More than a thousand people attended a mayoral campaign kickoff rally for Ward 2 Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid Thursday night, a telling indicator of the candidate’s strong grassroots support.
Shadid, a local physician, won the enthusiastic and noisy crowd over with a fiery speech that criticized his opponent, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, and called for rejuvenating the city’s neighborhoods and expanding the city’s police force. He also called for more walkable places and sidewalks within the city, better park maintenance and improved public transportation. He cited health issues as one of his major concerns as a city leader.
The crowd was estimated by one source at 1,100. I attended the rally, and that number was probably a little low given the people walking in and out of the Farmers Market building where the event was held, but the size of the crowd has to be seen as noteworthy. City elections have been notorious for low voter turnout in the past.
In his speech, Shadid praised the size of the crowd and also noted, ” . . . something special is happening and a movement is growing.” Shadid said there is a perception among many Oklahoma City residents that they don’t have a voice in their city government, and that his campaign is about changing that perception.
Shadid criticized Cornett, who is running for re-election, for misleading people about extra costs associated with building a new convention center and hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. “Over the next seven months,” Shadid said, “we are going to present you with the evidence that the mayor has repeatedly and intentionally misled you.”
Shadid also said that, along with continuing development in downtown, the city should focus on improving its vast number of neighborhoods.
“What is happening downtown is beautiful,” he told the crowd. “And we need to work for it to continue. 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 being left behind.”
The councilman also pointed out that the city has the same number of police officers, 963, that it had 20 years ago despite population growth and more urban sprawl. The city needs more officers to patrol neighborhoods, he said, and make them safer.
Shadid’s campaign has attracted people who want to see more transparency in the dealings of city government and believe some members of the city’s corporate power structure have too much say in policies that often benefit themselves. Early in his speech, Shadid told a story about how one former mayor said that no one gets to be mayor in Oklahoma City “without going through two particular people.” He will change that, Shadid said, to make it “clear to everyone that no one gets to the mayor’s chair of Oklahoma City without going through the people of Oklahoma City.”