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Issues, not divorce records



Can Oklahoma City become more walkable, provide more police and fire protection and improve its public transportation systems? These are just some of the basic issues that should be addressed in the current mayoral campaign between Shadid and current Mayor Mick Cornett between now and the March 4 election.

Instead, the debate is over marijuana addiction, whether divorce court records should be sealed and the reason Shadid, a physician, once plead the Fifth during legal proceedings as his marriage ended. What’s more, this happened several years ago, and none of it seemed to matter when Shadid won his Ward 2 council seat.

People smoke pot and then stop.

People go through messy divorces and make claims they regret.

The Oklahoman has come after Shadid with what seems like a preconceived political position in the mayoral contest by demanding a judge unseal the divorce records, but Shadid has perhaps also hurt himself with political naiveté.

His supporters have known about his long-term recovery, whatever their views about the addictive properties of marijuana, and understand he went through a contentious divorce that has now been resolved amicably. Shadid has said he and his former wife agreed to seal the divorce records in 2007 to protect their minor children from the ugliness. Shadid has also said publicly that he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself during the divorce proceedings because of marijuana use.

But these issues obviously make fodder for ad hominem political attacks, and the stakes are higher because the office of mayor itself is more important. Shadid and his political camp had to know personal attacks were coming and might have been better prepared.

It should be noted that media outlets make reporting exceptions for minors or victims by not revealing their names or other identifying information. Sealing divorce records to shield minor children from overwrought parental arguments that don’t matter anymore might be rare, but that doesn’t make it wrong in itself. The Oklahoman’s push to open the records could send a chilling message to any local public figure who wants to be open about their addiction and recovery to help others. The divorce records may end up public after a scheduled hearing before Oklahoma County Special Judge Lisa Hammond on Friday.

In recent posts on Shadid’s Facebook page, Oklahoma City residents have been urged to consider the ramifications of building a convention center hotel; the conditions of the city roads; and the “inadequate public response to addiction, which is overrunning the city of OKC ...”

What needs to happen in an ideal universe is spirited debate between Shadid and Cornett, who is also divorced, on the city’s direction when it comes to these issues and others. What someone rashly claimed as they went through a divorce several years ago might make for sensational media interpretations or dubious attack-ad material, but it’s hardly reliable information.

Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and a longtime local political writer.

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