Archive for the ‘2011 Elections’ Category

Sly James, Kansas City’s Next Mayor

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Out of an unusually deep selection of plausible mayoral candidates, one stands out as the person who can work with others to move this entire city forward. More than any other candidate, Sly James will bring maturity, analytical skills, and simple likability to the Mayor’s office. His background in working with others to achieve goals means that he will blend the ability to achieve consensus without sinking into the dangerous and destructive “group-think” that polluted the majority of the City Council and exacerbated the current mayor’s significant flaws.

Those who worked with Sly on the Jackson County Ethics Commission praise his hard work, sober judgment, and ability to work toward consensus. Those who worked with him when he chaired the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association note that he rallied volunteers to achieve goals using nothing more than his charismatic personality, friendly demeanor, and belief in the greater good.

And that is probably what I admire most about Sly James. He is an optimist and a learner. When you talk to Sly James, you cannot help but be impressed with his grasp of the issues, but, even more importantly, you sense that he cares what you think. He probably is the smartest person in the room, but he’s listening to others and engaging them in sincere conversation.

Sly James has run a brilliant campaign. He has rallied support from all over our community, and has locked up the East Side without engaging in the slimy tactic of purchasing Freedom, Inc.’s retail endorsement. He has done the hard work of working the phones to secure donations. He has outworked, outclassed and outsmarted the rest of the field, and he stands in fine position to be one of the two candidates to emerge from the primary on 2/22. After that victory, he will cruise on to a resounding defeat of Funkhouser/Roe in a landslide that will seem more a forward-looking endorsement of a unifying candidate than a divisive rejection of the past.

And that is important. Sly gives us something to look forward to and unify behind. It won’t be black vs. white, north vs. south, county vs. city, development vs. taxpayers. It will be Kansas City moving forward from a past where everyone has looked a little ugly. The past 4 years have been an undignified mess, with horrible, expensive mistakes plaguing the Council and a Mayor who was more obsessed with being right than with being effective.

Sly James offers us a fresh start. I look forward to attending his inauguration with a mixture of joy, inspiration and relief.

Should Anne McGregor Resign from the Primary?

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Anne McGregor was the first person in the race for the at-large council seat for the 4th District of Kansas City, and she ought to be the first person out. If she truly cares about Kansas City and its residents, she holds the power to give us a chance at solid and effective representation in that seat rather than unwavering support for the economically powerful. She can do that by resigning and encouraging people to support Jim Glover.

Right now, there are 4 people in the race. Two of them seek to represent privilege, and two of them (Glover and McGregor) seek to stand up for Kansas Citians who don’t own hotels or country club memberships. One of the candidates of privilege WILL be one of the two winners of the primary on 2/22, and, if McGregor does not resign and unify behind Glover, we may well get stuck with only the two candidates of privilege in the general election.

John Crawford is far and away the leading candidate in terms of effective campaigning, staggering bankbook and support of every rip-off artist eying the Kansas City budget like a personal piggy bank. The development departments of every major law firm have hosted events for their rapacious clients to meet him. Herb Kohn is on board. Tim Kristl is on board. It’s a rogue’s gallery of the wrong people flexing their economic muscle through a likable but wholly-owned candidate. John Crawford will absolutely get through the primary with a strong plurality of the electorate.

Annie Presley is a Republican who brings big money to the race and a Rolodex that includes the country club set of KC. She’s linked to the Blunt family, and she blogs for The Independent, “Kansas City’s Journal of Society”. She does not seek to represent us – she’s there to represent the hyper-privileged segment of KC WASP society that resents the influence of Catholics and Jews on societal institutions. Money and well-connected friends, though, mean that she could be the second person to make it through the primary, delivering the 4th District At-Large Seat to one of two candidates of privilege.

So, either McGregor or Glover needs to beat Annie Presley and mount a serious challenge to Crawford in the general. If both remain in the race, they may well split the core of voters that don’t live on tax-incentives or trust funds. We have one (kind of slim) chance at getting a representative of the people in that seat, and Jim Glover stands the best chance of being that candidate. Ann McGregor should resign from the race and throw her support behind Jim Glover in a last-ditch effort to save the seat for the people.

McGregor has been in the race since before Beth Gottstein announced she wouldn’t run, and she has failed to harness any popular support. She has demonstrated an inability to sway voters at least twice in the path. Her work for Obama delivered such underwhelming Missouri support that we bucked the democratic trend in 2008, and her noisy and expensive ($30,000 +!) effort to unseat Funkhouser was a colossal failure, after she repeatedly and stridently assured us that it would be successful.

Glover, on the other hand, has won City Council races in the past, and his fresh entrance into the field has given a jolt of hope to those that want to see that seat remain responsive to the people instead of the insiders. He has name recognition that Anne McGruff-McGiver-McWho can only dream about. What he lacks, though, is excitement, and McGregor could generate a bit of that by publicly embracing his campaign and standing up for the people of Kansas City.

The time to make this move is now. The primary election will be held in less than 2 weeks. Will Anne McGregor join up with Jim Glover and help Kansas City, or will she ride her dwindling campaign into the ditch it is headed for, and help Annie Presley?

4th District At-Large – Should we take Annie Presley Seriously?

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Annie Presley is a Republican running for city-wide office in a Democratic city. She’s a “Public Relations Professional” who publishes sloppily written right-wing talking points demonstrating an appalling ignorance of basic civics (the President tells Congress what they can vote on, and writes the tax code?). She has a grudge against Catholics and Jews on the Supreme Court, and rails against upper class elitists in Kansas City’s most upper class elitist publication, The Independent, “Kansas City’s Journal of Society”.

As ludicrous as all that seems, she might well be the best candidate to replace Beth Gottstein in Kansas City’s Fourth District At-Large seat.

The problem lies with her opponents. John Crawford is the chosen candidate of the TIF pigs – brazenly embracing every major player who helped starve the school district and library of tax funds while lining their own pockets with millions of dollars and ruining the city’s fiscal future. Herb Kohn is on Crawford’s side. Table-hopping Tim Kristl helped sponsor a forum for him. The most fiscally destructive Mayor in Kansas City’s history issued an effusive endorsement. Development attorneys from Husch Blackwell and Lathrop & Gage have hosted events for him. No wonder, because he was Executive Director of the EDC during its most free-spending days. A vote for John Crawford is a vote to turn the money fountain on full blast.

Anne McGregor is also running for the position, but she has a history of ineffectiveness that makes it difficult to envision her as a successful council member. She was a key Obama campaigner in an effort that turned out an underwhelming vote count and allowed Missouri to sink into the “red state” column and lose its bellwether status. More visibly on the local level, she chaired the embarrassing and unsuccessful effort to recall the Mayor, blowing over $30,000 in the process. Neither endeavor appears on her “About Anne McGregor” page, which leads one to wonder about her commitment to transparency.

Finally, we have Jim Glover. At least I think we do. His campaign has been silent except for the “Kiss of Death” endorsement by the Citizens Association, which has a rich history of choosing losers. I cannot even find a website for him, and the MEC doesn’t show any campaign information for him. He has decent name recognition because of prior city council service and a failed mayoral run, but if he’s going to make a go of it, he needs to start working.

The worst result for Kansas City would be having Kristl, Kohn and Kay have their chosen man on the Council. We cannot afford to return to their fiscal irresponsibility and plundering for wealthy friends. We need an alternative.

Would it be better to have a Republican with a penchant for sloppy reasoning and right-wing talking points on the council than a Kay Barnes protege with a penchant for public funding for wealthy contributors? It’s a tough choice, and I honestly think I would vote for Annie Presley in a head-to-head contest in the hopes that her right-wing posturing would render her a nullity on the Council. Better to have someone who will accomplish nothing than someone who will accomplish a return to the trough for the TIF pigs at our expense.

Come on, Jim Glover – save us from that choice . . .

Jim “Big Money” Rowland – $2 Million Price Tag for KC Pride

Friday, December 31st, 2010

It’s awfully early for Jim Rowland to hit the panic button in his slipping mayoral campaign, but yesterday he panicked and accused Mayor Funkhouser of “hypocrisy” because Funkhouser expressed his happiness that the Chiefs made it to the playoffs. The accusation stems from Funkhouser’s refusal to support an annual $2 million dollar donation the city has made to the stadiums. (The donation was nice when the city had lots of money, but tough times have made the gift-giving unwise and irresponsible.)

Rowland, of course, was the backroom choice to run the Sports Authority, which runs the stadiums.

According to Rowland’s tortured logic, you need to pay $2 million to have pride in anything good that happens in KC. I suppose that he’s accustomed to such a system, since he himself had to pay Freedom, Inc. $50,000 to get them to support him. Everything has a price tag for Jim Rowland, and it’s pretty obvious our city can’t afford his open-checkbook approach to leadership.

KCMayor.com – Wouldn’t it be Ironic?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the insistently anonymous people behind the secretive KCMayor.com website had ties to the construction company that worked with Bill Session on his multi-million-dollar no-bid dirt-moving contract?

That could explain how cozy pro-spending insiders Mike Burke and Jim Rowland keep winding up on top of their weekly polls, while Mayor Funkhouser hasn’t received a single vote since the Port Authority scandal broke open. Not one.

Hmmm.

It makes one wish that they explained exactly what they mean when they say they want a “great mayor”. Does that mean one that facilitates multi-million dollar contracts to well-connected insiders?

Hushing the Minority Voice: Should KC Have At-Large Council Seats?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Kansas City has 6 seats on its Council that are elected by the entire city, instead of by district. While African-Americans comprise ~30% of the city’s population, only 1 of those seats – 17% – is held by an African-American. This election cycle, a white male, Durwin Rice, is running for that seat, having recently moved to the district. Kansas City may soon have an all-white group of at-large council members.

Frankly, I had never given much thought to at-large seats as a policy matter until I read this blog post criticizing Durwin Rice’s candidacy.

I was struck by the incongruity of a white university professor living in Camden, NJ, opining about who should seek the at-large seat of the largely African-American 3rd district of Kansas City. She’s correct in claiming she is an ally of that district, helpfully explaining “which means, I got your back.” Pointedly denying that she could be a good leader for that district, she nevertheless seeks to prevent someone else not “of the district” from running at large, fearing that “her people” (presumably, white people this time) will elect him. It’s a fascinating piece, full of internal conflict and raising all kinds of questions.

It is perhaps unfair to point out that the piece is a white University professor writing from Camden, NJ, to tell a white resident of the 3rd district that he should seek office because he might get elected by the people who get to vote. Passing strange.

All of which is a lengthy introduction to the issue of at-large seats on the Kansas City Council. Why DO we allow people who live up near the airport to vote on who gets to represent people who live at 31st and Indiana? Or vice versa?

As demonstrated by the current under-representation (and potential future non-representation) of African-American at-large Council members, it’s tougher for minority candidates to win at-large races than in-district races. At-large seats have a strong pro-majority, anti-minority bias.

Imagine if, instead of 12 seats divided into 6 districts, we had 12 districts. Perhaps we would see more African-Americans elected. Perhaps we would see a Latino representative. Perhaps we would see large money playing less of a role in our city elections (it’s more expensive to run at-large, while dividing the city into 12 districts would allow a shoe-leather campaign a better chance of winning).

I’d be willing to give up my right to vote for who represents people in the Northeast if I could vote for someone from my neighborhood. What about you?

KCMayor.com – Who’s Hiding and Why?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A new website has created a bit of a stir among local political watchers. KCMayor.com claims to be a “web-based format to educate and inform voters on the candidates running for mayor,” created by “civic minded ‘40-50 somethings’ hoping to make a difference in Kansas City.

An anonymous group of middle-aged people wants to educate Kansas City. Hmm – what could possibly go wrong?

An early look at the project raises a few red flags.

They are giving out the wrong date for the primary, telling people to vote on Monday, February 21, instead of Tuesday, February 22. Probably not an attempt to mislead gullible voters, but a sloppy first step for a shadowy group that presumes to “educate and inform” the rest of us.

More substantively, they are mislabeling fierce election advocacy as “News” rather than punditry. If you click on the link for “Mayoral Race News“, you won’t find what anyone would call news. Instead, you will find (today) 8 items. 4 of them are attack pieces by Yael Abouhalkah, 1 is a self-described “snarky” tweet feed by Tony, and the other 3 are feeds from the Star’s Prime Buzz featuring Mike Burke. 100% opinion pieces, 0% news pieces on a page entitled “Kansas City Mayor’s Race News”. Those pieces were selected by . . . we don’t know whom.

Just wild speculation here, but wouldn’t it be ironic if this anonymous group of “civic minded 40-50 somethings” turned out to have a dog in the fight? Obviously, we would all be viewing this site a little more suspiciously if it were coming from an interest group like the Unions or the heavy construction industry instead of just a group of “civic minded 40-50 somethings”.

Let’s just hope they stop “educating and informing” Kansas City voters that the primary will be on a Monday.

Citizens Association – With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

This week, the Citizens Association has managed to evolve from mere irrelevance to counter-productivity, with a demonstration of the same insider petulance that helped Mayor Funkhouser get elected, and threatens to get him reelected. When I decided last week not to work for Mayor Funkhouser’s reelection, I had no idea that the Citizens Association would do its foolish best to help him.

The Citizens Association, like other local political clubs, provides an opportunity for insiders to cluster and develop what passes for conventional wisdom in Kansas City. They hosted a Mayoral debate yesterday evening, but limited participation to 4 candidates they deemed worthy of their attention.

Let’s remember, this is the “influential” group that fueled Jim Glover to a dismal 5th place primary finish last time around with their powerful endorsement. Then they used their electoral might to assist Alvin Brooks in winning second place in the two-person general election.

The Citizens Association has earned absolutely zero for electoral swagger. Zero.

Mere irrelevance is apparently not enough, though. When Kansas City’s corporate insider group refused to let the elected Mayor even participate in their staged debate, they only hurt themselves (and Mike Burke, their favored son) and helped Funkhouser.

Only Kansas City’s dimmest political bulbs could manage to help a sitting Mayor run as an “outsider”. Only the city’s least self-aware group of insiders could think that locking the Mayor out of their tiny little clubhouse would not come back to bite them and their chosen candidate in the ass when somebody just a little bit smarter than them gets a hold of it. Jeff Roe does not need to be the “best political consultant in the entire universe” to make use of this gem.

Mayor Funkhouser may be unpopular, but contemptuous, superior, exclusive insiders who want to control the city are even less popular.

The winner of the Citizens Association debate was Mark Funkhouser.

Screwing KC Taxpayers – The Downtown Hotel Chapter

Monday, November 8th, 2010

I’ve been watching local politics for decades, and I have never, ever seen the stars align so perfectly to demonstrate how the development community screws Kansas Citians as we will be seeing in the Downtown Hotel saga. (I apologize for using the coarse term “screw”, but any other accurate term would be far more vivid and nasty.) If you want to learn how “big money Kansas City” steals from regular people, grab your popcorn and watch.

First, understand that the big money wants to build a big, expensive hotel downtown, regardless of the consequences for the rest of the city. Why? Because there is a lot of money for them to make, while they bear no risk at all for the inevitable failure of their false projections.

$300,000,000. That’s the low end of what the project is anticipated to cost. That is money that will be spent – pure economic heroin jabbed into the arms of development lawyers, construction companies, consultants and landowners. Three. Hundred. Million. Dollars. (Plus the cost over-runs and change orders and litigation and – well, I would continue on but I can sense the development community reading these words as the hottest form of pornography they can imagine, and I hate to give them that much pleasure.)

How much of this will be your money? An awful lot of it, but they won’t tell us until AFTER the Mayor and Council elections. But look at Indianapolis if you want to see what they are dreaming about; there, they screwed the public to the tune of almost $50,000,000, PLUS free land, PLUS 10 years of not having to kick in a nickle of taxes. Taxes get paid by residents, not public money “capitalists”.

And Indianapolis got off light – the public money “capitalists” are already licking their chops at the prospect of a bigger orgy at Kansas City’s expense. “Deno Yiankes, president and CEO of White Lodging, said his firm was interested in Kansas City but would require a ’significantly higher’ public contribution than Indianapolis.”

“Significantly higher”?!?!?! Please, development crowd, can’t we JUST give you free land, $50,000,000, and 10 years of tax free living, and call it even?! Do you have to hurt us even more???

Ominously, three Mayoral candidates went along on a trip to Indianapolis to look at this “success story”. One wonders if the development people took those candidates for a tour of Indianapolis Public Schools – one of the least successful school districts in the universe. I’m sure it was a nice trip, and they all endorsed the idea of a downtown convention hotel. Folks, we’re screwed.

They won’t discuss the financing details until after the elections. Folks, we’re really screwed.

Downtown hotels barely achieve 50% occupancy rates. As a taxpayer/investor, do you really want to build 1,000 rooms, at a cost of $30,000 each (or more), to enter a market that is so over-saturated that it can sell only half its beds? Of course not.

But, if you’re a construction company or a development lawyer or a consultant, it’s not your money you’re playing with. You will get paid whether the thing flops or not. (Look at the Renaissance Hotel in St. Louis if you want to see how quickly this thing will land in foreclosure, after the construction companies, development lawyers and consultants have been paid.)

And if you’re a candidate for Mayor or City Council, who do you think is going to write you bigger checks? The average Joe barely scraping by, or the public money “capitalists”, who stand to grab a portion of $300,000,000?

Will we sit by and watch it all happen?

Everyvoter – Back from Vacation

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It’s been more than a month since I’ve written anything here. It’s time to start this thing up again.

The unannounced vacation got started for a lot of reasons. But the biggest factor was taking an actual vacation – a week in the mountains of Colorado, hanging out with my wife and friends, fishing, drinking great beer, making and enjoying great meals, and doing almost anything but worrying about the local politics around this city.

On the drive across Kansas on the way back home, I realized I had spent the week at the same level of political engagement that fits the vast majority of voters. I was Everyvoter.

Go up to the average voter on the street, and ask which city district they live in. Most of them will look at you blankly, and say, “umm . . . the 48th?”. But a select few of us will narrow our eyes, and think it’s a trick question. “Did they pass a redistricting plan today?”

Most voters couldn’t name their State Representative. A select few of us can recite the biography of ours.

Most voters are vaguely aware that we will soon have a Mayoral race. A select few of us have our demographic analysis and elaborate predictions of who will emerge from the primary.

In a very real sense, my time in Colorado allowed me to see things through the eyes of Everyvoter, not the hyper-engaged, over-informed eyes of the “select few”. And it was kind of refreshing.

While I’ve been “on vacation”, I’ve started a new job, brewed some good beer, worked on a business plan for the coolest entrepreneurial project I’ve ever dreamed of, and I have not focused on the County Courthouse, City Hall, or Jefferson City. I haven’t worried about voicing my opinions, because I haven’t bothered forming them.

Well, it’s time to come back.