McAlester is in trouble.

Even a quick look at the city’s financial situation reveals a major crisis which threatens the well being of our community.

Years of mismanagement, over-extension and sweetheart deals that benefitted a few at the expense of the many, have left the city in dire financial straits.

What can we do to get our city back on track? How can we meet these financial obligations that have placed this enormous burden on the city?

These are the questions which must be answered and acted on. There is no time to delay; solutions are needed now.

A unified front, citizens and city government, could go a long way toward getting this city back on the right track — the track that leads to economic expansion, growth and prosperity.

For too long a great divide has separated the governed in McAlester from the government. Citizens were told that everything was fine; there was no red ink and there were only good days ahead. Citizens were told to shut up and leave the driving to us.

There are new faces at city hall in positions of power. City Manager Susan Monroe is working to untangle the web of financial destruction and graft that was the hallmark of city government as recently as a year ago.

What is she getting for her efforts?

From a small but vocal group she is getting scorn and ridicule as if somehow she is the problem.

Hiring Monroe, a person with a solid background in municipal management, may be one of the best things the McAlester City Council has done in decades.

Monroe is working to clean up the mess left by her predecessor. Here are some of the things our city manager has done:

• Established committees made up of citizens and government officials to report on city operations.

• Required division heads to be available during council meetings to answer questions about projects and policies.

• Implemented tough new rules for the use of city vehicles.

• Appointed a city treasurer to manage the city’s finances for the good of the city, not for the enrichment of division heads.

• Listened to citizens’ complaints and concerns.

Susan Monroe is one part of the solution and she deserves some respect.

Am I suggesting that citizens never question actions at City Hall? Of course not. That’s what led us down this path. I am suggesting that criticism be accompanied by ideas for solutions. Vitriolic whining and finger-pointing gets us nowhere.

There are legitimate complaints about city government and there is still much to be uncovered about how deeply some former officials reached into the city’s coffers. There are on-going investigations and there will be answers.

Even so, McAlester cannot wait for these investigations to play out. City government, the business community and citizens must unite to forge a better future.

We can fight amongst ourselves and talk in shrill tones, obstruct every move, find fault with every plan and push and pull our city apart, or we can begin the hard work of fixing our city.

Working together in an atmosphere of trust will be much harder.

We must work together and start talking to one another, not at one another. It isn’t easy — given this city’s history — but we must have some faith that there are people working at City Hall with no other motive than to help McAlester prosper.

Some will say this is impossible; they will criticize me for even suggesting it. Leaps of faith are never easy but often those leaps lead to solutions.

McAlester is in trouble. What have you done today to help remedy a problem or right a wrong?



Matt Lane is the editor of the McAlester News-Capital. Send him hate mail or encouragement to: Editor, P.O. Box 987, McAlester, OK, 74501. Call him at 421-2022 or send e-mail to editor@mcalesternews.com.