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Lawton Beautification Forum Held at CU

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LAWTON Okla_ What does it take to make a city beautiful? That's the question several Lawton City Council members along with Mayor Fred Fitch and Duncan Mayor Gene Brown addressed Wednesday at Cameron's CETES Conference Center.

The group was invited by the school's Business Research Center to focus on urban beautification and why it is so critical to a city's growth.

City leaders say it takes a number of things to keep a community like Lawton thriving strong from low crime rates to great retail shopping. All of it plays a huge role in convincing people to call a city like Lawton home.

Southwest Oklahoma leaders agree: when it comes to growing a city, "pretty" matters.

"It's not a frivolous issue," Lawton City Council's Dr. Rosemary Bellino-Hall said. "It's an economic issue. The number one thing people look at when they decide on living in the community is the aesthetics of the community, that first appearance of that community. They're either going to fall in love with it, or they're going to hate it."

Bellino-Hall said she feels Lawton needs more sidewalks and bicycle paths. She said that, coupled with great retail stores locally, will attract new residents. She said all of it eventually leads to strengthening the economic vitality of the city.

"Jobs follow people, people do not follow jobs," Bellino-Hall said. "So, people can land wherever they want to land, and the jobs will follow them. So, I think the aesthetics in the community are incredibly important in this day and age. How do we look?"

CU Sophomore Waheed Gbadamosi said he sees a different form of Lawton's beauty leave by way of CU graduates.

"Most young people, after they finish college here, they go out of town," Gbadamosi. "They go somewhere, they go to a bigger city, and Lawton is losing a lot of resources. A lot of young beautiful minds are going out there."

Mayor Fred Fitch said we all know a city needs more than looks to grow. It needs residents to stay and feel safe. He offers one way of doing that.

"Get out to know your neighbor," Fitch said. "You don't have to socialize with them everyday, but know your neighbor. Know their kind of routine, and when you see something that's not normal, make a comment to the right person."

Dr. Bellino-Hall said true beautification starts with the community and compassion. She stresses while we can all turn to the government or city hall to get things done in our neighborhood, the biggest result comes from the community  banding together for a positive change.

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