EDITORIAL: Residents to benefit from reinstating cancer sales tax

Apr. 25—A majority of McAlester city councilors did absolutely the right thing during the Tuesday night April 23 city council meeting when they reinstated a one-eighth cent sales tax for expansion of the McAlester Cancer Center.

In doing so, they nullified a previous action by a split vote of the city council that had repealed the will of the people.

During the previous April 9 council meeting, a majority of city councilors voted to repeal the tax, with the repeal passing by a split 4-to-3 vote.

After the April 9 vote to repeal the one-eighth cent tax, Mayor John Browne called it the single worst decision he'd ever seen by the McAlester City Council.

It also resulted in two News-Capital editorials, saying the city council should not have repealed the will of the voters, who had voted to pass the one-eighth cent sales tax during a 2018 election, and the city council should do the right thing and reinstate it.

The only way the matter could be brought up again to possibly reinstate the tax was if one of the four councilors who voted to repeal it during the April 9 meeting asked for it to be reconsidered.

New Ward 1 City Councilor Levi Gilmore stepped up to do exactly that — with the result it once again came before city councilors during their Tuesday night meeting.

This time around, Gilmore joined with Mayor Browne, Ward 2 Councilor Justin Few and Ward 6 Councilor Kevin Beaty for a vote that resulted in the sales tax being reinstated by a 4-to-2 margin.

Voting "no" against reinstating the sales tax Tuesday night were Ward 4 Councilor Randy Roden and Ward 5 Councilor Billy Jack Boatright.

Ward 3 Councilor Chris Stone, who originally voted to repeal the sales tax on April 9, did not attend the Tuesday, April 23 meeting.

Before the Tuesday night vote, Gilmore gave his reasons for bringing the April 9 one-eighth cent sales tax repeal up again for reconsideration by the city council.

Gilmore said he had numerous contacts from citizens both for and against the one-eighth cent sales tax, but he noted it all came down to one incontrovertible fact.

Voters had approved the original one-eighth cent sales tax measure for expansion of the McAlester Cancer Center during the 2018 election, passing it with more than 55% of the vote.

Gilmore said he's a firm believer in democracy and he noted the people have already spoken on the matter through the election.

Gilmore, along with Mayor Browne, Ward 2 Councilor Few and Ward 6 Councilor Beaty, did absolutely the right thing Tuesday night in their combined votes to reinstate the one-eighth cent sales tax.

The McAlester Cancer Center is in the process of transitioning to an alignment with the Oklahoma University Health Stephenson Cancer Center, which is the only National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center in Oklahoma.

Now, once the expansion gets underway and is complete, current and future residents, both locally and from around the area, who utilize the McAlester Cancer Center will have an opportunity to benefit from the facility.

That's due to the McAlester voters who passed the sales tax measure in the first place in 2018 — and to city councilors who voted Tuesday night to reinstate it.