Where’s all the outrage now from The Oklahoman over lack of transparency and secrecy among some members of the Oklahoma City Council, including Mayor Mick Cornett?
As you recall, the newspaper and its editorial page recently made a big deal about unsealing the divorce records of Ward 2 Councilor and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid, pictured right, arguing that he was supposedly trying to “fight” to keep his past secret. Those records have now been released.
Meanwhile, several Oklahoma City Councilors, including Cornett, voted recently to not ask for the release of a 2009 report about a new downtown convention center. The report was conducted for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce right before voters approved MAPS 3.
In other words, here are elected officials trying to keep information secret from the public. Given its sanctimonious stance over Shadid’s records, one might think The Oklahoman would be demanding transparency in this case as well. But I can’t find anything remotely critical about it on its editorial page in recent days. Cornett, of course, is running for reelection.
It seems obviously clear that the newspaper under the guise of journalistic standards and support for freedom of information was merely interested in doing a political attack job on Shadid even as it tacitly condones secrecy in city government. Cornett represents the interests of the corporate power structure in this area just like the The Oklahoman, which is owned by Colorado billionaire and ultra-conservative Philip Anschutz. The newspaper, of course, has had a double standard for decades when it comes to politicians, but this case is so obvious it becomes incredulous.
Cornett, Ward 1 Councilor James Greiner, Ward 3 Councilor Larry McAtee, Ward 5 Councilor David Greenwell, Ward 6 Councilor Meg Salyer and Ward 8 Councilor Pat Ryan all voted not to ask the chamber to release the report. Shadid, Ward 4 Councilor Pete White and Ward 7 Councilor John Pettis voted to ask for the release.
The issue of the convention center, approved by voters as part of MAPS 3, has become controversial mainly because of this type of secrecy. Voters approved the $252 million center, but some city leaders are contending it will need a connecting hotel that could require additional public subsidies of perhaps $200 million or even more. The hotel was NOT part of MAPS 3. Were the voters deceived?
Shadid, in the past, has warned that studies have shown and some experts have argued that there is declining use of convention center and hotel facilities in some cities. Shadid is now leading a citizens group pushing initiative petition drives to take the convention center out of MAPS 3 and thus end tax collections earlier.
Shadid has also said the 2009 report contains information that is relevant to how the city should proceed with the convention center. Why do Cornett and other council members want to keep it secret?
All the main arguments over the convention center and potential hotel in downtown Oklahoma City have their supporters and strong champions, but one thing is sure: There needs to be transparency.
(Here’s an interesting historical look at the issue.)
What’s more important? A contentious divorce filed 10 years ago or perhaps half a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money getting spent right now? The Oklahoman should push for the report’s release in the same strong manner it pushed for the release of Shadid’s divorce records. The fact it apparently isn’t doing so shows once again it can’t be trusted to report the news fairly.