Making their cases: Mayoral candidates talk business growth ideas to chamber

By Carolyn Cole/Staff Writer
published Jan. 24, 2009

Business leaders questioned Mustang mayoral and Council candidates on the future of the city’s baseball park, road repairs and economic development during a forum Thursday.

Three of the five municipal candidates attended the Mustang Chamber forum. Mustang Mayor Jeff Landrith and former Mayor Chad McDowell fielded questions alongside Ward 1 Councilman Jay Adams. Ward 1 Council challenger Henry Varenhorst and mayoral candidate Cleo Springer were absent.

The mayoral election will be held Feb. 10 with a run-off election scheduled for April 7, if necessary. The Ward 1 race will be decided April 7.

Moderator Chad Fulton asked chamber members to write down questions, and each candidate was given about one minute to respond.

Economic development

If Mustang is going to thrive, Adams said city officials must seek new business to increase the town’s sales tax base and revenue to afford services.

He said city services are funded by three main sources of revenue — utility fees, property taxes and sales taxes.

“In less than three years, there will be zero property taxes coming to Mustang,” Adams said. “Our utilities really aren’t breaking even right now.”

McDowell said Mustang is hindered in attracting shops and restaurants because almost all of its residents leave town to work in Oklahoma City, leaving minimal lunch-time business.

He suggested offering incentives to draw large employers to the area to bring people to the community. He also suggested creating a discount or coupon program to encourage workers at nearby plants, the Hobby Lobby distribution center, the Federal Aviation Administration and airport to eat lunch in Mustang.

Landrith suggested promoting Mustang more throughout the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, possibly by subsidizing an infomercial television program.

City budget

Chamber members asked the candidates if tax revenues plummeted, which city services would they cut to balance the budget.

McDowell said because the city is so dependant on sales taxes, the situation could come without economic calamity. If Mustang’s largest retailer faced a disaster or shut down, he said city officials would have to cut services.

McDowell said when he took office six years ago, Mustang was facing a funding shortfall, and the Council voted to raise utility rates. They also established a rainy day fund, which he said has helped the city’s financial position.

“I believe we are sitting very well right now with cash on hand with the city of Mustang,” he said.

If Mustang faced an economic calamity, Landrith said he would be hard-pressed to find expenses to cut from the city budget, but he would support a hiring freeze.

“We don’t have a whole lot of fluff in our budget ... I wouldn’t cut our fire (department),” he said. “I wouldn’t cut police — can’t really cut roads. The roads are going downhill quick.”

Adams said city officials have already tightened “little things” when struggling with climbing fuel costs.

“Were they huge things most folks would see — no, but we can start trimming in certain areas,” he said.
Mustang voters turned down a property tax bond proposal in April to fund repairs to two miles of Czech Hall Road.

Landrith said when city officials bring forward road projects they should include repairs to other areas of Mustang to draw more voter support. He said he believed part of the reason the proposal failed is because it did not directly benefit residents living in east Mustang.

Landrith also said city officials should make certain Oklahoma City makes repairs to SW 59th Street, while Mustang is responsible for SW 89th Street.

McDowell said he would first look at cutting Severn Trent’s contract to provide services and see if Mustang city government could do the job cheaper. He said he’d support earmarking any money saved to repair roads.

“Why pay for somebody else to profit,” McDowell said. “Why not take that over for our selves, keep the profit for our selves.”

Landrith said he supports keeping Severn Trent because he believes the private contract is saving the city money.

Adams suggested the city work with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments to seek federal grants.

“We are going to have to step up as a city and do some preliminary front work so we can have some design plans in place and go and start applying for those funds,” he said.


Mustang voters turned down a property tax bond proposal to build a new baseball complex in April. All three candidates said they believe the city needs new baseball fields but disagreed on funding sources and timing.

Landrith said he believes fields could be built through a combination of city funding and volunteer labor, like the existing fields, which he played on in his youth. He also suggested Mustang seek a partnership with Canadian County and consider raising entry fees to cover costs.
Right now, he said baseball can’t be a city priority.

“We can do baseball,” he said. “There is no doubt about it, but the economy is going down.”

McDowell suggested Mustang start putting money aside in a savings account from its existing budget and pay for the project the same way it paid for the new city hall.

While Adams agreed a savings account could be part of the funding, he said it would take a decade or longer to save enough to start the project. He said Mustang should seek help from local businesses and create a private partnership to make the new fields a reality.


McDowell said he supports keeping fireworks but would back creating a permit for nonresidents who want to set off fireworks in Mustang. He said the fireworks stand workers could ask to see a customer’s water bill as a proof of residency and sell the permits, which would also contain a map of designated places for visitors.
The nonresident would be required to keep the permit on hand while discharging fireworks.

“The proceeds can go toward cleanup the next day,” he said.

McDowell also advocated for a city-wide ballot question in the gubernatorial election on fireworks to “settle this once and for all.”

Adams said he learned about Mustang while visiting a friend’s house on the Fourth of July to discharge fireworks and would not support a ban unless voters approved it through a city-wide election. Landrith also said he is a fireworks supporter unless residents no longer want them.

Mustang chamber

Adams said the strong relationship between city officials and business leaders is necessary for Mustang to thrive.

“From a Council standpoint we must make it a priority that we continue this partnership,” he said.

McDowell told chamber members he believes the business leaders and Chamber Executive Director Becky Julian are one of Mustang’s “greatest assets,” and city government should do more to support their efforts.

“In my opinion we are not supporting the chamber enough because I know the director and you the chamber have even higher aspirations of even more things to do if the funding were available,” he said.

Events like Western Days and the Mustang National Car Show that bring people into the community wouldn’t be possible without the Mustang Chamber, Landrith said. The chamber is necessary to Mustang, and if it must have city government funding to continue, he would support it.

“That relationship is sometimes love-hate,” Landrith said. “Sometimes the two organizations have different goals. Sometimes they just disagree, but without a doubt there has to be a chamber.”

Its easy to be green

I would like to see Mustang become more eco friendly. I know we have the recycle center now but what else can help us along ? There is a website it is and it shows your state and local "carbon footprint" and its very interesting. I am proud to be an Oklahoman but I wasnt so thrilled to see us as number 26 on the list with number 1 being the biggest eco offender. Were a small state with a large population but we also have plenty of wide open spaces that are beautiful and hopefully can stay that way. I would like to see the next mayor challenge us. Get the residents involved and active ask them to come up with inventive ideas, lobby for programs to help our local government be more eco friendly. Heck maybe even challenge Yukon with a grass is greener event and inspire people with some good old fashioned rivalry...

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