Friction. Discord. Tumult. For a place nicknamed “The Big Friendly,” this week’s Oklahoma City council meeting was anything but. Put on some sunscreen and drink plenty of liquids–the People’s Business is about to get heated.
It all started out smoothly enough. Telegenic Mayor Mick Cornett handed awards to the basketball team and the police department. But when Hizzoner brought up the subject of new development in the city, one councilman lit up the mic.
“It’s basically equivalent to a Ponzi scheme,” cried councilman and spinal care doctor Ed Shadid. He was enraged at developers who plopped down houses on the edge of town, forcing the city to pay for roads and such. Meanwhile, his inner city neighborhoods were crumbling. “We’re building sidewalks while neighborhoods in the core don’t have sidewalks!”
“We put public dollars in some of those places before anybody was living out there,” this modern-day Robin Hood lamented. “I have kids walking in the middle of the street” because of crappy sidewalks.
Crotchety Councilman Pete White, elected way back in 1982 when Doc Shadid was barely out of diapers, grunted, “You’re not king. I’m not king. We need to get off the conversation and into action.”
The mayor called a vote: 8-1, with Shadid and his inner city kids losing.
A citizen named Amber rose to address the council. Her husband was driving in a January snowstorm when he hit a pothole that majorly banged up their car. She sent the bill to the city, but the claim was denied.
“We do have images from Google Maps from 2015 that also show the pothole was visible,” Amber said, waving the picture.
“Do you have any other evidence?” Councilman Mark Stonecipher pressed.
“In 2011 there was a city agenda that discussed repairs and improvements that needed to be done on the street,” Amber answered slyly. Hold the g–d– phone. In this very room…in front of these very people…well, I’ll let the councilman connect the dots.
“What you’re saying is we were proposing to fix the road and we did not do that for that area?”
Mic dropped. Mind blown. The council agreed they should probably pay the claim.
It was time for councilmember comments. And Councilman John A. Pettis, Jr. had some muck to rake.
“It’s been a while since I’ve given the Ward 7 sermon,” he wheezed. “Normally my sermons are an hour. But I’ll do a sermon in less than 15 minutes.”
The target of his rage was the school district. “They have not been upfront and honest with us about their intention,” he fretted. And regarding recently-dismissed superintendent Rob Neu, “I am glad that he’s gone.”
At this point, Councilman White snapped, “I don’t think this is any of our business.”
“I’m gonna talk about it and I did talk about it,” Councilman Pettis retorted.
“You can obviously talk longer and louder than I can but it doesn’t make you right,” Councilman White growled. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Luckily, Councilwoman Meg Salyer grabbed her mic and rambled about the arts festival, putting everyone at ease.
Final thoughts: First we had councilman vs. city. Then citizen vs. city. And finally councilman vs. councilman. This was a slugfest and it wasn’t pretty. I give this meeting 4 out of 5 kids walking in the street.