NORMAN — The Transcript emailed four questions to Norman City Council candidates regarding some of the pressing issues facing city leadership today. Candidate responses will be published in a series of three days grouped by ward. Ward 6 candidates Jim Griffith and Jerry Lang were previewed on Friday. Today will highlight Ward 4 city council candidates Bill Hickman, Rhett Jones and Greg Jungman.
Candidates were asked to keep answers to 200 words or less.
1. Infrastructure needs for city water and wastewater projects have been delayed due to funding issues. Under the city charter, utility rates cannot be raised without approval by voters. Do you favor asking voters to amend the charter provision to allow utility increases? If not, why not? If so, what proposal do you believe would best suit Norman and why?
· Greg Jungman — No. It’s not appropriate to ask voters to give up their right to vote on utility rates; there is no credible basis for this action. To date the voters have asked city hall to deliver utility services at the lowest possible cost. This has created great efficiency in our utility programs. Also, voters have asked for appropriate cost-sharing of new infrastructure. This has increased the fairness of our rate system. Continuing to badger the voters about “the need” to give up their right to vote is simply wrong. The notion that the city would save money if the vote were taken away is only true if you ignore the cost of bad decisions and inefficiency that is likely to result. I see an increase in costs without the right to vote.
· Bill Hickman — I believe the citizens of Norman should continue to determine the appropriate utility increase. By putting it in citizens’ hands, it is less likely to be politicized. However, the city needs to do a better job of communicating what the needs and challenges are. There isn’t a citizen in Norman who doesn’t want clean water and who doesn’t want reliable access to water. Yet I doubt the vast majority are knowledgeable about the current challenges. If citizens are given reliable, consistent and transparent information, I trust they will make sound decisions at the ballot box when it comes to something as vital as water. If needed projects are being delayed because of funding, the solution is not to take away the right to vote. Rather, the solution is for the city to tackle the funding challenges and earn the public’s trust to secure the funding. And, communication and transparency shouldn’t be treated as events. They should be the city’s daily mode of operation with citizens. If elected, I would do my part by having regular Ward meetings and initiating a monthly e-newsletter to share vital information with Ward 4 citizens.