From how to develop the city’s economy to ways to make the city more green, candidates for the Pittsburg City Commission sounded off on several issues in a candidate forum Thursday night.

From how to develop the city’s economy to ways to make the city more green, candidates for the Pittsburg City Commission sounded off on several issues in a candidate forum Thursday night.
That forum marked the final of four local candidate forums put on by The Morning Sun, the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Pittsburg Area Young Professionals this week.
Candidates were given three minutes to make an opening speech and two minutes to answer each of seven questions. Out of those seven, four were prepared and viewed by candidates beforehand, while the other three were asked by observers in the audience. Candidates then had three minutes to give a closing speech.
The first question asked candidates why they wished to serve on the commission, with most candidates replying that they were running to give back to the community while seeing the city through its economic troubles.
Marty Beezley said Pittsburg needed to step its volunteer efforts up, while John Ketterman said it was a time for accountability. Tina Smith said that sometimes, “inexperience isn’t a bad thing,” and added that a mixture of experience with new thoughts was often the best way to go.
The second question asked how they could attract and retain professionals between 20-45 years old. Ed McCullough said that all people, “regardless of age and disposition, want to be a part of the community,” and said the city needed to find out why college students and businesses decided to locate elsewhere.
Beezley said Pittsburg needed to generate jobs with higher pay and greater chance for advancement, which was backed up by several of the other candidates.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” O’Bryan said about the key to the issue. “What we need are more jobs.”
Connie McGeorge said vocational schools could help as well, while Rudy Draper, who put himself in that age group, touched on the need for better housing and neighborhoods.
The third question focused on what the top three priorities were for the city for the next few years. Almost without exception, candidates stated living within the city’s financial means, economic development and keeping up with infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer. A few others, including Beezley and O’Bryan touched on the need to complete U.S. Highway 69 into Oklahoma. Smith said that Pittsburg needed to sustain its quality of life, and added that the priorities should be left up to citizens.
The fourth question asked what Pittsburg’s strengths were, and common answers included the people, city employees, school systems, parks, downtown and medical care facilities.
The fifth question — the first audience submitted question — asked commissioners about taking the city on a “green” movement. All of the commissioners said they would be for recycling, though not all were for O’Bryan’s suggestion for curbside recycling, including McCullough and Ketterman, who said they wanted more recycling in “central areas.”
Draper and Ketterman spoke of the importance of getting in on the wind energy movement, while Smith suggested the city look at bringing in industry producing parts for wind turbines. McGeorge suggested the city look to create more green spaces, particularly on the outer edges of the city.
Beezley and O’Bryan said the city was already “ahead of the curve,” on the green movement though the energy capital improvements project the city did with Custom Energy.
Candidates were then asked what role the city should play in economic development and whether the city should spend tax dollars to grow the local economy. Unequivocally, the answer was ‘yes’, on both fronts. O’Bryan pointed out that the city already did spend tax money on that, through the city’s revolving loan fund approved by citizens.
The final question asked how the city could keep essential services while keeping costs down. Like the previous question, most candidates were in agreement, stating the need to, like a household, stick to the essentials.
In the closing speeches, Draper said he wanted to serve with compassion and trust, while McCullough said he was a working man for 34 years and “would like to work for you.” Beezley said the city made great strides during her time on the commission.
Ketterman then said that there was a lack of trust and faith in local government, and said while he wouldn’t promise anything, that he would try to earn their trust back.
McGeorge said she would be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and Smith said she would practice “a common sense” approach and would work toward diverse partnerships to help the city.
O’Bryan, who gave the first opening statement, closed out by lauding the current commissioners. He said that, in a time of tough economic times the city wasn’t in dire straits because of financial planning. He said there was a lot of misinformation out there about the current commissioners and urged citizens to talk to commissioners to see where they stood.
The final forum drew a healthy crowd, one that filled all the seats in the Pittsburg City Commission room at City Hall and left some attendees standing in the hallway.
Those who were not in attendance can still view the forum, which will run later on the city’s television channel.
The general election is on April 7.

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134