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 City Mayor Mick Cornett’s refusal to debate challenger Ed Shadid in his reelection bid shows he has little respect for the basic democratic process and is most likely afraid he would shred votes if he talks about issues beyond sound bites and advertisements.
Ward 2 Councilor Shadid, a local physician, pictured right, has called for the debates among the mayoral candidates, which also include Phil Hughes and Joe B. Sarge Nelson. Shadid and Cornett are the frontrunners in the election, scheduled for March 4.
Cornett, a former television sports reporter and anchor, has come under fire before from Shadid and others for his secretive approach to city governance, which seems dominated by corporate interests and a fixation on improving downtown and expanding Bricktown for their financial benefit. The losers in this governance style, according to Cornett’s critics, are the city’s numerous neighborhoods and the basic crime safety of its citizens.
Cornett has made the claims of secretiveness seem especially valid now that he has refused to debate. In a statement, Cornett said he didn’t want to debate because he is “the only candidate conducting a positive campaign focused on the issues.” Even if that were true, which it isn’t, it’s still not a valid reason to refuse to debate. Shadid has raised issues that challenge Cornett’s narrow, rosy view of the city, and that’s just the point. Oklahoma City residents absolutely deserve to hear the different viewpoints.
It’s as if Cornett wants to undermine the basic democratic process because he might get his feelings hurt when someone doesn’t agree with him or, in other words, isn’t “positive” enough about the city’s high crime rate and shortage of police officers. Don’t elections usually pit people against one another because of disagreements?
As far as I can tell, Cornett is getting little pushback from the local corporate media about his decision, especially from The Oklahoman, which for all practical purposes is a de facto part of Cornett’s campaign apparatus. At least the newspaper reported Cornett’s decision and extremely weak excuse, but a credible metropolitan newspaper would have immediately pushed for debates.
One issue that has come up in the election, and it’s one Cornett probably doesn’t think is “positive,” is the lack of diversity among his appointees to various city boards, commissions and trusts.
The Shadid campaign, for example, reports that since 2004 only 22.8 percent of Cornett’s appointees have been women even though they outnumber men in Oklahoma City 51 to 49 percent. The campaign also notes that out of the 1,117 appointments, only 35 have been African American, only 13 have been Hispanic American and only one has been Asian American.
For anyone who believes in basic fairness and diversity, this isn’t “positive” news at all, of course, but it IS an issue that should be debated.
Cornett is probably worried that some city groups, especially the local gay community, want to know his stances on diversity and tolerance, especially given his appointee record and this advertisement from his 2006 Congressional campaign:
Contrast that spot with this one from Shadid:
The question, then, becomes whether Cornett believes you have to hold narrow and archaic views here in central Oklahoma to be considered “positive.” If you believe in diversity, women’s rights and equality, then that isn’t “positive,” right?
The bottom line is that, for now, Cornett is making a calculated political decision not to debate, banking that his name recognition, his incumbency and ultra-conservative views will assure him victory. That’s a strategy that can work well in a statewide or Congressional election here in Oklahoma, but it could clearly backfire in a low turnout city election.
It should be obvious to anyone now that The Oklahoman has launched a full-scale political attack against Ward 2 Councilor and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid, using both its news columns and editorial page.
First, the newspaper demanded through its attorney and editor that a judge unseal Shadid’s divorce records, a divorced filed in 2004 that has now been resolved amicably. Both Shadid and his ex-wife agreed to seal the records to protect their minor children from contentious claims typically made in divorce cases.
The divorce records, once unsealed, show that Shadid, a local surgeon, once smoked pot and did harder drugs a couple of times before he entered a rehabilitation center. Shadid had openly discussed these issues for years so that information was extremely public anyway. The Oklahoman, of course, played this information up as if they had somehow scooped other media outlets and tried to cast Shadid in the most negative light possible.
The newspaper intentionally did this with its leadership fully aware of the argument that such sensational coverage of someone’s prior drug use—remember, it was primarily pot—could have a chilling effect on anyone here in recovery who wants to share their story publicly to help others.
Next, of all things, the newspaper went after Shadid for his city election voting record. The point was that Shadid has not voted in city elections as much as his election opponent Mayor Mick Cornett. Again, Shadid has long been open about how he became politicized in the last several years and decided to become part of the political solution in his community. There’s really no story here, except for what has become a common journey for many people from political apathy to political activism. Yet The Oklahoman sensationalized the information by delivering it in accusatory and biased terms. The headline on NewsOK.com read: “Shadid voted in few Oklahoma City elections in contrast to mayor.” Does it get clearer than that in terms of which candidate the newspaper supports for mayor?
Then, the newspaper published a distorted editorial criticizing Shadid for leading a grassroots group that has launched petition drives to place questions on the ballot related to stopping construction of the convention center contained in MAPS 3.
No one would dispute that the newspaper is entitled to its opinion on the issue, but the editorial contained huge omissions related to the issue. Shadid and others believe that voters were misled about the need for a hotel attached to the convention center. That hotel could cost taxpapers an extra $200 to $300 million. Would voters have approved MAPS 3 knowing this was the case? The newspaper ignored this issue in its editorial.
The newspaper also ignored the issue that some experts believe expensive, large convention centers with adjacent hotels are now not financially viable, especially in markets such as Oklahoma City. This was not mentioned in the editorial either The editorial simply argued in the most basic terms: “Vonvention center good; Shadid bad.”
Fittingly, when the Oklahoma City Council recently voted to NOT ask the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce to release a previous study related to the convention center that could shed light on these issues, the newspaper remained silent on its editorial page. Shadid, of course, voted to ask for the study’s release, arguing for transparency.
The Oklahoman has a long history of applying a double standard to politicians and distorting the news to further corporate interests and the careers of ultra-conservative leaders.
Here’s something to note in this regard. Continental Resources CEO and billionaire Harold Hamm and his wife, Sue, are going through a divorce. Hamm is politically involved in the state and elsewhere, serving as an energy advisor for Mitt Romney’s failed campaign and leading Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s re-election effort. Both Romney and Pruitt, of course, are Republicans.
Just a cursory look through a summary of Hamm’s divorce files shows the term “sealed document” more than 100 times.
The newspaper hasn’t brought up this issue even though Hamm, an obvious public figure, has stepped into state and national politics, obviously trying to influence voters to elect conservative candidates he supports. Don’t the voters have a right to know the issues in Hamm’s divorce just like in Shadid’s divorce? With all the money probably at stake in Hamm’s divorce, wouldn’t it at least be an interesting news story? Where’s that “journalistic” outrage now?
The newspaper’s attacks on Shadid about his divorce records were cloaked in sanctimonious language about “freedom of information.” Don’t believe it for a second. The Oklahoman has launched a deliberate attack on Shadid because he challenges the status quo. These types of sustained political attacks by the newspaper have failed in the past. Let’s hope that happens again.