Archive for the ‘2010 Elections’ Category

CCP Endorsement Meeting Tonight

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The Committee for County Progress will meet this evening to vote on endorsements in upcoming elections. All dues-paying members are allowed (encouraged, even) to show up and vote on this momentous decision.

“Momentous” might be overstating it, just a little.  As Paul LeVota pointed out at the organization’s End of Session Party, none of the elected officials in the room had won the CCP’s endorsement in their first contest.  Jolie Justus, Jason Kander, even Paul LeVota, the Democratic Floor Leader, had been cold-shouldered for other candidates with more insider connections, though less popular appeal.

True to form, the Executive Committee of the Committee for County Progress is encouraging the membership to support county insider and old-school politico Henry Rizzo over Crystal Williams, a first-time candidate and breath of fresh air, as well as Fred “Been On the County Legislature Since it Was Formed and Even Got a County Golf Course Named After Me” Arbanas over Terry Riley, who has shown himself to be an effective voice for change in the City.

If the CCP membership decides to follow the Old White Male recommendations of its Executive Committee, perhaps a name change would be in order.  Caucus of Conservative Patricians, anyone?

Crystal Williams Already Cleaning Up Jackson County Politics – Diane Williams Dodges the Oath

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Yesterday, Diane K. “Crystal” Williams resigned from the race for the 2nd District At-Large seat on the Jackson County Legislature.  What prompted the sudden change-of-heart?

She was scheduled to answer questions under oath in a deposition this morning.  The lawsuit filed by the real Crystal Williams exploring the circumstances behind Diane K. Williams’ choice to run as “D. Crystal Williams” threatened to expose the involvement of Henry Rizzo in this unsavory political dirty trick.  Faced with the choice of answering questions honestly or covering for Henry Rizzo, Rizzo’s dirty trickster chose door three, and fled.It’s impressive that the real Crystal Williams has already begun chasing the charlatans out of Jackson County politics.  In response to a race-baiting, lie-filled withdrawal letter published on the city’s joke blog, the real Crystal Williams showed real class, focusing her attention not on Henry Rizzo’s slimy tactics, but on the voters of Jackson County -

I am pleased that this issue is now resolved.  I am committed to open and accessible county government, focusing on real solutions designed to improve the lives of Jackson Countians.  That is what the voters of Jackson County deserve, not game playing by people who should know better.

The real Crystal Williams is the real deal, and it’s wonderful to see somebody committed to defeating the filth of the Jackson County Legislature without sinking to their level.  Henry Rizzo should be ashamed of himself.

Let’s Name the Courthouse for Terry Riley

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

How does “Terry Riley’s Jackson County Courthouse” sound?

Terry Riley has filed to run against Fred Arbanas for County Legislature. Riley has my whole-hearted, enthusiastic support. Arbanas has been on the legislature since it was created. He has been a part of the legislature while crimes were committed, while ethics rules were avoided, and while shady deals were passed.

He has been there for every misdeed of the county legislature. I can’t say whether he knew about them or not. Either way, though, he was either oblivious or involved. Neither answer is good.

Worse, he even allowed the County’s only golf course to be named after himself. While it is always a bad idea to name public facilities after living politicians, it’s even worse when a county names one of its nicest parks after a guy who votes for parks budgets, and who benefits from having signs and advertisements trumpeting his name during an election. It was a horrible, corrupt trick to play when it happened, and Arbanas should have had the good sense and integrity to refuse the honor.

But he didn’t.

So now he’s in a genuine, competitive race for “his” seat on the county legislature. To make amends for the fact that the county has promoted the Fred Arbanas golf course for years, they should rename the Jackson County Courthouse for Terry Riley, at least until the election is over. And, since Arbanas’ name has been on signs out on “his” course for years, the county should install neon signs at the top of the courthouse proclaiming the new name.

It’s only fair.

Meeting Candidates – Why Does it Matter?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Political season is upon us, with sequential waves of candidates descending upon us seeking votes for school board elections, followed by County primaries, followed by County generals and Congressional elections, followed by City elections. And, if you take the slightest interest in voting, you will be bombarded with opportunities to “meet and greet” candidates.

It’s a strange phenomenon, really.

From a politician’s perspective, shaking a voter’s hand is THE most effective way of securing a vote. No mailer, no phone call, no 20 page position paper will be as effective for that voter as a firm handshake, a look in the eye, and a couple meaningless words. “I’m Joe Blow, I’m running for ________, and I’d appreciate your vote on August 3,” is all it takes.

We voters are star-struck with shocking ease. That’s the only explanation that accounts for the incredible success that hand-to-hand political conquest offers.

We voters are fools. We believe, like the Worst President Ever, that we can look into someone’s eyes and get a sense of their souls. Spending 30 seconds with a candidate makes most voters think that they’ve taken the measure of the candidate, and gives them confidence that the candidate is worthy of their trust.

It’s not even limited to the charismatic candidates. I’m not immune, and I’ve seen the phenomenon happen with some of the least charismatic candidates imaginable. Somewhere I have a picture of my son and me beaming with Governor Bob Holden – Holden may or may not have been a good Governor, but he certainly was not a splash of transformative inspiration.

It’s the celebrity, I suppose. Meeting someone whose name is in the news gives us a touch of importance otherwise lacking in our daily world. The fact that someone you’ve heard of is sticking his or her hand out meet you is flattering, and, as much as we want to believe otherwise, most of us vote with our emotions more than our brains. Researching policy positions and comparing them to our own half-formed beliefs is nothing compared to having a politician look us straight in the eye and treat us, for a few seconds, as if we matter, as if we are worthy of respect and attention from someone “more important” than ourselves.

It’s not entirely a bad thing. The importance of meeting candidates does force politicians to expose themselves to malcontents and germs, which at least assures us of politicians with a good immune system and some awareness of mental health issues. And, as voters, we are offered the opportunity to weed out a few whose arrogance, general creepiness, or other personality flaws outshine their star power. We may not be able to get a sense of someone’s soul, but we can occasionally recognize a total loser.

So, it’s meet and greet season, and I’ll be out there meeting and greeting. I’ll even host a few candidates I feel strongly about, through deeper conversations and more thorough vetting. That’s how the political process works, particularly at the local level. It’s the best we have, particularly in the absence of an impartial local press that can adequately cover local issues and candidates.

Seek out the candidates. Ask a few questions. See how quickly and intelligently they respond to difficult questons. Shake their hands. But remember to pay more attention to positions and interests than a good grip.

Thoughts from Last Night’s Ethics Forum

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The Committee for County Progress hosted an Ethics Forum last night. Micheal Mahoney served as moderator, with panelists Rep. Paul Levota, Rep. Jason Kander, and David Levinthal, the Communications Director for the Center for Responsive Politics in DC. The panel was great, the discussion was informative, and the crowd was a who’s who of up-and-coming politicos. I don’t have time to do one of my typically verbose descriptions of the event, but here are a few observations:

Paul Levota is funny. At one point, Mahoney was pressing Levota on the unlikelihood that the Missouri Senate will accept contribution limits. Mahoney pointed out that little will be accomplished by sticking to the issue accept to use it as a campaign weapon. “That’s the plan,” Levota deadpanned.

Transparency is crucial. One of the big problems in Missouri is that donors hide behind committees. When checks get funneled from “Missourians for Good Things” to “Missourians for Awesome Things” and then to “Missourians for Nice Things” and then finally to the candidate, it’s awfully hard to track the dollars back to the special interest pulling the strings.

Jason Kander is funny, too.
Commenting on a fellow representative’s $100,000 donor, Kander pointed out that the donor probably gets his calls returned faster than the representative’s children. (Maybe that isn’t funny.)

The Center for Responsive Politics is a tremendous resource. Levinthal was well-informed, completely balanced and thoughtful. The Center is non-partisan, and his straight-arrow style made clear that he is interested in good government, period.

The candidates are out to see and be seen. The crowd was peppered with candidates in up-coming races. I hate to mention names, because I don’t want to neglect anyone, but Crispin Rea was a welcome presence, along with his campaign treasurer Theresa Garza Ruiz. I finally met Jeremy Ploeger for the 51st district, and Geoff Gerling, candidate for the 46th District.

Where were the County Legislators? The only County Legislator in attendance was the always-wonderful Theresa Garza Ruiz. This came as a bit of a shock, given that it was a forum on Ethics sponsored by the Committee for COUNTY Progress. After the legislature’s embarrassing and anti-ethical attempt to avoid ethical home rule, it seems that more of them would have an interest in the topic. Fortunately, Henry Rizzo’s opposing candidate and likely replacement, Crystal Williams, was present.

Speaking of Theresa Garza Ruiz . . . I had a brief opportunity to speak with her about her sudden removal as Chair of the Justice & Law Enforcement committee. Despite her degree and experience in law enforcement, she was unceremoniously dumped from the committee, and the “dumper”, Henry Rizzo, didn’t even talk with her about it first, before awarding the committee Chair to a convicted felon. Theresa didn’t have much to offer by way of explanation of this baffling move, other than to point out that the claim that it’s part of a normal rotation of chairs is demonstrably false.

Micheal Mahoney knows his stuff. Mahoney did a great job of moderating the event, and the high point came when he ran factual rings around a loud audience member who was claiming that money is the be-all and end-all of politics. Mahoney pointed to the Carnahan/Talent race, and when the blustery but ill-informed talker pushed on, he pointed out that the Mayor was also not the leading fundraiser in his election. It was an amusing and deft evisceration of an anti-Funkhouser activist who seemed to be substituting volume for accuracy.

It’s wonderful that so many people care about ethics in Missouri.
On a Thursday evening, a healthy crowd of people came out to a mid-town law office to participate in a high-level forum on the topic of dollars and politics. That’s a pretty impressive level of interest, and the CCP deserves credit for putting on the forum.

Strangers on the Internet – Let’s Be Careful Out There

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I talked with a few people involved in politics recently, and confirmed what I had personally noticed. There seems to be an uptick in the number of new “acquaintances” on the internet eager to share dirt and rumors, or to seek information or opinions about local figures. I had one stranger recently share some outlandish lies about a few women involved in state and local politics.

We’re a year away from elections, and the lying and elaborate deceptions are already starting up.

Personally, I’m glad to be on the sidelines these days. If you’re in the thick of it, though, please be aware and don’t take candy from strangers. Or give it, either.

Fred Arbanas – "I’ve told many, many people that this is my last term."

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

It seems my post yesterday about Mr. Arbanas caused a bit of a stir. According to the KC Star, they asked him about my suggestion that he plans to not run for reelection, and he “responsed” (sic), “That’s a bunch of bunk.” The Star elaborated that Mr. “Golf Course” Arbanas says, “he has made clear to numerous eastern Jackson County organizations that he intends to run for re-election.”

I wonder if they’re the same people he told back in 2004 that he was then in his last term (fast forward to the 4:50 mark). At that time, he stated, on the record and in a meeting, that “I’ve told many, many people that this is my last term.”

Apparently, when nobody filed against him, he decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and stayed in his seat.

This time around, though, he’s going to be almost exactly the same age as John McCain when he’s running for office. He hasn’t run in a contested race since Salt n Pepa and ‘N Sync broke up. But the only way he gets to handpick his successor is if he convinces potential opponents through a gullible press that he still has the fire in the belly.

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. He hasn’t cast a dissenting vote in the past quarter (probably the past few years, but my patience for downloading and reading minutes of legislative meetings has limits). I couldn’t even find an instance where he was alert and engaged enough to second a motion.

I’m sticking with my prediction.

Is Arbanas Stepping Down from Jackson County Legislature? Democracy or Backroom Deal?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Fred Arbanas has served on the County Legislature since it was founded. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not – he was elected in the first class of legislators under the Home Rule Charter in 1973, and has served ever since.

Among the County Legislators, however, he is the only one without an active campaign committee on file with the Secretary of State. His prior committee folded in 2003, a few years after the County Government took on the burden of cementing his name recognition and stature by naming a multi-million dollar golf course after him.

Since then, Arbanas has not faced a challenger in either a primary or general election.

The upcoming elections, though, present a vastly different picture. After the botched attempt to dismantle Ethical Home Rule brought shame to the Jackson County Legislature, and in the aftermath of the shot of adrenaline provided to young Jackson County Democrats by the election of President Obama, a lot of people are looking to run in 2010.

Change is in the air for the Jackson County legislature.

And, really, it can’t be much fun anymore for Arbanas. It doesn’t look like they are going to be naming any other public property after him, and he turned 70 in January. He hasn’t done the hard work of campaigning – dialing for dollars, door-to-door handshaking – in years, and I doubt he wants to work that hard. It’s tough to run an at-large campaign against spirited and ambitious competition.

The issue, though, is how the transition will be handled. My guess is that Mr. Arbanas has some deserving person (upper class white male would be my speculation) that he wants to hand his seat over to. My guess is that they would prefer to handle this on a backroom, handshake basis – Mr. Arbanas will not signal his intention to step down until moments before the filing deadline, in the hopes that nobody else will file to run against an incumbent golf course. At the last moment, his anointed successor will step into the unopposed election, and the winds of change will whistle past District 3.

But that’s all guesswork. My hope is that someone great, with progressive ideas and a willingness to battle the good-old-boy network of the Jackson County Legislature, will pay attention. My hope is that we could get someone else with the energy and intelligence of Theresa Garza Ruiz to make a difference.

CCP – Late and Early?

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Yesterday evening, the CCP gave Harry Wiggins Public Service Awards to Jim Nutter, Sr. and Dutch Newman, and then endorsed Robin Carnahan in her race for the US Senate seat in 2010. The Wiggins awards were well-chosen, and two such stalwart supporters of good government richly deserved their recognition. If anything, they should have received the awards years ago, but it is sometimes difficult to stop and recognize people who are constantly and consistently doing dedicated work, without seeking to draw attention to themselves.

As if to balance out the lateness of their recognition of Nutter and Newman, the CCP also became the first major local political organization to endorse Robin Carnahan for Senate. Personally, I was surprised to see them jump the gun and issue such an endorsement before I announced my own decision about whether to run. When I asked a couple members about that, they assured me that they could rescind the endorsement and jump on my bandwagon when it starts rolling . . .

Day 102 of the Jackson County Ethics Blackout – the CCP Calls for Ethics for All!

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Yesterday, over at Blog CCP, the Committee for County Progress issued the following press release:

P.O. Box 10462
Kansas City, Missouri 64171

For immediate release:
March 18, 2009
CONTACT: Pat McInerney
(816) 983-8364

CCP Calls For Uniform Application of Jackson County Ethics Code

The Committee for County Progress, Jackson County’s oldest political organization, today called on the Jackson County Legislature – and all Jackson County elected officials – to make themselves subject to the Jackson County Ethics Code enacted earlier this year by County Executive Mike Sanders. Following enactment of the code by Sanders, the legislature passed the code as an ordinance but exempted themselves from its provisions. By executive order, the code currently applies only to the County Executive.

“It’s only right that every elected official should be bound by the new ethics code,” said CCP President Pat McInerney. “Because they set the ethical tone for the county, the idea that there is one set of rules for elected officials and another for everyone else really undermines the idea of having an ethics code at all. The new Ethics Commission should immediately review the Ethics Code and recommend whether it will apply across the board or just to some. The code may need other improvements, but exempting the people elected to represent us is not the way to start.”

McInerney said he expected the legislature to abide by the code and predicted that, once resolved, the ethics code issue would not be a campaign issue in 2010. CCP has been involved in previous Jackson County charter issues – urging and passing a measure reducing the number of legislators from 15 to 9 in 1985 – and has been a voice for progressive and open government since its inception in 1964.

That’s good news for those of us who care about good government.