Tahlequah Daily Press

January 28, 2013

Meet your future representatives


TAHLEQUAH — If you’re a Tahlequah citizen, chances are good you won’t have anything better to do than attend the candidate forum Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Armory Municipal Center. After all, few things are more important than choosing the best representatives for your government, whether it be city, state or national.

Attending this meeting will help you get a better understanding of who your candidates are, what they’re thinking, and how they will serve the community if they’re chosen by voters Tuesday, Feb. 12. Up for grabs are the Ward 2 city councilor seat, as well as police chief and street commissioner. Two men – incumbent Mike Corn and challenger Terry Garrett – are vying for street commissioner. Four are competing for the open council seat: David Whitekiller, Gary Cacy, Charles Carroll and Jonathan Wells. The police chief race also boasts four contenders: incumbent Clay Mahaney, Nate King, Charley Batt and Stephen Farmer.

All 10 men have been invited to participate, and all are being supplied with a set of predetermined questions cobbled together by the event sponsors, the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of University Women. These questions and answers will appear in the Thursday, Jan. 31 edition of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

The candidates will also be taking questions from the floor – and that’s where you, the public, will come into play. If you are concerned about where any of the candidates stand on pertinent issues and you don’t step forward, you won’t be as informed as you need to be to make wise decisions at the polls. The Press will report in our Friday, Feb. 1 edition on what transpires at the forum, and since the predetermined questions will have been addressed in a previous issue, we’ll be focusing on any new material covered.

While it’s true that the Chamber, the AAUW and the Press are doing everything in their power to give voters a peek into these candidates and their visions for Tahlequah’s future, it’s ultimately up to citizens themselves to proactively seek information. If you don’t participate, you can’t complain – and participation goes even further than merely voting. It must also include education.

Though presenting well-considered responses that show an understanding of Tahlequah’s needs should be a paramount factor in a candidate’s favor, other considerations should come into play. If the candidate is an incumbent, does he deserve your support because he’s done a good job, or do you plan to vote by rote simply because he’s already in office?

Courage, honesty and transparency are also key elements. A candidate who doesn’t bother to show up to face the public, unless equipped with a good excuse for the absence, should set off warning bells. He may be thumbing his nose at voter concerns, or avoiding confrontation – and those folks don’t make good investments for your tax dollars. The same is true for those who won’t answer questions – especially questions given to them in advance so they have time to contemplate their answers. Do you really want to vote for a person who’s proved to be unaccountable even before the election? Do you imagine the situation will improve after the election?

We’ve heard a lot of grumbling lately from local folks who feel they were left out of the loop about other recent issues. If you’re one of those folks, here’s your chance to get the skinny on your future elected officials.

With the recent passage of the sales tax, Tahlequah has a lot of work to do, and a lot of promising projects on its horizon. If you live here, you need to be part of that process – and you need to be involved in choosing the people who will be spending your money.