance, particularly to the progress we’ve seen in Bricktown, Midtown and Downtown. We can build on our success stories across northwest OKC—Paseo, Uptown 23rd, the 39th Street District, the Asian District, etc., and create better-connected communities.”

Cooper lives in OKC’s Paseo District and, in learning its history as OKC’s first commercial district outside of downtown, learning this history inspired his run for the City Council.

“Our city’s founders understood the importance of living in walkable neighborhoods,” Cooper said. “The district’s original architect designed Paseo in 1929 so residents could leave their home, walk safely to nearby stores, have access to basic needs and, when necessary, take the trolley downtown or to other places around the city.”

He said the OKC can work together to defend the character and affordability of the inner-city neighborhoods, noting that Millennials (Cooper’s generation) want to live where they have easy access to areas in which they live. Be that walking, biking or utilizing public transit.

He added his thoughts on what Baby Boomers want to see in OKC. “They want to age in a place with dignity, to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, to have access to grocery stores, senior wellness centers, pharmacies and doctor appointments rather than move to nursing homes.”

He said the younger generations, like High School and college students, “want and deserve” safe neighborhoods with access to quality schools.

To further strengthen communities, Cooper says he’ll also work with Council and advocacy groups to address the city’s mental health and addiction crisis, to reform the criminal justice system.

“We have a lot of people in pain,” Cooper says, “but, we’re a resilient community. Together, we can work to help people heal so they become healthier, happier members of our city.”

Copyright The Gayly - 2/12/2019 @ 8:36 p.m. CST.