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OKC loses 'two titans of the council'

As the Oklahoma City Council considered a tax incentive proposal last year for a new Amazon distribution center, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid offered a rebuke of the behemoth online retailer. Speaking with a calm yet impassioned demeanor, Shadid attempted to persuade his fellow council members to reject the proposal.

“We are paying our tormentor,” Shadid said during the council meeting on May 22, 2018, referring to Amazon’s business model of avoiding sales tax and expediting the closure of brick and mortar stores unable to compete.

Three chairs to his left, Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, with her black-rim glasses resting on the end of her nose and a yellow pencil in her hand, offered reasons for her support of the project, claiming it went to the heart of what her constituents wanted — jobs and retail convenience.

“This is what our citizens are demanding. People want immediate delivery of what they are buying online,” Salyer said.

Shadid believed he was arguing the morals, while Salyer promoted the marketplace.

During their time on the council, each have embodied contrasting styles and focus, representing bookends of a city where local politics is growing more progressive and social services-focused, while continuing to push forward with major civic projects and a developer-friendly climate.

“They both added very different but very strong voices to the council,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, whose district includes Salyer’s ward in downtown and south Oklahoma City.

“They both knew what their priorities were, and I think they achieved them, although in different ways.”

Both will retire from the council this week after neither sought re-election.

Salyer, a former loan officer from Long Island, New York, now runs a staffing agency with an office on Broadway Avenue.

She helped launch the Automobile Alley Main Street Program that led to one of the city’s most vibrant urban districts.

As a councilwoman for 11 years, her fingerprints are on dozens of major developments, such as the coming convention center, the downtown streetcar and the new Scissortail Park, all MAPS projects inside her ward.

But Salyer said her biggest contribution may be the railroad quiet zone that allowed dozens of trains to move through downtown and Midtown without having to sound their horns.

“That horn would blow continuously,” Salyer said. “It took almost eight years to accomplish what the railroad commission calls a sealed railroad corridor.”

Nearby residents praised the absence of train horns and development on the side streets along the rail line accelerated.

While she wasn’t on the Ward 6 ballot this year, Salyer appeared to be referenced indirectly by incoming councilwoman JoBeth Hamon, whose platform placed less attention on large-scale development and more of a focus on social issues, public transit and community wellness.

Salyer last won re-election in 2015 by a comfortable margin but faced a challenger who made the race competitive with a claim downtown had received too much of the city’s focus at the expense of poorer communities.

“When I joined the council ... downtown was barely breathing,” Salyer said. “People may disagree with me about this, and many do, but I don’t believe you can have a vibrant city without a vibrant downtown.”

A new generation of progressive residents in Salyer’s ward have sometimes challenged her positions, but she said it is a natural evolution for a city that has done a better job in recent years of attracting younger residents.

“It’s exactly what we wished for. We intentionally created this environment,” Salyer said.

Projects Salyer points to with pride — the new convention center and streetcar, for example — are ones Shadid was often critical of.

During his eight years on the council, Shadid’s list of accomplishments are not necessarily specific developments because he was often a contrarian voice to taxpayer-funded projects, especially those that offered tax incentives to developers and businesses.

“We don’t ask questions enough, and I consider that my most important duty on the council,” Shadid said. “It only takes one person to ask that question and then it gets out there. If you can get the questions out there and get the facts out there, you can do a great service.”

Shadid, who is a medical doctor, ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2014, pledging to be more intentional about increasing diversity among the city’s boards and commissions.

“I don't feel like the council represents the demographics or the political orientation of the city,” Shadid said. “It’s overwhelmingly Caucasian, it’s overwhelmingly male, it’s overwhelmingly Republican.”

For Shadid, many of his goals never came to fruition as he was commonly in the minority, but he put a spotlight on issues that are top of mind for some of the new councilmembers entering office this month.

“I think Shadid served a similar purpose at the city level that my Democratic colleagues do at the state level in that he encourages his peers to slow down and consider what they are doing,” said Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. "He doesn’t always have the votes, but he served as a check on what was going on.”

Mayor David Holt said Shadid brought a perspective to the council that may not have existed without him.

“He advocated for issues like transit and set the stage for greater attention to communities that had traditionally been outside the process,” Holt said. “That doesn't mean I always agreed with the approach.”

Shadid received similar compliments from his fellow council members last month.

“I appreciate your contrariness a little bit and it makes me feel like I’m not voting no enough up here and maybe I’m giving too easy a pass to some of these items,” said Councilman Todd Stone.

Members of the council praised Salyer for a continuous push for compromise and overseeing one of the city’s most diverse wards.

“You are just such a catalyst for progress,” City Manager Craig Freeman told Salyer at her last meeting.

Shadid and Salyer will exit the council on Tuesday when James Cooper and Hamon are sworn in to begin four-year terms.

“This definitely feels like the start of a new chapter when you have two councilmembers leave who have been here as long as Councilman Shadid and Councilwoman Salyer,” Holt said. “They were two titans of the council.”

Related Photos
<strong>Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, right, speaks to people gathered during a reception that precedes Shadid's last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.  Sahadid did not seek re-election after serving eight years on the council.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman</strong>

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, right, speaks to people gathered during a reception that precedes Shadid's last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Sahadid did not seek re-election after serving eight years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger,...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b91f0c6ef898cdf1a0a8da757ec570df.jpg" alt="Photo - Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, right, speaks to people gathered during a reception that precedes Shadid's last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Sahadid did not seek re-election after serving eight years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman " title=" Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, right, speaks to people gathered during a reception that precedes Shadid's last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Sahadid did not seek re-election after serving eight years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman "><figcaption> Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, right, speaks to people gathered during a reception that precedes Shadid's last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Sahadid did not seek re-election after serving eight years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-acc7dc00d52e2176d15a68047cab2aa3.jpg" alt="Photo - Ward 6 councilwoman Meg Salyer receives praise for those gathered during her last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Salyer did not seek re-election after serving 11 years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman " title=" Ward 6 councilwoman Meg Salyer receives praise for those gathered during her last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Salyer did not seek re-election after serving 11 years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman "><figcaption> Ward 6 councilwoman Meg Salyer receives praise for those gathered during her last council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Salyer did not seek re-election after serving 11 years on the council. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-05bc4022d52a8a728d69f0a9d9c4d89d.jpg" alt="Photo - [Todd Pendleton/The Oklahoman] " title=" [Todd Pendleton/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> [Todd Pendleton/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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