NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
On Friday, June 7, 2013, an article in The Norman Transcript titled “City charter chatter heating up” hit the front page.
On Thursday, June 6, 2013, a “city charter commission” voted to recommend the removal of a city charter provision requiring voter approval for all utility increases in Norman. This commission is comprised of former city council members, city mayors or people who have served the city on various other committees.
Several reasons were given to support such a vote:
· The voter process is costly and unnecessary.
· Norman is the only city in the state requiring a popular vote before increasing utility rates.
· There may not be enough time for an election.
· If the city charter is revised to eliminate voter approval, the city council still would be required to approve any utility rate increase.
1. As a longtime Norman resident, taxpayer and voter, I believe in the right to vote for any and all increases in Norman utility rates. Norman voters have had the right and responsibility to vote for our utility rate increases since the 1970s. At that time, the voters and taxpayers demanded this provision be added to the city charter as a reaction to the city increasing utility rates to pay for additional police.
The city council did not act responsibly then, and what will ensure they continue to act responsibly in the future, if the right to vote on utility increases is removed? I agree that the voting process has a cost, but this is a cost we must pay to ensure the people of Norman have a say and safeguard in future city direction. Voter input is required and voting is necessary to ensure those responsible for our future are held accountable.
2. The article also mentioned that city of Norman utility rates are the lowest of any town its size in the state. I believe the citizens’ right to vote is the reason for these lower rates. I also believe there are increasing needs for water, sewer and trash collection.
I believe the city of Norman can obtain those increased needs by providing a timely and detailed explanation of what is needed. If the city of Norman does the due diligence required to show why, when and where increases in utility rates are required, the voters will come through.
3. We have a water problem in Norman, there is no question about it. This is not something new to the city or to the voters. There are much better ways to solve this problem than by spending time and money on a special commission to put together a recommendation to take away the voting rights of Norman citizens. Appropriate plans, programs and solutions cannot be implemented without input and authorization from the Norman voters and taxpayers.
4. When I hear any politician say, “Trust me,” world history immediately comes to mind. Removing the rights of Norman citizens to vote on utility rate increases based upon the comments of the Charter Review Commission may sound like an insignificant action to streamline the process; it is not.
I would hope the people of Norman would soon contact their city council member, the mayor and any other Norman city official to express their opinion on what the city charter review committee have recommended.
Don’t forget the city of Norman website, as this is a very convenient way to express your opinion. Taking away the people’s right to vote on any topic is wrong. I would also ask anyone interested in expressing their desire to vote on this topic to attend the public hearing June 27.