NORMAN — The Charter Commission heard from the public at an open forum at city hall on Thursday. The Norman City Council charged the commission with a very targeted review of eight issues.
The city’s charter can only be changed by a vote of the people.
The most controversial item under consideration is a clause in the charter that requires a vote of the people to approve any utility rate increase. The need for a popular vote to approve a rate increase is believed to be unique in the state and possibly the nation.
While the city council asked the commission to make a recommendation on whether to allow the city council to approve a rate increase up to 3 percent without a popular vote, the commission is recommending the item be on the ballot for complete removal.
“It’s not realistic to waste time on a percentage increase because it won’t get the job done,” Commission chair Harold Heiple said.
“How will raising rates also help us?” said Cindy Rogers, adding that she is always willing to vote to tax herself if she understands the reason.
Commissioner Ken McBride said the charter commission’s proposal does not encourage rate increases or increase the rates. The commission is recommending a vote on whether a utility increase should remain in the hands of the people or if that decision should be given to the elected member of the city council.
The eight charter changes under consideration are:
· Article II, Section 1: Consider changing verbiage from “compensation” to “stipend” in regard to compensation of city council members.
· Article III, Section 1: Consider simplifying the process for removal of the city manager.
· Article III, Section 6: Consider creating a mechanism by which the council could request information regarding a specific city department from the city manager.
· Article III, Section 7: Consider requiring a city employee to take a leave of absence to run for partisan political office.