As an underdog (Charlie Swinton being the highest vote-getter in the Ward 2 primary vote and favored by the Oklahoman and the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum), in the runoff election Shadid roundly defeated the Oklahoman’s and the huge and hidden monied Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum’s candidate by a vote of 62% to 38%.
He then took his office. Shortly following, he was taken aback by the City Council having on its consent docket a proposal for a new non-profit organization which would assume roles which previously resided in city government, the Alliance for Economic Development (see here and here), the the 35-page proposed contract having been delivered to the Council only 2 or 3 days before the meeting. Later, he responded to such a short notice procedure by a proposal which would require greater time and public input before considering substantially important matters. For that, some city council members took personal offense and he got his ears boxed by council members Ryan, Marrs, McAtee, and Salyer, they saying that, actually, all one needed to do was to ask for a continuance and, in the Council’s magnanimous collegiality, it would be granted.
But, about that collegiality and to make matters worse, when he was unavoidably unable to attend the important July 5 City Council meeting that would establish the prioritization of MAPS 3 projects and he requested a continuance through Pete White, Shadid’s face was very sharply slapped by the majority present and voting (as well as by another council member, Meg Salyer, she voting by proxy via the mayor). So much for that supposed magnanimous collegiality.
Later still, he took on Momentum by naming Larry Nichols as the principal if not only person behind the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum. Later, he, Pete White, and City Clerk Frances Kersey gave their support to a matter pending before the Oklahoma Ethics Commission brought by the Oklahoma Gazette. Among other things, the Gazette requested an interpretation of the Political Subdivision Ethics Act (PSEA) as to whether an entity sending money to a nonprofit organization — the so-called “super-PACS” — that is participating in electioneering would also be subject to campaign disclosure requirements, i.e., identification of “super-PAC” contributors and amounts of their contributions. The Attorney General’s office nixed an immediate answer, but one would expect the query to be answered sooner rather than later.
By all appearances, but for Pete White, Skip Kelly, and perhaps David Greenwell, one could reasonably conclude that Shadid has been eschewed by the other council members and the mayor and that, all things considered, he might be or is or could be considered by them to be something of a persona non grata.
So, what does he do? Did he put his tail between his legs and lower his head like a sad bad dog, be timid, and go to his corner?
No. He’s not that kind of dog. Instead, he leads, and he leads like no other city leader has in recent or perhaps any memory — instead of pouting (and I’ve watched Council meetings closely this year, and he has yet to respond to the poor treatment received at the hands of other Council members with anything other than courtesy), he has gone to the public and encouraged ordinary citizens like you and me to become involved and be part of the process.
Shadid seems to have the idea that ordinary citizens have the ability to think, understand, contribute, and be trusted, that good government is best when it is transparent, and that doing something about the city rests not only with elected officials and the wealthy, as important as their roles are in this city’s progress, the bottom line is that it fundamentally rests with the public at large.
Most recently, he organized and perhaps paid for (the city didn’t) a public forum designed to promote discussion and resolution of the problems associated with “urban sprawl” in Oklahoma City, conducted yesterday evening at the Marriott Hotel Ballroom at Independence and Northwest Expressway. It’s just as though his rebukes at the City Council level had never happened — no animus was present in tone or content, just public education.
Given the lackluster blessing upon the new city council member by the mayor and council members Marrs, Ryan, McAtee, and Salyer, would anyone even bother to show up or listen to whatever might transpire at this public forum which Shadid said would be but one of other public forums yet to come?
So, how many would show up in the 600 seat capacity ballroom at this public forum which Shadid organized which was said to be a first step in discussing urban sprawl? 50? 100? 250? What?
Or this many?
Maybe this many?
No, it was this many … wall to wall people, standing room only.
The 600-capacity ballroom was overflowing — additional chairs had to be brought in next to the walls to accommodate the overflow crowd. Heck, the Oklahoman even covered the event in an article by Michael Kimball in this morning’s paper. Quoting Shadid, Kimball’s article defined the purpose of the meeting:
“It’s about defining the issues, defining the scope of the problem and bringing it to the public,” Shadid said. “Then we can let them process it, draw upon their individual experiences and then engage the city with their ideas.”
What a concept — involve the public by defining where we are with our sprawling 621 square mile city and begin a discussion about how to fix the problems that our city’s sprawl has created — not a discussion behind closed doors but one right out front for everyone to see and be part of.
The Oklahoma Gazette publicized the event and Dr. Shadid ran the following flyer in the August 31, 2011, Oklahoma Gazette:
The event was also publicized at his website, www.edshadid.org, and in Facebook, here, here, and here.
While listening to his opening remarks, I was flabbergasted by the breadth of knowledge that Shadid easily rolled off of his tongue — as well as be amazed that, given his lukewarm if not cool reception at City Council, he’d assembled the following speakers, each of which succinctly discussed the elements of the city’s sprawl which pertained to their expertise (all photos were taken yesterday evening). Many if not all injected elements of humor in their comments — even Eric Wenger who sometimes seems to be dour personified made a quip which was chuckled at by those present, but I did notice that he often did not laugh at the hearty comedic anecdotes of other speakers. Maybe he was preoccupied with what he would say, himself, as I might also have been were I on the dais.
|During the meeting, councilman Shadid also echoed the remarks which he’d made at the August 30 City Council Meeting, those comments being shown here — buy local so that more money stays in the local economy and the city collects more sales tax revenue, sales tax revenue essentially being the sole source for funding of city operations — streets, police, fire, utilities, parks, government, everything.|
So, at last, back to the question, What IS the deal with Councilman Ed Shadid?
The deal is this: Rather than criticize Shadid, Council members would be wise to take lessons from him even though most have been in their posts a lot longer than he has. I’d give the same advice to the Oklahoman, but you know as well as I do how important such advice would be to the powerful but increasingly isolated newspaper. Even so, it may yet come to see that the public likes this guy, how he works, and what he is doing — and even the Oklahoman may glean that the public may well want its new leaders’ clothes to be cut by the same tailor who made his almost always black attire — even though a bit of color would be cool with me. In my opinion, he’s the real deal, and the public is becoming increasingly aware of exactly that fact. In the end, even the Oklahoman may get it.
As to sitting Council members, have any of you readers ever seen any other Council member do something similar to what Ed Shadid did with yesterday’s urban sprawl forum with 600 or more citizens in attendance? Correct me if I’m wrong and show me a picture, but I think that yesterday evening’s public forum was a first of its kind.
I may be dreaming, but I venture to say that Ed Shadid has set something powerful in motion in this city the likes of which we have not seen before, something that neither the Oklahoman nor the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum will have the power to stop.
At the September 6 meeting, Dr. Shadid said that he’d be doing more public forums similar to what he did with the urban sprawl forum discussed above. I can hardly wait.
One last thing — even though Ed Shadid has shown no rancor for the treatment that he has received at the hands of some City Council members, some of the rest of us may not be so kind when this period of time is recalled in elections yet to come. Some of us may have a touch of the “dark side” left in us, even if Ed Shadid does not.