Stillwater News Press

March 23, 2013

Stillwater City Council candidates focus on needs of city

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater residents will elect two city councilors in the April 2 municipal election.

Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and April 1 at the Payne County Administration Building, 315 W. Sixth Ave.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 2. Voters will need identification to vote.

The Stillwater NewsPress emailed a questionnaire to the Stillwater City Council candidates for Seat 1 and Seat 2.

In the race for Seat 2, Gina Noble is facing incumbent Philip Pina. Noble is a clinical assistant professor with Oklahoma State University’s School of Media and Strategic Communications. Pina is a teacher for special needs children.

When asked what they would do to ensure new development is consistent with adjacent existing neighborhoods and businesses, Noble said new development is not only important, but encouraged, when it complements existing neighborhoods and businesses.

“When it doesn’t, established neighborhoods and businesses deserve the city’s support and protection,” Noble said.

She said there should be at least buffers and transitions between properties and uses.

“High-rise complexes belong in high-density, high-traffic areas close to dining and shopping; single-family homes belong in low-density areas,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Pina said the first thing to do is have a smart planning phase.

“We in the council must ensure that the zoning plans are consistent with the adjoining properties and that all parties concerned have met and worked out any disagreements,” he said.

Pina said new development must meet or exceed the criteria found in the city’s comprehensive plan.

On prioritizing Stillwater’s water, wastewater and road systems, Pina said prioritizing has already begun.

“Starting with water, we have already accessed the Kaw Pipeline and found it to be in very good condition, with some minor adjustments,” he said. “Phase 2 of the Southwest Corridor Plan has been initiated and completion of that phase should be in 2014.”

Pina said road and wastewater upgrades fall together as the two parallel each other.

Noble said her understanding is that Stillwater leaders have a comprehensive plan set out to update water and sewer systems.

“The water funding mechanism is already in place, but critical issues must still be addressed, such as how the city completes the construction process in Stillwater’s southwest section,” Noble said. “The City Council should create a permanent funding source for Stillwater’s transportation improvements and expansions.”

Communication between councilors and residents is vital to receive feedback on important issues. Noble said she promises to be accessible if elected.

“Two-way communication creates conversation and promotes openness in government,” she said. “I want to help citizens stay informed and engaged in city government.”

She said Stillwater residents will always be able to contact her through email and social media.

“If a citizen reaches out to me with an idea or concern, I will respond in a timely manner,” she said.

Pina said he will continue to be accessible.

“I made it a priority when I was appointed to the council and will maintain it as a priority if elected,” he said.

He said he considers it important that people know they can contact him through email, text or by phone for a response.

“I hope I have made it clear that if you ask me a question, I will get an answer, although it may not be the answer you want,” he said.

Pina’s vision for Stillwater five years from now is that priorities now are resolved and that the city will move on to new issues.

“I would like to see growth throughout the city brought on by strong economic growth, quality of life initiatives that rival cities twice our size and infrastructure issues complete and maintained,” he said.

Noble said she hopes to see businesses prospering and hiring with the infrastructure continually improving and an abundance of quality of life opportunities.

“I want to live in a Stillwater where visitors view Stillwater as a destination and visit often, diverse housing options are available and more valuable than the day they were built, development is growing and new people are proudly saying Stillwater is their home,” Noble said.

If he wins the election, Pina said he will continue facing the issues and concerns that develop on a day-to-day basis.

“My plan is (to) continue researching the issues, consulting those in the know, on both sides of the aisle, and make the fairest decision for all concerned,” he said.

Noble said her first priority will be the City Council’s next agenda item.

“I have no personal agenda for City Council,” she said. “My priority is serving Stillwater citizens. The city’s priorities will be my priorities. I promise to make independent, informed decisions. I promise to serve Stillwater with integrity, honesty and respect.”

In the race for Council Seat 1, candidate Micah LeFebvre will face incumbent Joe Weaver. LeFebvre is an administrative support specialist at OSU. Weaver is the vice president for administration and finance at OSU.

To ensure consistency between new development and adjacent existing neighborhoods and businesses, LeFebvre said input from residents and business owners is vital to ensure that new development is implemented in an organic way.

“I would solicit opinions from those likely to be affected by new development and balance their qualified opinions with the needs of our community,” LeFebvre said.

Weaver said as part of the ad hoc committee on comprehensive planning, he would work to develop guidelines to ensure transitions are appropriate.

“I have consistently voted to protect neighborhoods and will vote no on developments that encroach on neighborhoods inappropriately and will continue to do so,” Weaver said.

When it comes to three key issues, Weaver said he would prioritize, in order, water, road systems and wastewater.

LeFebvre said public services are the most important thing the Stillwater government can offer its citizens.

“We need to do whatever it (takes to) bolster our infrastructure to an elite level, which will both better the quality of life for area residents and make Stillwater even more attractive to prospective businesses,” he said.

LeFebvre said he would like to see more technology use when receiving feedback from residents.

“Stillwater’s embrace of Twitter and social media to stay in close, frequent contact with its citizens has been commendable,” he said.

Weaver said communication between residents and councilors is possible through a number of means.

“For me, the best way is probably just to be available and approachable as I live, work and shop in Stillwater,” he said. “It isn’t uncommon at all for a resident to approach me at the grocery store or at a restaurant with a question or a comment. I find it enjoyable and informative to hear what others have to say about the issues they are concerned with.”

Weaver said he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to set a vision for the city.

“Each council member is one voice, one perspective and one Council vote, and as such, I need to function as a team with the mayor and other councilors to fashion a vision with them together that includes all views,” Weaver said.

He said the resulting vision would be far better coming from the collective than one councilor.

LeFebvre said his vision is to focus on “the engine that drives” Stillwater — its workers.

“We need to support the growth of businesses that prioritize the well-being of their workers and re-investment into the community over the naked drive for profit,” he said. “In five years, I want Stillwater to have a more robust infrastructure and more higher paying jobs for anyone who wants one.”

Should he win the election, LeFebvre said his first priority would be to get rid of the rental fee for blue, curbside trash cans.

“I don’t feel that charging our citizens an additional fee on top of the taxes they already pay for waste removal is fair,” he said.

Weaver reaffirmed his position should he win the election.

“It should be about working together with the whole Council and the city staff to develop priorities,” Weaver said.