By JOSH NEWTON
Four men seeking to take the helm of two city offices – chief of police and Ward 2 city councilor – spoke in front of the Democrat Women Friday afternoon and briefly discussed their goals.
Chief of Police Clay Mahaney and challenger Nate King were both given five minutes to address the attendees at the luncheon.
“I have and continue to run on two major platforms for this campaign: foundation and vision,” King said. “I feel that it’s necessary to increase the accountability of the Tahlequah Police Department, and that starts at the top, as the chief. You increase accountability by providing real-time statistics and opening lines of communication throughout our community – the retirement community, business community, school community, or the different demographic groups we have within our city.”
King vowed to improve morale within TPD by working with officers and the Fraternal Order of Police to update procedures. He also said he would include police in the day-to-day operations of the department.
“We’re going to provide a safe and secure work environment for them,” King said. “Both these things provide a firm foundation for our police department, not only within our community, but within the department itself.”
King promised to put a foundation and vision in place for the department, with communication being key.
“Communication, not only with our different community groups, but also with our different law enforcement agencies [is important]. Collaborating with them increases our vision,” he said. “Most of our crime problems in Tahlequah are community problems. They are not just within the city limits of Tahlequa; they’re in our community, in our county, in neighboring counties. Drug dealers might live in Adair County, but they drive to Tahlequah to sell drugs at times, and we have to continue working with the other law enforcement agencies so that we can combat those.”
He said his vision will also clarify to officers what the department is trying to do and why.
“When people have an understanding of what they’re doing, they do a better job because they see the big picture,” said King.
Mahaney said incumbents have to run on their records, and said he believes he has “laid you out a good record for the last four years.”
“With our tax that we got passed, I have in mind to update a lot of our equipment, and that was in the tax itself; it shows what all we were going to get for the police department,” said Mahaney. “When re-elected, we’ll be able to move forward. You’ve seen in the past already that I’ve got 20 new cars in the past five years, staying inside the budget that the council gives me. That’s very important, because I don’t want cars breaking down when [officers are] trying to get to you when you need assistance.”
Mahaney said he’s also ensured the vehicles have warranties so expenses will be lower as the cars’ lives are extended.
“I want to continue our officer education to provide the best possible professional officers to you for any needs that you may have,” he said. “I will continue an open-door policy, so if you have any concerns, you can come see me; that goes for my officers, too, that anytime they have any concerns or questions, they can come see me and we’ll discuss it and find a way to fix whatever problems there may be.”
Mahaney said police work is often reactive, but said the TPD has tried to be more proactive in the community.
“[We’ve been] learning how to deal with kids who are underage and drinking, and the spice problem that we have, the synthetic chemical, marijuana; the prescription drug problems we have in that area,” said Mahaney. “We also put on other classes, like we had a bullying class so people can learn how that is, what to look for in that. We’ve put out free brochures all over town so you, as parents, can see if your child has some kind of problem with drugs or if they’re being bullied or anything; and we also keep up with the elder-watch programs ... to keep you informed of all the latest things that are going on.”
Ward 2 City Council contenders Charles Carroll and Jonathan Wells also spoke to the group.
Carroll said the community has been good to his family.
“I’ve been involved in most of the things going on – Kiwanis, Chamber, [I’m the] oldest member in terms of service in Kiwanis,” said Carroll. “Some people [ask why I’m running], but I’m just like the boy that has a peep hole in a board fence; I want to see what’s on the other side. I have no set agenda other than I’m very concerned about the financial stability of the county, the city, and the administration of the $25 million sales tax. Expenditures are a big concern of mine.”
Carroll said the sales tax funding the city is set to draw on its recent project would equate to a line of $100 bills stretching from the State Highway 82 junction in Tahlequah, to Fort Gibson.
“So that’s what’s to be watched,” said Carroll. “That’s the biggest thing in my mind, to make sure those funds are stretched as far as they can be stretched. I have no obligation except to all the citizens of Tahlequah. I’ll be obligated to the city.”
Jonathan Wells told the audience he has an agenda “to make sure that Tahlequah progresses the way it has been.”
“At the same time, I come in with a slightly different perspective, and I have some ideas,” said Wells.
Wells mentioned the construction of “bump-outs” installed a few years ago along downtown Tahlequah’s Muskogee Avenue.
“There’s been debate back and forth among people about whether they’re good or bad, whether the benches face the right way or not,” said Wells.
“Right now, I believe we’re spending money to water those in the summertime, which is a good thing, except [those] people could be working elsewhere.”
Wells said he wants to initiate a project that would allow local civic groups to adopt the so-called islands and take them over.
“Decorate them, paint them, however they want, and take that burden off the city,” he said.
Wells said he also supports entities such as the Tahlequah Main Street Association and Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, and the efforts to move the city forward.
“And I’m all for giving tax breaks for businesses coming in, but at the same time, I think tax dollars need to be relegated to streets, safety, and services,” said Wells.
“I want the Chamber, I want the Main Street Association, the other civic groups, to draw visitors in. When our visitors get here, I want to make sure they get here safely on roads that work; I want to make sure that when they park their cars, they are safe against a break-in; and if something catches on fire, we’ve got enough manpower to get it put out.”
He said the city needs to increase the number of police officers and full-time firefighters to keep up with the workload.
“That’s where the tax dollars should be going, and I want to help make sure the tax dollars are directed in the right direction,” said Wells.
Tahlequah voters will will head to the polls April 2 for the run-off election for police chief and the Ward 2 city council post.