Archive for the ‘Mayor Funkhouser’ Category

Something’s Fishy With the Recall Excuse

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The Recall Group is claiming that the only reason it is not seeking a recall in court is because they don’t have $10,000 to bankroll a lawsuit. The Star does its best to bury the smelly corpse with the remarkably gullible claim that “In the end, the effort to recall Mayor Mark Funkhouser simply ran out of money.”

Folks, I don’t think they’re telling us the whole truth.

First off, there’s no way they couldn’t find $10,000 if they really thought they had a chance in court. Friends of other candidates would find a way to make it happen overnight. Barring that, they could have gone back to the streets and raised the money in a couple weekends. Not even counting the bogus signatures, that would be less than a dollar each. This thing has been headed up by a real estate lawyer and an experienced campaign professional – no way in hell are they giving up because they can’t raise $10,000.

Second, they had a lawyer right there. Harris Wilder, their long-winded spokesperson, is an attorney in good standing, fully capable of typing up a petition and filing it. Dividing the $10,000 by $200 per hour (a fairly low rate for experienced attorneys), they’re ballparking the thing at 50 hours of time – a long week of work, perhaps, but dwarfed by the hours other people put in on this whole misguided effort.

Third, there wasn’t a deadline here. If they thought they had a valid claim, they could spend the time they need to raise the funds for the suit. Why would they throw in the towel so quickly? Remember when, a few weeks ago, they made a big deal out of hiring an experienced Civil Rights lawyer to give them legal advice?

And that, friends, is the fly in the ointment.

They’ve received their legal advice, and they know it’s time to exit the stage. They failed to gather enough signatures, and no lawyer can change that fact. On top of that, I imagine those volunteers who submitted bogus signatures begged for this thing to go away as quickly as possible, in the hopes of avoiding criminal charges. When you ask someone for $10,000, they ask smart questions, and I imagine every donor lost interest the moment they saw the legal grounds proffered.

By pretending that their effort is shutting down because they could not raise $10,000, the Recall people are refusing one last time to admit the truth. They failed, plain and simple. $10,000 was not going to bring them any success, or they would have their $10,000, and plenty more where that came from. But they don’t have to admit that to themselves if they can point the finger at someone else for failing to rescue them from their own failure.

80+% of Voters Refuse Recall! Funkhouser Riding Crest of Popularity!

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

News reports are claiming that recall petitioners were unsuccessful, after a month, plus a 10 day extension, to get 20% of the last Mayoral vote count to sign a petition triggering a recall election. After massive publicity and many boasts that they were well on their way to achieving their goal, recall organizers could not attain the required 20%.

Political observers recalled that Funkhouser only won his original election by the slimmest of margins, with nearly 50% of the voters opposing him at the time. Now, a little more than 2 years into his term, less than 20% of the voters oppose him.

With 80+% of the electorate supporting him, Funkhouser’s political power is at a zenith few can remember ever seeing in Kansas City. “He’s kind of like George Brett, Len Dawson and Harry Truman rolled into one, all without the support of the Kansas City Star,” gushed one experienced politico. Steve Glorioso groused, “If only Kay had some of that Funkhouser mojo, she would be in Congress right now.”

Plans for a ticker-tape parade through downtown are not yet finalized, as City Council members are bickering over who should get to sit next to him on the parade route.

Recall on its Way? Show Me . . .

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Yesterday, the Recall activists turned in 13,000 new signatures in support of their effort to force a recall vote on Mayor Funkhouser. While some proponents of recall are declaring victory, such a claim is premature. A large percentage of their initial batch of signatures were invalid; a similar percentage for this batch would result in the effort falling almost exactly at the cut-off point.

Even if enough signatures are gathered, legal questions about the sufficiency of the grounds stated will need to be considered by the courts, and, of course, nobody has emerged as a strong candidate to replace the Funk.

I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I am saying I’m not convinced it will. The next few weeks are going to be interesting.

Fraud and Perjury in Recall Effort? (See above)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

(This entry remains posted only to place the entry two above it into context. The information provided in this post is erroneous and should not be relied upon.)

I stopped by my local grocery store yesterday on the way home from work, and finally had an opportunity to see the “Funkhouser Recall” petition effort under way.

I suspect the effort has resorted to paid signature gatherers, because the woman posted at Brookside Market yesterday afternoon was lurking out in a lower traffic area than is typically used by the many solicitors that frequent that location. (As an aside, the entrance to Brookside Market is one of my favorite “free speech” zones in Kansas City – it is a hot spot for petitioners, Girl Scouts, school groups, etc., and a real asset to our community.) When I noticed her clipboard, I asked her what she was gathering signatures for, and she replied, “For the Mayor.”

I told her that I consider myself for the mayor, and she handed me the petition.

Of course, the petition was not “for the mayor”, as she claimed, but it was for a recall of the mayor. When I saw that it was one of the recall petitions, I asked her what the legal grounds for recall were. She replied, “Uhh, he’s not doing a good job.”

Folks, those are not legal reasons to recall a Mayor. Telling someone that it is, in an attempt to gain his or her signature, is a form of attempted fraud.

More significantly, however, I saw no statement of the reasons to recall the Mayor attached to the Petition. The notary certification, however, promises that each submitted signature was put onto the petition paper “to which was attached at the time of signing a list of the grounds alleged for such removal”. If there had been such a listing, the signature gatherer could have simply shown it to me.

If the petition circulated outside the Brookside Market on April 28, 2009, gets submitted as part of the recall effort, with a sworn signature that the signatures were gathered with a list of the grounds for recall attached, we may be looking at perjury.

Not Gonna Fight It, and I Hope Funk Doesn’t, Either . . .

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Like our Mayor, I disagree with portions of the budget passed by a 12-1 margin yesterday. Most of the disagreements are relatively minor, but a few of them (deep cuts to the police, $1.7M donation to the County) might be worth screaming about. And I know how to carry the fight to them, too. Call on Funkhouser to veto their scandalous budget and force them to cast their votes twice in favor of hurting our City. Divide the $1.7 million by the 12 votes in favor and ask whether any one of them is worth the $142,000 they are giving to the County, and maybe even try to tie them into the Jackson County Ethics Blackout. Scream about the “Marcason-Hermann Police Cuts” and set up a weekly report on which crimes get assigned to which Council members.

Yeah, when it comes to being a screaming ass, I could write the book. But I’m not going to play that game, though some say I’m pretty good at it.

Fact is, our Council has put in a lot of effort on this budget. I can sit here on the sidelines and Monday morning quarterback all I like, but they are the ones who had to jump into the mudpit and wrestle the beast. If I really, really, really, think I’m absolutely, clairvoyantly right about how to set up a budget and balance the priorities to lead our city forward, I should have either run for office back when they put their reputations and wallets on the line, or I should have been at every public budget meeting and forum offering them my spectacular wisdom.

Instead, I stayed home.

That doesn’t mean they’re above criticism for foolish decisions (ahem, extending Cauthen) or that I won’t complain when they use hard cases to make bad law (ahem, anti-Volunteer ordinance), but there comes a time when a good citizen knows when to shut up. This is one of them. They managed to unify behind a budget that may be imperfect, but it’s a sober document reflecting hard choices and deep thought. If I thought they were supporting an insane, irresponsible, ill-thought-out budget, I would be screaming, but nobody can seriously claim their budget is not a realistic attempt to wrestle with our problems.

Funkhouser voted against it, and I can respect his vote. Like him, I personally think the police cuts are too deep, and that when it comes to basic services for all, public safety is job one. Politically, the vote might have been wise, too, since he can now point to that vote as having stood up for citizens and police when the council gave money away to the county and stadiums.

But it’s a pretty weak point, and it’s been made now. Vetoing the budget will change absolutely nothing, practically or politically.

It’s time to move on.

The time for fighting about the budget is over. Ultimately, neither Funkhouser, the City Manager nor any of the Council members won or lost the battle, because it’s really about US. As citizens, we have elected representatives that have decided on a budget by a 12-1 margin, and any further fighting about it is game-playing that can only distract our representatives from getting on with the business of overseeing the implementation of that budget.

So, instead of screaming or personal attacks or any other pushback on this budget, I want to thank our City Council. You’ve worked hard on a budget, and come up with a document that united twelve of you. That’s impressive work, and my admiration is sincere. Each of the twelve who voted for the budget worked hard to arrive at something that you think represents Kansas City’s best interests, and my points of disagreement are incapable of overshadowing my appreciation.

Fine work, City Council. I hope our Mayor signs on now that the time for fighting is past.

Is the City Council Irrelevant?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Yesterday, Funkhouser went ahead and signed the ordinance extending the TIF package for the Savoy Hotel. While I criticized the extension here yesterday, and I questioned the good faith of the Council, the developer and even the developer’s lawyer, it turns out that the only party truly deserving of scorn on this issue is the Council.

The developer, developer’s attorney, Funkhouser and the other taxing districts went ahead and worked out a better deal without the Council, rendering irrelevant the Council’s attempt to actually harm our city. Actually, as Mark Forsythe correctly pointed out the other day, they had already worked out a better deal before the City Council followed joined in Terry’s Terrible Temper Tantrum and, incredibly, approved a worse deal for the city than was already on the table!

Truthfully, they went ahead and approved an ordinance that was worse than the developer had actually agreed to, just because Terry Riley was angry that someone else had negotiated the deal!
Is that the sort of person you voted for?

Fortunately, the adults fixed the situation. Through written, good faith agreements apart from the Council, the developer agreed to do the right thing, whether the Council cares about the good of the city or not. Thank goodness Funkhouser worked with them to make it all come out okay.

Meanwhile, city hall observers are left to smirk at the Council’s behavior. The more juvenile members of the Council have been claiming lately that the Mayor is “irrelevant”, just because they don’t talk to him much. Sadly, the Council is becoming Junior High at its worst, with cliques excluding others on the Council and bragging about it to the rest.

If Mark were the sort to join in those games, he would be out whispering to others that the Council is “irrelevant”, and snickering at the silly ones who joined in Riley’s malfeasance.

But he won’t do that.

Instead, he realizes that the Council remains very relevant, and capable of much more mischief in the future. In this instance, he managed to prevent them from bringing as much harm to the City as they attempted, but he knows we are still burdened with Cauthen for a couple years because of their immature behavior. Alas, the City Council may be outsmarted on occasion, but they are not irrelevant. Fortunately, neither is the Mayor.

Savoy TIF – A Reason to Despair

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

If Kansas City is ever going to do the right thing, this should have been the moment. Everything was set up absolutely perfectly for success, and we absolutely blew it.

We have some fine and intelligent people on our City Council. We have a Mayor who even his most dogged opponents acknowledge has the political courage to stand up to developers seeking to get wealthy from tax funds. We have a budget crisis raging, to keep the focus on the budget imbalances created by bad decisions made in the past. We even have a sane economic development policy that the Council has already agreed upon, to help it make rational decisions.

Surely, under these circumstances, when a wealthy developer approached our City with his hand out, our Council would have the strength and good sense to honor their commitment to the citizens of Kansas City, right? Surely, at this moment of crisis, they would not screw us one more time, for old times’ sake . . .

Wrong.

Absolutely incredible. With the sole exceptions of Mayor Funkhouser and John Sharp, the City Council went ahead and showered a rich developer with undeserved tax breaks, at the urging of a well-connected development lawyer who gave them money.

For a great explanation of just how bad a deal this was, go read Mark Forsythe’s excellent analysis at The Kansas City Post. Make no mistake about it, Kansas City taxpayers are helping to make the rich richer, while facing cutbacks in basic services.

And your council member is fine with that.

If they’re not going to stand up for us now, when will they stand up for us? When Terry Riley chooses not to play silly games over turf? When the development lawyer appearing before them has not greased their palms with substantial campaign donations? When the contrast between having money to pay for basic services and having money to pay for a “four star” restaurant is somehow sharper?

It’s moments like these that make me wonder why I care. The deck is stacked in favor of the status quo, and even good people like my city council representatives are riding with Terry Riley and Jerry Riffel instead of Kansas City taxpayers.

I can only hope that sometime today, Mayor Mark Funkhouser vetoes this disgusting display of legislative sell-out, and that a few good council people will look themselves in the mirror and think about why they got involved in the first place.

I know it’s politics, but, really, how could you fall this far?

We don’t owe $2,000,000

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Mark Funkhouser has taken a lot of heat for his proposal that the City should stop paying $2,000,000 out of its general funds to support the Truman Sports Complex. He’s absolutely right. We have no contract or law obligating us to make such a staggering gift, and it is insulting to the poor citizens of Kansas City that we would reduce basic services while subsidizing suburban entertainment.

According to news reports, Mike Sanders and others are claiming that if the City of Kansas City does not bail out the stadiums, it will be violating the leases, freeing the Royals and Chiefs to leave the area. That is an absolute lie, and I have the proof.

I have read the lease agreements, and found something amazing. The City of Kansas City did not sign the leases. In fact the agreements (page 13, section 14.a.ii, of the Royals contract and page 21, section 10.5.2(ii)(a) of the Chiefs contract) to be precise) refer to payments by the City as “currently” $2,000,000, which clearly anticipates that the amount could change in the future. Mike Sanders is playing with other people’s money.

Kansas City cannot violate a lease it never signed.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the City’s budget, and this is not a good year for us to be giving money away when we are under no obligation to do so. In a time when we are looking at cutting the police, closing community centers and jacking up the property tax, it’s impossible to justify spending such a huge amount of money for stadiums. We are in the process of firing people – city employees are losing their jobs – and Mike Sanders wants us to spend $2,000,000 to cover an obligation owed by the County??

Will Mike Sanders be willing to walk into the offices of $2,000,000 worth of those City employees and tell them that he’ll be thinking of them when he’s watching a Chiefs game from the fat-cat suite after parking like a rock star? (Check out page 16, Section 7.4.)

The simple fact is that the City of Kansas City owes no money whatsoever under the leases. If anybody wants to claim that we are so obligated, I would ask that they show us the legal documents that back up their claim.

If, on the other hand, they resort to bogus claims like “Kay Barnes promised . . .”, ask them if they really, truly believe that is how government works. Did “Credit Card” Kay Barnes really have the ability to obligate the city with a speech? If you believe that, you really have no idea how the process of government works. If Mark Funkhouser announces in a speech that the City will, without any sort of ordinance or documentation, or signing any contract, give $2,000,000 to me every year forever, because he likes my writing, is the City on the hook?

And don’t let them trot out the old “economic engine” argument, either. Of course there are tangential benefits to having the Chiefs and Royals in town, but that’s true of any employer or tourist attraction. And a lot of those benefits go to Lee’s Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, Liberty and Overland Park. How about if the City of Kansas City matches the tax dollars chipped in by those municipal governments?

Sadly, this is a very difficult budget year. I would love to see the City in a position where it could make a $2,000,000 charitable contribution to help the County live up to its contractual obligations. Especially if we could do that AFTER helping the truly needy in our community, with things like better police protection and codes enforcement. But, really, we cannot do that this year.

Those two millions dollars to not come out of thin air. They represent choices. If we put $2,000,000 into the stadiums, when we are not obligated to do so, we need to take $2,000,000 from somewhere else.

Why should we pay what we do not owe?

Should Equal Rights Apply Only During Economic Good Times

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

One of my City Councilmembers, Beth Gottstein, has introduced a proposed ordinance to ban discriminatory dress codes in publicly subsidized redevelopment plans and projects. The ordinance is, of course, a reaction to the dress code that the people at the Cordish Companies have used to deny access to the tax-advantaged Power & Light District for people dressed in, shall we say, an “urban” style. Not surprisingly, the ban on ball caps and white t-shirts was sometimes ignored for shall we say, “suburban” looking people.

Beth Gottstein, along with Terry Riley, Mayor Funkhouser and John Sharp, has come out against having our tax dollars subsidizing discrimination. Who could possibly disagree?

Sure enough, the local blogosphere provides an example of someone willing to stand up for prejudice if it’s profitable. Over at the Kansas City Post, we are instructed that “As far as the P&L, our primary concern right now should be revenue.” The focus should not be on equal rights in a time of economic crisis, it should be on revenue. “I would like to see the numbers on how many potential patrons are turned away, and what the projected lost revenue is. I doubt it’s even a drop in the bucket.” It’s not that they’re too black, it’s that they’re not green enough?

I’m grateful that Councilmember Gottstein has found a revenue-neutral way to help our city become a better, more welcoming place. Her dedication to building bridges and reaching out to all facets of our community has been an important part of her character for years – long before we were fortunate enough to gain her leadership on the Council.

Some things remain more important than revenue, even during times of economic crisis. While some among us feel that “Hard economic times call for singular focus,” leaders like Gottstein realize that good people don’t turn on each other during hard economic times. Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Thank you, Beth, for helping Kansas City stand in a goood place at a time of challenge. That’s why we voted for you.

Siettmann, Roe, Cashill – Stuck in the Middle with Funk

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

In the comments to my posting of the Funkhouser budget letter, I’ve been questioned about our Mayor’s recent hiring of Mark Siettmann, a man who formerly worked for Jeff Roe’s company, Axiom Strategies, as well as Jack Cashill’s attempts to portray himself as an influential member of Funkhouser’s inner circle. One of the joys of blogging is that I always get to pick and choose what I write about, and it’s easy to avoid issues I don’t want to talk about. But the questions raised are fair questions with (I think) interesting answers, so here goes.

First off, I don’t think Cashill has any influence on the Mayor outside of his own mind. If Mark let the guy look at some of his speeches and make suggestions that he didn’t accept, well, that’s just an example of Mark’s kindness to a guy who not many people will give the time of day to. Cashill is loudly irrelevant and has been for years, and I admire Mark for treating him gently.

Jeff Roe is a different matter, though. It bothers me that Mark talks to the guy. (The advocate in me wants to point out some of the other Dems who have done the same thing, but that’s advocacy, not logic.) While I understand that it’s smart to get a diverse set of perspectives on issues, I have a problem with a lot of Jeff Roe’s tactics. I’ve conveyed my displeasure at the idea, but I’m not the one who got elected Mayor, so that’s not really my decision.

So, honestly, no, I don’t like the whole consultant deal, but I’m not naive enough to be shocked. There’s a limited pool of high-level talent out there, and most of them are entrenched to the same pro-developer, chattering class crowd that Mark ran against, and defeated. He kind of had to go outside the usual crowd, and he did.

Now, moving forward, here’s where I stand. If Siettmann is shown to have written homophobic material, just get rid of him right away. I was wrong when I argued that Semler’s appointment could be justified, and I learned from it. This case would be even easier – Mark should tell him to clean out his desk the day he gets the proof.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, then I hope the guy does a super job. Remember, his job is to do communications, not policy. Those of us who know Mark know that the public persona of Mark Funkhouser is nothing like the real man. If someone can help the real man appear more clearly to Kansas Citians, that would be a fantastic thing. If someone can help show how foolish the City Council is when it makes outrageous mistakes in defiance of Mark (like when they gave Wayne “Lie on the Resume” Cauthen a fat 3 year contract), that would be a fantastic thing, too. Mark needs to shake up his public image if he is going to accomplish what is best for the city, so good luck, Mr. Seittmann.