Last week’s article Shenanigans in Logan County discussed some of the strange things going on in Logan County in regards to the county budget and the failings of current County Commissioner Mark Sharpton. As complicated as he may claim the county budget process is, it is his responsibility to deal with the budget. If he, or any other person is not equipped to handle the budget, they ought not to be in office.
One person equipped to deal with the budget crises in Logan County is Marven Goodman. Marven announced his intention to run against Mark Sharpton for the County Commissioner seat in the Republican primary this June.
I had a chance to ask Marven some questions about his campaign and about county government in general.
What are the primary roles of a county commissioner?
To act as the principal agent for the county in civil court matters. To oversee and reconcile the county budget. The Board of County Commissioners is the chief administrative body for the county. County Commissioners are also responsible for maintaining and constructing the county roads and bridges. The Board has the official duty to ensure the fiscal responsibility of the other County officers who handle county funds. The review and approval procedures empowered to the Board of County Commissioners are a means to provide the public with a fiscally efficient system of county government.
Why have you decided to run for Logan County commissioner?
As a small business owner I couldn’t imagine asking my fellow taxpaying citizens to allow County property tax money be diverted to help me financially with my business venture. But that is exactly what Tax Increment Financing (TIF) does and mostly for big business. TIF allows a local government agency to reimburse developers for some of the project’s costs, such as extension of development infrastructure (sewer/water/gas/electric/roads/culverts/curbs/flood control). Our Logan County Commissioners intend to implement this process at the I35 & Hwy 33 interchange very soon to help a major retail gas and sundry station move from one side of I35 to the other. It was the TIF issue got me off the couch as they say, but I was already primed after the budget snafus.
What is it about the current administration that has failed Logan County?
After overstating the County budget by 1.3 million dollars the current 12 year incumbent has been hinting at the need for a tax increase to continue to provide basic services. Then he started planning to implement Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) to help a large gas station/sundry corporation open a new facility. TIF development is a form of corporate welfare which I cannot support. The Oklahoma GOP is also against TIF projects and has called for its abolishment in Oklahoma. Local residents claim the commissioners are still demanding individual neighborhoods make a donation to the county in order for the county to pave their roads. This results in a form of double taxation by which those paying must first pay taxes than make a donation for the same service.
Do you feel that the citizen involvement in Logan County’s government should be improved? If so, how?
Just from a plain old citizen’s viewpoint I am for transparency and openness in the conduct of all government proceedings. Most people would agree with that statement. Most would agree except that sometimes those who hold administrative authority in politics tend to see private low-key targeted discussions as a means to quickly implement their desired actions. The ends justify the means. So there is a tendency for all governments to become more secretive in establishing unseen processes, actions, and proceedings.
To counter this tendency, I believe the individual citizen should have free and open access to all the records of county government actions, all actions. We should employ all modern voice and video technologies to preserve and provide these meeting records electronically. Too often meeting minutes are audio recorded, then that recording is transcribed to written notes that then becomes the document of record and the original record, the recording is… well, not kept for review. Unfettered insights to these proceedings are necessary to provide citizen oversight of all processes that shape and influence our local government actions. Open access and transparency is the citizen’s only control in reducing the likelihood of government corruption, bribery, cronyism, and just good old boy malfeasance.
What type of things would you suggest cutting from Logan County’s budget, if anything?
I would quit wasting the Counties tax money hiring “consultants” to keep trying fix budget issues caused by previous commissioners and rely more on the State Auditor & Inspector’s opinion in this area. Also, I personally would not double file for in-county travel reimbursement while receiving a monthly travel allowance. Administrative Personnel operational budgets can be reduced through the sharing of like functions across county offices, admin, information technology, etc.
What can be done in Logan County to attract more business?
The best thing a government agency can do to attract new business is to stay out-of-the-way by placing fewer impediments in their path to making their business successful. We need to look for more efficient means in the use of operational resources and reduce the tax burden on all county citizens. Use the gross production tax to pave more roads with citizen oversight and input.
What are your thoughts on a charter form of government rather than a commission form of government?
I favor the charter form of government as the commission form has shown itself to be a model for government waste and abuse. I believe the charter form lends itself better to the implement modernization and consolidation of like functions. However, Oklahoma statute currently requires a commission form of government. Changing the traditional form of County government requires a change in Law as the type of local government is not specified in the State Constitution. I support change in this area but to change the way a local government provides a service such as the executive function of county government you have to understand the source of the requirement. There are constitutional, statutory, and regulatory requirements and each has its own set of different processes to effect change. For constitutional issues, changing our principles require a citizen initiative by 15% population petition and subsequent vote of the People. Changes to statutory law are made in the State Legislature and begins through the use of the initiative or referendum process. Regulatory issues are usually a State agency’s interpretation of how to implement Statutory Law as required by the State Constitution.
What can be done to ensure that road construction projects are completed in less time?
Maintaining and upgrading our transportation infrastructures, roads and bridges, is an important and legitimate function of a limited government. In my travels across the county meeting our constituents the topic of road surfacing almost always comes up. It seems in past elections promises were made that certain roads would be paved if you would elect the candidate promising to do the paving. Promising to pave roads for votes seems to be a common campaign tactic used in past county commissioner elections. The problem is there are a lot more voters than roads so trading votes for asphalt can be difficult to deliver, especially with any quality. To pave or not to pave and where to pave is currently decided at the sole discretion of one person, the Commissioner. After some thought I have decided that I will not make any promise to pave any specific road in Logan County District 1. What I will promise: I will establish a citizen review panel for District 1. The review panel would include those from the different neighborhoods across the district so that all may have a voice.. The purpose of this panel will be to ask the hard questions, reviewing operational details and reporting findings and recommendations back to the District 1 commissioner.
The panel would monitor district 1’s performance in the following areas:
Adherence to its public commitments
Open and timely involvement of citizens
Process of evaluating project alternatives
Capital and operating budgets and finance plans
Management of the General fund
Adherence to schedules and budgets
Review of State Audit and Compliance performance audits
Citizen oversight and input of how their tax money is being used is my goal. That includes which roads are to be paved.