Tahlequah Daily Press

February 21, 2014

City councilors should take action instead of sitting silent on issues


TAHLEQUAH — It took seven or eight years to build the Roman Colosseum, about 20 years to erect the Great Pyramid of Giza, and 15 years to finish the Parthenon in Athens.

Constructing a gargantuan and complicated structure that will last millennia is one thing. But it shouldn’t take city leaders 13 years and counting to act on a single issue.

Last Tuesday, Kent Rountree asked councilors to let him detach about 100 acres of property from the city. Thirteen years ago, Rountree voluntarily annexed the land, which is bordered by Fox Street, Bryant Road and the State Highway 51 bypass on the west side of the city.

At the time of the annexation, Rountree expected to develop the property, and city officials knew that. He claims they assured him his land would eventually get access to city utilities and services, but for years now, he’s been left twisting in the wind. Rountree is tired of waiting, and now he’s decided to keep the land and retire on it.

Rountree also wants to use his property for agricultural ventures. The caveat is that some of those activities are prohibited as long as the land is within city limits.

Tuesday marked Rountree’s second appearance before the council in as many months, and despite his pleas, it was obvious most council members weren’t interested in letting part of the city slip from its boundaries.

Both Rountree and the council had valid ideas – and some, not so valid – about the impact of deannexation, but when it came time for a motion on Rountree’s proposal, only Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston had the fortitude to take some form of action.

Weston made a motion to approve of Rountree’s proposal, but Ward 3 Councilor Maurice Turney, Ward 2 Councilor Charles Carroll and Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres ignored her action, instead of moving to put the matter to a vote.

Mayor Jason Nichols then asked whether councilors wanted to make a different motion – presumably to decline Rountree's request – but Carroll, Turney and Spyres sat silent yet again. With no vote to take, Rountree’s request fell flat.

City councilors obviously have the right to take their seats in the chambers, endlessly discuss a matter, and ultimately do nothing about it. But voters did not elect them to sit idle as placeholders, perhaps because they’re afraid of offending someone.

Maybe these public servants need a refresher course on what their constituents expect of them, but it’s actually a simple concept: action. Voters should feel confident their representatives will listen and respond, whatever the issue at hand. And regardless of their individual opinions on a matter, councilors should publicly vote for or against the issues that come before them.

If they don’t have enough information to make intelligent decisions, they should do the research before the meeting. And if they’re not willing to educate themselves on city business, they should find something else to do with their spare time, and quit wasting ours.

The decision to hide behind silence is offensive, and voters should remember this the next time they head to the polls.