The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 25, 2012

Citizen advisory board can hash out park specifics


Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Following the transition from Gateway Enid to the Enid Renaissance Project, we learned a lesson about the value of meaningful citizen input.

In 2013, Enid residents will vote March 5 on a pair of proposals that would generate $50 million in revenue to upgrade the city’s parks system.

Voters will consider a pair of ballot questions: one to raise $20 million by increasing the city sales tax rate by one-half cent for five years, and one to pay for $30 million in general obligation bonds by extending an existing 7 mill ad valorem tax.

Where the plan remains uncertain is in the possibility voters could approve one funding source, but not the other. City officials are banking that both questions will pass, and they are asking for a leap of faith for voters to trust them.

“If you build it, he will come” was the message in “Field of Dreams.” Thus far, this sounds more like “if you fund it, we will build it.”

How do we get there from here? Voters literally don’t feel they have enough concrete specifics. Now is the time to provide more plan details.

Public surveys show strong parks support, and City Manager Eric Benson said the city will solicit more input. We’re calling for a citizen advisory board to hash out details. This would provide more transparent accountability to work through decisions with a broad-based coalition.

We should have representation from stakeholders like the Denny Price Family YMCA and the Enid Joint Recreation Triad, along with participation from geographic interests and the Park Board. More representatives at the table with help refine the plan and prevent disenfranchised interests.

We realize that formal leadership is required to make a decision, but we must have distribution of power as plans are handed down. In too many cases, the recommendation that goes to the elected City Commission is prepared from city staff by city staff. The lack of citizen input fosters skepticism for larger municipal projects.

Beyond City Hall, our citizens also have a major responsibility to stay informed. Attend meetings and listen to details with an open mind. Don’t just snipe from the peanut gallery simply because you’re against everything.

Let’s move the discussion forward in a positive way. Let’s hash out the plan prior to the election before it’s too late.