Written by Dick Pryor on Friday October 7, 2011
This week we discuss issues confronting mayors in four of Oklahoma's smaller cities, as a follow-up to a program we did earlier this year with Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
Our guests came from the four quadrants of Oklahoma: Stan Sallee of Collinsville, Stephen Brinlee of Wilburton, Alex Damon of Cordell and Garen Martens from Fairview.
We discussed many of the issues confronting mayors in rural Oklahoma including sales taxes, water and sewage, infrastructure, online sales, population decline and business development.
Of particular interest is the migration away from small cities and towns to the suburbs and larger metro areas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23 of Oklahoma's 77 counties are in population decline as more and more people are moving to the more highly-populated areas and out-of-state.
While increasing numbers of recent Oklahoma college graduates are staying in-state, the problem for them is finding work. Home is a strong lure, but without good jobs young grads will not stay long. So, business development is a big issue for these mayors. The problem is exacerbated with the desire of many young people not to follow in their parents' footsteps, especially in farming.
And, while salaries are important and one in six Oklahomans lives below the federal poverty line, our guests admit that quality of life is a strong attraction. In fact, it's what keeps a lot of young people closer to home rather than moving to the big city.
Small cities provide the bulk of Oklahoma's population and this program provides a good look at life in rural Oklahoma.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Stan Sallee, Garen Martens, Stephen Brinlee, and Alex Damon)
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