Every other year, half the City Council comes up for reelection, and usually the proceedings are something of a yawner. Not this time. With city government generally regarded highly these days according to the 2010 Performance Report [pdf], fully 83 percent of us think Oklahoma City is "moving in the right direction" it's the perfect time for complacency, and therefore the perfect time for the disturbed and the disgruntled to make their moves.
The biggest news, at least as determined by local news vendors, is the ostensible Tea Party backing for two of the challengers. Council races are officially nonpartisan, so it won't make any difference on the ballots, but some people are spooked by the very term "Tea Party." I am more concerned by this:
"I can't think of a better way to shake up the politicians than to wrest control of the biggest city in the state from the progressives and liberal's hands," wrote Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart in the January newsletter posted on the group's website.
I have not generally been impressed by Gerhart in the past, but that's not the issue. This is: the Tea Party that is organized is not the true Tea Party. The moment you attempt to draw a line around your own supporters, you've attempted to claim ownership of something that cannot possibly belong to you.
And besides, the notion that Council is overrun with "progressives and liberals" is ludicrous in the extreme. It is indeed true that the city spends a lot of money, but then we have 580,000 people these days. (The Census figure from 2010 is 579,999, and I'm sure someone's moved in since last April.) "Progressives and liberals" would have moved mountains to avoid antagonizing local public-sector unions, and both police and firefighter unions will tell you that in the wake of MAPS 3, they got the back of the Council's collective hand.
The Oklahoman, still viewed by some as a conservative newspaper, declined to endorse either of the ostensible Tea-infused candidates, editorially endorsing the reelection of Meg Salyers in Ward 6 and Pat Ryan in Ward 8, and the replacement of Brian Walters in Ward 5 by Stephen Greenwell. I'm hoping that in these instances they get what they want.
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?
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Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill