A spinal surgeon and self-described “man of the people,” 45-year-old Shadid made his way through the throng of supporters and onto the stage Aug. 15 as Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” blared throughout the OKC Farmers Public Market event center. The crowd, many of them wearing “Ed” campaign buttons, gave the Ward 2 city councilman a standing ovation.
They didn’t stop there. In a scene a bit reminiscent of an Amway convention, the audience jumped to its feet several times during Shadid’s 27-minute speech.
In the mayoral election set for March 4, Shadid will take on Mayor Mick Cornett, a popular incumbent who continues to receive support and positive marks from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and other high-profile civic and political figures.
Cornett has presided over a time of rapid growth in Oklahoma City, especially in the redeveloping areas of downtown, Bricktown and Midtown. He has received national attention on several occasions, including his 2006 push for city residents to improve their health by losing a combined 1 million pounds. In addition, Cornett carries a distinction as being one of only four OKC mayors ever to serve three terms. If re-elected, he would be the city’s first mayor to serve four consecutive terms.
Last week, it was Shadid’s turn to shine with a campaign rally complete with food, T-shirts, a cash bar, entertainment and an energy-filled speech in which he vowed to follow the will of voters instead of special-interest groups.
“A former mayor told us that no one gets to the mayor’s chair without going through two particular people. That’s probably true in the past, but something special is happening, and a movement is growing,” he told the crowd. “Tonight, I would like to invite you back to the Farmers Market 201 days from today. Because then, it will be clear to everyone that no one gets to the mayor’s chair of Oklahoma City without going through the people of Oklahoma City.”
Again, a standing ovation. The audience stood yet again moments later, when Shadid addressed the plight of neighborhoods throughout the city.
“What is happening in downtown is beautiful, and we need to work for it to continue,” he said. “At the same time, we need to recognize that our neighborhoods are working harder than ever. And there’s a real concern growing in the city that the neighborhoods are getting left behind. I want to make the neighborhoods a priority and keep you safe.”
Later in the speech, Shadid turned to what he said was a lack of police officers and Cornett’s lack of leadership in the realm of public safety.
Citing a 2009 study, the councilman said city leaders were told the police department needed to hire hundreds of new officers. The city council provided funding in the current fiscal year for 40 new officers, combined with 30 positions that had been authorized last year.
“[The study] warned us that we were a far outlier, that there’s no city anywhere near us that has as few officers per capita as Oklahoma City,” Shadid said. “When you factor in how those few officers per capita are trying to cover 620 square miles, there’s no situation like it in any large city in America.”
A populist message
Shadid promised supporters he will work to be “more inclusive” as city officials make critical decisions.
“Because there’s a concentration of power, people don’t believe their voices will be heard. There is a perception in and out of Oklahoma City that there’s a table with a few people deciding the city’s priorities and how to spend your money,” he said. “A mayoral candidate should only be beholden to you, the people of Oklahoma City.”
Shadid criticized the mayor’s handling of MAPS 3, claiming Cornett misled voters into believing the construction of a $250 million convention center would double the city’s convention business.
An outspoken critic of the city’s Metro Transit system, Shadid said that more funding is needed to serve citizens who have no other transportation option.
“No big-league city shuts its public transportation on evenings and weekends,” he said.
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