The Edmond Sun

February 6, 2013

Mayor, councilman draw opponents

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Mayor Charles Lamb and City Councilman Nick Massey picked up challengers Wednesday in their election efforts, according to the Oklahoma County Election Board. Ward 3 Councilman Darrell Davis did not draw an opponent.

 Both mayoral candidate Richard Prawdzienski and Ward 4 candidate Shilpa Abbitt said they are concerned the city is taking the wrong path.

“Having drawn an opponent does not change my commitment to continue to be of service to my community,” Lamb said.

City leadership is going in the right direction, Massey said.

“We’re doing the right things, so we’ll have to have a campaign and let the public decide,” Massey said.

A Devon Energy reservoir engineer, Abbitt said she is excited about her first time to run for any public office.

“I’m not too thrilled about the direction that the City of Edmond is taking, where it has goals to become a destination center to experience art, entertainment, et cetera, and looking to doing more of these public/private enterprise deals,” said Abbitt, a marathon runner.

Too many cities in the U.S. are suffering from public/private initiatives, she added.

Abbitt and her husband, Wyatt, moved to Edmond in 2001 because the community has been a safe, bedroom community to Oklahoma City. Edmond is a great place to raise her two sons, she said.

“I don’t want us to become a big city type,” Abbitt said. “Really, who is going to come to Edmond for a destination experience when you have Oklahoma City?”

Richard Prawdzienski hopes to upset Lamb’s election bid. He lost in an attempt to defeat Republican state Sen. Clark Jolley in November’s general election.

“We’re growing too fast,” Prawdzienski said of Edmond.

Now retired, Prawdzienski served in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked in logistics at Tinker Air Force Base. He also has been active in the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma and is former chairman of the group.

Prawdzienski wants to put a two-year moratorium on modifications to the city’s building codes, specifically zoning changes, he said.

“If we can’t do that, if six families from a neighborhood say they don’t want to go out there and waive the code, I won’t give a vote for a change,” Prawdzienski said of City Council meetings. “Basically, give the vote to the people.”

Six families would out-number the five City Council representatives, he said. Council members are not listening to the concerns of Edmond residents, Prawdzienski said. The recommendations made by homeowners associations should be respected, he added.

“I want to let the people be understood that they have power,” he said.

As with Abbitt, Prawdzienski said he believes in a free market economy. So he wants to stop public/private partnerships.

“I’m against helping companies out by saying I’ll give you freebies,” Prawdzienski said.

Prawdzienski said he opposes the city’s involvement in attracting a $25 million hotel and convention center.

The Covell 35 Development Group plans to build a $25 million Hilton Garden Inn and a 20,000-square-foot conference center on the northwest corner of I-35 and Covell.

In October, the Edmond City Council approved the negotiated agreements 5-0 for developing the hotel and conference center. A unanimous agreement by the council also was reached concerning the development of Summit Sports Complex to be located on the northeast corner of the interchange.

The City Council previously had approved the $2.2 million purchase of 7.13 acres of undeveloped land at the hotel site. The $2.2 million was taken from the city’s Real Property Tax Fund. The Capital Projects and Financing task force voted in favor of reimbursing the $2.2 million to the city’s Real Property Tax Fund from the Capital Projects Tax Fund.

A need for a hotel and conference center has been identified by the council to generate tourism, sales tax and improve quality of life for residents.

Safeguards are in place to protect the city’s land investment, said attorney Leslie Batchelor, representing the city in the projects. It is a legal requirement that the public not give anything away to private investment, she said.

The hotel costs are solely the responsibility of the developer, Batchelor said.

In April the city released details of the memorandum of understanding in regard to the $2.2 million investment in which the city will charge $1 dollar a year in leasing the property, Lamb said. The business partners would have a 15-year buy-back option to purchase the land.

“We don’t need to step in and offer hotel privileges for them to build something,” Prawdzienski said. “I’m against the biking trail (from I-35 to Arcadia Lake). I don’t want to say I’m against everything. I’m for a free market economy.”

Primary elections for mayor and City Council are March 5 followed by a general election April 2. Elected candidates take office on the first Monday in May, said Steve Murdock, city attorney. Mayors are elected for two years. Council members serve four-year terms.