Shadid tells council, 'Do better going forward'
Ed Shadid says city government is failing those who need it most.
Shadid, in departing remarks before he retires next week from the city council, challenged his colleagues to rededicate themselves to public service, and not only for the greater good.
“The only escape that I have found, which has been cemented by my eight years here, the only escape from the bondage of self, is working for others,” he said as he prepared to step aside.
Part confessional, part lecture, part Bible lesson, part plea for justice, Shadid’s remarks at his last council meeting focused on three issues: mental illness and addiction, climate change and income inequality.
All three will get worse, he said, predicting as a generational shift takes hold at City Hall that “the voices that come after me … will be stronger and stronger on these issues.”
“They’ll have no choice,” he said.
Shadid, 50 and the father of three teenagers, is a physician specializing in spinal surgery. He struggled with addiction beginning as a teenager himself and calls drug treatment and rehab “one of the best experiences of my life.”
He called for release of a report that, he said, shows “shocking” and “frightening” levels of mental illness among Oklahoma City public school children.
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“A year later I’m not sure why it hasn’t been released,” Shadid said, “especially when we’re thinking about putting things like mental illness in MAPS 4.”
“If we want to make the schools better, if we want to make education better,” he said, “you can’t have that conversation until you have a conversation about mental health and trauma: child abuse, sex abuse, homelessness, poverty, it goes on and on.”
Statistics say similar problems affect city employees, in particular first responders, and he urged management to seek them out and provide help.
An indifferent response to climate change displays “collective mental illness or insanity,” he said, citing the odds of Oklahoma City having two 100-year floods and three 500-year floods the first part of this decade.
He noted Kansas City has committed to all renewable energy for municipal buildings by 2020. Building a convention center without rooftop solar power, meanwhile, makes Oklahoma City an outlier, he said.
“We haven’t really done anything,” Shadid said. “There are reasons besides just the return on investment to put solar panels on a convention center. No. 1, you tell the kids, ‘We care. We’re going to do what we can do.’”
If the council does nothing else, he said, it should insist on buying money-saving, longer-lasting electric buses.
In a sprawling city with few alternatives to owning a car, Shadid said, the council has neglected public transit.
“Income inequality is increasing with no break in sight,” he said. “It’s in our economic interest to connect people to jobs, connect them to food, but we didn’t."
Shadid compared biblical admonitions to pray in private and provide for those with the least with public invocations before each council meeting and what he said were longstanding inadequacies in social services investments.
“If there was a judgment day and you had to answer [for] what you did for the least among you during my eight years here, what would I say?” he asked.
“That we had a $200,000 social services budget that hasn’t increased in 15 years? Would I protest that we have millions of dollars of federal pass-through funds?
“I don’t think so,” Shadid said. “I think I stay quiet and I beg for forgiveness.”