Attention voters, are you doing your research? Election season is in full swing, and candidates are working to get their names known before the primary vote on June 26.
In addition to the state-wide elections such as governor, there are three Oklahoma County races to consider in Luther and Eastern Oklahoma County. Registered voters will elect a Treasurer, Assessor and District One Commissioner. Currently held by Willa Johnson who is not seeking re-election, Oklahoma County District One includes rural areas like Luther, Jones and Spencer, but also voter-populated urban areas of Oklahoma City that stretch all the way to MacArthur Boulevard in the west.
Six candidates, four Democrats and two Republicans, are campaigning for the job. Although candidate John Pettis, Jr., faces felony embezzlement charges, his name is expected to remain on the ballot. The candidates include political newcomers and seasoned candidates. They are vying for the job that pays about $110,000 a year.
While some of the county commission candidates have come campaigning in Luther, others have told The Luther Register they will come as we’ve reached out to them on their Facebook candidate pages and websites. According to candidate paperwork, most of the candidates live in urban or suburban areas and that gives Luther resident Brian Carpenter pause. “Seems to me the only time these people come out here is when they need votes to win an election, they smile and nod for the cameras and then go back to the city and ignore us until the next election,” he said.
What does a County Commissioner do? Although it’s been about 40 years, the County Commissioner scandal in Oklahoma is still known as the largest public corruption case in US history. It garnered 230 guilty pleas in a wide-ranging kickback scheme involving elected county commissioners and equipment suppliers. These days, with presumably more accountability, the county website lists commissioners’ duties:
- Supervise and manage all real estate owned by the County. The Board maintains the Courthouse, County Office Building, Investors Capital Building, County Jail, Human Services Center, Juvenile Center, Extension Center, a parking garage, and three highway maintenance offices.
- Advertise for bids on major County purchases and award all contracts.
- Approve all claims covering materials, supplies, or services purchased by all County offices and paid for by County funds.
- Call all County bond elections.
- Designate, construct, maintain, and repair all County highways and bridges.
- Through the Department of Social Services, provide pharmacy services and prescription medicines, emergency food vouchers, indigent burials, ambulance service, medical services, temporary housing and convalescent care, and job training for the indigent, destitute, and unemployable County residents. It also helps coordinate the federal Food Stamp program.
- Pass on all zoning applications and regulations of the County Planning Commission. (One member of the Board serves on the Planning Commission.)
- Conduct proceedings, set date of election, canvass returns, and issue Order of Incorporation of all towns and/or cities in the County.
- Audit the accounts of all County offices.
- Publish in a County newspaper a complete report of the official proceedings of all meetings of the Board.
- Appoint one member of the County Excise Board and Board of Equalization.
Outgoing Commissioner Willa Johnson’s office was involved in the Luther-Jones gate project on the Turner Turnpike that opened in January 2016. District One also has helped the Town of Luther and Luther Public Schools on various projects such as road and bridge work, tree removal and other needs.
What would you like to know about our county commission candidates? Submit a question or comment below and we’ll include it as we seek interviews with each candidate for Oklahoma County Commissioner.
I would like to know if any of these people running for the job of County Commissioner is willing to look into the high taxes we have to pay in this County. They are way too high and going up. It makes it very hard for people on social security to pay these taxes on a limited income!
I know what it’s like to be on a tight budget. I’ve been paying for everything on my campaign out of my VA disability check or from my regular paycheck as a 911 dispatcher. I go to the Luther, Jones, Choctaw area about every week. The 911 agency I dispatch for covers those areas. I’m also on the talk around Luther page and have actively asked the citizens what they’d like to see improved or done in their community and the same thing came up almost every time, a place to get groceries without having to drive 30 minutes one way. I grew up in a town smaller than Luther and know what the small town struggles are. When Wal-mart came to town and then left shortly afterwards, it hurt the town. Whether or not I make county commissioner, I have been actively approaching grocery stores to see if any of them would be interested in the town of Luther. The only one that got back with me was interested in the old Wal-mart until they found out dollar general moved in there. As far as taxes to those on fixed incomes, I’m not sure if there are any programs that could give assistance or tax breaks similar to what the state does for veterans and their immediate dependents (100% disabled vets can get a tax id card and be exempt from property tax). My wife and I have been looking into buying a house recently and have noticed property tax has varied from about $900 to $1800 annually depending on the school district and neighborhood. I am glad that we don’t have New Jersey’s property tax (average is $6700). I admit that tax funds to make the government function, at the same time I’d like to see tax breaks or exemptions for sr citizens and the disabled. My wife’s grandmother had a small pension coming in from the government and received $50 a month on food stamps. I don’t see how she was expected to survive on that. I have a wife and 3 kids, my current salary after tax is about $1500 and what I get from the VA (70% disabled navy vet) is roughly the same. I’m not trying to sway people to vote for me, but I do hope that whoever you vote for has the county and its citizens best interest in mind and listens to the citizens. I do plan on talking to a few people about tax exemptions for the elderly and the disabled. So, Ms Morphis, if I am successful into swaying the powers that be into doing this, the citizens will have you to thank.