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Mayoral candidate highlights priorities

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In the first of a series of Altus candidate and ballot question presentations for a Wednesday morning breakfast meeting, Mayoral candidate and current City Councilman Dwayne Martin listed six priorities he would focus on as mayor.

Those six items included:

• protecting the city charter;

• supporting a future MAPS project;

• making Altus more business friendly;

• improving water infrastructure and water quality;

• continuing to beautify the city; and

• enhancing city services.

The public is invited to the 7 a.m. Wednesday breakfast meetings at the Friendship Inn.

Most, if not all, of the city council members, most of whom who don’t regularly attend the breakfast, were at Wednesday’s meeting in a show of support for Martin’s candidacy. Martin, who serves on the council representing Ward IV and as Vice Mayor, is not up for re-election until 2021 but is challenging current Mayor Jack Smiley in the Feb. 12 election.

Smiley has supported a ballot question to revoke the city charter which establishes a Council-manager form of government and replace it with an Aldermanic form of government which gives the mayor more power. Smiley claims that since voters overwhelmingly defeated November ballot questions that would have done away with city elected positions of police chief, street commissioner and city clerk, voters indicated they would rather return to the Aldermanic form of government where those positions are elected instead of hired by a city manager and approved by the council.

In the Aldermanic form of government, the mayor acts as CEO of the city while in the current Council-manager form of government, the city manager acts as the CEO.

Martin, who favors the current Council-manager form of government, provided participants with the state statutes itemizing responsibilities for the Aldermanic form of government and a separate piece asking voters to examine the issue and vote against the proposal to do away with the charter.

Martin said most communities in Oklahoma have moved away from the Aldermanic form and saw it as an antiquated form of government. While he said the charter, which was adopted in 2013, may need refinement, most cities that can afford to hire a professional city manager have done so. He pointed out that since adopting the charter and hiring a professional city manager, the city has become more financially stable — reducing debt and balancing the budget.

As part of his presentation, Martin urged voters to re-elect Kevin McAuliffe, Jason Winters and Chris Riffle. McAuliffe, representing Ward 2, is being challenged by Nick Young, Jackie Dickerson and Patricia Blackmon. Winters, representing Ward 3, faces a challenge from Roberta Brady-Lee. And Riffle, representing Ward 4, faces a challenge from Robert Garrison and Joseph Melton. Doyle Jencks, representing Ward 1, is also up for re-election but did not draw an opponent.

When Martin discussed the need to continue the Metropolitan Area Projects, or MAPS, when it comes up for a vote in 2021, he said he prefers continuing the split of the added sales tax between the city and school district. But, he said he prefers the city get away from paying as much interest on loans for the projects as it can. He said the city, anxious to get started on the projects, paid more than $3 million in interest rates by starting the projects before it had money in the bank.

Altus first passed a MAPS sales tax of 1.75 cents in 2008 with half of the money going to the city and half going to the Altus Public School for capital projects that included building the new city hall, a new fire station on Park Lane and refurbishing Altus High School, among other projects. The tax is set to expire in 2020.

Martin said he wants to involve voters in the process of identifying projects supported by MAPS. He also wants to either stop the tax when it reaches its intended goal or clearly identify what to do with excess money generated by MAPS.

In the area of economic development, Martin said he has visited other communities as part of Leadership Oklahoma and noticed that many of those communities have taken advantage of locally produced goods that were manufactured locally before exporting commodities such as cotton and cattle. He gave the example of cattle ranch communities that had made cowhide products. He said local entrepreneurs should look at creating local goods from cotton and cattle products instead of just exporting the raw goods.

Martin also said that economic development efforts often try to score big companies but Altus should consider smaller companies.

He praised the city for coming into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality regulations for its water. He said the ongoing restoration of the Altus Reservoir should provide a 60- to 90-day back up supply of water for the city. He credited the city charter and City Manager Janice Cain with moving that project forward.

He said the goal is to make the water so pure that Altus Air Force Base would be “BRAC-proof.” BRAC is the acronym for Base Realignment And Closure, the term used for determining the feasibility of closing military bases that were once focused on the Cold War. It’s an effort to make the Department of Defense more efficient.

A few years ago, the city came under fire because of water quality at the base. The city took drastic measures to refurbish wells, run parallel water lines for rural customers, repurpose pipelines and purchase new wells to improve the water quality for the city and the base.

Martin said the city has improved its core services by replacing and upgrading electric and water meters that will provide more accurate readings, instant notification of service interruption and provide residents with detailed information about their billing.

For more information about Martin, you can go to his website, dwaynemartin4mayor.com.

Smiley is scheduled to speak at the Jan. 30 breakfast meeting and The Altus Times will cover that as well as other candidate visits to the group. The Altus Times has also asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire that the newspaper will use to print their comments prior to the Feb. 12 election.

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