Julie Couch

Our country would be better off if we still had Will Rogers with us. He had such a humorous way of making common sense observations. Recently, I read his thoughts about Stillwater’s Strategic Plan.

No, he didn’t specifically mention Stillwater, but he was on the topic. Rogers’ observation was about the Ten Commandments. He said, “Whoever wrote the Ten Commandments made’em short. They may not always be kept but they can be understood. They are the same for everyone.”

Take the memory test for the Ten Commandments. Even if you haven’t read them in years, I’m guessing you’ll still be able to remember many or all of them.

Let’s translate his observation into a Strategic Plan for Stillwater. Priorities should be short. The citizens should understand and support them. The general reaction to a priority should be “Yes, that (fill in the blank) will help Stillwater!”

Let’s think about issues Stillwater residents consider important. Perhaps some of those issues could be part of a strategic plan.

1. Street Repairs. For a possible priority, let’s look at the bigger picture. Capital transportation projects involving streets should be important to all citizens. For example, what about possible widening of Sangre or Sixth? The City is ahead on this one – there’ll be a Town Hall in the Council Room on June 10 at 5:30 p.m. You can attend and give your suggestions on future street planning.

2. Meaningful opportunities for citizens to be involved in City government. This could involve task force, commission, board and standing committee memberships. A great example of volunteer work is the Block 34 Task Force.

The Council’s going to appoint a standing committee to report to the Stillwater Economic Development Authority. That’ll be another opportunity for more citizens to serve.

Another possibility for citizen involvement is appointing a citizen committee to develop the strategic plan.

3. Treatment of all partnerships for uniformity of expectations and City management assistance. For example, what is the method for each partnership for contacting different age groups? Do all partnerships have that goal as a priority? What financial records of the partnership should be available to the City?

4. Student Rental Property Issues. The Duck Street property on the May 13 Council meeting brings focus to this issue. Are there ways for the City to limit these massive apartment complexes? What about the Sokoloski houses? Review the residential zoning codes to see about prohibiting these houses in single-family zoning.

5. Neighborhood preservation. The Council’s proposed strategic plan has an objective to “continue to preserve livability in Stillwater’s strong and distinctive neighborhoods.” Actually, some older core neighborhoods have disappeared and many of the remaining ones can hardly be described as “strong and distinctive.” Some of these neighborhoods are gasping for breath. Form a task force to study how to maintain and support neighborhoods.

6. City communication with older people. Review the City’s practices concerning involvement of older people. Younger people use social media far more than older citizens. Does the City have appropriate ways to interact with all age groups?

A citizen who wrote a letter to the News Press a few months ago brought up this topic when he discussed the selection process for a replacement for Will Joyce on the Council when he became Mayor. The writer had applied for the appointment but he pointed out the older candidates had been left out of the process because it was focused on social media campaigning.

You can probably add to the above ideas. The Council would be wise to give the Strategic Plan more thought. Will Rogers had good advice.

Julie Couch is a longtime Stillwater resident.

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