Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 27, 2014

Candidates square off in Stillwater City Council forum

STILLWATER, Okla. — After months of campaigning, Pat Darlington and Jay Kuruvilla faced off in their final candidate forum Thursday night.

Darlington, 62, said she would be the oldest member of the city council if elected. Kuruvilla, a 21-year-old Oklahoma State University engineering student, would be the youngest.

Although the two candidates for the seat Vice-Mayor Chuck Hopkins is vacating due to term limits represent different age groups, they didn’t have significant disagreements on most issues.

Both agreed infrastructure, like water projects, should be a priority.

Kuruvilla said he’d like to see more people engaged in the government process. Only 4 percent of registered voters turned out for the last election, he said.

Darlington said she’d like the city to be more proactive than reactive and she’d like to see a true application of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The city should take care of infrastructure before trying new things, she said.

Most questions focused on increasing student involvement in city affairs, disaster preparedness, utility and infrastructure issues, business development and zoning.

Both said business incentives like sales tax rebates should be used carefully and in a way that benefits Stillwater.

“Incentives are a good idea for the right reason,” Kuruvilla said.

Neither candidate gave unqualified support to instituting a ward system for electing city councilors.

Both said they worried about it creating an “us vs. them” mentality among residents.

Both candidates said they’d like to connect with the student population and city residents in general by making themselves available.

A few questions about city relations with unions, water rates and using a gray water system to save water stumped both candidates.

They outlined similar decision-making processes that involved identifying and researching the problem then making a plan to address it.

Kuruvilla said he never would have thought learning the scientific method in school would be useful in serving on the city council.

Their main difference of opinion centers on whether the city should build a new, higher capacity, power plant as part of its wholesale electricity agreement with Grand River Dam Authority.

Kuruvilla said he thinks it’s a great idea that will save the city money on its power purchases.

Darlington said she would want to be cautious because the deal sounds too good to be true.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who say we have no business being in that business,” she said.

Kuruvilla cited his character, energy and willingness to listen and represent students and all residents as the unique qualities he would bring to the council.

Darlington said her 38 years of living in Stillwater gives her a long view of the city and its history. She cited personal connections and community involvement as her unique qualities. She said campaigning has been an exhilirating process that gives you license to walk up to people and ask what they think.

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