Nearly as soon as the candidates were announced, The Route 60 Sentinel began asking questions to all of the candidates.  The intention was to ask them all pretty similar questions, with some minor variances along the way and then present them to the public.  I also fully intended to endorse candidates.  The thought occurred to me that it shouldn’t just be me making those choices.  So, I decided to select an “Editorial Board” to help.  I selected one Route 60 writer and one Route 60 reader.  I wanted people who I felt would be impartial but also be people who would feel free to give their honest opinions.


 

Route 60 Small Logo

THE ROUTE 60 EDITORIAL BOARD:

Mark Keefer – Route 60 Editor

Melodie Lunday – Route 60 writer

Jennifer Taylor – Route 60 reader


 

FORMAT:

The format for this will work as follows:

  • I will present the questions I asked of each candidate.
  • Each board member, will then make a choice based off those questions and other research they have done.  If a majority of the Board selects the same candidate, it will receive the official endorsement of The Route 60 Sentinel.

 

Candidate #1:

Ben Ezzell

Ben Ezzell (picture totally stolen off his campaign’s Facebook page.)

BEN EZZELL

1.     Do you generally approve of the current direction our City is headed? Opinions of the current council?

I think Enid is in great shape and heading in a good direction. We do have problems that need to be addressed. We clearly have an insufficient water supply for a couple months out of the year, all of our parks have been neglected and need attention, and the East side of town is in dire need of economic investment. I don’t think these problems are insurmountable, and I think the City is ready to fix them.

 

2.     How do you feel about City Manager Eric Benson? Had you been on the council during his recent review, would you have voted to retain his services?

Eric Benson is a zealous advocate for Enid with a specific vision for our future. I don’t necessarily share his entire vision, but I appreciate that he works hard for our city. It is hard to say how I would have voted on any given issue, but I don’t see the need to get rid of Eric Benson. City Manager is not an easy job and I think he has done it well, even if I may disagree with some of his actions.

 

3.     What’s your favorite color?

Green

 

4.     Do you approve of the Renaissance Project? Do you feel that the project was shoved down the throats of the population of Enid who rejected a similar proposal by a narrow margin?

I voted for the $20M Renaissance bond, and was upset that it failed (by about 30 votes). That vote was for one funding stream. I don’t think the renovation of the Event Center and construction of the new arena was shoved down the City’s throat. The City Commission, acting for the electorate, voted to go forward with the construction.

The whole project is probably going to cost about $34M, some of which came from general funds and some of which was earmarked for this project regardless of the outcome of the vote. If the bond had passed, the project would have included additional work North of downtown towards Maple and South towards Garriott. I think it is a misconception that the vote was an absolute up or down on the entire project.

 

5.     You have a beard of what can only be described as “epic proportions.” What inspired the beard and should Enid “Fear the Beard?”

I have been blessed with a full beard, and cursed by the rapidity at which it grows. Going sans-beard would require shaving twice a day. Just not worth the trouble.
Beards are friendly, even Harden manages a grin while wearing that awful red uniform. No need to fear this beard.

 

6.     Do you consider potholes and roadwork as a standard maintenance issue? Do you think Enid is worse off than any other city on this issue?

Most of Enid’s street maintenance is the City’s responsibility, except for those neighborhoods that are responsible for their own streets. We have to be able to budget for basic maintenance and be prepared for emergencies. I’ve lived in Enid, OK, Salem, OR, and Norman, OK. All cities have good roads and bad roads. I don’t think Enid is any worse off than any other city. We spend a lot of money on road maintenance, and I expect that will continue, but we won’t ever have perfect streets. Potholes happen.

 

7.     You were, I believe, the only person running for City Council who was at the meeting on the Master Parks Plan. How do you feel about the plan?

I think it is important to go to the meetings and learn the issues before you get involved in the public debate. I’ve tried to do that with the Parks Plan.

For what it’s worth, there isn’t really one “plan”. The Howell & Vancuren study made recommendations, which the City Commission has yet to adopt in whole or in part. There will be two questions before the electorate on March 5th, 2013, a $20M sales tax and a $30M general obligation bond. 70% of the GO bond has to be specifically allocated on the ballot. The other 30% and the entire sales tax will be more generally described, probably as “quality of life improvement funds”. If both funding streams pass, and the City Commission decides to generally follow the recommendations of the study from Howell & Vancuren, we will have some of the best parks in the state. If the votes fail, we have no money to fix a huge flaw on our otherwise gorgeous city.

A few years ago the City of Woodward (population ~17K) passed an $18M bond for a water park and other park facilities. I don’t think it is extravagant to ask the City of Enid (population ~50K) to pay $50M for our quality of life. There are a lot of details to be worked out, but the potential is huge.

 

8.  Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead?

Winter is coming, and like a Lannister, the City of Enid always pays its debts.

 

9.     Hobbies?

Woodworking (my dad and I have a woodshop near downtown), kayaking (flatwater not whitewater), sailing (I have a 14’ Hobie Cat), screenprinting (I have a small press in the aforementioned shop), and (most importantly) spending time with my wife and two year old daughter.

 

10.   Water…..what are we gonna do? Lake or pray for more wells and pumping capacity?

Up until a few years ago the Koch Nitrogen plant was using grey water that came from our water treatment plant. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality determined that the water was not clean enough for Koch’s purposes. At the time our capability to produce potable water was sufficient to serve both industrial and residential uses, that isn’t the case now. Either we increase our water supply or decrease demand.

A lake is one long-term solution to the City’s increasing demand for water (as well as being a place for me to take my kayak). The simpler solution for the next decade or two would probably be to purify the grey water that is still being released from the water treatment plant enough to meet ODEQ regulations for industrial use. When water rates come up before the City Commission again, I think we need to tell our industrial user that either 1) their rates will be going up enough to pay for the additional treatment facility; or 2) the industrial users need to help pay for that facility.


 

Candidate #2:

Eldon Stephens

Campaign sign for Mr. Stephens

Eldon Stephens

1.    Do you generally approve of the current direction our City is headed? Opinions of the current council?

 Generally I think the city has made some positive decisions in trying to attract new businesses to the community and quality of life issues. There are some issues that I do not agree on with the current city council they mean well but are not given the full story by the city administration. I do believe that some of the city commissioners have their priority in the wrong place.

2.    How do you feel about City Manager Eric Benson? Had you been on the council during his recent review, would you have voted to retain his services?

 Since this was discussed in executive session which I do not know all the details of it would be hard to make that decision. Mr. Benson has done some good things for the city of Enid and the city employees but his condescending personality that he has displayed not only in the paper and toward citizens in person is a personality trait that needs to be improved on.

 3.   As a former City of Enid employee, are you running based on your experiences as a City employee or for other reasons?

 I am running based on my personal insight on how the City can address problems that face Enid I also plan on in the future to seek a state elective office. I have lived in Enid the all of my life except the first 18 month and would like my children to stay here in Enid.

 

4.   Do you approve of the Renaissance Project? Do you feel that the project was shoved down the throats of the population of Enid who rejected a similar proposal by a narrow margin?

Although I originally supported and voted for the Gate way project I do not believe it should have moved forward without going to the vote of the people again. I feel that the City and City Council has lost the respect and trust of the majority of people in Enid. I am extremely upset at the demolition of the Geronimo Building which was an historical landmark. I definitely do not approve for any demolition of the Cherokee Strip Conference Center for a private hotel.

 

5.    Favorite Enid event?

 My Favorite event is The AFSCME car show at Government Springs. Not only because I am a former employee that loves old cars, but because it raises money for local charities.

 

6. Do you consider potholes and roadwork as a standard maintenance issue? Do you think Enid is worse off than any other city on this issue?

 Yes, potholes and road repairs are extremely important to our community if we want to attract new businesses the condition of our streets can play a major role in whether they decide to choose Enid or not. The current patch process uses what is called “Cold Mix” which appears to save money on paper but in reality it cost more in the long run because it is only a temporary fix. Also the Street department does not have the manpower to keep up with the problem. Is Enid Worse off than other cities for the most part I say yes it is?

 

7.    There was only person running for City Council who was at the meeting on the Master Parks Plan. How do you feel about the plan?

 The Current Plan things that I like in that we would update the current parks but building a water park to compete with a private business is not something the City should do! The proposed park on 30th and Randolph has several other problems in that 30th is a truck route and I believe that could turn out to be a safety issue. Tax increases and borrowing money to build it is a grave mistake if the economy crashes. Plus this will mean that the farmland will have to be purchased from a private owner who found out about the plan by reading the paper. The plan also calls for several water features where are we going to get the water for them?  I will not be voting for either of the Park proposals, but if the citizens vote it in I will support their wishes.

 

8.    Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead?

 I have no idea what is meant by this question.

 

9.    Hobbies?

 Classic Cars are my main hobby and I enjoy the outdoors fishing and hunting.

 

10. Water…what are we going do? Lake or pray for more wells and pumping capacity?

 That is a good question. Conservation comes to mind. The splash pads do not recycle water it comes straight from the water treatment plant and goes straight down the sewer. The East side pad went through 3 and half gallons in one month. The Nitrogen plant uses half what the city produces and the proposed Canola plant is expected to use 500,000 gallons a day. A lake would be great but do we have a water source to fill it? We definitely don’t need a “Lake Optima” In my opinion we should have never sold our water rights to Canton Lake to Oklahoma City.


 

Those are the responses for Ward 3.  Tomorrow, I will post our official endorsement for Ward 3.    In the interest of full disclosure and fairness to both candidates, I myself will not vote on this one, but I will offer some commentary.  Mr. Stephens is a relative of mine and I will only cast a vote in the event of a tie between the other Editorial Board members.  Stay tuned!