UNP TIF not resolved
Norman’s City Council is contemplating adopting the project agreements for the updated University North Park (UNP) Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) term sheet that they approved on June 25. Under the leadership of the entire City Council, City Attorney Walker has negotiated the project agreements with the UNP Developers, bringing each change to the council for approval and direction.
Let there be no mistake. The agreement on the table is one that Council initiated and guided throughout the project. It is not the Walker/Clark plan as a few are calling it. These project agreements were negotiated over the past 10 months with constant guidance from council. In fact, the resolution that initiated the unwinding of the TIF, directed City Staff to create a budget based on ending the TIF on June 30, and resulted in the current term sheet and was written and presented by Councilmembers Bierman, Wilson and Hickman.
The proposed project plan releases the City from liability and reduces the City’s UNP TIF spending by $8 million, leaving over $10 million in recreation facility funding (which will be used on Norman Forward (NF) projects) and traffic and roadway improvements. These are all projects that the City wants and needs. They are not giveaways to developers. In fact, by building these projects through the UNP TIF the City has access to the property taxes paid BY THE PROPERTY OWNERS IN UNP that they would not otherwise. That means that if these projects, which need to be completed anyway, were done outside of the TIF the City’s contribution would be much, much more.
Not to mention that the UNP/UTC Developers have given or sold land to the City and Norman Economic Development Coalition at a reduced cost over the course of the TIF’s lifetime, including the land for Ruby Grant Park, Legacy Park, the Conference Center, the NEDC Corporate Center Section 1 and 2, and now the land for the NF Multisport Facility and Swim Center. This investment values more than $27 million compared to the City’s payment of just over $6.1 million for the same land.
All that the plan that Councilmember Bierman and Petrone brought forward at the last council meeting does is remove the $5 million for the Norman Forward projects and opens the City up to litigation. Ligation that could end up directly costing the taxpayers millions through hits to the City’s General Fund and to the sinking fund that is paid for by your property taxes. If we wanted to pay more property taxes, we should have just passed the last stormwater measure, at least then we’d get something out of it. Because the Bierman/Petrone plan also means that all of those roadway projects, additional NF funding, and NF land would no longer have the property tax subsidy.
Council didn’t have to adopt the Bierman/Wilson/Hickman resolution to end the TIF and create a budget based on that, but they did. They didn’t have to vote to put the NF Multisport and Swim Facilities in the UNP Project area, but they did. They don’t have to adopt the project agreements they’ve worked on for the past 10 months and follow through on their resolution, but they should.
Redistricting initiative not a coup
In the Nov. 27 issue of The Norman Transcript, there was a news article by Janelle Stecklein about the increasing popularity of citizen ballot initiatives in the State of Oklahoma. She points out that since January 2016, Oklahomans have voted on 5 initiative petitions, with three of them passing into law, in some cases, despite attempts by the Legislature to undo the will of the people.
In the article Dave Bond points out that since the Republicans took control of the Legislature as a result of the 2010 elections, the citizen-driven initiative petitions have undergone an increase. As was pointed out in the article, the voters are increasingly taking matters into their own hands to circumvent the Legislature which has shown a real lack of concern about the welfare of the citizenry. And given the further tightening of the Republic control of the Statehouse, this trend will only increase. The voters are being forced to look out for their own welfare since the Legislature obviously isn’t.
The very conservative ALEC program, which appears to have been brought into the Statehouse by the Republicans, is about cutting taxes on the well-to-do, protecting the interests of businesses, and reducing the safety net for the poorer members of our society by such measures as restricting access to programs such as Medicaid, food assistance, and subsidized school lunches. Another aspect of these restrictive measures is making it impossible to raise the minimum wage. The Republicans would rather have We The People subsidize the working poor rather than having the business owners of the fast food franchises and Walmart actually pay their employees an real living wage.
Another aspect of the Republican domination of our Statehouse is the use of the Red State computer program to further refine Republican control of the processes of determining the make up of the legislative districts of our state at all levels. Currently, the changes to the legislative districts that result from the US Census is controlled by the political party in control of the state legislature. The citizen ballot initiative to take the control of redistricting process out of the hands of the politicians and place it in the hands of a citizen committee is an attempt by the people to insert some sense of fairness into the process. This effort is not being driven by the Republican boogeymen of Barack Obama and Eric Holder as posited by Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat. Contrary to the false statements made by Sen. Treat, this is not a “redistricting coup” but is rather the populace attempting trying regain control of our own future.
Martin Malone III