Mayor Darrell Davis said the city needs to prepare for incoming growth over the next 20 to 30 years, highlighting planned improvements and ideas to accommodate current and new residents during the 2023 State of the City today at the Edmond Conference Center.
Early in his remarks, Davis, who has served as the city’s mayor since 2019 and first served on a city board in 1996, said he looked in the mirror recently and asked, “Why are you still doing it?”
“Well, because I want to help the next generation stay and be a part of Edmond — to live, work and play, raise a family, just like many of us have in Edmond,” Davis said.
Among a number of topics Davis addressed, he spoke to the estimated increase in population Oklahoma’s fifth-largest city is expected to incur over the next few decades and has experienced since its founding.
“We’ve been growing since the land run,” Davis said. “I’m sorry. Some of you might not like to hear this, but the business people here are probably going to love it — we’re going to continue to grow.”
Davis called the city’s ongoing challenges a “positive opportunity,” stating that community members need to work together to find solutions.
“So, let’s look into the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re going to look — how are we going to meet the expectations of our community? I’m challenging you today that we need to have intentional collaboration,” Davis said. “That is the theme of the day — intentional collaboration.”
‘We’re changing the landscape for downtown’
Among other topics discussed at Thursday’s luncheon, hosted by the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, Davis spoke to the city’s housing assessment completed by Development Strategies. The study estimated that Edmond needs to add 8,900 homes over the next 10 years to meet the community’s housing demand.
“When I moved here 36 years ago, I was a GS-9 at Tinker Air Force Base,” Davis said. “I don’t think a GS-9 at Tinker Air Force Base can afford to live out here. I had three kids. The salary’s not enough.”
With construction of the city center complex — estimated to be completed in March 2025 — Davis said city leadership is planning for growth in downtown.
“We’re changing the landscape of downtown,” Davis said. “We’re creating the opportunity for economic growth in Edmond.”
Davis said the Edmond Mobility Commission is seeking to make downtown more walkable and safer for pedestrians.
“Sometimes it’s difficult just to walk downtown. We’re looking at how can we improve that,” Davis said. “You all travel on summer vacations. I had someone tell me, ‘We didn’t take our car. We didn’t use our car, we used the moped, we used the bikes.’ Well, why can’t we have those same opportunities here?”
As Edmond’s population increases and the city’s infrastructure needs increase, Davis said city leaders are searching for different revenue sources.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve spent nearly 50 percent of that money generated in our two [Capital Improvement Projects] funds for our transportation needs — roughly $146 million of the $327 million,” Davis said. “This is just one example that clearly shows that our needs are exceeding our funding.”
In recent months, members of the Edmond City Council have floated an election to authorize general obligation bonds to fund road improvement projects.
“Every year during the budget — and I’ve been up on City Council since 2011, and we’ve said it every time — we just can’t continue to live off of our sales tax and use tax,” Davis said. “I’m telling you today, it’s time for us to determine a solution.”
Edmond’s other City Council members attended Thursday’s annual event and listened to Davis’ remarks.
“I thought the mayor did a wonderful job today with his State of the City address. We have so very much to be proud of in Edmond,” Christin Mugg, Ward 3 Edmond City Council member, said after the speech. “He did point out that our current sources of revenue — primarily sales and use tax — are not sufficient to meet the needs of the city, especially considering the anticipated population growth.”
Mugg said discussions need to intensify with residents and stakeholders regarding “various options to increase revenue.”
“Some examples are development impact fees, general obligation bonds, additional sales tax and potentially others,” Mugg said. “We can also meet some of the city’s needs through our partnerships. For example, the metropolitan library system, the Edmond Public Schools, UCO and others.”
Edmond Police Chief J.D. Younger, who also attended Thursday’s event, praised the working relationship he and other city leaders have in keeping public safety paramount.
“I highly value the collaboration between elected city officials, city staff, and community stakeholders to keep Edmond a great place to live, work and visit. Edmond is definitely a growing community with high expectations for safe neighborhoods and quality-of-life activities,” Younger said.
Younger said continuing those partnerships with residents and stakeholders will be key to maintaining a safe community as the population increases.
“While staffing, technology, and innovation will be key components in maintaining Edmond’s safe environment, the partnership between Edmond’s residents and their public servants is the foundation for achieving any public safety goals. I am excited to see all that Edmond’s residents and City staff, including the Police Department staff, accomplish in the coming years,” Younger said.
During his speech, Davis said he wants Edmondites to “get out of their comfort zone.”
“We want to receive community input. We want to understand who wants to get out of their comfort zone and collaborate for the betterment of the community,” Davis said.
In a statement, Ward 1 Edmond City Council member Tom Robins said all sides of the city need to come together as the city grows.
“I agree that we need to break down silos and have collaboration among all our stakeholders,” Robins said. “We need to then give Edmond voters the opportunity to vote up or down dedicated funding to support the best transportation, education, recreation, public safety and public services for its residents.”
Toward the end of his remarks, Davis said he wants to reach beyond the status quo.
“I don’t have the answers today, but I know that this council and staff are willing to sit in a room with stakeholders to address our needs. If we don’t do that, you’re telling me that you’re satisfied with the status quo,” Davis said. “I’m not.”
(Update: This article was updated at 6:19 p.m. to include a statement from Edmond Police Chief J.D. Younger. This article was updated again at 6:34 p.m. to include a statement from Ward 1 Edmond City Council member Tom Robins.)