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Overcoming Momentum’s legacy


Doug Loudenback July 6th, 2011

The Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, a recently formed nonprofit organization, spent $486,041 to support and oppose candidates during the recent Oklahoma City Council elections in Wards 2, 5, 6 and 8.

Federal law shielded disclosure of contributor names. Many became alarmed about secret committees influencing election outcomes, including this writer.

This organization’s basic tactic was fear — fear that a candidate was too liberal, too conservative or not conservative or liberal enough. The bitter election is over, but Momentum’s legacy finds a present home in some council members distrusting the motives of others.

A May 31 City Council proposal by Ed Shadid and Pete White requiring three public hearings before deciding certain kinds of measures provides a case in point. During the council campaign, Shadid was highly critical of Momentum; after the Ward 2 run-off, without naming it, White was also.

This organization’s basic tactic was fear.
About their proposal, Shadid described it as, “an opportunity for more openness, transparency and council and public deliberation.” “It’s a pro-council, doing their job, idea,” White said.

Others bristled. Gary Marrs said, “I’m a little concerned that it gives the impression to the public that there’s something going wrong here … that there’s some subterfuge going on, and we need to fix it.” Patrick Ryan agreed, saying, “There is an implication in my mind, anyway, that there’s somebody that suspects that the Economic Development Trust is doing things that were improper. That is not the case at all.” Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer seemed almost paranoid that most categories in the proposal were in her ward (broadly speaking, “downtown”), as though her ward was intentionally being singled out. Ryan and Salyer were in Momentum’s slate.

Debate was sharp. Although White thought that the proposal was written too narrowly, he defended its purposes: “to make it more transparent, and give more opportunity to do it, and relieve us of this pressure that you’re some kind of a communist if you can’t agree to do it today when you’ve only seen it for 48 hours,” he said, referring to the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City proposal that was scheduled for a vote 48 hours after its disclosure. About vetting, he said, “They may have been vetted with the other eight of you, but they weren’t vetted with me. I assumed that Alliance was going to be what I had been told it was going to be. I assumed that it was an in-house operation, I assumed that it was not going to go outside. I had no idea that it was going the way it was until I saw that.”

On White’s motion, further hearing was deferred until July 19. At the June 7 council meeting, Shadid said that a four-week audition of major items, instead of the procedure outlined in the May 31 proposal, was acceptable and that ample evaluation time would then be available by council and by the public. This writer concurs.

On July 19, a modified proposal will presumably be presented. This writer’s opinion is that the defensiveness of Marrs, Ryan and Salyer would not have occurred but for the distrust generated by the Momentum committee. The sooner that all council members put that distrust aside and replace it with confidence in the good faith of their fellows, the better. It is time to get past Momentum, hope that it never rears its head again, and simply focus on good government.

Loudenback is a retired Oklahoma City lawyer and blogs at dougdawg.blogspot. com.

 
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