Tahlequah Daily Press


December 11, 2013

Get a plan in place for next snowstorm

TAHLEQUAH — Though the weather outside may have been Arctic-cold in the wake of last week’s storm, hundreds of area residents have been hot under the collar about the conditions of Tahlequah city streets. Some folks began demanding answers on the Press Facebook page over the weekend. Why, they wanted to know, had the streets not been cleared?

This question was posed late Sunday by the Press to Mayor Jason Nichols, who happened to be online at the time. But we also indicated Street Commissioner Mike Corn is the person most qualified to speak about such concerns. Though his budget may be controlled by the mayor and council, Corn’s is a largely autonomous position, and he makes the decisions as to staffing and equipment use by his department, in day-to-day operations as well as during emergencies.

Nichols pointed out that last week’s snowstorm was highly unusual for this area, and that street crews had been working around the clock. No blame was cast by Nichols, or as far as we know, by any city councilors who addressed the issue. Neither did the Daily Press or its representatives level criticism, because like the mayor, we recognize the unique nature of the circumstances.

It was disconcerting, then, when staunch supporters of Corn and his department began to point accusing fingers at the mayor and council, perhaps even without Corn’s sanction. They began lambasting the governing body for cutting the street department’s budget – which, in fact, is not true. The Daily Press attends every city council meeting and is privy to the budget. Others who zealously keep tabs on city business – like local businessman Josh Hutchins – also refuted the budget-cut claims. But those looking to kick a political football instigated a no-win, cyclical argument by insisting that since the “watchdogs” aren’t allowed in executive sessions, we’re not privy to what goes on behind closed doors.

It seems these folks are claiming that during executive session, the mayor and council – presumably with the help of City Attorney Park Medearis – are cooking the books on the budget. Meanwhile, only this tight band of their opponents – who, by the way, are also barred from executive sessions – have the low-down on municipal business. The rest of us are either clueless or covering up for them.

For those who really want the low-down, here it is: First, it’s not the responsibility of the mayor and council to run Tahlequah’s street crews. Second, despite what a small group of trouble-makers may say, the mayor and council did not cut the street department budget or hamper those employees from doing their jobs. And third, the street crews WERE, in fact, doing their jobs as they understood them, though perhaps not in the manner some folks would have liked.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but many citizens have weighed in with proposals on how Tahlequah can clear its streets more efficiently during future storms. Some have suggested we need better equipment, but as Corn himself has said, this is not pragmatic. Tahlequah isn’t Breckenridge, and such costly machines could only be used on rare occasions. That money could be put to better use on, say, filling potholes.

What Tahlequah does need is a more concise disaster plan, prioritizing which streets are to be cleared, and when and how, should a storm of this magnitude strike again. The crews did a great job clearing the bridges, but other heavy-traffic areas – like Fourth Street – remained icy as of Tuesday. It will be up to the street department, and the mayor and council, to work together to hash things out.

As discussion transpires during council meetings, citizens should take seriously their civic responsibility to make suggestions – which will be far more productive than trying to fan the flames of rumor and discord. Blame doesn’t need to be assigned; it’s sufficient to say that by working together, we can do better next time.

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  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014

  • New chamber head needs to be free from scandal’s taint

    Every time another layer is peeled off the unfolding saga of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce embezzlement case, those going through the records hope they might see a light at the end of the tunnel. So far, that hasn’t happened.

    June 30, 2014


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