If you've been following my blog, you already know that I've been following the city council elections closely and try to post as complete and objective information as I can find. Concerning this runoff, see this article which continually expands as more news and events become available, and this article about the Committee For Oklahoma City Momentum & its dirty tricks. This article is different because it is strictly about my personal opinions as to the Ward 2 candidate who will best serve the city.
Although I'm not a Ward 2 person (Ward 6's Meg Salyer is my council representative), after the March 1 primary (and the resounding dispatch of the Tea Partiers, which I then perceived to be the greatest risk facing Oklahoma City municipal government), I began sifting through everything I've been able to find about the Ward 2 campaign ... and I looked hard. During the primary, I'd not seen the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum's mailings concerning Brian Walters ... I'd really only seen Momentum's mailings in Ward 6 which I thought were pretty cool ... support for a progressive candidate, featuring democrat Oklahoma House member Al McAffrey & republican Mayor Cornett, both supporting Salyer's candidacy, who I strongly supported as well. About that flyer, I wrote, "What's Right With This Picture?" At the time, I was totally ignorant of the new "super-PACs" under §527 of the Internal Revenue Code. Initially, I had neither knowledge of nor preference about Ward 2 candidates. Nor did I then know that the Momentum committee wasn't always as progressive and benign as it had been in Ward 6 — learning of its campaign in Ward 5 after the fact. As my eyes opened in the city other than in my own ward, I came to see that, in Momentum, we are looking squarely into the face of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
By March 19, I reached the conclusion that I had every confidence that Ed Shadid was the best choice for Oklahoma City, and by then I'd also seen the unprincipled hatchet job that Momentum did to Brian Walters in Ward 5 and learned more about the §527 committees. Since March 19, that opinion has only solidified. This post explains why I've formed the conclusions that I have.
Every voter will have their own set of preferences and priorities when it comes down to electing City Council members and the mayor, and I am no different. Chief among mine, particularly in this city council election cycle, are the following:
- MAPS 3. I want it to be done, and I want ALL of it to be done. I don't want city council members even saying that a MAPS 3 project should be changed (like Pete White did in December 2010 and early January 2011). I want council members to regard the concurrent City Council resolution which was impliedly but not legally a part of the MAPS 3 ballot to be regarded as sacrosanct — don't tread on me. I want MAPS 3 to be done exactly as the voters were promised and with maximum citizen input and transparency. No deals behind the scenes and no secret handshakes.
- Personal Qualifications. For me, this means that an ideal candidate would be well educated and intelligent and be of high moral character. Additionally, the ideal council member would be an effective communicator — after all, the council is a collegial body consisting of 8 members plus the mayor — and by reason of that fact an ideal member would need to communicate effectively and work well with his/her peers on the council.
- Conflicts of Interest. An ideal council member would be beholden to no interest groups or individuals in the decision making process and would assess all matters coming before the City Council solely on its own merits and make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the city, understanding that opinions will differ as to what that means — but that would be the goal.
- Transparency & Maximization of Public Input. For me, the ideal council member would favor decision making being open to public scrutiny which is to say, be transparent. Citizen input would ideally be welcomed and maximized before decisions are made.
- Unique Contributions and Perspectives. Last, it would be desirable that each council member have something unique in his/her personal or professional life to bring to the council's deliberations — an insight that the others might not have. That won't always happen, but it's good when it does.
HOW DO THE CANDIDATES STAND UP AGAINST MY WISH-LIST? Opinions will vary, but these are mine:
1. MAPS 3. Utilizing the larger description that was identified above, Ed Shadid is the clear choice, notwithstanding Charlie Swinton's lately-found aggressive position to the contrary. Of the two, Shadid is the only candidate who unwaveringly and repeatedly has said things like the following:
Exemplary Shadid Public Statements
MAPS3 is a bond with the voters. It must be implemented in its entirety with transparency and with the maximum public deliberation. Mr. Swinton risks the legitimacy of future referendums by essentially eliminating the rail component. We do not get to pick and choose which projects we (or our unknown financial sponsors) want to move forward. [Source: his Facebook page]
My primary concern with MAPS 3 is exactly what we're facing in this city council election. All we voted for was a 1-cent sales tax and unlike the first MAPS there was no line item for the voters of exactly what we were getting ... There's no guarantee that the voters are going to get what I think they believe was promised to them. What we're risking is the legitimacy of referendums. [Source: Oklahoman, February 23]
Dr. Shadid believes that MAPS 3 should be completed as it was promised to voters, with maximum transparency, honesty, and public deliberation. Needlessly delaying the rail component of MAPS 3 could cost the city $60-120 million in federal matching funds, reducing the project's connectivity to neighborhoods. [Source: Ad in the March 9 Oklahoma Gazette]
Exemplary Swinton Public Statements
I voted for every one of the MAPS. It's just a priority on which one we do first. I think there's one that ought to be shoved back and that's the trolley system. I hear there's some technology issues that might be happening that might help us do more with less ... I'm not saying not do it. I'm just saying there might be some technological changes that might be coming so why not wait and see if they do come. [Source: Oklahoman, February 23]Anyone familiar with the entire history of MAPS in Oklahoma City, and I assume that Charlie Swinton is such a person, knows that a MAPS project pushed to the end may well not ever get done. That's because MAPS projects are funded by ongoing sales tax revenue; until revenue is received, projects don't get started or finished. If, at the end of the sales tax period (in this case 7 3/4 years), money has not been generated sufficient to build downtown transit, the project would not get done. Consider the Ford Center to prove the point. In the original MAPS, as the end of the penny sales tax approached, it was evident that insufficient tax funds were going to be collected to build the city's sports arena (to become the Ford Center). That meant not doing that project. Instead of it not getting it done, Mayor Kirk Humphreys came to the rescue and persuaded voters to extend the original MAPS tax by an additional six months — otherwise, we'd have no sports arena, no Ford Center, no Hornets, no Thunder. Swinton took a different position than his earlier one in his March 20 interview with Gwin Faulconer-Lippert and said that anyone could spin his words however they wanted to — and in that interview he said, amazingly, that Shadid was the candidate who did not favor the full implementation of MAPS 3. However, as was said in Shakespeare's Hamlet by the queen, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Swinton knew exactly what might happen if downtown transit would be "shoved to the end of the list." I'll revisit this topic shortly as to a possible cause for him wanting to do that — the convention center.
2. PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS. Earlier, I said, "For me, that means that an ideal candidate would be well educated and intelligent and be of high moral character," among other things. I have no doubt that both candidates are more than sufficiently well educated and intelligent. Given what will shortly be said concerning candidate Swinton's aspersions about candidate Shadid's public stands and/or matters which are wholly irrelevant to this election and/or are even completely false, I am only able to give Swinton a question mark in this category, and that is giving him the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, I have found nothing in Shadid's public remarks, newspaper reports, or advertisements, which are in the guttural class in which Swinton's (and I include his surrogate backer, the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum) far too often find their comfortable home.
3. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. I am sure that almost all would agree that we do not want our council members beholden to any but citizens in their individual wards and to the city at large, i.e., to the citizens that they are elected to serve. I would also say that there is certainly nothing wrong with individual citizens, even corporations, contributing money to a candidate's election campaign — as long as their identities are disclosed and as long as the amounts contributed are publicly identified. While such contributions, particularly when they are quite large, might identify conflicts of interest, the names would be known and a council member could simply recuse from participating in a decision affecting that contributor.
But, in this election, Oklahoma City is seeing something that its eyes have not before — the masked contributors and contributions of the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum. Without getting into legal stuff, a 2010 United States Supreme Court decision rendered Internal Revenue Code §527 organizations immune from disclosing contributor names and/or restricting the amounts of their contributions. Because of the Form C-1 filed with the City Clerk on March 25, all we now know is that this committee received contributions of more than $400,000 before March 25 and that, from our own observations of direct mailings, the committee ran (and is running) shadow campaigns on behalf of candidates in each of the four wards involved in the election.
Why? Just because the committee's members are for good government and they want nothing more? Dream on, teenage queen — not when we're talking contributions of upwards of $400,000.
In a regular PAC, PACs are limited to $5,000 to individual candidates, but at least you know who they are. In a §527 "super-PAC," such groups may not contribute to individual candidates but no limits exist on contributions in such shadow/parallel campaigns as such groups may wish to make and disclosure of donor names is not required. IF (and I'm not assuming this to be the case) each contributor to Momentum gave $5,000, that would mean 800 contributors gave $5,000 to Momentum. Now, we know that's not how it came down. For all we know, the contributors may have been no more than 10 — at 10, assuming each of the 10 contributed the same amount, that would be $40,000 per contributor ... if 20, $20,000 per contributor, and so on. Do the math.
What we have with the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum is a shadow, hidden group, which endeavors to elect its own preferred slate of candidates, and, theoretically at least, control Oklahoma City municipal government. We don't know who they are; we know they exist from the bombardment of mailings that we have all received. And we were concerned about the Tea Party's scheme to do exactly the same thing, in mirror image?In Gwin Fauconer-Lippert's KTOK interview with Dr. Shadid, she asked, "How much money do you think this election is going to take in the end?" His reply:
Hello, Oklahoma City, sans the Tea Party scare, and welcome to the world of the super PACs.
Gwin, that really goes to the heart of what is a very unusual unique city council race, in that you have the two campaigns and then you have a third party who has formed a committee to make independent expenditures that's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Mr. Swinton while declining to state who the donors are or their reasons for support in Mr. Swinton. So, we won't ever know how much these people are spending; we won't know who they are, or why they've engaged this campaign. Those questions are going to be impossible to know.It is also evident that the committee is deficient in if not completely devoid of moral scruples and will do whatever it takes to get its preferred candidate elected. In the primary, conservative Ward 5 incumbent Brian Walters was characterized as not being conservative enough and was pictured side-by-side with our President Barack Obama (something Walters would probably be loath to do in real life).
*** [I]t's called a 527 — it's a technicality that allows them to give unlimited — it could be one person, it could be five people, it could be ten people — to give unlimited amounts of money, they are accountable to no one, they can say whatever they want and they have ... and we'll never know who they are — which deprives the people of knowing if there's a conflict of interest or what conflicts of interest are present.
Whether it's conscious or unconscious, money introduces bias into the system. So, I want to be able to make decisions for the taxpayer and for the neighborhoods and the people of Ward 2 and the city objectively, just based on what I think is in the best interests, and not have that conscious or unconscious bias that gets introduced because somebody has given a check for $5,000 to the campaign. And I think that's a very important difference between the candidates.
I think the other thing is just to, I've tried to raise awareness on this money issue, I've asked the voters to consider, what are the implications for our democracy and for our city government when unknown parties can come and flood city council elections with — it's the kind of money you'd spend on a senate race — I mean, hundreds of thousands of dollars — what are the implications? I mean, do we really have a one-person one-vote, we're all equal under the law, or do certain individuals have a very unequal influence in determining who our elected officials are. Mr. Swinton says he has no idea who these people could be. I guarantee you that if he is elected he will find out. He will owe his seat to these people, and those people will want their wants prioritized.
In the Ward 2 runoff, Momentum attacks Shadid as being way too liberal ... he might be a good choice for San Fransisco but not for Oklahoma City, one mailer says. This, notwithstanding that Momentum supported Meg Salyer in Ward 2 and proudly presented and quoted the support of Al McAffrey, an openly gay member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives who is quite popular in his legislative district (my own). So . . . I've taken the liberty of modifying Charlie Swinton's original card in the center and I've appropriately added the caveat in the box, lower right, as follows:
|This modification of a mailer by Charlie Swinton does not have the approval of any candidate. It is a free public service contributed by an Oklahoma City citizen.|
What gets lost in the Momentum ads is that Oklahoma City government has nothing to do with the kinds of issues that it attempts to raise by its direct mailing campaign. Dr. Shadid has, to his credit, avoided playing tit-for-tat with these mailers. Whether he is (or not) a vegetarian, I do not know. Whether he lives in a solar-powered house, I do not know (even though I'm advised that he lives in a condo in a high-rise on Northwest Expressway which is not solar powered). If you want to look at the mailers, I've posted all that I have for both candidates here. But if you want to read mailers which focus upon nothing other than this campaign's real issues, e.g., MAPS 3, neighborhoods, health needs, etc., see Shadid's mailings for that. City-issue discussion does not occur in Swinton's mailers. Feel free to peruse them all. And then there's the matter of Momentum's despicable Push-Pull Surveys, for god's sake.
But, back to the point. It should be obvious that Momentum's participation in this election raises grave concern for conflict of issues matters, as well as issues of character and ethics. And, as to the personal character of Candidate Swinton who apparently does not disavow but instead embraces such support (see Oklahoman, March 26), well, I'll just ask that you consider the implications and make your own judgment.
4. Transparency & Maximization of Public Input. I've seen nothing by Charlie Swinton on these topics, but Ed Shadid has been consistent in his ardent support of both qualities. An example appeared in his March 20 interview with Gwin Faucloner-Lippert:
You know, Gwin, I want to be civil. But, when I say in 25 neighborhood association meetings in front of Mr. Swinton that I support all of MAPS 3 with maximum openness, transparency, and maximum public deliberation, I say the same thing in front of the Chesapeake forum, I say the same thing in front of the 100 people in front of the Urban Land Institute, I take out full-page ads saying that I support all of MAPS 3, and I consider it a bond with the voters, and that you risk future referendums if you don't implement all of MAPS 3, for him to come on and say that is simply dishonest.5. Unique Contributions and Perspectives. Ed Shadid is a physician with a record of supporting local health initiatives, particularly for the impoverished. Now, to be sure, there are some like Ebenezer Scrooge who would ask, rhetorically, "Are there no prisons ... no union workhouses ..." Perhaps you are one who sees no need to act upon such an agenda. Even if so, in having a physician on the City Council, the council will possess a health care resource that is lacking today. Shadid's voice would be but one of eight, and none other possess his health care expertise.
As for candidate Swinton, he is a banker and a lobbyist. The list of his public contributors are decidedly Chamber of Commerce types of people and organizations — and that's not bad, it's just identification. Swinton's priority is most probably like that of the Chamber — get the Convention Center built. That's all good, but it doesn't have to be at the expense of shoving a project — downtown streetcars — to the back of the list to be sure that the convention center gets done. Swinton and the Chamber might do better to consider that an existing council member, Pete White, is apparently willing to take $30 million from the convention center's $280 million if the OGE substation south of the Oklahoma City Arena does not have to be moved. Don't believe me? See his comments before the City Council on March 22 and convention center supporters may find that they have an ally in Dr. Shadid in that regard, i.e., keeping the convention center number keyed at $280 million. Moronic mailers falsely stereotyping Dr. Shadid may not be where your time will best be spent, and you might do well to cultivate a possible ally in not shaving that $30 million from the project that you most earnestly want to see built.
March 30 Update. I'll add a couple of things that have transpired since this article was originally posted on March 27.
March 29 Gazette Ads. Each candidate ran ads in the March 29 Oklahoma Gazette. For some time now, either candidate Swinton or his surrogate, Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, has narrowed his campaign focus to MAPS 3 — if you like MAPS 3, vote for him, not Ed Shadid. The truth is that Swinton is the only candidate of the two who would prioritize the convention center over the downtown streetcar, whereas Shadid favors ALL projects getting done. Compare the candidate's March 29 ads ... click on images for larger views.
Among many other things that Dr. Shadid says in the ad, he says, "Build MAPS 3 exactly as promised, on budget and on time, with maximum public deliberation and transparency," and there's nothing new about that since he's been saying that all along.
Wow. He knows that he's not telling the truth, and that speaks to his character. My opinion is that the ad is deceitful and is fairly marked up as follows:
There's more to say but this is already much too long. If you are a Ward 2 voter, perhaps you will consider some of what I've said to see if you think there is any sense in them as you consider your vote on April 5.
OTHER BLOGGERS' OPINIONS. This is added on April 4 on the eve of the April 5 general elections. I've looked closely to locate other internet bloggers who are supporting either of the candidates, and this is my report on that.
This section is short. I could locate no bloggers supporting Charlie Swinton. So, while he appears to have the strong support of many of those who are the most affluent in the Oklahoma City community, some of whom are identified in the various Forms C-1, some of whom refuse to be identified in the shadow Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, he has no support amongst the city's bloggers.
Of the bloggers taking note of this election by taking a supporting role, all of them favor Dr. Edward Shadid. In addition to my opinion (stated in this blog post), there are others:
- Blogger Nick Roberts. Nick has written two posts: (a) Is your vote worth $409,000?, favorite quote: "That's $270,000+ for ONE candidate in this race. This coming from the candidate who earlier in the race said, "When you are in a race with someone who has unlimited resources, you've got to keep running, and I don't have those kinds of resources..." His opponent is local doctor Ed Shadid. Dr. Shadid's campaign has raised $78,000. Perhaps Shadid should have made the poverty plea instead?"; and (b) If you have 20 minutes, favorite quote: "You need to do two things. First, listen to this video, it is 20 minutes long. Then the second thing you need to do, if you have another 20 minutes on April 5th and live in Ward 2, go vote! If not, spend 20 minutes between now and then telling people who live in Ward 2 (generally OKC city limits from NW 23rd up to the other side of The Village, excl. Nichols Hills, etc.) about Dr. Shadid, who is exactly what OKC needs.
- Blogger ThinkLady. Please, Just Call Me Ed, favorite quote: "I'm voting for Ed because he is not a professional bank lobbyist like his opponent Charlie Swinton, who I've yet to meet or see anywhere but on a cheesy billboard and in those disgusting mailers that have made me sick to my stomach with their hateful vitriol. ¶ I'm voting for Ed because Swinton's very profession, bank lobbyist, means his loyalty and first responsibility is to the banking industry. This is deeply concerning to me, and in my opinion carries immense potential for numerous conflicts of interest. ¶ I'm voting for Ed because while I appreciate all the good that the Chamber of Commerce, Chesapeake, Devon and Sandridge do for our community and am supportive of them in many ways, I don't feel that gives them the right to run our city and call the shots behind closed doors."
- Blogger Doc Hoc. OKC Needs Transparent Elections: Ed Shadid For Ward 2. Favorite quote: "Here's one thing about ideologues such as Republican state Reps. Sally Kern and Randy Terrill: We know where they stand. Where does Swinton stand? Where will Swinton's complacency about these right-wing attacks lead in the future?"
- Dustbury. Charles G. Hill's Dustbury is the most popular blog in Oklahoma City, bar none. He has written at least three articles bearing on the Ward 2 race: (a) The Vent #715:, favorite quote: "In Ward 2, however, there is no incumbent: Sam Bowman did not run for another term, and half a dozen filed for his seat. The race quickly narrowed down to two, and the Oklahoman prefers banker Charlie Swinton. I like the guy, but he's not my first choice for a couple of reasons: in a meeting with our Neighborhood Association, he seemed to be unable to grasp the MAPS 3 Zeitgeist — almost two-thirds of Ward 2 voters favored MAPS 3, the whole package, and we expect him to share in our enthusiasm for same — and besides, is anyone seriously worried that the interests of bankers and such are not going to get any traction in the Council? ¶ Not me. You may remember Edward Shadid, a northside physician who ran for House District 85 last year as an Independent. Theoretically, he could have run that race as a Green, but third parties have major problems getting on the ballot in this state, no thanks to the first and second parties. Now here he is, seeking the Ward 2 seat. Being somewhat right-of-center myself, I'm supposed to be appalled by the very idea of Someone Like That, but this is a nonpartisan election, and Dr Shadid seems to wear his heart on his sleeve, which to me means he's not going to suddenly mutate into God knows what some Tuesday around the horseshoe at City Hall, which is more than I'd say for those pseudo-Tea Party types. (The true Tea Partier shows up for debates, which those guys wouldn't.) At the very least, we know where Shadid stands, and if I'm not going to agree with everything he does, well, I should have run for the seat myself, right?" (b) The Issues At Steak, favorite quote: "The latest mailing by the so-called “Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum” generated some mirth on the social networks today. I decided to hold off (mostly, but see below) until I got a copy in my hot (okay, tepid) little hands. Now it’s on your screen, unless you’re blocking graphics for some reason;" (c) Meanwhile in Ward 2, favorite quote: "The Ward 2 runoff is Tuesday, and I can hardly wait: it will mean an end, at least for the moment, to some of the nastiest politicking in the history of the state, and if you’re familiar with the history of the state, the bar for Nasty has been set pretty high. * * * ¶ I haven’t said a whole lot myself, perhaps because I made up my mind a month ago. * * * Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured into the Swinton campaign, the answer to that question appears to be Yes. It’s dispiriting, really. ¶ At least we know where Ed Shadid’s money is coming from: out of Ed Shadid’s pocket." Unless I missed it, Chaz does not ever explicitly state that he favors Ed Shadid over Charlie Swinton in such exact words, but it's clear enough in his round-about-way that he does. If he corrects me about this, I'll modify this article accordingly.
- Peace Arena, favorite quote: "The runoff race has really pealed back the pretty facade of corporate benevolence to reveal an ugly reality — they want their selfish deals with decision makers kept secret in the back rooms and out of the media (which the local press, with rare exceptions, is quite content to allow). They know that Ed Shadid, even if if his sole vote can’t stop such shenanigans, he will bring transparency and outside voices to the process. ¶ So a lot of money has been funneled into shadowy 527s and paid for mailings and push polls with distortions, lies and twisted reality that would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly serious. Shadid is a vegetarian! He believes in sustainabilty and community gardens! Heavens, hide the children! ¶ Fortunately, in response to this deluge of political spin, and sniping within both the Democratic and Republican parties about this non-partisan race, there has also been a groundswell of grassroots and sensible voices responding and fighting back, and it’s been a wonder to behold in this conservative region."