Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Annexation: Hicks Creates Mock Press Conference

Media bias often comes not from what is mentioned in a story, but what is not mentioned.

Yesterday, Dan Hicks called a press conference that was pretty well attended, in attempt to represent lack of citizen support for the city's plan to annex the Tulsa County Fairgrounds.

The major news that came from the conference was District 8 City Councilor Bill Christiansen's change of heart regarding the issue. Less that two months ago, Christiansen called for the annexation by the city, referring to the issue as a "no brainer." Now he says he's changed his position because he has "decided to step back and view the situation with the eyes of a citizen."

I served on the council for years with Mr. Christiansen and witnessed many issues on which he later changed his position. This would be admirable, if it weren't so obviously done for political rather than policy reasons. Seeing the situation "from the eyes of a citizen", in this case, means Christiansen's afraid of taking an unpopular position, which he once viewed to be in the best interests of the city he's elected to serve, because it might cost him votes.

It's easy to lead people where they want to go. Leaders are the ones that pursue issues that are not popular at the time, but prove to be correct later.

But what I really wanted to report on deals with the other three participants in the press conference. Three women Hicks found who were willing to voice their opposition to the annexation of county property. They are, Vicki McCabe, Liz Garrison and Candace Chonka. In fact, the Tulsa World's story featured a photograph of the women, instead of a picture of Christiansen. [click here to see photo]

Here's what's interesting. The photo shows McCabe and Garrison looking on as Chonka "speaks against city annexation of the Tulsa County fairgrounds." What isn't shared with the paper's reader is this.

Candace Chonka is Dan Hicks' sister!

What also isn't shared is the fact that both Ms. McCabe and Ms. Garrison (the two women providing "moral" support in the photo] attend the same church as Mr. Hicks [Tulsa Bible Church]. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but do you think the press conference would have been as effective, if this was known by the press at the outset?

[Correction: I initially reported that Candace Chonka, Mr. Hick's sister, is a resident of Bixby. I based this on a Google search of her name, which returned an address that appears to be within the city limits of Bixby. However, Ms. Chonka has complained to the Republican Party Headquarters that she is a Tulsa resident. I will accept this as true, because her city of residency was originally stated to be an item of "additional interest," and is not central to the point of this posting. I sincerely apologize for any distress that I may have caused her.]

So what we have is a press conference held in the home of a political supporter of County Commissioner Fred Perry [Hicks knocked doors and put out signs for Perry], which featured that supporter's sister and two of his friends from church, and one "waffling" Councilor, who lost his bid for the same County Commission seat now held by Fred Perry, against whom Hicks mightily campaigned only a few months ago. Hmmmmm....

This is a quintisential Dan Hicks tactic. Create the illusion that he has widespread support for his position and then use that "support" to manufacture a news item. It's just a shame that the Tulsa World and KOTV didn't vet these "citizens" before they ran with their stories.

Or...would they have done anything different, even if they had vetted them?


Savage Baptist said...

I rather like Dan Hicks and have almost always found myself in agreement with him. No doubt it would have been better to note the composition of his "crowd", purely to defuse any potential later criticism, but other than that, I'm not sure that I see anything wrong here.

Dan Hicks is one of a only a few people for whom I'd vote in a heartbeat, should he every choose to run for office.

Anonymous said...

I have two comments.

First, I believe the depiction of Ms. Chonka as a Bixby resident is inaccurate; I believe that she does live in Tulsa.

Second, as a "Tulsan" who does not live within the city limits of Tulsa - it is my fairgrounds too. Why should living within the city limits of Tulsa be a requirement for having or expressing an opinion about the city annexing our fairgrounds?