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Opinion

Area dog rescue shelter operator asks those looking for new pet dog to consider one of their rescue ‘kids’

Hi everyone. My name is Lori Jones, and my husband Richard and I operate Haven of Hope Rescue Foundation, a not-for-profit canine rescue organization located in the Piedmont/Okarche area.
Our Mission is to SAVE DOGS. Our focus is large and giant breeds and last chance dogs. Since December, we have taken 14 puppies and four adult dogs into our program that were in need of our help in our community.
Some were dumped out in the country at a young age to fend for themselves, others were the result of un-spayed female dogs giving birth to unwanted puppies, others were just clearly in need and we don’t know their past.
We typically house anywhere from 35-50 dogs and puppies at our facility. Read more →

Constituent voting for Williamson

Letter to the Editor:

In the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013 my ward was in trouble.  We needed help to protect the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors. An industrial wind complex was trying to move into our area.  We needed someone to listen to our concerns and make the health and safety of our ward and city a top priority. 

We found that in Bobby Williamson.

He campaigned tirelessly to get elected.  We knew he heard our concerns.  Once he was elected our City Councilman for ward 2 he studied the issue that was first and foremost on our minds–protecting the families in his ward.

He listened to, learned from and most of all respected his fellow councilmen, mayor, city manager and staff and because of this they were able to work together to find a resolution that would benefit the community to the best of their abilities. He has remained positive, accessible and helpful during his current term in office.

Yes, Piedmont needs better roads, we would like to have parks and a good, solid tax base but what we really need is to re-elect the city councilman who listens to our concerns, treats everyone with respect and works endlessly to make Piedmont the best city for it’s citizens to live in.

That is why Bobby Williamson is getting my vote on April 7th.

-Tony Waltrip,
Resident Ward 2

Caveat Emptor

Richard Jones image
By Richard Jones
Piedmont columnist

This week I am going to stray a bit from discussing local politics, upcoming county elections, or the questionable practices of predatory wind energy developers.  Unfortunately, what follows will at times be both disturbing and nauseating.  For that, I apologize in advance.

Last week, my wife and I received a call from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture requesting our assistance.  Those that know us are aware that we operate a licensed facility for rescuing, housing, training, and re-homing large and giant breed dogs recovered from the euthanasia short lists of municipal shelters throughout the state.  To put a rather fine point on it, we specialize in dogs with no other Hope.

The inspector from the Department of Agriculture asked if they could use our facility as a temporary triage area for several small breed dogs that were to be recovered during an animal cruelty investigation.  A county sheriff was busting a puppy mill, and they needed someplace to take the dogs, and someone to transport them, until appropriate small breed dog rescue groups could be lined up to absorb these animals that are no bigger than half-a-pair of my Nikes

In our line of work, my wife and I have both seen the unbelievable photos of, and heard the graphic horror stories about puppy mills.  However, like most canine rescue organizations, while we have taken in dogs from animal cruelty cases, we had never been involved in the actual law enforcement action.  There was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for what I experienced once we arrived. Read more →

Betty Tharp: very disturbed at the direction I see my nation changing

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I am Betty Tharp. I was born in Piedmont 12-20-1924, 88 years ago. I am very disturbed at the direction I see my nation changing. I was a young bride during World War II and terrible memories that I have of events preceding and during the war in Germany are being repeated in our nation.

I recall reading that young people were encouraged to have as many children as they could, turn them over to the government to raise and marriage was not necessary as the people were too busy with the war effort to be bothered with families. Just drive past the children’s homes and think, ‘These are our nation’s children.’ How did that turn out? This week, I hear via TV that one in the high places said that our children didn’t belong to the parent but to the government. Did you hear that also? Does it send chills up your spine as it did mine? Remember Hillory’s book, It Takes A Village To Raise A Child? Is this what she meant? I feel that it is. Remember our president, before the election, saying that ‘You didn’t make your own success of your business, the government did that.’ Did that make you angry as you think how you toiled to achieve success? Well, it does make me angry! Read more →

Forest Wells: No one is more of a believer in private property rights than yours truly

No one is more of a believer in private property rights than yours truly, but when a property owner does something, or attempts to do something, that affects the very definition of my property rights and the value of said property that I own and pay taxes on, I then feel that I have every right to object.

It is completely understandable that landowners are mesmerized by the power of the almighty dollar when Wind Company X offers large compensation for permission to place a few wind turbines on their property, and all the landowner has to do is sign a piece of paper, put their feet up, turn on the TV and check the mailbox.

Sort of similar to having gas and oil wells pumping away, but there are some differences.

The oil and gas business is quite probably one of the heaviest regulated industries in the world, and is required by law to ante up to the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) to fund the reclamation of old and abandoned well sights around the state, some that have been around since the early 1900’s. Read more →

Military veterans snubbed by city officials in effort to build Piedmont Area Veterans center

By Leon Meyer
MSGT, USAF, Retired

Organizers of Piedmont Area Veterans Association have officially withdrawn any requests for assistance from the City of Piedmont. This decision was made after the organizers appeared at two city council meetings and met with the city staff on numerous occasions and received no support for the Veterans Center.

The history of the endeavor is fraught with character attacks, false rumors, and council pressure on the city staff to raise numerous roadblocks. In the beginning the organizers had a dream to honor all veterans by construction of a building strictly for veterans. It would contain a military library, museum, and a meeting area for meetings and counseling. Initially it was thought to be a good project for the Historical Society as the organizers would raise all the funds for the building. After several meetings with the Board of Directors, it was clear that an agreement could not be reached.

Meetings were held to decide what direction the project would take. At that point Phil and Cindy Boevers offered to donate a building site on Edmond Road. A survey was obtained, and it was discovered that the site would be too small under City ordinances, lacking 5 feet in width, 70′ instead of 75′. The veterans took the survey to the city staff and understood there should be no problem with the site. Immediately rumor started that somehow Boevers would benefit from the building, which was totally false. Read more →

FELDER: Voters were looking for direction

Ben Felder

Ben Felder, news editor

You live by the grocery store and you die by the grocery store; isn’t that how the saying goes?

New city leaders were voted into office last year because of a level of mistrust the public had with the Williams Foods tax incentive plan. Part of that mistrust came from misinformation but these candidates ran on a platform of being against the deal as it stood and voters said they agreed.

However, it was the classic political blunder for those elected to the council of taking the issue you were elected into office on and not knowing when to let it go. A year later the council was still playing games when it came to the grocery store contract and the same voters were now tired of the issue and ready to put it behind them.

I’ve written before that I don’t mind the council delaying the grocery store incentive deal. It’s what they campaigned on and voters gave them a mandate to at least explore the issue further. But after a while it became clear that at the very least the council was incapable of working with one of the city’s largest business leaders, and at worst was using the issue as a political pawn.

Continuing to make Williams Foods a political issue backfired and a year after a wave of change hit city hall another shift in the political current is taking place.

While the line used to open this column is not really a common phrase used in politics, here is one that is:

“If you are not growing, you’re dying.”

To me that line pretty much sums up a simple truth in almost every area of life, whether it be business, relationships, and yes, even politics and city government.

People want to move forward because we understand that remaining in the status quo is never really a good option. Yes, we all are challenged with change to some degree and there are times in our lives when keeping things exactly the way they are sounds good. But the truth is change is one of the only constants in life and we are either changing for the better or for the worse.

Last year members of the council campaigned on the idea that the changes taking place in Piedmont were for the worse and the direction of the city needed to be changed. There has been some change in direction with the hiring of a new city manager, of which early returns seem promising. But for the most part a new vision failed to be created.

Voters gave city leaders a chance to change course but it quickly became evident that we were just standing still during a time when action was needed on a long list of issues facing the community.

Last year voters felt there needed to be a change in direction. This year voters are simply looking for a direction to head in.

While the grocery store contract might have been the defining issue of the election, it isn’t the magic bullet to solving our problems. The citys not broke, at least not according to the budget, city manager and the accounting firm that works for the city. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t face financial challenges. We need prioritizing in the budget and we need economic growth, something that’s difficult to do when you basically tell one of your largest business owners to “take a hike.”

Piedmont needs to address utility rates, develop a clear plan of action when it comes to roads and there is still the matter of completing the city’s new police station. All these issues and more will not be settled with approval of the Williams Foods grocery store contract and it’s going to take vision, communication and compromise to meet our challenges.

I can sometimes be rather cynical about things but deep down and I’m an optimist. So much so that sometimes my wife says it drives her crazy and I have had at least one former newspaper boss tell me my optimism in life is one of my biggest weaknesses as a journalist. All I know is that I tend to believe in people and I tend to hold out hope that even when things look pretty bad there is also a decent chance our community, nation or world can find a way through.

I know a lot of people are cynical about things in Piedmont right now and often times you can’t really blame them. But what Piedmont needs right now is faith in its future. I’m talking about some kind of blind faith without accountability placed on our leaders. Instead, I am not talking about a faith in our future that believes with healthy debate, cooperation and a clear goal in mind we can move Piedmont forward.

This week someone handed me a letter they received in the mail. It was an unsigned letter criticizing the newly elected council and predicting the demise of the city if Williams is given tax incentives. It reeked of the negativity we saw last year and it was once again a criticism of the direction the city was headed in without offering any real alternative.

I would probably have written this column no matter what the results were this month concerning the city council election and I don’t want this to be taken as a total criticism of the council. I do think the council failed to deliver on some of the promises it made last year and I don’t believe the incoming members are going to bring instant healing. There will be mistakes made and our leaders should be held to the highest level of accountability, but what excites me about the city right now is that we appear to be headed towards the creation of a vision and moving in a direction forward.

It could be that sometime over the next several months and years you disagree with the direction the city is headed in. If you pay even some attention to local policy issues I can almost guarantee that will be the case. But my challenge to you is to get involved and express your thoughts on how the city can do better when it comes to moving forward.

There will be those that offer blind criticism and predict doom and gloom for the city but we can’t afford to go along with those that offer no alternative and simply want to keep the status quo.

The city is either moving forwards or backwards. There is no middle ground.

 

FELDER: Shadid a reminder of journalism’s value

Ben Felder, news editor

The death of Oklahoma City native and New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid last week was a blow to the journalism community and a reminder of just how important this industry is for civilizations in every context, from the tumultuous Middle East to the rural communities in middle America.

For the last several years Shadid’s byline has been one of the most recognizable for me. As a daily subscriber to the New York Times I have enjoyed his coverage from countries like Syria, Lybya and Iraq, and admired his willingness to not only travel to some of the most dangerous regions on the planet, but immerse himself in those cultures so that he could share stories that otherwise would go unknown. Shadid’s stories always seemed to hold a deeply humanistic quality, and when you are writing about war and fights for freedom it is the human element that matters most.

Shadid’s death from an apparent asthma attack is all the more difficult to comprehend. This was a man that had been shot, arrested and physically abused, but it was an asthma attack while walking behind horses that ended his life.

All journalists are not created equal and it would be inappropriate and shallow to compare the work of writers like myself with this Pulitzer winning journalist. At times, Shadid had to dodge bullets while the worst that seems to come my way is the occasional angry letter to the editor. Shadid sacrificed his life and time with his family to report on issues that truly were a matter of life and death. He spent time on the front lines with people who were giving up everything to taste some of the freedoms that most of us – me included – can hardly understand. The reporting I do in Piedmont is important, but comparing a Syrian uprising to political fights over a grocery store contract really helps put life here in perspective.

No, there are no comparisons between our work but that doesn’t mean Shadid is not an inspiration to writers like myself.

Shadid’s death is a reminder of just how important journalism is in our world. It’s true that public opinion of the media has drastically dropped over the past decade but I believe a lot of that has to do with a misunderstanding of what actual journalism is. Political pundits on cable stations, local news reports built on fear mongering and radio show hosts that vomit political dribble on both sides of the aisle for hours on end are not examples of journalism, at least not examples of how journalism should be.  But in this world of media over stimulation and agenda-based news outlets it is important to remember there is still high quality journalism taking place and that writers like Shadid make our world a better place – or, at least a more informed place.

Last week the staff here at the Gazette spent a lot of time discussing the future of this publication and what our role is in the community. It had nothing to do with Shadid’s death, but I couldn’t help but be mindful of his sacrifice while we charted a new direction for this publication. Journalism has faced its share of challenges over the past decade and it’s been difficult to navigate this new world of digital media. However, after much thought we have determined that what the Gazette and our community needs is in an even greater commitment to journalism and a larger investment, not less.

It’s easy in today’s newspaper industry to shrink and cut back but the Gazette is a news organization that wants to grow and believes our mission is as important as its ever been. That’s why we are re-launching PiedmontToday.com this Sunday with an even larger online presence. That is why we plan to add to our newsroom in an effort to produce more local stories and perform greater research into important issues.

Piedmont and Syria are two different places but Shadid’s commitment to journalism is a reminder for all of us writers, whether we work in a Middle East desert or a wood-paneled office in the Great Plains. The beauty in Shadid’s work was that it was always centered on people, and in journalism that is always the most important element. The Gazette isn’t about a town; it’s about the people who call this town home. Community journalism’s lifeblood has always been about people and I know of no better way to pay tribute to one of my industry’s giants than by remembering that simple fact.

 

 

FELDER: Men-women ratio getting better, still needs work

Ben Felder, news editor

Last week I was speaking with a local female resident that is not exactly Mayor Valerie Thomerson’s biggest fan. She was offering me her take on how she thought the mayor could do a better job but she ended the conversation by saying she does want the mayor to succeed, especially since she is the town’s first female mayor.

Opinions aside, Thomerson’s election last year was a milestone for Piedmont and represented a sign of progress for this town. That’s not to say Piedmont was an anti-female town before the April elections – I don’t think that was the case – but firsts in leadership always deserve recognition and last year’s mayoral race resulted in a pretty significant first for Piedmont.

However, while the town’s top official might be female that’s not necessarily indicative of the role of women in other positions of local government leadership. There are no women on the city council and none running for the office this April. The school board doubled its number of women with last week’s election but female board members are still outnumbered three to two.

There are plenty of women in leadership roles across the community, including at principal, city staff, business owner and a variety of other important positions. But when it comes to our government there is a lack of women in charge. Of course, Piedmont is not unique in this regard. The ratio of men to women in government across the nation is strongly in favor of men.  According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United States ranks 70th in the world in terms of female political leaders and Oklahoma is one of the worst states when it comes to gender differences in government.

Karen Green is vice-president of the Piedmont school board and said being the only woman on the board is not something she has stopped to consider.

“I don’t think of myself as a female in local politics….I just figure I’m a concerned person who is fortunate enough to be able to serve in an area I am passionate about,” Green said in an email. “Being a man or woman doesn’t really enter into it for me.  I would like to think I was elected because I was the best of the three candidates that applied for the job that year.  I don’t ever feel like, either from my fellow board members or from my patrons, that I am treated a certain way because I am a woman.”

Green acknowledges that meetings with contractors, which is a regular occurrence for the board, is often dominated by men, but said she doesn’t feel like she is at a disadvantage. However, regardless of gender, Green believes it’s the quality of the candidate that matters most.

“We need people who will serve, not for themselves or to be re-elected, but for what is best for their city, or country, as the case may be,” Green said. “It could be that there is a lack of female participation because we are simply used to having male politicians.”

Misconceptions can be a challenge for female leaders as some voters might wrongly believe they are not capable of handling certain challenges, but Mayor Thomerson said wrong perceptions can be a challenge for any politician – male or female – to deal with.

“People whom I have never met or have barely conversed with believe they know me but they only have a ‘perception’ of who I am,” Thomerson said. “Whether their perceptions are right or wrong isn’t what is important to them.”

While Thomerson says politics can be a tough task for leaders of any gender, she does believe society could benefit from more female involvement.

“Women have not been as involved in the political process as long as men have been,” Thomerson said. “Look at our history, women weren’t even allowed to be involved until the adoption and subsequent ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920; whereas women in Europe have successfully held positions of great power for centuries. Women in the US have been working towards a significant presence in political arenas for years.

“I think we are already seeing this at the national and state levels and I believe we’ll be seeing women in leadership roles become more prevalent on local levels as well.  However, what I think is more important than one’s gender is the person’s ability to set aside personal ego and focus on the big picture…what is best for Piedmont, not what is best for ‘me’ and that ability has nothing to do with gender.”

Both Thomerson and Green are right; it can be tough being a woman in politics, but at the end of the day it’s not a person’s gender that matters. However, that doesn’t mean our community – and world – couldn’t benefit from more women in government. There are some great female leaders and volunteers in the Piedmont community and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see more of them run for political office in the near future.

 

FELDER: Early returns on Crosby show promise

Ben Felder, news editor

When this council and mayor said it was time for a change in leadership at the city manager’s desk I cautioned that it might not be the right move but believed these city leaders – which were put into office by a majority of voters – deserved a chance to show they were right.

I still don’t necessarily agree with the way the firing of Clark Williams went down and I’m not fully prepared to say it was the right decision but the early (very early) returns on the move seem promising.

The Jim Crosby era in Piedmont is still in its infancy but he has been here long enough to show that things at city hall were not all roses under Williams and there are some early signs that the council could move further under Crosby, if for no other reason than a higher level of trust.

During a recent council workshop Crosby presented some of the challenges facing Piedmont, which include contracts for water and sanitation service that negatively impact the city, no clear plan on how to move the fire department and police department forward in terms of equipment and staff, and the recent discovery that a fire hydrant was improperly installed (see page 3A) with no answer on who dropped the ball.

Each one of these issues is the equivalent of a football team failing to snap the ball before the end of the play clock. They aren’t disastrous on their own, but after a while you start to wonder about the coach.

Another early benefit with having Crosby at the helm is this council and mayor trust him. I’m not saying there were reasons they shouldn’t have trusted Williams, but the reality was many of them didn’t. I had heard Williams mention several times that a general obligation bond might be a solution to Piedmont’s poor roads, but I can’t imagine the majority of this council and mayor going along with bonds if it were to have been proposed by him. The moment Williams would have mentioned the word “bond” the council would have been in a deadlock. But when Crosby makes the proposal it is met with much more openness.

All the facts concerning Crosby’s bond proposal are not yet known, which makes it difficult to say this is a good idea. But it deserves some close thought and ultimately probably deserves to reach the ballot box. A well thought out and researched bond could very well bring Piedmont’s roads into the 21st Century but it’s hard to imagine this getting accomplished under Williams’ watch because of the lack of trust that had existed.

This mayor and many council members said there were problems under Williams’ watch but the problem was they wouldn’t clearly say what those problems were. It was easy for the public to not see any clear grounds for termination when the previous city manager was receiving awards from the county while his opponents on the council were simply saying he was no good.

Well, those opponents are beginning to define their case against Williams by highlighting specific issues with the way the city was run. However, the hard work in city government is not identifying problems, it’s fixing them and that is still a goal yet to be met when it comes to repairing roads, improving infrastructure and even getting an agreement done with Williams Foods grocery store.

Am I convinced that a change at city manager was necessary last year? Not quite, but let’s just say this council and mayor said it was necessary and I’m not entirely convinced they won’t end up being right in the end.

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