A Norman Transcript article appeared early this summer, ostensibly as news, but in reality thinly disguised advocacy for a utility for “stormwater” (should be two words: storm water, hyphenated when used as a modifier). This came on the heels of two wise and proper election defeats of the idea in the past decade, as I wrote a letter to the editor.
My letter qualified for publication on every stated check box. It was cleanly and creatively composed, free of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage errors, contained no personal attacks, and tallied a volume well under the word-count limit. Despite that, the editor of the Transcript ignored the letter, yet published several others favoring water-rate increases of other types not directly tied to storm water.
Clearly my offering struck a nerve. Choosing not to publish well-written dissent places the paper in firm editorial-control grip of those who favor more bureaucracy, higher taxes, and anti-rural agendas.
Fortunately, we live in an age when we need not depend on mass media to get word out, and anyone can publish online as he or she sees fit, with equal access worldwide as a corporate newspaper gets. In that spirit, here was the verbatim text of my letter to the editor:
LETTER to the EDITOR
Regardless of any oversimplified portrayals one hears, the storm-water utility’s electoral failures here largely have revolved around two issues:
1. Inequity and misleading nature of the tax proposed to finance it. It’s called a “fee” for the sake of utility bills, but that’s playing a semantics game that voters here see right through. It is a de facto tax. Residents of rural wards comprised a major part of rejection in these votes. This is because the proposed tax was applied identically to rural as well as urban parts of Norman, even though storm-water hydrology in each is far from identical. The tax was thoughtlessly based on the absolute amount (rather than percentage) of impermeable cover on a lot. Hence the rural inequity: adjacent acreage and uncovered land are much larger for the same raw amount of rural impermeable cover, and rural houses and driveways will drain into dirt or ponds more than will urban apartments, businesses and houses.
2. Making it a separate utility (bureaucracy) from the water department. Although it’s “done elsewhere,” that’s a follow-the-lemmings rationale, not a reasoned one. It makes no sense because this is a water problem. Keep it in a slightly expanded yet streamlined water department with one set of overlords and staff instead of two, one computer system instead of two, one itemized bill, etc., not a separate utility, and it would stand a better chance of being approved.
Normanites mostly aren’t opposed to storm-water remediation. Want a path to passing? It needs to be done in a manner consistent with urban/rural equitability (most of Norman’s drained land area is rural!) and streamlined, efficient governance.