In this most recent election cycle, however, we witnessed a change. Electioneering schemes proved less effective. The developers’ costly smear campaign against Mayor Cindy Rosenthal not only backfired horribly, their attempts to confuse and mislead voters brought down a minor public relations disaster on the whole city.
The same NDC and Chamber interests who rely on Norman’s positive image to attract investment did far more to damage the city’s reputation with a single campaign than any small collection of “anti-business” activist groups ever could. So much for end games and brinkmanship. This campaign was the theater of the absurd.
These political upshots and PR disasters are of minor significance compared to the large-scale environmental damage we’ve allowed over the years. Under pressure from developers, the council has made many concessions on water quality.
The EPA’s highest recommended, Best Management Practice, for eliminating storm water pollution discharges (the 100-foot buffer) was whittled away by developers. They also inserted a grandfather clause to exempt pre-platted properties.
Since so many of these properties are already platted, development will continue sprawling into the Thunderbird watershed for the foreseeable future. Zoning changes don’t stir the kind of controversy they probably should, and that’s another reason to worry. Maybe the TMDL report will help change that.
The SWMP recommended a ban on phosphate fertilizers. City staff estimated that such a ban would reduce phosphorus loads by 8 percent, a sizable dent in the 35 percent reductions outlined in the TMDL. Council members considered this option but settled instead on an ordinance favoring a less compulsory approach that focused on registering commercial applicators and distributing pamphlets to retailers and consumers.
A year after passing a stripped-down WQPZ ordinance, the council granted Milligan Trucking Company a complete exemption from it. That set a dangerous precedent. If the city intends to fight the TMDL mandates in court or challenge penalties for noncompliance, this could be a sticking point.