Donna Occhipinti Yost
To the editor:
Michelle Charles’ front page article published in the May 25 News Press should be read by all residents. It explains about the council asking for input on city projects and that “Stillwater faces funding challenges as a municipality because Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that does not allow cities and towns to use property taxes, also known as ad valorem tax, for general funding. Oklahoma is the only state where city governments are forced to rely primarily on sales tax to fund city government operations.” It is no wonder considering the ambition of these projects and the millions of dollars in costs.
Do residents realize that Stillwater is about the only government entity that doesn’t have representative government because every council member is elected “at-large” meaning no specific member represents you or your particular area of Stillwater. If there is an issue or problem that a resident wants to address, which council member should they contact? In this current system, it is all of them. Most cities and towns elect their council members by sections or wards with only the mayor running at-large. Would Stillwater residents approve of electing state or federal representatives “at-large” as opposed to the current system of representation? I highly doubt it. So then why have this type of government with only four people and a mayor representing a city of 50,000?
Perhaps when the city council and staff embark on their “quadrant tour” as described in Mrs. Charles’ article, they can also ask for input from the residents on how to adopt a city charter that is a representative government instead of this current system.
The city charter should be updated to a 21st century representative city government. Stillwater residents should demand it.