Oklahoma City Council considers July 9 election for charter amendments, ONG franchise

OKLAHOMA CITY – The City Council will in April give further consideration to a special election slated for this summer. Possible referenda to discuss include a proposed charter amendment to reduce restrictions on mayor and council membership. Also under examination is a possible change to the Oklahoman Natural Gas franchise agreement. 
The proposed changes were introduced in March, and a final hearing will take place at the Council meeting on April 23. If the Council votes to call the special election, Oklahoma City voters would consider the changes July 9 as separate ballot questions. Each requires a simple majority for voter approval. The governor of the state must also sign voter-approved amendments before they become law. 

Employment restrictions and ONG franchise agreement examined

A proposed Charter amendment on employment restrictions would remove limits on city council service for state and federal government employees. The amendment would keep restrictions for elected officials and senior government officers like state legislators and school superintendents, who cannot serve on the Council. But it would allow other state and federal government employees, such as teachers and engineers, to be Council members.

Under current rules Ward 2 Councilman-elect James Cooper cannot retain his job as a public school teacher after taing his Council seat on April 9. If voters approve, in future situations a  teacher elected would be able to remain a public employee while serving on the Council.

A proposed change to the ONG franchise agreement aims to clarify the definition of gross cash receipts, which determine the franchise fees ONG pays to the City. After negotiations, the City and ONG agreed the definition should include certain receipts the City staff believed should already be included. If the change is approved, ONG’s residential and commercial natural gas customers in Oklahoma City could see an increase in their gas bill of about 0.1 percent.

ONG would pay the City about $225,000 in additional annual franchise fees, an increase of about 4 percent. Franchise fees go into the City’s general fund, to pay for operations such as police and firefighter salaries.
If a popular vote on the proposals is set at the April 23 city council meeting, all Oklahoma City voters registered by June 14 would be eligible to cast a ballot on July 9. The absentee ballot deadline would be 5 p.m. on July 3. 

Rain Barrels For Sale

In other news from the government of Oklahoma’s capital city, The city and the Central Oklahoma Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are offering discounted rain barrels for sale, to encourage water conservation and to reduce pollution. 
Discounted rain barrels can be purchased online at www.upscale-products.com  for $63.50 each, according to a press relase from the city communication staff. Click on “order forms” on the right side of the page and choose “Oklahoma Municipal Program.” (Deadline is May 8)

“Rain barrels collect water that drains from your home’s gutter system,” said City Environmental Protection Manager Raymond Melton. “Watering with rain water is better for your plants, and it’s free.” The 55-gallon barrels can collect water from rainfall, helping, the press release said, “to promote sustainability in our community by limiting the amount of drinking water used on lawns and gardens. The barrels come with screens to keep out critters and mosquitoes.”

Rain barrels ordered online or by mail can be picked up from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17 or 8:30-11:30 a.m. May 18 at the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, located at 1621 S. Portland Avenue. Details are available from Andrea Shelton at 405-297-179 or via email: andrea.shelton@okc.gov. 

NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.