My February 23 column advocated for a ‘No’ vote on the Prop. 2 stormwater bond slated for the April 2 Norman election ballot. Though anticipated, the pushback and denials now flowing from City Hall need to be refuted. I have taken no position on either Prop. 1 or Prop. 3, both of which are also on the April 2 ballot.
I stand by every word of the February 23 column. If you haven’t read it, please do. I have read the Mayors’ response (Transcript, 2/27/19) and I’m undecided if they doth protest too much or if denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. I think it’s a whole lot of both.
The February 23 column made the case that Prop. 2, if approved, would have the effect of potentially funneling several million dollars into the proposed UNP arena TIF location. I based this assertion on the fully substantiated language in the ballot proposition itself, as approved by Council on January 22.
The Mayors have suggested that Prop. 2 does not say what it clearly says. I was flabbergasted when they suggested that we should disregard the plain reading of the proposition and instead rely on the City’s supposed intent. I don’t think that the City of Norman has any standing to ask for support based on intent.
What was the intent of the City in funding a senior citizens center in Norman Forward? Or in establishing the UNP TIF? Do you recall talk of high end retail and promises not to cannibalize existing businesses?
If the Mayors want to talk about intent then let’s do exactly that. My personal position is clear: I believe that the City’s intent in Prop. 2 is clearly and unambiguously what the language says it is. But I also believe that the Prop. 2 language was deliberately written in a deceptive manner so as to cover the City’s tracks in funneling possible resources into the proposed UNP arena TIF location. In the case of Prop. 2, deceptive language does not diminish the proposition’s clarity or unambiguousness.
Courts have discounted statements of legislative intent in deciding upon the meaning of specific laws. They have generally held that the meaning of any legislation is best determined through analysis of the substantive legal provisions. Intent is not considered when the law is clear and unambiguous which is the case in Prop. 2.
Prop. 2 clearly and unambiguously says that the proceeds of the bond issue “shall be limited to qualified economic and community development purposes as defined in Title 62, Section 802 of the Oklahoma Statutes, to include constructing, improving, and equipping stormwater drainage facilities.” I have never suggested that the stormwater purpose is not in 62/802. What I am saying is that IN ADDITION to that purpose OTHER purposes are listed that have NOT BEEN EXCLUDED in either the 62/802 language or the Prop. 2 language.
This is an expenditure expansion disguised to masquerade as a limitation. Consider the use of “to include.” It is deceptive but it does not lack clarity. The stormwater purpose is unambiguously included with everything else in the supposedly “limited” 62/802 language.
What this means is that any purpose listed in 62/802 is OPEN-ENDED and ALLOWABLE at ANY TIME in the future, whenever the City might want to play that card. In the meantime, it is just an ace up their sleeve, similar to an insurance policy. It gives the City absolute unchecked discretion in the matter.
If approved, the Prop. 2 “stormwater” bond issue proceeds could legally be expended by the City in the proposed arena TIF location on the “acquisition, construction, development and/or equipping of the following projects or programs: (1) recreation and entertainment facilities; (2) cultural sites; (3) sports facilities, including arenas; (4) redevelopment programs, including acquisition of real property in a blighted area; (5) community facilities; (6) senior citizens centers; and (7) economic development programs.” See O.S. Title 62, Section 802, Subsection (5), paragraphs (b)(c)(f)(h) and (j). The legitimate stormwater purpose is found in paragraph (i).
Look at the Prop. 2 project map for “Rock Creek Rd. between Pendleton Dr. and Interstate Dr.” According to the Mayors it is only for projects “west of I-35.” Why, then, does the project area definition go east of I-35 to the arena TIF location at the OU Foundation property? It is difficult to understand how the Mayors’ can claim authorship of Prop. 2 when they might never have even read it before voting on it.
If you believe that the UNP arena TIF proposal is dead then let’s talk soon about that river in Egypt that’s up for sale.
Prop. 2 says what it says. Denying the truth of this fact is proof positive that, once again, the City has dropped the ball and screwed up its own program. My position, though, is that this is not a mistake. This has been the City’s intent all along.
On April 2, vote ‘No’ on Proposition 2!
Ed Crocker holds degrees from UC Berkeley and OU. He has served on the Norman City Council Finance Committee (‘89-’90), as HD 45 State Rep. (‘90-’96), as Senate Finance Committee staff analyst (‘85-’88), and is a retired Registered Principal in securities and investment advisory services (‘96-’11). He was the House Speaker’s appointee to the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission which helps the State with multi-year capital improvement plans (‘94-’96). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.