The Norman Transcript


January 12, 2014

We must defend our rights to vote

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

A special election was held Nov. 12 for Norman’s Water Reclamation Improvement Project. More than 60,000 voters were qualified to vote, but, sadly, only 9 percent voted.

Citizens who fail to vote allow small groups to exercise undue influence over our government by relinquishing control to a small minority.

A poor voter turnout leaves too much power in the hands of a few city officials and community focus groups. Minority rule but majority dissent is contradictory to our system of government.

The next year or two promises to be a rough-and-tumble financial time as a number of costly issues are being planned for the citizens of Norman.

These include:

· A vote to renew the Public Safety Sales Tax.

· A proposition asking voters to pass a citywide storm water project that will tax the square footage of all homes, out-buildings and driveways in the city limits, with walking trails and buffer zones that also have been added to the project.

· The Strategic Water plan for our drinking water.

· A vote on four City Charter Amendments.

· A still-developing project for a commuter/light rail line from Norman to Oklahoma City.

The charter amendments being drawn up have four questions. The dangerous one — suggested by the mayor and the committee chaired by Norman attorney Harold Heiple — would repeal the right for the people to vote on water rate increases. If approved, it would affect all Norman ratepayers, since the city council could then raise water rates whenever they chose.

While all these initiatives need public scrutiny, the repeal of Norman citizens’ right to vote on water rate increases is the most crucial to our family budgets.

The utility rate amendment was overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of the people in 1974 via an initiative petition.

According to The Daily Oklahoman on June 19, 1974, “More than 500 people jammed the council chambers to protest a leap in utility rates.” After numerous public protests throughout the spring and summer, the mayor and the council, in spite of public outcry, adopted an 85 percent increase for single-family dwellings on July 1, 1974. Businesses and institutions received a similar increase.

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