Shadid also stated during today’s meeting that one of the most powerful men in Oklahoma City was behind a much-criticized election campaign and held sway over many of the important decisions made in the city. Shadid named Devon Energy Executive Chairman Larry Nichols (pictured below) as one of the driving forces behind this year’s City Council elections.
During the election, an incumbent — former Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters — was attacked by an independent expenditure group named Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, for which money was funneled from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Forward IV program through a nonprofit group. Nichols is listed as Forward OKC vice chair, according to the chamber’s website.
Momentum also went after Shadid in its campaign, and backed opponent Charlie Swinton.
“That campaign was very cynical. It rewarded one candidate for being liberal and progressive, and then chastised another for being liberal and progressive. It wasn’t that somebody was spending all that money because they believed in that particular political ideology. Something else was at play,” Shadid said. “Many people who are in a position to know are indicating that the primary ideological and financial force behind this campaign was Larry Nichols.”
A Devon spokesman said Nichols was unavailable for comment.
Shadid said Nichols, who sits on multiple public boards and subcommittees, wields an enormous amount of power, and expressed concern that it was not good for a democracy that only a few high-powered individuals make decisions that affect everyone.
“Everyone indicates Larry Nichols is a very good man who deeply loves Oklahoma City, that he for me personally would be a tremendous ally for building density and walkability and a healthy city, but he and the people around him are engaging in policy making the way a surgeon does surgery: They’re telling everyone what to do and then executing,” said Shadid, a spinal surgeon. “It’s not particularly democratic. You can have a benevolent plutocracy, you could agree that what he is doing is best for the city, but it’s still a plutocracy and not a representative democracy.”
Read more in the July 27 issue of Oklahoma Gazette.