Fourth Ward Election Preview: Joe Franco
By John Dobberstein, Editor
This is one of a series of Q&A articles for each Broken Arrow City Council candidate brought to you by the Broken Arrow Sentinel.
Joe Franco is a U.S. Air Force combat veteran with several combat deployments to the Middle East.
He left his full-time job as a technician with the Oklahoma Air National Guard in 2019 to work as a software development project manager at ConnectShip, where he is currently employed. Franco retired from the Air Force in 2021.
Franco has been a frequent visitor and observer at City Council meetings and serves on various advisory committees in Broken Arrow.
Family: Wife and two daughters
Education: B.S. aerospace administration and operations, Oklahoma State University
software development project manager
Endorsements: Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Assn., Oklahoma Rep. Chris Banning, Oklahoma Rep. Kevin McDugle, Broken Arrow International Association of Firefighters Local #2551.
Q: What motivated you to run for city council? What have you done over the last 4 years that shows you are qualified to be a city councilor?
Franco: I consider myself a lifetime public servant, specifically as a 28-year U.S. Air Force combat veteran and as a volunteer for multiple organizations in Broken Arrow. I loved serving my country, and for the past almost 2 years I have felt led to continue to serve in this new capacity of city councilor. My love for my country runs deep, but even closer to my heart is the city of Broken Arrow. As passionate as I felt (and still feel) about protecting and serving our country, I also believe there is so much to protect and do right here in this city we call home.
I am 100% committed to that challenge. As a veteran, I want to give back to a community that has given so much to us. I’ve spent the past 2 years attending city council meetings, attending ribbon cuttings, events, budget meetings, etc. that I saw the city councilors attend. I did this to make sure I could devote the time.
I also sit on the City of Broken Arrow Drainage Advisory and Zoning Ordinance Stakeholder Advisory committees (both councilor appointed), and I sit on the Broken Arrow Veterans Center Board of Directors and chair the Broken Arrow Mayor’s Council on Veteran Affairs.
Q: What would be your 3 biggest priorities for Broken Arrow if you are elected or re-elected?
Franco: Public safety, infrastructure and communication/transparency. Economic development is also a priority and, in my opinion, will go hand in hand with infrastructure. We need the roads to handle the capacity of added businesses, but we need added businesses to provide the sales tax revenue to help fund projects. You must have one to get the other.
Q: How should the city address the challenges it has with fire and police departments with the lack of resources, manpower shortages and continued population growth?
Franco: I don’t think the departments have “lack of resources/manpower shortages.” I think with any city, company or business, there’s always a need for employees due to attrition alone, but we are seeing academies with 8-10 candidates per class, so we have people who want to work in our public safety sector. In my opinion, the city of Broken Arrow isn’t at a point where they are having to struggle with the lack of manpower. I will say that law enforcement agencies across the country are having issues filling positions and/or retaining officers due to the climate/culture of “defunding police departments” or the “anti-police movement.” The good news is Broken Arrow isn’t seeing this. The citizens truly do care for their police and fire departments and that support is what helps the city from experiencing “manpower shortages.” I do believe the city does pay attention to the population increase and are always trying to be forward-thinking when it comes to ensuring the ability to support the citizens.
Q: Would you support funding emergency services through property tax revenue (referred to as public safety district) instead of sales tax revenue as is currently done?
Franco: I’ll be honest and say I can’t answer this at the moment. I would have to research more, ask questions of the city staff and subject matter experts, and develop an opinion then. There are a lot of moving parts to this program that would affect the way the City of Broken Arrow does business and the residents would be the ones that ultimately pay for the decision via a tax increase. SB838 allowed municipalities to create public safety districts (in Broken Arrow’s case, I’m assuming it would be the entire city) that would fund their public safety departments via the tax increase. It creates a permanent funding source that isn’t dependent on economic conditions. This can only be done via a municipal vote where a majority of voters would need to vote yes for the approval the tax increase. The residents of Broken Arrow will have a 100% say in whether this becomes a new way to fund our public safety departments.
In my discussion with the City of Broken Arrow, they mentioned the city attorneys from Tulsa and Oklahoma City have given opinions sometime last summer stating this bill violates the state’s Constitution. The City of Broken Arrow attorneys have reviewed this opinion and agree; however, the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) does not necessarily agree. The Oklahoma attorney general has been asked for an opinion on this matter and should provide a response by late March and/or early April. I think the city will know more when his opinion is given. The city has stated publicly that if the opinion from the attorney general supports the position of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, that Broken Arrow would like to start lobbying the state legislature to pass a bill that would allow Oklahoma voters to consider a constitutional amendment regarding individual municipalities ability to have their voters consider the creation of public safety districts.
Q: Is development of Broken Arrow happening in the best interests of residents as a whole? What should be tweaked or changed, if anything, about how the city is regulating and planning for growth? Do you feel residents have enough say in what happens?
Franco: I think there are some projects the city has done that wouldn’t fall in the best interests of the actual residents, but those are few and far between. I think the city takes everything into consideration when planning for growth. Sometimes it affects us as residents, but I’d say that almost every project truly benefits all residents in the form of preparing for growth. Residents need to look at it from a “big picture view” of being proactive instead of reactive. The city is playing catchup on a lot of things (roads for example). This is no fault to the current council but to fault the councilors 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. It was unheard of to see a tax increase to pay for roads so there wasn’t any money to spend on them. Now we’re so far behind compared to our population/traffic growth, we are having to play catch-up.
I 100% believe the residents have enough say in what happens in our city! Anyone can attend a city council meeting, planning commission meeting, or any other committee/board meeting to speak. In fact, it is highly encouraged that they do so. The more that speak up on behalf of their beliefs, the more the council has a feel on the pulse of the residents.
Q: Infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, etc.) is another pressing issue for Broken Arrow. How would you prioritize the infrastructure needs the city has, and potentially fund them?
Franco: There are big decisions coming up soon regarding the future of the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure. I know the city is waiting on reports back from multiple consultants on both water and wastewater that will hopefully provide the City Council and staff with guidance and recommendations. Many important decisions must be made about the future of our water infrastructure and I realize growth can’t happen without it.
I support the strategic planning system the city has regarding road infrastructure. As mentioned in a previous question, I do (like most people probably) sometimes feel like we can’t move fast enough with road improvements, but I have learned a lot about the process and support the system the city currently has in place. I also anticipate seeing projects on the next 2027 GO Bond package.
7) Nearly all age demographics in Broken Arrow have increased in recent years except young adults. What could the city do to keep more young professionals here?
Franco: Not unlike many cities across the country, young adults are lacking affordable housing options. I’ve said it multiple times, but I fully support the city’s current and future efforts to provide housing options for young adults and families. If we have nowhere affordable for them to live, they can’t stay in Broken Arrow -- even if they want to. Young adults also generally respond to placemaking efforts and love the feeling of community.
We have a charm that many communities don’t have. I am supportive of our placemaking efforts as well as the work we’re doing on expanding transportation services. Overall, I think we are moving in the right direction in becoming somewhere our young adults want to be, but the City Council must continue to make decisions that support these efforts. Now if we could only get a public university (not a school where only upper-level classes are offered) in the area that would be icing on the cake.
Q: Census figures show Broken Arrow is becoming more diverse, with the Hispanic community growing the fastest. What should be done, if anything, to ensure there is adequate outreach to minority populations in the city so they can have an appropriate voice in governance?
Franco: I am a big fan of the police department’s outreach to the Hispanic community and of their creation of the Citizens Police Academy in Spanish. I know the city hires Spanish-speaking employees, but as the Hispanic population grows I could see and would support future opportunities for increased engagement.
Q: Do you feel the city is utilizing TIF districts properly? Are there too many, or not enough?
Franco: As far as the city’s past TIF decisions, I don’t want to make a judgement at this point because I don’t know the ins and outs of the precise deals made. However, I do personally believe that TIFs should be used sparingly and only when it makes sense with terms that protect taxpayer’s dollars. I will say that I trust city leadership and staff and am not afraid to lean on their expertise.
Q: The City Council and Muscogee Creek National Council met last year to talk about unity in the community, and they have partnered on some projects. How do you feel the city’s relationship with MCN should be handled in the future, and where would you like to see more collaboration or communication?
Franco: Progress will never happen in a silo. Relationships are necessary for growth and that includes an open and intentional relationship with other leaders in our region, including the Muscogee Creek Nation. I would be honored to be part of the next meeting with the National
Council, and to continue to learn more about how we can partner on projects in the future.