It was a shivering, soggy night this last December, and I didn’t even have an umbrella or an overcoat with me as I stood outside the building.
Oklahoma City Ward 2 Councilor Ed Shadid, a local surgeon, stood before a large crowd of people outside the Will Rogers Conservatory there to protest a proposal to allow new fracking near and actually under Lake Hefner, one of the city’s main water supplies.
Shadid was also very much against the proposal. In fact, he and his close supporters had helped to create the wellspring of community concern over the issue when the city suddenly announced it was going to hold a public meeting at an extremely busy time of year to discuss the proposal by a local oil company to drill new wells near and under the lake using the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.
But some city bureaucrats—despite Shadid’s concerns and warnings—had chosen perhaps intentionally a tremendously small venue to hold a public meeting about the proposal. Hundreds of people were locked out and stood in the rain. The meeting on the spur of the moment had to be split into two sessions, but still the sound system was so terribly bad that many people who even got inside the small rooms at the venue couldn’t hear a thing. It was a major debacle.
During the first session, Shadid brilliantly mediated the crowd’s anger and the views of the city bureaucrats and the oil company. He made it clear he was definitely against the proposal, but he also urged the crowd to allow city officials and the oil company officials to make their case. He told us—I attended the first session of the meeting and wrote about it here—that he was heartbroken that the city hadn’t done more to accommodate the public concern over the issue. He promised more meetings and debate before any decision would be made.
So there he was standing in the rain in between the two sessions. Many people had already gone home because it was cold and wet. He addressed the crowd in his soft voice as the crowd got quiet and said, again, he was heartbroken the city had quickly and unexpectedly announced the meeting and then held it at an inappropriate meeting place. He apologized—even though it wasn’t his fault—and assured the protestors, many holding signs and who had been chanting loudly earlier, that he would not only fight against the proposal but also ensure there would be more meetings, that EVERYONE who wanted to would get an opportunity to speak their mind.
The rain came down as people loudly applauded and cheered Shadid. Even more rain started to pour. He was on OUR side. Imagine. “Imagine all the people.” Think about this for a minute, you “dreamers . . . living life in peace”: Here was a prominent local physician standing humbly and truly sad in the pouring rain throwing in totally with the protestors, the people who wanted to be heard about protecting their drinking water, not placating the oil companies or self-important and, frankly, bumbling city administrators, some of whom probably could have care less about us who were there and probably wanted us to just go away in the first place.
In the end, the oil company, undoubtedly because of all the protest “energy” and, yes, mainly because of Shadid, pulled its proposal from consideration, and, for now, the city’s water supply is safe from the potential of water contamination many environmentalists claim can be caused by fracking. Let me repeat the words “FOR NOW” in all caps.
Shadid’s immediate action leading up to and during that Dec. 18, 2014 evening is just one example of why he obviously deserves to be reelected to the Oklahoma City Council.
Can we say he single-handedly saved the city’s water supply? Well, actually, maybe we can, folks. He mobilized people and created awareness. I can say for sure that at the very least I seriously wonder what would have happened to the proposal if we didn’t have his leadership on this issue. I also seriously doubt his primary election opponents would have provided anything close to his superior level of progressive leadership, organizational acumen, professionalism, inclusiveness and basic gravitas on this issue.
Let me repeat the words “for now” when it comes to stopping new drilling near Lake Hefner. Those “for now” words make me shiver as much as I did that Dec. 18 night, and Shadid’s action on that one issue alone is way more than enough reason, frankly, to vote for him. If the issue surfaces again, he’s ready for the fight, and, make no mistake, it will be a nasty fight next time around if it happens. I don’t believe Shadid’s three opponents in the upcoming elections would be ready for the fight. I sincerely don’t think so.
First, would they even fight? Would they stand in the pouring rain with us locked-out protestors just trying to save our drinking water here in central Oklahoma? Would they, even if they were against the proposal, be able to lead and organize people in an effective manner like Shadid? Why should Ward 2 voters even for a moment even consider taking the chance?
The primary election is March 3, a week from tomorrow. The other candidates are James Cooper, Major Jemison and John Riley. A runoff election, if necessary, would be held April 7.
Besides saving the city’s water supply, Shadid, during his first term as Ward 2 Councilor, also pushed to add sexual orientation to the city’s basic nondiscrimination employment policy. In other words, the city can’t discriminate against its employees or potential employees because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). It won approval in a 7 to 2 vote in 2011 primarily because of Shadid’s actions.
Again, this is the type of progressive leadership and these are the types of ideas that the Oklahoma City area desperately needs right now to make it a better metropolitan and diverse place. We have more than enough deeply conservative and religious fundamentalist leadership around this place at this moment in our history.
Shadid has questioned city spending in some areas and wants to add more patrol officers to the streets in neighborhoods for safety alone. In fact, I’ve never seen a political leader in the Oklahoma City area more focused on basic neighborhood issues. He’s also a major proponent of expanding public transportation and walking areas in the city. There are different ideas, some pragmatic, some beautifully and righteously fantastical, about how to proceed on the public transportation issue, but I’m entirely convinced Shadid would support the most logical, realistic and financially feasible approach in the greenest, most futuristic, most inclusive way possible right now for the city. As a physician, he’s extremely concerned with health issues and how to begin to shape the city’s infrastructure in ways that promote healthier behaviors in natural, non-rigid ways, such as adding sidewalks and bike lanes. He has held intellectual forums attended by hundreds of people on important issues such as Oklahoma City’s vast urban sprawl. Those people at the forums include other top city officials, say, like the city’s fire chief or other top officials with whom he works amicably but truthfully.
The idea that has been thrown out by a person or two in the mud of local politics that Shadid doesn’t somehow work well with people who oppose some of his ideas or who question his audacity to ask difficult questions of city administrators is simply NOT TRUE. Just talk to him or even argue with him about political ideas one time in person and that will become instantly clear.
He also weathered the brutal media attacks of The Oklahoman when he ran for mayor in 2014 over, of all things, his long-ago divorce. Someone needs to give out an award for people who have faced the onslaught of The Oklahoman when it crucifies someone for sinning against its ultra-conservative political agenda. Yet Shadid and his former wife, long since reconciled as co-parents and friends, joined together, along with their three children, and handled the situation with grace and openness.
So let me be clear: Ed Shadid speaks truth to power. People who speak truth to power will always encounter opposition and attacks. The fact Shadid has not only weathered these attacks with grace, fortitude and a soft yet powerful, articulate voice but has also won major victories in protecting the city’s water supply and the LGBT community absolutely means he deserves another term on the council.
Let me go further. This is more than a case of Ed “deserving” reelection. Oklahoma City really needs Ed to stay on the council, to fight for basic logic, intellectualism and the rights of ordinary citizens, to push for larger progressive ideas, to protect the vulnerable and marginalized and those who face daily discrimination here because of their skin color or sexual orientation, to let people just simply express their opinions, to lighten up city protocols and let people have fun, to build more sidewalks, create more bike lanes and to protect our drinking water.
He has stood in the rain with us, and he will continue to do so if he is reelected. Ed Shadid is the clear choice for Oklahoma City Ward 2 voters on March 3.