The Edmond Sun

March 26, 2013

Candidates make pitch to chamber

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Municipal candidates for mayor and Ward 4 City Council appeared before the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning to explain their individual methods of creating job growth and expand the local economy.

A citywide general election for mayor and Ward 4 City Council is set for April 2. Voters will choose either incumbent Mayor Charles Lamb or Richard Prawdzienski in the mayoral election. Ward 4 City Councilman Nick Massey is on the ballot with candidate Shilpa Abbitt.

Safety and quality schools attract people to live in Edmond, Abbitt said. Lowering the city sales tax would increase business ventures here, she added.

“If I have a choice of spending money locally with a lower sales tax as opposed to somewhere else, I obviously am always going to spend my money locally and spend money to help the community I live in and save money in the process,” Abbitt said.

The city’s sales tax rate  jumped to 3.75 percent in 2012, due to ballot approval of a half-cent sales tax to help fund the Public Safety Center in downtown. It is added to the 4.50 percent state sales tax.

“We live and die by sales tax revenue in our community and in every community in Oklahoma,” Massey said. “So sales taxes are very important to us, which by the way are voted for by our own citizens.”

The City of Edmond would be talking about what it cannot do instead of what it can do in the absence of sales tax revenue, Massey said.

The OSBI Forensic Science Center is an example of how the city forms partnerships for job creation, Lamb said. The City of Edmond spent $1.7 million for the land and $265,000 to prepare the site for construction. The completed 2008 project represents a $30 million state investment.

“That was to set the stage for technology investment and technology jobs,” Lamb said.

The city also has built or expanded sports facilities for the community to enjoy, he said. Parks and recreation attracts visitors to spend sales tax money to support local services, Lamb said.

Prawdzienski said he would work to expand Edmond’s free market economy.

“How do we do that? One way is we will not go out there and do bike trails and say, ‘New business, come on down, but you have to go out and put bike trail routes out there and give me showers and lockers,” Prawdzienksi said. “If I’m a small business, I cannot afford that.”

Businesses must hire a lawyer, beg, plead and dance before the City Council in order to place a digital sign on their property, Prawdzienski said.

“Let’s get a free market economy. There is a balance. I don’t want a big white sign in front of my house,” Prawdzienski said.

The city needs to talk with state legislators to convince them to allow liquor to be sold in places other than liquor stores, he said, as an example.

“Stop saying no, no, no. Let the free market economy work,” Prawdzienski said.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 2 for the election. The mayoral term is for two years while the council positions are elected for four-year terms.