EDMOND — Challengers for Edmond mayor and the Ward 4 council seat questioned the incumbents and the way the city has been doing business during a Tuesday candidate forum.
Mayor Charles Lamb will be on the ballot against Richard Prawdzienski in next Tuesday's general election. Ward 4 Councilman Nick Massey faces Shilpa Abbitt.
All registered voters in Edmond can vote Tuesday in both races.
Candidates were asked questions about attracting jobs, traffic solutions, expanding the economic base, their qualifications and challenges for the city.
There was no disagreement that there is a traffic problem in Edmond. The challengers weren't on board with the intelligent transportation system, known as ITS.
Lamb and Massey support installation of the system, which would synchronize traffic lights and offer communication opportunities, and allow for more efficient use of the city staff members and emergency workers.
Prawdzienski, 65, doesn't think the system will solve the problems. He said city leaders need to think outside the box.
“ITS is a lot of money to me,” said Abbitt, 42. “I would want to know exactly what it would do and how much it would cost. To me, all extra money, do we really need to have it.”
City council members have been working on the intelligence traffic system for at least eight years. The system would cost $9 million, financed by a special tax that voters approved in 2000 for capital improvements. Edmond has received a $1.7 million grant from the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments for the project and plans to apply for more financial help when possible.
Design work is under way for the first phase, along Second Street from Interstate 35 to Santa Fe Avenue.
“ITS will enable us to monitor all intersections in Edmond from a central location and help us direct traffic where needed,” said Massey, 65. “There will always be a transportation problem.
“We would love to build more roads, but it costs a lot of money.”
The ITS system will also have a communication network that will be used for other utilities, said Lamb, 66. “There is a lot of bang for our buck. We will have a fiber network that we will use for other purposes.”
Prawdzienski has a problem with the traffic at Second and Boulevard because people are turning into Taco Bueno and Pappa Johns.
“I have to wait for three lights because the light is broken and people are making left hand turns into the Mexican place, Prawdzienski said. “We need to make the street wider.”
He suggested taking five feet on both sides to make the street wider or put a police officer at the intersection to take care of traffic.
“We need to go back to the old days and put a cop out there and not let a camera do the job,” said Prawdzienski, who has run for state office six times and lost each race, the latest in November against Republican state Sen. Clark Jolley.
Abbitt, running for her first public office, did not talk in favor of boulevards with divided medians. She said the boulevards increase the traffic flow, cause problems with turns and cost more to landscape and maintain.
The city's master transportation plan calls for boulevards on section line roads, partly to avoid rear-end accidents that were starting to become common in the city, Lamb said.
“One of the features is to manage traffic flow,” said Lamb, who has been on the council 16 years.
Abbitt and Prawdzienski are against public-private partnerships which include the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Laboratory, the under-construction Edmond Recreation and Aquatic Center and the proposed Covell and Interstate 35 conference center and hotel project.
Lamb and Massey are supporters of public-private partnerships and said they allow the city to do projects it could not afford by itself.
“Stop doing everything the citizens can do for themselves,” Prawdzienski said. “We want to go to a gym, we pay fees. We don't need the city to join and create a gym and a swimming pool.”
Abbitt wants to lower sales taxes.
“We live and die by sales tax revenue,” said Massey, who was appointed to the council a year ago. “All the taxes are voted on by the citizens.
“We need to attract businesses to do all the things people love so much. Sometime in the future, costs will exceed revenue. We'll be talking about what we can't do rather than what we can do.”