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Ernest Istook, Ed Shadid Comment on Streetcar Discussion

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: June 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm •  Published: June 24, 2013

OK, so a former congressman who has had a history of opposing passenger rail projects not just in Oklahoma City but elsewhere and a local city councilman who has been increasingly vocal in his concerns about the MAPS 3 streetcar system have joined the discussion here at OKC Central.
Let’s start first with Shadid, who didn’t have any real problems with my post other than he doesn’t want people to think is opposed to the concept of streetcars in Oklahoma City:
Ed Shadid insists he’s not against the concept of a streetcar system, but opposes how it’s being done. “This streetcar, this process, this route,” he says, is the basis of his concern. He also he says he has no interest in diverting the tax money budgeted for streetcars to other projects. Before making any change, he says, it should be taken back to a vote of the people. He notes there was no vote of the people for a streetcar or any other project – that the ballot was an effort to get around laws prohibiting log-rolling of projects.
(My note: I will also point out that Pete White has also publicly questioned the streetcar project and has great reservations. And I’ve been told two other council members have concerns. If just one more council member who supports the project is unable to vote on the matter for whatever reason, this could get interesting. I am not making this up or trying to sink the project – only trying to better inform everyone what’s going on behind the scenes).
Istook has a lot of concerns as well. When you look at his comments, understand that much of what I wrote involving Istook is backed up by archive news stories you can access through hyperlinks. The proposed system was 2.9 miles. It was described in early news accounts as light rail – but I did defer to Istook and removed the “light” reference out to make clear it was a rail based transit system. You can also read in the hyperlinks where former Mayor Ron Norick and other civic leaders disagreed with the arguments used by Istook in his effort to kill the 1993 proposal.

Shame on you Steve for false reporting. No light rail system was part of the original MAPS. That proposed only a high-cost, low passenger volume downtown rail trolley that would have carried people in a circle that was smaller than 2 miles. The city’s own official study predicted only a tiny ridership. Most people never read that study but I did. So instead I helped the city get funds for affordable and practical rubber-tire trolleys that were a big success.
I interviewed Randall O’Toole on KTOK only because YOUR newspaper had just printed his letter commenting about the current plan. I took absolutely no position on that plan myself. Why don’t you criticize your employer for getting O’Toole involved rather than take a cheap shot by pretending that he represents an initiative by me? It’s a tired old tactic for you and others to perpetuate old myths at my expense. It’s sad enough when an advocate does this to push their cause; it’s even sadder when a reporter loses objectivity to take sides and tell falsehoods. You may think it’s cute to claim falsely that I hate trains or had a bad childhood experience, but that’s a juvenile accusation. My goal is simply that I’ve worked hard to make sure public dollars and tax money are wisely spent. The false accusations against me should be filed under “fiction.”

Here is Istook’s second response when I reminded him the system was described as “light rail” in early news accounts and that the city reported the proposed system was 2.9 miles. As for objectivity: I have attempted to show what’s going on with both sides of this issue. The streetcar advocates are every bit as upset with me as Istook seems to be in these comments.

Steve you are measuring circumference, NOT the origin-to-destination distance of the 1993 proposal, which is what determines how far people actually would have traveled. Yes, INACCURATE stories have referred to it as light-rail, but that is not what the actual proposal was. Journalists often perpetuate mistakes by repeating them in future stories rather than correcting them as they should do. Your article chose to perpetuate myths, which is sad. I have never opposed the concept of rail travel, but only the all-too-common misportrayals of various transportation projects, not limited to rail. There are some aspects of rail travel that I have consistently praised. So not for you or for anybody would I write that rail per se is bad. False claims used to promote ANY type of spending of tax money is what is bad.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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