Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 24, 2013

Candidates focus on jobs, service, quality of life

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Stillwater League of Women Voters will hold a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the city of Stillwater Municipal Building, 723 S. Lewis.

The league sent questionnaires to the four candidates for City Council. Incumbent Joe Weaver faces Micah LeFebvre for council seat one. Philip Pina, who was appointed to the City Council in April when John Bartley was elected mayor, faces Gina Noble.

The election in April 2. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and April 1 at the Payne County Administration Building, 315 W. Sixth Ave.

Here are candidates’ answers to the League of Women Voters questions.

Seat 1

What in your background would make you a good city councilor?

LeFebvre: Our current council does a great job of supporting local businesses, but I think there’s a need for someone who prioritizes the needs of business workers over business owners. I know what it’s like to work paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. Too often someone making minimum or below-minimum wage can’t take the time to come to a city council meeting and have their voice heard. I believe that I can be someone who empathizes with our working class and will use their interests as the foundation of my decision-making.

Weaver: I am an incumbent to Seat 1 on the City Council, having served these past three years. I have a 30-year employment history in various financial positions at OSU, currently serving as vice president for administration and finance. In this position and previous positions, I have had the opportunity to work with the City Council and city staff on issues of mutual interest between the university and the city.

What two or three areas are the most important parts of the Stillwater C3 comprehensive plan and why?

Weaver: First, to provide economical utilities, while extending and improving existing systems. Second, continue to support and promote road improvements and neighborhood street repair. Third, to support and promote additions to recreational facilities in Stillwater.

LeFebvre: I think the infrastructure and transportation portions of the C3 Comprehensive Plan are vital to Stillwater’s smooth growth. We need to fix our crumbling roads and invest heavily in modernizing our aging water system. The focus on expanding bicycle and pedestrian pathways in the C3 plan is a smart one. Not only is it environmentally wise to promote bicycle and pedestrian traffic, it’s also a great way to increase quality of life, and shows an awareness of the needs and desires of our citizens.

As a city councilor, what would you do to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Stillwater?

LeFebvre: To improve the quality of life for Stillwater residents, we have to focus on the quality of employment available. While we have many fine companies in Stillwater who cherish their employees and treat them well, fully a quarter of our citizens work minimum wage food service and retail jobs that keep them below the federal poverty level. I think any conversation about quality of life needs to begin as a conversation about how to help the 10,000 Stillwater adults living in poverty.

Weaver: I would support bringing additional new businesses and industry to Stillwater to provide quality jobs. Second, I would be willing to support new recreational facilities in Stillwater to promote wellness and fitness. Third, I would continue to help foster a well thought out land use standards that not only support growth and development, but also promotes and protects existing residential neighborhoods.

Given the latest statistics on poverty in the new comprehensive plan, what would you, as a city councilor, do to improve Stillwater’s economy?

Weaver: I would support initiatives that help to bring quality jobs to the area so those without employment can have opportunity to earn a decent wage. Secondly, I would be mindful of the role of city government and do my part to insure that it does not get in the way of those agencies and entities that attend to those less fortunate, and facilitate their activities where appropriate. As an individual, I have a duty to personally support with my time and resources those charities charged with a mission to helping those in need.

LeFebvre: Despite projected unemployment levels of only 4 percent, 10 percent of Stillwater families are employed, but still living under the federal poverty line — with many more hovering near it. The C3 Plan encourages new business, but I think we need to prioritize bringing the right kind of jobs to Stillwater. We need jobs that will pay our citizens a livable wage and keep more money in the local economy. We can’t do that if we continue to court chain restaurants and big box stores that pay minimum wage and ship their profits out of Stillwater.

Seat 2

What in your background would make you a good city councilor?

Noble: I am a communications professional and a mother. I know how to make responsible, compassionate decisions that affect the lives of others. I do so every day for my son and my students. I was a vice president for a children’s healthcare foundation before I began teaching communications at Oklahoma State University. I am a leader and a team player. I value fairness above all else and will work tirelessly to represent the interests of all Stillwater citizens and businesses. I know how to listen, research and ask questions so I can make informed, confident decisions regarding city policies, ordinances and budgeting.

Pina: I have about five years experience if you count my years in Agra as a town trustee. In the last 10 months, the learning curve was steep and there were many moments where I found myself researching issues looking for the best solution for all concerned. I think I have been through the “baptism by fire” and have come out ready to deal with the problems at hand. Having said all of that, I will still bring commitment, truth and honesty to the table and I think that means everything.

What two or three areas are the most important parts of the Stillwater C3 comprehensive plan and why?

Pina: The comprehensive plan is a roadmap for the future. Chapter 5, Infrastructure, consisting of water, waste, electric and transportation, are essential components for the city to function properly. These systems require constant observation and maintenance. When implemented properly cost and repairs are reduced. Housing needs are also a priority. With OSU projecting substantial increases in enrollment, student housing will need to increase. Also, if we look at projected gains in overall population there will also be a need for increased housing.

Noble: 1. Development: Planned growth is the most important issue because it affects quality of life, infrastructure and economic development. 2. Protecting the character of neighborhoods and businesses. I strongly believe the city must protect and respect established neighborhoods and businesses when promoting new development. 3. Diverse job opportunities. Economic development is enhanced if Stillwater is a desirable place to live, work and play. Stillwater should be a destination that attracts individuals, employers and visitors.

As a city councilor, what would you do to improve the quality of life for the residents of Stillwater?

Noble: Quality of life begins with good infrastructure and is enhanced with economic development. Quality of life, infrastructure and economic development go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the others. Every decision I make as a city councilor will be based on each of these issues. I want Stillwater to become an attraction that offers citizens and visitors of all ages a variety of opportunities for work and play. Our city will benefit from more recreation, entertainment, cultural events and unique shopping and dining destinations. Planned growth is the key to advancing Stillwater’s quality of life opportunities.

Pina: All facets of city government are intertwined and because of it quality of life issues are impacted by any decisions that are made. The overall objective is to make quality decisions on every issue. This answer may seem like an evasion of the question, but looking at it realistically, water, roads, parks and recreation, housing, hospital, public safety and the myriad of other services offered all combine to create a great quality of life.

Given the latest statistics on poverty in the new comprehensive plan, what would you, as a city councilor, do to improve Stillwater’s economy?

Pina: I would push for strong economic development. We need to bring more skill jobs into the community that would employ more workers. Just brining jobs into the area is not the complete solution. We need to encourage students to stay in schools, take courses that would lead to better job opportunities. We need a workforce that is ready to step into the jobs that comes with economic development. I would strongly encourage those new businesses to look at Stillwater’s labor pool first when trying to fulfill their labor needs. With these systems in place I foresee a reduction in the poverty statistics.

Noble: Forbes magazine says Stillwater is the sixth fastest growing small city in the United States. Growth adds jobs and opportunities. We need to provide infrastructure and quality of life opportunities that attract industrial and commercial companies as well as new residents.

We need to add companies that will offer competitive pay, employee benefits and diverse job and advancement opportunities. I believe some economic development should be incentivized when necessary. Employers who bring numerous living-wage jobs to Stillwater create opportunities for all citizens and businesses while also reducing poverty.

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