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Election results calm compared to council meeting in River Heights

November 10th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Lindsay Nemelka

RIVER HEIGHTS — Residents have spoken, votes tallied, and three new City Council members have been elected: Richard Okelberry, Dixie Wilson, and Blake Wright. Their 4-year terms begin in January, as River Heights will say goodbye to Francine Davis and Rob Gines.

Wright came out on top, taking 276 of the votes, about 26 percent. Wright ran as an incumbent for the council, but he says he has some new plans for River Heights such as cleaning up the code books.

Richard Okelberry said he was “happily surprised” when he took the last seat available with about 20 percent of voters support (208 votes). This was Okelberry’s second time running for city council; after he fell a little short last time, he said he didn’t want to get his hopes up with the strong competition, “We had a good crop of candidates this year.” The first thing he plans on doing is upgrading the city’s existing Web presence to make ordinances and municipal codes available online for residents to access.

Dixie Wilson came in second with 239 votes. The remaining tallies are as follows: Bob Green with 135 votes, Patricia Parker with 124, and Skyler Tidwell with 72 votes.

Running his second city council race since 2009, Skyler Tidwell said he was not disappointed with his results. Before the votes were counted Tidwell remarked, “I’m not focused on winning so much as reaching a certain goal as far as the number of votes goes.” Having received approximately 50 votes in the 2009 election, Tidwell said he wanted to surpass that number this year, “If I get that number of votes then yes, I’ll win.” But as far as “getting in this chair” is considered, Tidwell didn’t really expect to win. “I’m using this whole experience as a stepping stone…Regardless of whether I win or lose, I’m going to take things from this that are going to lead me to victory at one point of time or another.”

River Heights had an average voting turnout; 374 voters showed up out of approximately 1,700 residents. City Recorder Sheila Lind felt that “People that didn’t vote weren’t informed enough to vote.”

Meanwhile, downstairs at City Council…

But voting wasn’t the only thing going on Tuesday night. The city office swarmed with heated debates sparked by the City Council meeting held downstairs.

Right now the city’s ordinance prevents a cellular tower from being placed in Heber Olson Park, but AT&T contract representatives came to speak with the council, claiming that the city’s cell tower ordinance is unlawful. They stated that the Federal Telecommunications Act says that an ordinance cannot prohibit nor effectually prohibit a cell tower, and that River Heights’ ordinance is in violation of that act.

AT&T refused to say if they were planning on pursuing a lawsuit against the city at this time; however, company spokesperson Timi Aguilar said in an email, “In areas like River Heights, where we see a need to increase capacity for better service, we try and find solutions that can help improve the customer experience. We will continue to do so in this area.”

The council is considering rewriting the ordinance to meet the city’s revenue needs, but is still met with overwhelming opposition. Angry residents showed up to say “not in my backyard, we like our green space just the way it is.”


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