Norman's complaint

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I keep thinking that finally we are at the point Tulsa's development lobby will give up on their "rule or ruin" mentality, and will finally sit down with homeowners to work together to build a better Tulsa. They keep losing elections, now that their allies in the media no longer control the flow of information. Isn't it time they gave up on their fantasy of total control and joined in the give-and-take process of governance?

Not yet, evidently. Tuesday's Tulsa City Council committee meeting saw the unveiling of the latest assault of the Build Anything Anywhere (BAA) crowd. Zoning attorney Charles Norman attacked councilors for going to Board of Adjustment (BoA) and Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) meetings to speak on behalf of their constituents' concerns. He claims it is a violation of the ethics ordinance for a Councilor to vote on a zoning amendment after having spoken against it in a TMAPC hearing.

Mr. Norman was City Attorney from 1959 to 1968, through the heyday of urban renewal and the establishment of our current use-based zoning code. He left the employ of the city and has spent the last 38 years making a very nice living representing clients before the TMAPC, the BoA, and the City Council on zoning matters.

In the early days of the City Council, when most councilors saw themselves as rubber stamps, hiring Charles Norman to handle your rezoning was a guaranteed win. Councilors would generally defer to Norman's arguments and would ignore counter-arguments made by the opponents of a zoning amendment, who generally could not afford to be represented by a high-priced attorney.

Over the last few years, councilors have taken a more direct interest in zoning issues, and they are often asked to speak at public hearing s on behalf of a neighborhood association in their districts. Often a councilor is more comfortable with public speaking than a neighborhood leader and has more familiarity with the zoning code and process: The councilor sees dozens of zoning cases, while the leaders of a neighborhood association may be encountering the zoning process for the first time.

Norman's complaint seems to boil down to this: Someone is getting knowledgeable and eloquent representation in zoning cases without paying his exorbitant rates.

Norman seems to forget that rezoning a parcel is an amendment of the zoning code, Title 42 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances, and that a zoning amendment is a legislative action, not a judicial action, and not a ministerial action. It involves changing the rules, not enforcing existing rules. It involves the exercise of discretion. In handling zoning amendments, the TMAPC acts as a committee to the City Council, considering and amending proposals before passing them on to the City Council. It makes sense for a councilor to communicate to the TMAPC that a proposed zoning amendment would have his opposition. This gives the applicant and the TMAPC the chance to rework the amendment to make it acceptable.

I hope the Ethics Advisory Committee will see Norman's complaint for the absurdity that it is. If the ethics ordinance can somehow be twisted to make it say what Norman says it does, it needs to be amended to make it clear that councilors can speak at board and commission meetings.

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Are there cases where communication between a city councilor (representing the people in his/her district) and the TMAPC have resulted in zoning amendments that are good for the neighborhood, bring positive economic growth, and/or have resulted in good policy that benefits everyone?

I guess what I am asking is, has the trend toward councilors being more concerned about zoning issues, and more directly involved w/ the process and what it means for the citizens in their district been a good thing?

And if so, what exactly is the ethics debate? How is it violating the ethics ordinance?

michelle Author Profile Page said:

Apparently, Mr. Norman seems to equate having an opinion (against his client) as equivalent to having a bias. To follow his logic, if an elected official listens to his/her consituency, he/she is biased. So, all republicans in the house & senate should be forbidden from voting on republican sponsored bills, since they obviously have a bias.

Twatch said:

Mr. Norman's complaint reveals an attiutde that is prevelant in the minds of Tulsa's Elite.

They see the legitimate Peoples Government as a subordinate to the Elite's Authorities, Boards and Commissions. TMAPC is one of those extra - governmental entities that have been used to frustrate the Will of the People. Power was invested in the People by our Founders, you have power only if you exercise it, please exercise it boldly and tell Mr. Norman to rein in his elitism.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 26, 2006 8:50 AM.

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