The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 6, 2013

Lessons learned: City of Enid needs buy-in instead of community backlash

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Where do we go from here?

After Tuesday’s defeat of the “Quality of Life” initiative, the city of Enid needs to take a step back and reflect.

Enid voters rejected both propositions on the $50 million parks plan by an overwhelming 77 percent.

While outsiders may view this as a reactionary response to progress, this election had less to do with parks and more to do with competing issues and our city’s perception of mistrust.

The timing of the parks proposal was challenging, with the city facing water and infrastructure needs in the midst of an oil boom.

Meanwhile, Enid is experiencing growing pains with a transition to new city commissioners, the burgeoning Gateway to Renaissance transformation, the revitalization of Convention Hall and the eventual opening of the Enid Event Center.

Add the Homeland situation, potential “de-malling” and canola plant incentives, and it’s too much city spending for some taxpayers to swallow, especially when you’re asking them to vote for new taxes.

Everyone knows we need better parks, and we have not been maintaining them.

We also need to discuss dedicated funding of a parks and recreation department, trails and expanding neighborhood parks.

Enid needs to revisit the parks issue, but not in the next few months.

Unfortunately, some personalized the parks proposal as being all about City Manager Eric Benson.

They took vengeance on the ballot for their dislike of city leadership actions on other issues.

Yes, city government faces a perception of mistrust.

Beyond Garfield County, we don’t want the perception from outsiders that we oppose improved quality of life.

That’s bad for business, and our children and grandchildren deserve better. Eventually, we need substantial improvement of our parks.

Perhaps the city should take a page out of Enid Public Schools’ bond issue playbook and form a diverse committee to address needs.

We need buy-in instead of backlash to make Enid a better place to live.