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Ed Shadid For OKC Mayor

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It’s no secret that I hope Oklahoma City voters elect Ed Shadid as their mayor this coming Tuesday.

Shadid, a local physician, has innovative ideas about rejuvenating the city through a focus on helping the city’s diverse neighborhoods thrive, creating more walkable spaces, expanding public transportation and fighting crime by hiring more police officers.

As the Ward 2 Oklahoma City councilor, he has also proven himself to be a tenacious watchdog of taxpayer money through his questioning of MAPS 3 funds and projects.

He has attracted a huge mass of passionate followers who show up by the hundreds when he conducts public forums on issues such as urban sprawl. As a long-time area resident, journalist and college professor, I have never seen this much direct citizen participation in city issues, which Shadid has pretty much solely generated and cultivated.

Shadid has also received the endorsements of a wide range of organizations and people, from the local Fraternal Order of Police to the city’s firefighters’ union to local journalist Patrick McGuigan, who writes in the City Sentinel, “Shadid aims to establish a more inclusive government.” Republican Bob Dani, who leads the conservative High Noon Club and also endorses Shadid, writes in the Oklahoma Gazette, “I support candidates who are committed to fiscal responsibility.” Shauna Lawyer Struby, a progressive involved in sustainable living and health issues, also writes in the Oklahoma Gazette, “Shadid sets the standard for accessibility in public service by actively engaging with his constituents, meeting with people from all walks of life.”

Shadid’s campaign has generated intense interest among such diverse media outlets as The Lost Ogle, which conducted interviews with him and his main opponent Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, and News 9 and the Oklahoma Gazette, which worked together in polling the race. The Red Dirt Report, a local media site, has relentlessly covered the race, often focusing on Cornett’s refusal to debate.

All this media energy is exciting and bodes well for Oklahoma City.

I’ve talked with Shadid a few times since 2011. He has a subtle and endearing charisma. He is honest about himself personally and his ideas. As someone who has written about Oklahoma politics since 1982, I’ve never encountered a politician with such sincerity and clarity. Not only has he never tried to hide his long-time recovery from drug addiction, he has repeatedly used his story to help others and local drug-treatment systems and efforts. For this he should be lauded; instead The Oklahoman vilified him by sanctimoniously demanding the release of decade-old divorce records, calling attention to his past.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that Shadid has become a major symbol for many of us who have been attacked relentlessly here for simply trying to get our voices heard.

I have to agree with McGuigan that the city needs “a fresh voice.” Cornett, who has done some good things as mayor, has served now for 10 years. He has been mayor during a time of a downtown renaissance that has enriched some of the city’s powerful elites at the overall expense of the city’s neighborhoods. His refusal to debate Shadid and the other two mayoral candidates only reinforces the idea that he will continue in this direction as long as he remains the city’s top leader.

Urban blight still haunts the city, which needs more police officers, more walkable spaces and better public transportation. These issues, which Shadid has raised in his campaign, may not be as immediately exciting as a Kevin Durant slam dunk, but at the end of the day they are extremely important to our quality of life.

Shadid would be an outstanding, innovative mayor for all Oklahoma City residents.

Oklahoma House Approves Anti-Research Bill

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A bill inhibiting embryonic stem cell research in the state and opposed by the Oklahoma State Medical Association has overwhelmingly passed the Oklahoma House.

On Tuesday, the House voted 73-14 to approve House Bill 2070, dubbed the Protection of Human Life Act of 2013.

Sponsored by Dan Fisher, an El Reno Republican, the bill would specifically ban “nontherapeutic research that destroys a human embryo or subjects a human embryo to substantial risk of injury or death” or “use for research purposes cells or tissues” obtained from such an embryo.

The main problem with the bill is that it could threaten medical stem cell research in the state while setting an anti-science precedent. While the bill specifically exempts in vitro procedures it also represents yet another gambit among the anti-abortion crowd to minutely focus attention on women’s reproductive systems and conception.

For example, the bill defines a human embryo for the purposes of the bill as “including the single celled stage, that is not located in the body of a female . . .” This language seems unclear. Is that intentional? Does this definition only mean an egg removed from a woman in a medical procedure? Could it have other ramifications?

I’m not trying to ascribe some broader intention here, but parse this definition:

Human embryo means a living organism of the species Homo sapiens at the earliest stages of development, including the single celled stage, that is not located in the body of a female . . .

The Oklahoma State Medical Association, according to a news report, opposes the bill because of the “troubling precedent for future research.” Here are some recent advances in embryonic stem cell research.

This is a bad bill that no matter what its larger implications in terms of defining a human embryo could inhibit bio-medical research here and once again make the statement that a majority of state residents reject scientific research. That's not good for the state.

Bang! Bang! Equality Is Not Dependent On Guns

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The Oklahoman published an editorial Sunday that smugly purports to apply superior logic to the same-sex marriage issue, but it’s based on a false comparison, relies on a sweeping generalization and really has no valid point.

Is the newspaper opposed to same-sex marriage or not? The answer to that question doesn’t seem to be the point of the commentary, but its claims really beg the question.

The editorial’s argument is that gun right advocates have a better legal claim for their beliefs because of the clear language of the Second Amendment while same-sex marriage advocates have a weaker claim for their beliefs because the Fifth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment don’t specifically mention marriage.

Consequently, the editorial states, “ . . . some would have Americans believe that Second Amendment rights are severely limited and subject to onerous regulation, while gay marriage is an unassailable constitutional right that can’t be restricted in any capacity.”

Who is this “some” that “would have Americans believe”? The editorial doesn’t even use its “usual suspects” or “vested interests” tropes. More specifically, why does this even matter in terms of either issue?

There are two points to make. One, guns and same-sex marriage are not related issues even in the larger and presumably weird brain universe of an editorial writer for The Oklahoman. No one is denying anyone the right to “keep and bear arms.” We might debate gun regulations, as the editorial points out, but the “some” who “would have Americans believe” is simply a made-up bogeyman used to fuel fear and anger among right-wing extremists.

Second, a citizen’s basic civil and legal right to enter into a government-sanctioned marriage is far more important than specific rulings related to gun control. “Some” may argue against this, but note that I’m not arguing the Second Amendment doesn’t allow people the right to have guns. I’m simply saying a common sense rule that, for example, prohibits a student from carrying a loaded machine gun into a kindergarten classroom for show and tell doesn’t carry the same gravitas as a law that denies people equal rights.

But to The Oklahoman it all comes down to this bit of nonsense:

Those who support gay marriage but oppose gun rights, in comparison, must argue a snippet of two constitutional amendments generates specific meaning regarding marriage regulation, but that explicit Second Amendment language provides a far lower level of constitutional protection.

Again, what is the point? Is it that people who support same-sex marriage should go get some guns and wave them around in public at rallies so they can be consistent in their arguments? What is the newspaper’s position on same-sex marriage, which has been ruled legal here by a federal judge, a ruling that is now stayed while it’s under appeal? That’s the most important issue. Why is the newspaper avoiding it?

Given the ultra-conservative editorial views of The Oklahoman, it’s not difficult to presume it’s against same-sex marriage, but its failure to address the issue in a straightforward manner shows the weakness inherent in any argument it might make against equality.

I’m in favor of same-sex marriage and equality for everyone. I’m not trying to hide that with rhetorical subterfuge or tricky arguments designed to fuel paranoia. At the very least, The Oklahoman should allow consistent dissenting views to its tortuous right-wing laments, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

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