Two men I knew very, very well – two men who had a profound impact on this city, died this week.
Jim Brewer was the P.T. Barnum of Bricktown. I was the pesky reporter who provided the headlines he loved, and told the truth that he dreaded. At times he loved me, at other times he hated me.
But he always let me tell his story. Without him, Bricktown is different. Brewer isn’t an easy man to memorialize. He accomplished great things. But he was also flawed. I’ll try to delve into that more as time allows.
The news of Mark Schwartz passing was a punch to the gut, even though I knew it was coming. The former longtime Ward 2 Councilman left Oklahoma City briefly in the late 1990s to work as an attorney at the Department of Energy under Bill Richardson. He returned and resumed doing what he loved best – promoting the interests of police and firefighters. Mark was never coy about his loyalty to the guys and women in uniform. He was a key advocate for the 1989 public safety sales tax and did much to ensure the city had adequate public safety.
As with Brewer, my headlines were both kind and cruel to Schwartz. My pesky questioning of a no-bid lobbying contract with Oklahoma County cost him a pretty big job after his return to Oklahoma City. Yeah, I cost Mark serious money. But that didn’t stop us from meeting at VZD’s afterwards, where we bickered over whether Clinton or Bush were the biggest jokes and marveled at how the city was transforming itself before our eyes.
In a profession where you’re supposed to avoid becoming friends with sources, my track record is far from perfect. I can count about a dozen people who were or are my sources who are also very, very good friends. Indict me if you want – I’m human and these things happen over a 19-year career. But ask yourself this – can you still cost a friend a contract worth tens of thousands of dollars in the name of being an objective reporter? I did it with Mark, but our friendship never wavered.
I’ve known his death was coming for the past week, and I’ve been dreading it. No more jokes at VZDs, no more cladestine meetings at Juniors, no more afternoons watching Mark make homemade chicken noodle soup, Jewish style.
There’s so much to tell for tomorrow’s paper, and just eight inches in which I can tell it.