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Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Norman is a special place,which has been rated first in the state and 40th in the country of best places to live! I'm proud of that fact, and I believe that our community's unique balance between that of a larger, progressive city and a quiet University town is the key to our exceptional quality of life.

Public service on City Council though is not simply a matter of solving bigger issues for the larger community. First and foremost, it's about representing the interests of individual residents, like you, and working to resolve the many smaller, but equally important problems affecting your families, homes and neighborhoods.

Norman is a wonderful city because of diverse people and interests and points of view. If we wish to protect and enhance the character and values that make Norman such a great place to live, it's important that we work cooperatively together as a community of neighbors, and that our municipal government works for all of us.

I promise to continue to represent your interests, and keep working to ensure that City Hall acts in the best interest of all of the citizens of Norman and not just a select few. In order to do that I have changed this website to be interactive. I want to hear your ideas as well as to keep you informed. I will periodically send out updates on important issues to help keep you informed. Please sign up on the update page.

Sincerely, Tom

Latest News:

Transparency crucial for city

Reading the March 29th edition of the Norman Transcript I noticed two articles on the front page which has been the basis for many debates in Norman. One spoke of Judge Virgin’s order to the City of Norman to release the emails requested many months ago to Casey Holcomb and Darcie Woodson, the other the preliminary hearing concerning the Friendly Market and Stephen Tyler Holman.

The timing is fortuitous as later this week early voting begins for the City Council races. No mater your views on these subjects the fact is our Council can affect them.

I am not sure where the policy came from to charge research fees and fees for legal review to get emails but I do know that the City Council can change that policy.

Transparency is crucial to good governance and the public trust. Citizens should not have to sue the City to get their records. Council could have intervened at any point and still can. Who you elect may determine what you know.

The legal question in the second story is still being debated but the policy question is up to the City Council regardless of that determination. Local laws would not trump state laws, if that is the case; however prioritization is the bailiwick of the Council. They can define and enforce community oriented policing, the priorities of enforcement. These are the concerns people are discussing in this case and our elected officials can make a difference.

You can make a difference in these topics too by voting April 5th.

The Twilight Zone 

Imagine a world where other states add millions of uninsured to their Medicaid rolls while your government is kicking 100,000 people off Medicaid, all during a time when the hospitals in this state are going bankrupt caring for the uninsured. Where more will be ruined fighting sickness or, worse, just die due to lack of funds or resources.

In this Bizarro world, the compounding financial crisis is the basis for all these things, yet an amount greater than the annual budget is given away in tax cuts and tax incentives, every year. A place where familiar calls to help families, improve education, take care of the veterans and make the state safe are heard, all the while the funds to do these things are squandered.

Imagine Oklahoma.

What person, household or business would allow such nonsense to undermine the basis for its government’s very existence? So now it is on us.


Three Okemah City Council members arrested for alleged Open Meeting Act violation

Three Okemah City Council members arrested for alleged Open Meeting Act violation

Three of Okemah’s five City Council members are accused of violating the state Open Meeting Act by privately discussing public business among themselves after a June meeting, the Okemah News Leader has reported.

Lloyd L. RaimerWayne J. Bacon and Bobby G. Massey were booked into the Okfuskee County Jail on Tuesday. Each man posted bail of $2,500, according to court records.

They are scheduled to appear before Associate District Judge David Martin on Dec. 15.

Violating the Open Meeting Act is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and one year in the county jail. (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 314)

Under the statute, a quorum of a public body may not discuss public business outside of a posted meeting. (OKLA. STAT tit. 25, §, 304(2))

The newspaper reported that according to the probable cause affidavit, Bacon, Massey and Raimer discussed city business with other people in the back of the council chambers following adjournment of the council’s June 22 meeting.

An OSBI investigation into the allegation was requested by Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook.

The newspaper reported that Raimer had no comment following the arrest while Massey and Bacon denied any wrongdoing. Bacon told the newspaper that the charges are politically motivated.

“How it was stated [in the report] is not how it occurred. I did not willfully break the law,” he told the newspaper.

In prosecuting a violation of the Open Meeting Act, the district attorney need only prove a willful failure to comply. Criminal intent need not be proved because the conduct is illegal by virtue of the statute, the Court of Criminal Appeals has said. (Hillary v. State, 1981 OK CR 78, ¶ 5)

In other words, a crime exists because the statute deemed the conduct to be wrong.

The Act also does not require prosecutors to prove injury “to establish a prima facie case of a violation,” the court said. (Id. ¶ 8)

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has said that under the Open Meeting Act, “Willfulness does not require a showing of bad faith, malice, or wantonness, but rather, encompasses conscious, purposeful violations of the law or blatant or deliberate disregard of the law by those who know, or should know the requirements of the Act.” (Rogers v. Excise Bd. of Greer County, 1984 OK 95, ¶ 14)

Nearly four years ago, the Okemah City Council was criticized for appointing a new member in an apparent violation of the Open Meeting Act because the action wasn’t listed on the meeting agenda. After questions were raised about the appointment, that councilman resignedand the council sought applications for a replacement.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, its board of directors or the commentator’s employer. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

Making sure they listen this time

Winning the vote by over 70% proved Norman Forward had broad support in the community. I believe one of the greatest promises of this effort is not just the opportunities in Norman for juniors and seniors and everyone in between but also a model for how we can come together. Few goals have brought such diverse groups as the Sierra Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of a 21st Century Senior Center, Pisces and so many more together in a common goal.
So why would we leave this great effort and promise to chance?
We cleared the hurdles of persuading the City Council to put these long awaited projects up for a vote of the people and won that vote. Now the hard work of getting them done correctly lies before us. It is not just the City Council that needs to roll up their sleeves but also all of us who have supported and fought for these projects for years as well as those who voted for and against them, because we all want this to be as good an outcome as it can be.
Most of the concerns about Norman Forward were about how the promise would be kept.
The record of the City ignoring citizens boards and commissions is fresh and extensive. One example is the citizen committee seated to review the Norman City Charter which met for a year to review previous citizen committees concerns and suggestions. The vast majority of the recommendations they made where approved unanimously by the City Council to be sent to the people for a vote. That was in 2014 and we are still waiting for that election despite multiple votes since then.
That is why the citizen’s committee for Norman Forward should be more than just a backward looking body to judge if the money was spent as promised. It should be a recommendatory body that weighs in before the money is expended and we need to make sure the citizens committee representing us proactively is heeded by the City. As I said before, the organizational chart of the City puts the people in charge of the Council and the Council in charge of the City Manager. Our voices must be heard.
This is the greatest investment in Norman the public has made since the Public Safety Sales Tax, over $200,000,000. Let’s all make sure our brokers will live up to the potential this has for our quality of life in Norman. The next few years will determine if our coming together will be our great success or wasted opportunity.

The People Prevail!

Serving on the city council from 2008 through 2014, I became familiar with the number of projects desired by the citizens: the Main library and east side branch, the senior center, Pisces Project, the parks master plan with its many projects, the new animal shelter and many others.

The animal shelter vote was avoided for years, even though after it was put to a vote, it passed by perhaps the largest margin in the history of Norman bond issues.

Instead of taking courage from that result, the city never attempted to bring forward any of the other projects widely supported by the public. Many people told me: We supported the utility increases through the years. Why can’t we get something we want for quality of life?

Now, once again, the organizational chart of the city is proven correct. You see it has the people at the top and then the city council and city manager.

Folks in Norman with their own time, effort and expense developed Norman Forward. It is a fabric of the many projects asked for, studied and left on the shelf until the public demand was at last heard in the vehicle of this bold proposal, which will quickly propel Norman back to its leadership position in the State for Quality of Life offerings.

There is something for everyone, from young children to our seniors. It is the result of years of work by many of our friends, neighbors and coworkers. It will be overseen by a diverse group of Norman residents to make sure we get what we asked for. It’s a project that says people matter in Norman.

I am truly moved by the broad nature of the effort to get this to a vote and passed. It says something great about our city when so many come together to work for not only their cause but also the others in the community.

Please join me in supporting this great community effort to move Norman Forward.


Beware of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Progress is often more difficult than it needs to be not because of those who oppose your ideas, you anticipate that. What we often neglect are those who say they are with you but work to slow you down. I was raised in a family that value debate on ideas not by subterfuge. Those with the courage of their convictions have my respect even if we disagree. The others have no honor. Here is what The Reverend Doctor King said: In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Road closure – Berry Road from Lindsey Street to Avondale Drive

Weather permitting, Berry Road between Lindsey Street and Avondale Drive will be temporarily closed to traffic to perform underground utility construction at 6 a.m. Monday, July 27, and reopened to traffic by 5 p.m. Tuesday, August 4, 2015. Central Contracting Services, under contract with the Norman Utilities Authority and the University of Oklahoma, is currently installing a 24-inch and a 16-inch waterline along Lindsey Street from Chautauqua Avenue to Berry Road, then north on Berry Road to Avondale. During this temporary road closure on Berry Road, both Lindsey Street and Avondale Drive will be open to traffic.

Warning and detour signs will be placed to assist the motoring public. Drivers are urged to use alternate routes via Wylie Road to Boyd Street to Berry Road. Weather permitting; the Lindsey Street Waterline Improvements should be complete by September 2015.

For questions about the project, contact Jim Speck, City of Norman Capital Projects Engineer, at 217-7778 or jim.speck@normanok.gov or Chris Serrano, City of Norman Utilities Coordinator at chris.serrano@normanok.gov or 366-5265. For additional information on the Lindsey Street Project, visit www.lindseystreetnorman.com.


Let’s Do this Right

In the Spring of 2008 there was a bond and sales tax election. The bonds were for the Library, Senior Center and Municipal Court and the sales tax was for the Public Safety proposal. Three of the four proposals passed but the failure of the library kept the other bond issues from going forward. Later that year we started the Parks Master Plan. The compressive study included multiple surveys and public meetings and meetings with different stakeholder groups. When the final report came out it was made abundantly clear that seniors did not want to be put into a facility that was segregated from the community. They wanted a modern facility near other community buildings like a library or swim facility. When Norman Forward first came to be their proposals were in large part based on the foundation of the never completed Parks Master Plan. This included the modern Senior Facility envisioned by the users, our seniors. Now we find that the failed plan of 2008 is being revived by the City Council and the seniors are to be segregated into yet another old library building isolated from other facilities used by the public. Yes, there are nearby public buildings like the police station. Yet, they are not the kind facilities which most communities who care for their seniors have located their senior centers next to. I urge you to tell your councilmember to insist on the best for our seniors and not hope they will take what they can get. If this is not done right, this Council will be asking them to wait another 60 years for what they deserve. Let’s get the whole Norman Forward package right, like it was: the best for the kids and the seniors. “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced”― Malala Yousafzai Please sign the petition https://www.change.org/p/friends-of-21st-century-seniors-center-petition-for-a-new-library-new-senior-center-new-multi-modal-transportation-complex-at-acres-and-james-garner

Don’t let them fool you

Special interest groups waited until the last minute in order to cause confusion and misrepresenting the facts. It is often the tactic to retread tired old arguments, throwing every barrel off the truck to wreck our future.

Avoiding the Citizens Oversight finding, this group is attacking the language and intent of the continuation of the PSST. Ignoring the implications for the 71 fire fighters and police whose jobs depend on the renewal and risking the introduction of school resource officers to protect our children.

Don’t let their interests supersede what’s best for Norman and our kids.

Join me and the fire fighter and police in supporting the PSST. Vote Yes, Tuesday April 1st.