I can’t remember exactly what year it was when Oklahoma City came very, very, very close to losing the American Indian Cultural Center to Edmond. This is a story that might offend someone I’ve known for a long time – someone I like – Pat Downes. But truth be told, and I think he knows this, he was off his game when he led the pitch for the Oklahoma River to become home to the future museum. Edmond, meanwhile, did a razzle-dazzle that almost sealed the deal then and there.
Then Mayor Kirk Humphreys got reports of the presentations and immediately went to work making the deal his own personal mission to revive Oklahoma City’s chances. And sure enough, Oklahoma City ultimately prevailed.
I don’t know Rick Cain, director of COTPA and MetroTransit, to be anything but a good man. But he’s no Mike Knopp. And as Blair Humphreys noted on his blog www.imaginativeamerica.com, Knopp, who will someday be honored with a statue of him along the river for his accomplishments, did far better pitching his vision for how the waterway might fit into a MAPS 3 ballot than did Cain according to multiple sources who were in attendance at the recent Greater Oklahoma City Chamber retreat.
Now, does this translate into transit being left off the ballot? I don’t think so. But it might have a tougher road ahead according to some I’ve talked to. Observers say the case for transit was greatly weakened when Burns Hargis reduced his civic involvement locally to take the reins as president at Oklahoma State University. Burns Hargis was a big time transit advocate, was well liked and influential, and happened to be past chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
So who is to take up this cause? Mayor Mick Cornett, when pressed, says transit will be a part of any MAPS 3. He’s not saying to what degree, however, and if one is to gauge interest by the amount of time spent talking about different topics and the experts invited to speak at the recent Mayors Development Roundtable, the mayor appears to be far more interested in a new convention center and Core to Shore.
So is there reason for transit advocates to feel insecure about their issue getting its due as part of any upcoming ballot? Maybe. But who is to lead this charge? And will they make a better presentation than Rick Cain? And are they willing to be transparent as they solicit money from the public to advance their cause? And do they really have the backing of Mayor Mick Cornett?
That’s the motivation behind my series of questions to Jeff Bezdek, someone who has enjoyed years of positive coverage from me. This is the first time I’ve asked him what are being perceived as tough questions, and in response I’ve been accused of dropping my journalistic standards, muckraking, persecuiting Jeff and being anti-transit.
How odd. Maybe it is all about the presentation; I started off by displaying Mick Cornett’s appearance on Jeff’s website and reporting it wasn’t an endorsement. I made this post after fielding questions about this matter from readers. As Jeff and his supporters got upset over it, accusing me of not doing “due dilligence,” I proceeded to ask questions that haven’t been asked to date – who are the board members, is the group a registered non-profit, and what is Jeff’s background.
This isn’t the first time I’ve angered folks with questions. It won’t be the last.