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‘Line in the sand’


Riddled by conflict and animosity, the Oklahoma City Council rejected a deferral process proposed by a targeted councilman.

Clifton Adcock August 10th, 2011

A measure by two Oklahoma City Council members creating a standard for deferring council agenda items was narrowly shot down at the Aug. 2 meeting.

The measure, authored by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid (pictured right) and Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, failed in a 4-5 vote. Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly and Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell joined Shadid and White in voting to approve the measure.

Shadid criticized The Oklahoman at the meeting. Prior to the citywide MAPS 3 vote, the daily newspaper knew of project issues now stirring controversy and facing criticism, but withheld stories, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the proposed measure was the newest incarnation of a resolution the new councilman had previously introduced that required at least three hearings on certain issues before a vote could be taken. After Shadid was denied a deferral July 5, Shadid and White reworked the measure to allow council members one uncontested, automatic continuance during an agenda item’s first hearing per year, which could be overridden by a two-thirds vote. Other deferrals of agenda items would have been at council discretion.

Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan said he disagreed with the measure because it could open the door for abuse of deferrals.

“I’ve been on the council for six years now, and I’ve never heard a councilman ask for a deferral that had a good reason attached to it that was ever disapproved, so I think this goes a step beyond what we really need to do,” Ryan said.

White said the issue had become personal when Shadid’s request for a continuance on July 5 was denied.

“What we’re trying to do, the effort is to make this a little bit less personal, a little bit formalized, so that other people don’t get to decide whether I have a good reason or not,” White said. “If (the denial of a continuance) is not personal, it’s an amazing coincidence. I’m emotional about it. I think it’s very unfair. I’m not sure I understand it. I think it’s a line in the sand that does not have to be drawn. I think a lot of the conflict that’s been going on for the last three or four months is just that — a line in the sand that’s unnecessary.”

Greenwell (pictured right) said he would vote for the measure to try and put the matter behind the council.

“This has created and continues to create a lot of discussion, animosity, and that’s not necessary,” Greenwell said.

Later in the meeting, Shadid responded to a July 28 editorial in The Oklahoman headlined “Councilman unrelenting in his fight against Oklahoma City convention center.” The Oklahoman editorial stated that Shadid, who took out a 2,500-word advertisement in Oklahoma Gazette about issues surrounding the convention center, invited comparisons to Ralph Nader and Don Quixote and was “engaging in a great civil war over the convention center.”

“Sometimes in the course of human events it becomes necessary to fight another battle on another day, to tilt at another windmill rather than to beat a tired horse,” the editorial stated. “Instead of 2,500 words for the Man of Ward 2, we have just three: Move on, councilman.”

Shadid said he did not want to fight with The Oklahoman, but said that the newspaper’s journalists knew $30 million of the $280 million budget for the MAPS convention center was set aside to move an OGE substation, but the story was killed prior to the citywide MAPS 3 vote.

“All The Oklahoman had to do was print that story and vet that in public, and we wouldn’t be faced with ‘Did somebody say this, did we have this discussion or not have this discussion?’” Shadid said.

Shadid referenced a 2009 internal memo from former Oklahoman publisher and former Greater Oklahoma City Chamber chairman David Thompson to Oklahoman employees that they could earn paid volunteer leave by campaigning for the chamber by walking neighborhoods and encouraging people to vote for MAPS 3. “We had the publisher of The Oklahoman also (serving as) the chairman of Oklahoma City Chamber and also responsible for the MAPS 3 campaign,” Shadid said.

In its coverage of the recent council meeting, The Oklahoman stated it has written more than 400 stories on MAPS 3 and at least eight stories in the past two years that mention the OGE substation.

“If not everything was vetted, if information was withheld, then you have a problem with legitimacy,” Shadid said. “The Oklahoman believes I have an obsession with the convention center. That’s not true; I have an obsession with the process.”

Photos by Mark Hancock
 
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