NORMAN — The Thunder won but team Norman lost, in the opinion of one taxpayer.
That was the assessment of resident Ben Alpers on Tuesday after Norman City Council members voted, 6-3, to establish an economic development trust authority without allowing public debate.
“You've shown contempt for the public tonight,” Alpers said. “People waited here all night, then we were not allowed to say our piece. Thunder won; the public lost.”
Alpers was among about 15 people who waited during more than four hours of council business so they could speak on a resolution that establishes the Norman Economic Development Authority.
But once the agenda item was announced shortly after 11 p.m., Councilman Hal Ezzell called for an immediate vote, forestalling discussion. Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and council members Roger Gallagher and Dave Spaulding voted against the measure, mainly because they opposed taking a vote without allowing public debate.
Rosenthal called the council's action “shameful and disappointing.”
“The role of a representative is to listen and then take a position and explain that position. These people were summarily dismissed. This is off to the worst possible start. We have demonstrated our lack of transparency,” Rosenthal said.
Ezzell said the public has had numerous opportunities to speak on the resolution “and the idea that we have cut off discussion is incorrect.”
“The people who are angry are obviously opposed. Legitimate debate has long ceased. I've read your emails. I've heard you. I got it. You don't like it,” Ezzell said.
Councilman Tom Kovach said establishment of the trust authority has been debated in numerous committee meetings and at a public hearing a week ago.
“We've listened and we've made changes,” he said, adding that more debate would change nothing.
During miscellaneous discussion, Alpers turned in a petition signed by 194 people who oppose creation of the trust authority.