Council Approves MAPS Timeline, Snubs Colleague?

This is the Ford Site, where the proposed convention center will be built.

The schedule of the upcoming MAPS projects has been a hotly debated topic in recent City Council meetings. Tensions flared on Tuesday, when the Council approved the timeline in the absence of one of its most independent members. Ward Two City Council Member, Dr. Ed Shadid, has been noted by his peers to be a well-researched, passionate Council member, who exhaustively studies matters brought before the City Council. Fellow Councilman, Pete White of Ward Four, testifies to Shadid’s work ethic, “He spends more time researching than anyone on the Council. I don’t always agree with his conclusions but I like hearing what he has to say.” And Ed Shadid had a lot to say about a recent Council vote concerning MAPS-3. While on a recent vacation with his family, he spent “at least” 30 hours researching issues that needed to be addressed in the upcoming Council vote regarding the MAPS-3 timeline options (Option 1 pushes up the timeline for convention center construction 30 months, Option 2 pushes up the construction 21 months). How is it, then, that a new Council member, so eager to make his mark and to have his opinions and concerns heard, missed this important vote?

Returning from his vacation, planned “far in advance of ever getting elected,” Shadid and his family ran into severe flight delays that would cause him to miss the vote on this important issue. Shadid contacted fellow Council member, Pete White, and City Manager, Jim Couch, requesting that the Council allow a two week extension on the vote, to give him a chance to be present for it.

When asked about the nature of the conversations he had with White and Couch, Shadid said that he told them, “I can get there tomorrow,” even going so far as being willing to eat $4,000 for a return ticket home. He was told by White and Couch that this was unnecessary. According to Shadid, Couch said, “We’ll get this continued and take it up in two weeks.” White reportedly offered the same assurance.

Shadid was surprised to find, upon his return home, that the vote to defer was denied, and the vote to approve the MAPS-3 Option One timeline was passed by a 4-3 margin. If he had been present, it would have been a 4-4 vote, and may not have passed.

However, if Salyer had been present as well, the timeline would likely still have been approved, since she was in favor of the accelerated timeline. Shadid would also not have impacted the vote that allows the convention site to be constructed on the grounds of the former Ford dealership. White was the only council member who voted against this. Therefore, he and Shadid would have been on the same losing side. Speculations on alternative outcomes are essentially rendered inconsequential, as Shadid was not present and the Council majority refused to grant him a deferral.

Pete White told us, “The priority list might have changed a little bit, but the vote outcome would have been virtually the same” had Shadid been present. White continued, “I was never optimistic that the outcome of the vote would be any different than it was.” For instance, Councilman Greenwell voted against Option One because he favored Option Two. Either way, one of the timelines was going to get approved (with a difference of start dates of only nine months), whether Shadid was present or not.

White points out, fairly, that this is the consequence of democratic action. The Convention Center is being built as part of the MAPS-3 package, whether we like it or not. It was passed through by a majority of voters, and the plans for its construction are being carried out by elected officials. However, he remarks on the “real” difference between the two options, “It’s like putting your kids to bed and given them a choice between a bath or a shower. There is no third choice.”

White is careful to make a distinction between the Council member’s decision not to differ the vote until Shadid could be present, and the actual topics upon which they voted. “These are two separate issues.” And, they really are.

There is an unwritten rule on the city Council that if you ask for a one-time referral due to extenuating circumstances, it is granted. This understanding is built into the nature of the relationships and bonds of the City Council members. Shadid knew it, but was still willing to bear an incredible expense to make it back in time to be present at the meeting. The idea that he would be granted a deferral by fellow Council members seemed a fore-gone conclusion. White also makes reference to the “unwritten rule” concerning deferrals in the case of extenuating circumstances, “you can get a deferral one time if you need it. It has been an understanding.”

However, this “unwritten rule” is not an unspoken rule. In fact, on May 31st, Councilmembers Marrs, Salyer and Ryan suggested during a Council meeting that a Council member only had to ask for a continuance or deferral if they needed more time. This suggestion is matter of public record.

On the subject of Shadid’s deferral, White was distressed, “I feel badly for him because he had called me the evening before and told me the situation and based on the way the Council has generally dealt with that I didn’t think it was necessary for him to spend that kind of money to get back in time for the vote. My own experience on the Council, going back to the 80s, is it’s a matter of courtesy to extend a vote in a Council members absence. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. This is not the kind of conduct expected of the City Council. Civility has previously been a hallmark of this group.”

When we spoke to Jim Couch, City Council Manager, he was more reluctant to admit to reassuring Shadid that the deferral was a sure thing, but he did seem surprised that the Council didn’t end up granting it. “I thought they would allow it,” he offered, “but at the meeting the Council made it clear they wanted to move forward with the vote.”

Shadid points out that the Council will have “lost absolutely nothing” in deferring the vote two weeks. His overriding point is that he was not given a chance to speak his mind about several issues that he was eager to address. White is doubtful that Shadid would have persuaded any Council members to change their mind because “their minds were already made up,” but the fact that Shadid was not even extended the common courtesy and the civility that this particular City Council has a reputation for, dismays him greatly. “That kind of divisiveness is not welcome on the Oklahoma City Council,” White said sternly. When questioned as to the possible causes for the City Council’s abrupt, out-of-character decision not to grant Shadid the deferral, White confesses, “I really don’t know why they went against the pattern of civility.”

In order to guard against future mishaps, Shadid spoke to Couch, proposing a solution. “I told him, ‘Jim, we need a mediator to improve communication and work toward civility. This kind of behavior is not acceptable. We need objective criteria on when continuance is allowed and not allowed.” A clear standard on referrals can prevent similar situations in the future. It remains to be seen if this is an example of a simple misunderstanding, or a portent of future friction within the council.

18 Comments
  1. Its been noted by others that Mr. Shadid has been abrasive in his passionate pursuit of Truth, Justice & the American Way, to the point of defeating himself in the political environment. HIs focus on this latest issue has been the unfairness of the deferral instead of considering why five of his peers broke social custom for him. Is it possible that the great uncivil divide that he alleges now is largely a problem of his own creation? A fair journalist would ask that question as well and not be distracted by the magicians finger pointed off-stage. ((reposted with correct email address))

    • Jack, that’s a pail of crap and you know it. All Shadid wanted, under the circumstances of his travel problem, was a continuance to the very next council meeting so that he could offer his views and participate in the discussion and the vote. Based upon statements made during the May 31 council meeting, that didn’t seem to be a problem, but he also received assurances from Couch and White that the matters would be continued under the circumstances. What happened on July 5 was 180 degrees different.

      Now, here, you, Jack, come off sounding like you are holier than thou with your choice of words. Here’s the deal: let’s forget your word choices and focus on the singular question:

      Should Shadid’s request for a continuance have been granted? If so, why; if not, why not.

      When you address those questions, then, possibly, you wouldn’t come across as such an ass.

      • You’re missing the point along yet another vector, Mr. Loudenback, so I’ll be blunt:

        No one had denied such a request until Mr. Shadid. HE is the new factor introduced into the equation. Mr. Shadid (and his vociferous supporters) believe it’s his message that the other council members dislike. They have not considered the possibility that it’s the message bearer himself.

        To answer your question: In a perfectly polite world with perfectly polite people who agree on everything, yes, the request would have been granted. We do not live in that world, and five council members obviously did not care about Mr. Shadid’s request. Such decisions are the nature of politics. It was their legal option to vote otherwise.

        Perhaps Mr. Shadid needs to cultivate allies (a minimum of four) if he wishes to be an effective representative to his constituents.

        • Jack, if you don’t want to address the principal questions directly, that’s fine, but don’t pretend that you are. The primary questions are quite simple:

          Should Shadids request for a continuance have been granted? If so, why; if not, why not.

          Your response evades a direct answer, Mr. Jack, unless you do not think that a council member’s status a council member, per se, is deserving … even if all other council members disliked the bearer.

        • I agree with Jack. You can’t call people liars and corrupt and then expect civility. I don’t agree how this went down, but the blame can’t be place only on those who voted against the continuance.

          • By “people”, do you mean the collectives of state (and any) gov’t? Yes. You absolutely can call them liars because that’s what they are. Most of them are oblivious to their own crimes. It is our responsibility to confront them and start denying them our business.

            But you are right when you say that the blame can’t be placed only with those who voted against the continuance, although they hold the lion’s share of responsibility (say 99.99%?). The fault also lies, to a lesser degree, with those who promote statism.

    • Jack- I disagree with the implication that we are being unfair in our reporting. Grace did a scrupulous job checking facts on this story. Furthermore, we *have* noted in the past that Councilman Shadid has not tread very carefully in his dealings with other councilpeople (http://okc.net/?p=101), but that doesn’t change the facts of this story, or the fact that even other council members agree that this is an unprecedented action on the council’s part. I would say it’s too early to speculate if the reasons for this denial of continuance were based on policy or on personality, but we will have more as the story develops.

  2. I will agree that Mr. Shadid has been abrasive in his passionate pursuit of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, but not to the point of defeating himself in the political environment. The fact that his peers were uncivilized and lied, puts more people on his side. Oklahoma City citizens want to know that our city council members are going to work together, despite difference of opinions. The fact that they didn’t even choose to acknowledge his request was DISRESPECTFUL. I’m absolutely disgusted and I plan on saying something at the next meeting regarding this matter.

  3. I have attended dozens of OKC City Council meetings. It seems to me that Ed Shadid, Pete White and Skip Kelly are trying to do what the residents of Oklahoma City want them to do. The rest of the members, including Mick Cornett, seem to care more about what the Gaylords and the Humphreys think than what the people think. The City Council has been playing shell games with our tax money for years. Somehow, the fat cats always get what they want and the people are always told we have to wait. The residents want the wellness centers and improved public transportation. We don’t care a flip about the convention center, and the Council knows this. There are already too many convention centers all over the country. I applaud Shadid, White and Kelly for speaking up for us.

  4. July 13, 2011

    Is today another Ozone Alert Day? How many have we had this summer? You know, OKC stopped giving free bus rides on Ozone Alert Days. I think people were realizing they liked riding the bus and ridership was going up, so the city fathers had to put a stop to it. For some reason, the OKC City Council does not want the bus system to be a success. I think they lose their federal funding when the bus system shows a profit, so they don’t want it to! Now they are giving us three free days, once a month til September. The free day will be the third Friday of each month: July 15, August 19 and September 16. Please help spread the word. We want everyone to take advantage of this, but it doesn’t make up for all the other times we got ripped off by the mayor and the city council.

  5. I was at the OKC City Council meeting when the two young men they bought the Wi-Fi from got up and said they could easily install it on the city buses. They acted like it would cost no more or very little more to do so, since OKC was already paying them a lot. (I think it was $150,000.) Of course, the City Council does not want Wi-Fi on the buses, because ridership would skyrocket.

    • It may be the profit issue. But maybe not because the gov typically just launders whatever $$ they’d like to avoid claiming at the end of the FY. Much of it through “Political Action Committees”.

      The other thing is that communication unites people. It is easier for the elected and appointed bodies to continue leeching off producers/workers if people can’t organize. They are smothering entrepreneurs and thereby shooting themselves and everyone else in the foot. Don’t buy that “for your own safety” line. There is safety in organization! 🙂

  6. “However, [White] remarks on the ‘real’ difference between the two options, ‘Its like putting your kids to bed and given them a choice between a bath or a shower. There is no third choice.’ ”

    This is a good analogy, but is built on an unsavory metaphor. Let’s correct it.

    Ok so “putting kids to bed”= what?…do you mean keeping the masses asleep? Anesthetising them? The choice of words may be coincidence. Or maybe not.

    That is why most people who understand this idea will present the idea of majority rule as more like choosing a head from the two headed venomous snake. One who understands this- as I imagine Dr Shadid does- will vote down everything to slow the cattle-driving of humans. None of us can afford to buy the nonsense that this man, Pete White, thinks of the citizen (individual) as his/gov’ts child. Otherwise, ship that Worse Parent(s) of the Century Award.

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