The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

January 28, 2013

Enid City Commission hopefuls make case at Monday forum

ENID, Okla. — Seven candidates for Enid City Commission answered questions from the media and public Monday night at a candidates’ forum in the city administration building.

The forum featured a media panel comprised of the Enid News & Eagle, Chisholm Trail Broadcasting and Williams Broadcasting.

Candidates were asked pre-planned questions from the media representatives, along with questions from the public in attendance and via Facebook.

Candidates for Ward 3 appeared first, followed by Ward 4 and Ward 6 candidates. The candidates in each ward were asked the same questions, but the questions varied from ward to ward. The election will be Feb. 12.

Ward 3

Ward 3 candidates Ben Ezzell and Eldon Stephens were asked to give the city of Enid a letter grade on its current performance.

On the topic of finances, Stephens said he would give the city administration a grade of “B, B-plus.”

“We could be doing better,” he said, “but we could be doing a lot worse.”

In attracting new businesses, Stephens said the city gets a “B-plus.”

“We’re doing great things, but we have room to do more,” he said.

Stephens gave the current city administration a B overall.

“Enid has a lot of things going on,” he said, “and there’s a lot of things left to face.”

Ezzell said Enid overall deserves “a good, solid A.”

“I think we live in a great city,” Ezzell said. “We have a booming downtown, we have high housing demand, we have great businesses, we have great people and great entertainment.”

Ezzell said the city administration includes “some really stellar folks,” and said the majority of city employees “aren’t just working for a paycheck” and “are people who really love Enid.”

He gave the city administration a grade of B for its performance.

The candidates also were asked to name an issue that needs to be addressed, but is not widely discussed.

Stephens said he’s heard complaints that a new city sign ordinance hurts small businesses, and is not evenly enforced.

“One issue that’s not being addressed that much is the new sign ordinance,” Stephens said. “The new sign ordinance, on paper, looked really good, but I’m hearing from a lot of local business owners that ordinance is detrimental to business and not being enforced fairly.”

Ezzell said there needs to be more discussion of “the inevitable oil and natural gas bust.”

“I’m a bankruptcy attorney, so I’m used to people walking through my door after their plans didn’t go so well,” Ezzell said. “Eventually, there’s going to be a bust. When will it end — who knows? I hope we’re going through another decade, but we have to keep in mind that every boom ends in a bust.”

Ezzell and Stephens also were asked to name their top three priorities for government spending.

Stephens said the city needs to focus on attracting new business, giving city employees “the proper tools and equipment to get the job done right” and on using competitive bidding practices for city acquisitions.

Ezzell said city infrastructure maintenance will remain a “top priority for every budget year.”

“We have fairly fixed costs for our big-ticket items,” Ezzell said. “We exist here to keep the city’s infrastructure in place and running.”

Ezzell and Stephens also were asked whether they would support a city non-discrimination clause that included sexual orientation and sexual identity.

This question was not posed to the Ward 4 and Ward 6 candidates.

Ezzell responded, “Yes, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Stephens said he never saw discrimination “not addressed” while he was a city employee.

“There’s always been a non-discrimination clause in our city employees manual, and I’ve never seen anybody discriminated against where it wasn’t addressed,” Stephens said.

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