Ward 2 candidates participate in forum

Roseanne McKee
Journal-Capital
Jourdan Foran, a candidate for Ward 2 seat on the Pawhuska City Council and self-described first generation Pawhuskan who believes she would bring a fresh perspective to the job. Foran told the Pawhuska Merchants Association Monday night that her advocacy work experience and background in public relations and communications would enable her to “truly be an advocate” for Pawhuska. Roseanne McKee/Journal-Capital

Two candidates for Pawhuska City Council offered comments Monday night to the city Merchants Association, highlighting their desires to improve communication about the activities of municipal government, as well as a need for the council to develop a well-defined vision for the future of the community.

There are three candidates for a three-year term in the Ward 2 seat on the Pawhuska City Council. Feb. 12 is the date of the primary election. The candidates are Jourdan Foran, incumbent councilor Steve Holcombe and Laban Miles. Foran and Holcombe met Monday with the Merchants Association.

The offering of views featured a classic outsider and a classic insider. Foran moved to Pawhuska but has no family roots here. Holcombe is descended from an old Pawhuska family. Their similarities include a vocal commitment to open communication and encouraging broad participation in civic life.

Foran, who spoke first in the meeting, said her candidacy is a result of people asking her to run.

“I was asked to run by a couple of people in town and really thought through it for a few weeks. … I really did feel like this was a chance to truly be an advocate for our town,” she said.

Foran, who has 15 years of experience in advocacy, mainly for nonprofits, said she sees the city council role as an opportunity to be an advocate for Pawhuska “to be a voice for those who have ideas, have concerns but also be a listening ear for the rest of our city administration as we all kind of learn together what we’re doing and the roles we all have.

“Part of why I’m running is because our city administration, while I feel they’ve done a lot, there’s a lot of accountability with what the city administration does, and I think the transparency and communication could be improved with what our city administration does,” Foran said. “And, my background is in communications and public relations so that’s kind of how I work. … I really see that as a strong part of what I could bring to the group. But I also think there’s accountability for the decisions that are made and think that we as citizens deserve to know what those decisions are and what role they play in our future.

Foran said she thinks this is a very important time in the life of the Pawhuska community.

“I think it’s been an incredible two and a half years since the Mercantile opened, but I think the city has a pivotal foundation, otherwise, that’s been there all along,” Foran said. “And, I think it’s really important to encourage that and instill that in our community and in what we do and what we say and how we represent ourselves and I really think being an outsider — I’m a first generation Pawhuskan … I don’t have family here. I don’t have kids in the school here, but I am on the school district leadership team for two years — ever since I moved to town, basically. … and I really see that as a much needed position for a city council member.

“I think they need to be out in the community in that way,” Foran said. “I’ve been on the Chamber of Commerce Board for the past two years. I just stepped down this fall. But, I really think that’s been a really interesting part of reaching out and meeting people and being involved with a lot of different aspects of that as gala chair.

“As a new person, as an outsider, I think I see things from a different perspective. I certainly am involved and dedicated to this town. … I really feel that my advantage point being a single 30-something in a town of people that have lived here for five generations is a definite perspective shift changer. And so I feel like it could really bring some new light and some new faces into this community that we could definitely benefit from.”

Foran said she has been meeting with different people and groups to try to hear them out about their ideas.

“This week I’ve met with (city manager) Larry Eulert,” Foran said. “I met with different civic organizations around town, gone to dinner with folks and trying to get out there as much as possible just to hear from people because there’s a lot of things I have ideas about but there’s a knowledge base that I have to come in with and a lot of questions I need to be asking and a lot of things I need to be listening to. I can’t assume anything or come in with any sort of agenda because I need to know the lay of the land first.

She said she is happy to hear from voters via email at foranforcitycouncil@gmail.com or by cell phone. Contact her via email for the number.

After Foran spoke, Holcombe began by complimenting her for running. He directed people to his website, http://holcombe.legal/campaign-2019/ for more information. His family has been in Pawhuska since the early 1910s, he said.

“Nobody has voted for me for city council before because when I ran last time, nobody filed so I just stepped on,” Holcombe said, beginning his comments by opening a dialogue.“I have a question for you all, and you don’t have to answer right now, just think about it. What is the vision of the city council at this very important moment in the history of this town? Who is the mayor?”

The audience answered, “Roger Taylor.”

Holcombe asked, “And who is the vice mayor?”

The audience didn’t know, so Holcombe told them the vice mayor is Rodger Milleson.

He asked, “Should the city council have a vision plan?”

From the audience Foran said, “There is a vision plan. I did see that.”

Holcombe said he had not seen the vision plan and added that in his opinion the council did not have vision.

“That’s the problem,” Foran answered.

Holcombe continued, “The three things that I seek to bring to the city agenda at the first meeting in May is to make a motion that we have a citywide distribution in real time either by text or by email of the city council agendas and meeting minutes. And we no longer have these special meetings where important decisions are made and post an agenda down on a door and 14 hours later you are supposed to have known it was posted down there.

“The other [motion] is to bring back public comments where you can come to a public meeting and on demand fill out a sheet of paper and say ‘I’m going to speak for three minutes on what I want to speak on, and I have a right to do so,” Holcombe said. “You actually have more rights to speak currently because of actions that I demanded when I got on and negotiated with Mike McCartney, [former city manager], and the city attorney.”

Holcombe described the process of getting on the agenda.

“It’s a two-step process right now,” he said. “You have to go to the city manager first and give him an opportunity to resolve the issue before you have a right for it to come to the city council if he does not do so.

“It’s a pretty good process, but it just requires you to go see the city manager and be inconvenienced,” Holcombe said. “It would be so much more convenient for people if they could just show up as they do in Broken Arrow. I actually went over to Broken Arrow and researched watched how it worked in real time, and it works fabulously.

“Here, the fear factor is that we’ll be there for hours taking public comment. … The majority of the council is showing up one time a month and spend 30 minutes rubber-stamping what the city manager has accomplished,” Holcombe said. “It’s remarkable. This last agenda we had there was hardly anything on it.”

Holcombe also talked about committees he would like to see formed.

“Another thing I want to see is a diverse group of committees for both short-term and long-term planning on it,” he said. “The SmartGrowth America meeting we had in 2017 … fantastic report, fantastic program but the report came out in 2017. I was the only city council member who showed up at that meeting. … The recommendation was that there be an implementation committee to follow on.

“This council has no interest in creating committees for anything dealing with planning,” Holcombe said. “The perfect example of this is it still bothers me, quite a bit, that we created an historic district committee that was comprised of some very-hard working, well-meaning diverse individuals — Angie Bruce, Jess Worten, Elle Jewel, Hank Benson and Bruce Carter. And this council killed off that committee.”