StateImpact Oklahoma
11:43 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Norman Voters Will Still Decide Water Rates As Charter Change Gets Rejected

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where water rate increases require a vote of the public. And as StateImpact reported, a proposal to strike that clause from the city’s charter was before the city council on June 18, which would’ve put the change on the November ballot.

Credit Pro-Zak / Flickr Creative Commons

But despite concerns about how difficult it is to plan for future water projects when planners are unsure if voters will allow rate increases to pay for projects, the council failed to pass the measure 7-1, preferring the change to instead come in the form of an initiative petition from city residents or not at all.

As The Norman Transcript‘s Jessica Bruha reports, the unique way Norman sets utility rates has its origins 40 years ago:

The commission recommended that city council give voters the option to remove the provision because they felt it was outdated and circumstances had changed since it was voted into the charter by the people in 1974.

The commission’s chairman, Harold Heiple, said the community had put it in the charter … because the mayor and city council jacked up utility rates and used the funds to help pay for a police initiative.

“The situation today is not as it was 40 years ago,” said Trey Bates, charter commission member, adding that residents should let Norman’s government take care of the city.”

But the public comments the council herd Tuesday night were decidedly against that idea, mainly focusing on how “putting the measure on the ballot would be seen as taking away voters’ rights.”

StateImpact will have more details on this issue and the history behind it next week.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.