Stillwater News Press

Local News

February 29, 2012

Controversies convince candidate Terrence Murphy to run for mayor

STILLWATER, Okla. — Terrence “Terry” Murphy first thought about entering Stillwater politics and eventually the mayor race during the controversy over selling city-owned Tower Park.

In the summer 2010 amid rising park maintenance costs, Stillwater looked to sell the property to Oklahoma State University to be used as a parking lot. Murphy plays basketball at the park and said the situation of paving a park sounded like something out of a Judy Collins’ song.

“Why was the town so broke it was having to cannibalize itself?” he said.

Later, Murphy said he realized the city had lost a number of its manufacturing jobs, which provided both sales tax and utility sales for the city. Stillwater, he said, has become overly dependent on government jobs with its top four employers in OSU, Stillwater Medical Center, Meridian and the city of Stillwater, which are all  dependent on tax dollars either directly in the case of the university or indirectly in the hospital’s case with Medicare.

“Maybe (we) need to find a way to make the town more balanced,” Murphy said.

Restoring that balance is one of the main reasons Murphy said he is running for mayor. Murphy has regularly advocated trying to bring manufacturing back to town, and one way to do that, he said, is through Stillwater’s collective waistline.

Health care, he said, is the biggest uncertainty for potential employers seeking to expand. If Stillwater could show companies that its workforce is healthier and would cost less to employ, Murphy said it could help motivate new business ventures in the city.

“If they say obesity is a socially contagious disease, according to social scientists, then the converse would also be true,” he said.

Murphy’s idea for a weight-loss initiative would make shedding pounds more of a game with rewards. The city would offer points for lost pounds, a plan he said should motivate people, and companies or individuals that show the most improvement could earn economic or noneconomic rewards ranging from recognition to a cash prize.

“It’s not about perfection — it’s about improvement,” he said.

Economic development has been a key issue in candidate forums ahead of Tuesday’s mayoral primary. Murphy has placed manufacturing at the key of his economic development plan, and he said Stillwater is in a good spot to attract those jobs.

“Geographically, this is a good location,” Murphy said. “We’re right in the middle of the United States.”

He added that he was confident those jobs would come back to the U.S. as wages go up in developing nations and the cost of transporting goods rises. He said an example of that could be seen at Toyota and Honda, which have plants in southern states such as Alabama.

“They could be in this area,” Murphy said.

Natural gas is another big plus for the region, he added, another attractive component for potential manufacturers. Murphy said previously he wanted to look into converting the city’s vehicle fleet to be compatible for compressed natural gas.

Murphy also addressed his history as a retired general practice physician. According to documents from the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, he lost his medical license in 1996. When questioned, Murphy said he was accused of over-prescribing medication to a patient in his mid-20s who had a terminal brain tumor that eventually killed him. The patient was paralyzed in three limbs and incontinent after surgery, and Murphy said he prescribed the medication based on the patients’ pain and terminal diagnosis.

“My belief at the time was you couldn’t prescribe too much,” he said. “I still don’t feel bad about it to this day.”

Murphy challenged the suspension but eventually lost. He said he has never been convicted of something he was guilty of.

“I knew that was going to happen to me when I did it, though,” Murphy said. “I said to myself this is going to go horrible for me, but on the other hand, (the patients’) life was just miserable. ... If he could be a little happier, I didn’t care.”

One of Murphy’s campaign issues is getting more public input in city government. When city councilors eliminated the “new business” section from council agendas that allowed residents to speak on any issue, Murphy was one of those in the crowd who spoke against it.

He said he would like to see the section brought back and allow residents 90 seconds to speak, which he said would prevent the meetings from getting bogged down.

“I think you should be able to say anything you want in a minute-and-a-half,” Murphy said. “I mean the Gettysburg Address isn’t that long.”

A big challenge for the city is balancing pressing infrastructure needs with quality of life services. Murphy said quality of life is often what attracts business, but the city does have important needs to take care of.

“Roads and water would have to take priority, but quality of life is still very important,” Murphy said.

He added that the city could find creative ways to improve the quality of life. One project he said he would like to see is a large mural of a dog at the dog park with bricks  or rocks that residents can put the name of their pets as a memorial. Additionally, people could climb on the wall to allow the installation become interactive.

“I don’t think quality of life has to cost that much money,” Murphy said.

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