Archive for the ‘political insiders’ Category

KC Political Nastiness – Who’s Covering for Whom?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

[UPDATE: According to a piece published at the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz, Jim Bergfalk has explained that he does not appear on the ethics disclosure because he did the despicable last-minute mailing as a citizen exercising his free-speech rights for free Thanks to Dave Helling for tracking the info down. No thanks to Bergfalk for trying to drag a rare high-road campaign into the gutter. And shame on the labor groups for paying to spread Bergfalk's bile into my mailbox.]

Who was behind the repulsive anti-Burke flier that went out just before the KC Mayoral election?

Jim Bergfalk claimed he did it, in a piece written by Dave Helling. He said that the money came from labor groups.

Oddly enough, the MEC reports filed by the falsely-named “Committee for Integrity” confirm that labor paid for the slimy hit pieces (specifically, the Heavy Labor Construction Fund and the Operating Engineers Federal [?] PAC), but Bergfalk’s fingerprints are nowhere to be found. Instead, the money trail leads to The Lazarus Group.

Now, why would Jim Bergfalk claim responsibility for a mailer that came from someone else?

I honestly don’t know.

But I do know that the hasty “admission” came when Dave Helling was following up on this blog’s story that former king-maker Jim Nutter was a major donor to the “Committee for Integrity”.

It’s passing strange what comes out when you start kicking around the secretive committees and money streams that fuel the backroom deals of local politics.

Is Jim Bergfalk the Fred Phelps of Kansas City Politics?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The mayoral candidates were quite clear. They wanted to run clean campaigns, refusing to further divide the city, and reflecting their mutual respect.

But that wasn’t good enough for “political consultant” Jim Bergfalk. Just like Fred Phelps outside an Elton John concert, he wanted to subvert a civic occasion into an opportunity to spew negativity. But he didn’t have Phelps’ integrity to personally stand up and be seen with his slimy message; instead, he hid behind a secretive committee with unknown sponsors and deposited his slime into our personal mailboxes.

“I just thought that Sly James was going to ‘nice-guy’ himself into a second-place finish,” Bergfalk said. So Bergfalk decided that Sly James was just too stupid to embrace Bergfalk’s trick of dragging candidates into the mud, and sent out a brochure that attacked Mike Burke with exaggerations and misrepresentations. He showed up uninvited, just like the Phelps clan.

Now, let’s be clear. Just like Phelps, Bergfalk and the people who give him money have a Constitutional right to their free speech – a right I will happily defend against governmental interference. But that doesn’t make their behavior acceptable or appropriate.

One of the few moral distinctions between Phelps and Bergfalk is that Phelps does not (apparently) personally profit from his vile behavior. He faces angry motorcycle mobs and the derision of 99.99999% of society when he shows up with his hate signs, but he doesn’t get $10,000 checks from well-connected Kansas City insiders. Bergfalk, however, gets paid to pollute our political atmosphere. Until he files his reports Jefferson City, we won’t know exactly who hired the political assassination (and, yes, I will be featuring those names in this space when I get them), but we do know that Bergfalk doesn’t slime good people simply because he has a twisted understanding of the Bible. He slimes good people for money.

Unlike Fred Phelps, though, people like Jim Bergfalk are not held accountable in public opinion for what they do. “It’s part of the game,” political insiders say, and welcome him back into their cocktail parties without even insisting he shower away the stench first.

Did you enjoy the generally clean Mayor’s race? Do you wonder why we can’t have more races like that one – where just about everyone was happy to be choosing between two candidates they could respect and support?

The reason we can’t have more elections like that is because of people like Jim Bergfalk and the people who give money to people like Jim Bergfalk. I’m sick and tired of it, and I’m willing to name names and talk in the open about it. I will happily publish the names of the people who funded the attack piece on Mike Burke when they become available. And I call upon everyone in Kansas City, when they encounter those people on the streets and in their daily lives, to ask why they embrace the tactics of Fred Phelps.

If you really want clean campaigns, the first step is to hold accountable those who make them dirty.

5 Reasons To Vote for Sly James – Reason #5: Mike Burke is the King of TIFs

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

In 6 days, Kansas Citians will go to the polls to pick the next Mayor, and far too many of them have developed a severe case of post-Funk apathy, unwilling or unable to see past the “anybody but Funk” paradigm. While it’s true that we all share a sense of civic relief, we have a choice to make on Tuesday, and anybody who says there’s not much difference between Sly James and Mike Burke is either woefully uninformed, or a Burke supporter trying to lull you into complacency.

Sly James is, by far, and for important reasons, the better candidate. Over my next 5 posts, I’m going to tell you why. I’m not working for Sly, and nobody who is has offered me any suggestions or help – this is just me, a person who cares deeply about our city and has been paying a lot of attention to what has gone wrong and what has gone right in our City for the past couple decades.

So, today, let’s talk about failed development projects and Mike Burke. In a nutshell, TIFs are a way that increased tax revenue generated from a development project gets redirected from schools, libraries and general revenue, back into the project itself. So, when a developer gets Tax Increment Financing, he gets to spend tax revenue on his own infrastructure instead of supporting the police, school children and roads that the rest of us drive on. That smooth parking lot in the suburban strip mall is why you drive over metal plates in the poorer neighborhoods.

Mike Burke’s law firm has made millions of dollars – millions – by helping people take tax money from our schools and roads and put it into developers’ pockets – so they can pay millions of dollars to their lawyers. Follow the money, and you’ll see Mike Burke’s law firm getting money that otherwise would go to plow snow off our streets, or maintain swimming pools for our kids. He made it when his law firm represented TIF clients, and he made it when he served as attorney for the Port Authority.

Look, for example, at the Prospect North TIF project, and you’ll shake your head in disgust. Mike Burke’s law firm has made good money because of a debacle that is costing the city $1 million a year. Folks, it was awful when the “Mammy” lawsuit cost our city a few hundred thousand dollars once; this is like having a couple “Mammy” lawsuits every single year for 21 years! And, if you drive up to see what your tax dollars paid for, you’ll see nothing but vacant lots, weeds, and some unused roads. It’s dismal and sad.

We can’t afford that kind of liability.

Kay Barnes, who was mayor when this and other massive development raids were hatched in back rooms, has endorsed Mike Burke. No wonder. Amusingly, the Burke supporters are claiming that Mike’s cozy relationship with insiders like Barnes and others is a reason we should support him. He promises to “hit the ground running”, because he served on the council way back in the 80s, and has been running the city into the ground ever since with projects like Prospect North.

We can’t afford that kind of experience.

But enough about Burke’s history of deal-making – I promised 5 reasons to vote FOR Sly James, and so far I’ve only talked about why not to vote for Burke.

Sly James has a solid understanding of what this city needs, and he intends to use development wisely to put Kansas Citians to work. A project that builds empty roads in vacant land does not help anybody but a few already-wealthy lawyers and one road contractor. Sly has a far better vision.

Sly James would focus on jobs, not on developers. He would “Hold developers accountable to hire Kansas City workers if the company receives Kansas City tax incentives.” By all means, click on that link and you will find a page full of common sense. He’s not against development, as many accused our current mayor of being, and he’s not a money-spending, Burke-supporting nightmare like Kay Barnes was. Instead, he offers a common-sense vision of using development as a tool to help all Kansas Citians.

That’s the sort of investment we can afford. – Who’s Hiding and Why?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A new website has created a bit of a stir among local political watchers. 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.

Why I Don’t Care About the 2010 Elections

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Ancillary Adams makes an important observation – this week’s big Republican win hurts a lot less than prior defeats, like the 2004 Bush victory.  He attributes the difference to the fact that he can at least understand where the populace is coming from this time around – the economy DOES suck and the insanely high expectations raised by Obama’s historic election have not been clearly exceeded (though, as this coarsely-named site shows, he’s quietly accomplished quite a bit).

First term midterms + bad economy = whupping for the party in power.  It’s easy, understandable math and the fact that the sane Americans kept the Senate and that Palin, Angle and O’Donnell were harshly rebuked, too, makes it all easier to accept.

It kind of felt like my dog wasn’t in this fight, the way it has been in most elections.  Statewide, the clubby democratic insiders decided that Robin Carnahan should be our nominee, and they made darned sure she wouldn’t face a real primary.  They screwed up again, and they have themselves to blame for Senator Blunt.  Robin Carnahan was a tepid campaigner and a vote that hurt to cast.

It seems that they looked at Claire McCaskill, the most disappointing Missouri Senator ever, and one of the most disloyal Democrats to hold office, and decided that Robin Carnahan would win in 2010 if she ran like Claire McCaskill in 2006.  So she pledged to deprive Missourians of locally important funding in the form of earmarks and behaved like she would rather muck out a horse stall than set foot in Kansas City.  Maybe their strategy caused some farmer in mid-Missouri to hesitate for a fraction of a micro-second before voting for Blunt, but it caused good democrats like me to shut our wallets and go through the mere motions of supporting her.

Unless Claire McCaskill gets a strong Democratic challenger in 2012, Missouri will be represented by two Republican Senators after she gets defeated.  I hope our party leaders saw what happened to Carnahan as a preview of what will happen to McCaskill.

Other races were similarly non-inspirational, though in a more positive manner.  Jason Kander crushed Jeff Roe and Sally Miller 70-30, and I knew he would.  Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Jeff Roe’s counterproductive and hateful tactics, Sally Miller could have presented a stronger challenge – Jeff Roe helped activate Jason’s true-believers to work on his campaign, and he marginalized Sally Miller as a nasty, uninformed loser.  Even the Republicans I talked to voted for Jason because of Roe/Miller’s plainly bogus attack on Jason’s role in ethics legislation.  (She didn’t really have a chance anyhow, because Jason has met and talked with everyone in his district, and he is simply an excellent State Representative, but Jeff Roe’s involvement transformed Sally Miller from a respectable defeated opponent into a slimy pariah who was willing to do absolutely anything to win, and still failed to be competitive.)

Similarly, Jolie Justus was an obvious hands-down winner, and the Republicans couldn’t even find someone to run against her.  She defeated a Libertarian by a 76-24 margin.  Jolie is wonderful, but it was hard to get very emotionally involved with a race that had no doubt.

Jacob Turk provided no challenge to my Congressman, and the fact that Republicans are excited that he managed to slip into a single-digit margin of defeat in the most favorable political climate they could ever dream about – well, folks, that just makes me smile.  Keep on running, Jacob, and keep on sending him money, Republicans!

I’m still a proud Democrat, and I still believe that the pro-people policies of the Democrats are better for our country than the pro-millionaire policies of the Republicans.  I still believe that Obama will be one of the greatest presidents ever.  I still believe.

I will be there in 2012, loud and strong, supporting a Democrat (a real one, this time) for the Senate, and getting Obama re-elected.  I think that the next two years will provide a stage where the Republicans can show how anti-American people they truly are, and I anticipate a melt-down between the rednecks and the millionaires.  I’m (slightly) hopeful that our idiot Democratic leaders will realize that Missouri voters will support a strong populist Democratic voice, but never a slickly-marketed inauthentic creation of consultants.

It was tough to care about 2010, and I’m not going to get weepy about what happened.  But I will care in 2012.  Passionately.

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?

When Cleaver Retires, Who Will Go to Washington?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

It’s been a rough year for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.  He turned 65, he got spat on and called names, and his efforts to return civility to Congress have been spectacularly unsuccessful in the most polarized Congress since Sumner got caned.  He shows no signs of retiring, but, eventually, he will.

Who will take his place?  A crafty old insider, or a rising star?

Over at, I mention Al Riederer, Jolie Justus, Kay Barnes, Mark Funkhouser, Jason Kander, Airick Leonard West and Mike Sanders.  (I was kidding about Funkhouser, though I’m still correct about him having the best chance of winning the 2011 Mayoral election.)

Whom did I miss?

Political Clubs

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Political clubs have a long history in Kansas City.  Has their reason for existence diminished with the rise of multiple sources of candidate information, or do they still serve a purpose?  I tried to raise a few thoughts at my article this week.  Let me know what you think, or comment there.

Let’s Talk Politics This Time

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Last year about this time, we discussed whether the City Council should make a $2,000,000 donation to the County, in the form of stadium subsidies. I opposed the decision, the Mayor opposed the decision, but the City Council voted 12-1 to give money away.

Since then, the Chiefs and Royals have had horrific seasons with terrible attendance, the City has not had sufficient money to clear streets, our murder rate remains high, a rapist roams Waldo, city employees have been laid off, remaining city workers have had their wages frozen, and we’ve installed Cathy Jolly’s odious red light cameras to generate revenues. All this, and nobody has had the cleverness to point out that the City Councilmembers who voted for the donation should be held accountable for their shocking priorities.

And now the issue is back again.

(As an aside, why don’t some of the crack reporters for the Star do an article about the FREE Royals and Chiefs tickets handed out to County and City politicians? Who’s sitting in those seats? Are they even being used? I’d be willing to bet there’s a story there – either the politicians are handing them out to donors, or they’re wasting the tickets. And, as another aside, why doesn’t the Star do a story on why, exactly, we even have a Jackson County Sports Authority? How much bureaucracy do we need to pay for simply to keep track of two tenants??)

This year, I’m not even going to bother arguing about the wisdom of stealing $2,000,000 from the city’s coffers. My opinion remains clear, but let’s look at a much smaller issue.

How do the politics of this debate work this year? Will Funkhouser’s suggestion that we end the exemption do him political harm or political good? Will it harm him by showing him (again) as out of step with the Council and willing to risk our sports franchises? Or will it help him by showing him (again) as out of step with the Council and being the only one who prefers to spend $2,000,000 on things like police protection, snow removal, and city workers rather than weak athletes?

I’m curious about what people think. A good friend emailed me when the news came out and said that this closes off Funkhouser’s path to reelection – “Voters won’t tolerate our Mayor screwing Chiefs and Royals, regardless of the budget shortfalls.” He may be right, or he may be wrong, and the decision could be a step on the path toward reelection. (I know a lot of you disagree with a lot of Funkhouser’s decisions, and believe that reelection is utterly impossible. That’s fine – but, if you can, try to analyze the politics of this one decision. I’d love to know what you think.)

(Update: A commenter claimed that city officials get tickets, but county officials don’t. The commenter is mistaken. Under the lease agreements, County officials get a suite and prime parking. See page 16, section 7.4. It’s offensive to think that the City Council would steal money from city priorities so that county officials can watch games from a suite.)