Editor, the Transcript:

The tagline for the opposition to the proposed Stormwater Utility (SWU) is “not this plan.” But if not this plan then what? To make a reasoned decision, you need to know your options.

We could just start over. The best guide to what version 2 would look is what the NO forces are actually asking for: they will be empowered by win at the ballot box.

NO mailers say the current plan is “too big.” Not true, but it suggests that version 2 will grossly under-fund storm water needs.

NO mailers want to “reduce administrative costs.” That money would update maps, provide for map appeals, and fund the best-management-practice credit system. Version 2, then, would not provide these crucial features.

The NO side is backed by business money. The Chamber of Commerce came out against the current proposal. NO backers are owners of large impervious surfaces: Harald Haralson (self-storage units) has been the public face of NO; the NO mailers came from Fowler Holding (auto dealerships). NO mailers want us to “recognize the importance of retail development.”

We know what that means because Chamber leaders have already lobbied for it: caps on business fees that shift costs to homeowners. Version 2, then, would have completely inequitable business caps: the largest 6 percent of parcels in terms of impervious surface - businesses - account for over 50 percent of the problem-causing impervious surface.

Would the City Council go for such a lousy plan? Unfortunately, yes - at least two YES City Council members would vote with the three NOs for a version 2.0. But suppose not. There is no better version 3.0 that could pass - NO supporters would defeat it with the same appeals. Without any SWU, Norman will pay for stormwater from general funds. We don’t have that money, so we will pay with fee increases, tax increases, or service cuts. Recall that 6 percent of parcels account for over 50 percent of the stormwater problem: funding solutions out of the general fund is completely inequitable.

If you think Norman needs to handle its stormwater issues and in an equitable way, the current proposal is the only game in town.

It contains promissory notes to be skeptical about, but there is nothing better coming along. Better to hold the City Council to its promises now than to empower a NO community that doesn’t really care about either stormwater or equity.

STEPHEN ELLIS

Norman

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