Archive for the ‘volunteerism’ Category

Now’s The Time to Apply for the Ethics Commission – Day 72 of the Jackson County Ethics Blackout

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

As of a week ago today, only two applications for the Jackson County Ethics Commission were under consideration by the Selection Committee. The blame for the lackluster turnout rests squarely on the shoulders of the anti-Ethical Jackson County legislature, which has done everything possible to make clear that the new members will face a fight if they dare to do their duty and follow the Charter.

Under the Jackson County Home Rule Charter, the Ethics Commission is directed to investigate allegations of ethics violations against the legislators. The legislators have attempted to excuse themselves from that Charter-directed oversight through an ordinance. The situation is a time bomb, and any informed individual who applies to the Commission knows that he or she is risking a metaphorical knife fight against an unscrupulous legislature. The legislature has made clear that any attempt by the Ethics Commission to do its duty under the Charter will be met with attacks, lies and probably litigation.

Do it anyhow.

Go to the Ethics Commission Selection Committee’s website and fill out the application. For your effort, you will receive no money, no fame, and little, if any, official thanks. You will be expected to attend meetings, pay your own parking, and be scrutinized by those who want you to fail. If you do your work ethically and diligently, nobody will name a golf course after you.

Do it anyhow.

We need good, honest people to do the dirty work of policing Jackson County ethics. It’s thankless but important work. If good people don’t apply, the positions will be filled by insiders and stooges. We can’t have that, not while millions of dollars are being spent by a committee where the majority has a rap sheet. Not while the County Legislature is usurping the naming rights to public facilities. Not while the Legislature is using an ordinance to defy the Home Rule Charter.

Public service is calling good people to take the challenge. Please do it. Fill out the application and help return ethics to Jackson County.

Kraske Whiffs Again – What He Should Be Asking

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Steve Kraske claims the upper right corner of today’s front page of the Star, and manages to look good while whiffing almost entirely. It’s kind of like watching an unschooled rookie with a sweet swing face the famed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Kraske swings mightily, but can’t quite make his wooden analysis impact the baffling trajectory of local politics.

The headline in the dead tree version of the story is “Has mayor run out of political capital?”, and the lede is an anecdote claiming that Funkhouser failed to gladhand at a democratic fundraiser. In short, Kraske asks the wrong question and answers it with conventional wisdom from the chattering class. That, my friends, is not “analysis” worthy of publication.

First off, the question is not whether Funk has run out of “political capital”. The guy won by fewer than 900 votes and walked into a council chamber poisoned by hardball politicians seeking to become mayor. The guy never really had political capital – he walked in with a target on his back, and nobody on earth was going to trade that target for a 7 member dependable majority. And, to give his critics their due, he certainly has not behaved in a fashion well-designed to accumulate it, either.

The correct question is “Can Funkhouser work with this Council to accomplish good things for our city?”. Because, really, that’s what people wanted when they elected him, and that’s how he will be judged. Maybe a few of the insiders and professional game-players such as Kraske care about style points or how well he shakes hands at a cocktail party, but the rest of us care far more about accomplishments. By focusing on shaking hands and fuzzy concepts of “political capital”, Kraske focuses on the parlor game aspects of city government rather than on the street level effectiveness of city government.

Now, before the anti-Funk brigade reflexively misinterprets what I have written so far, I’m only saying that the question ought to be “Can Funkhouser work with this Council to accomplish good things for our city?” rather than “Has mayor run out of political capital?”. I hope we can all agree that my question is the better question – who cares if he never shakes another hand and the verdict at Kraske’s chattering class cocktail parties unanimously states he has zero “political capital”, if he is able to work with our council to accomplish good things for our city?

Having thus refocused the issue from image to substance, I’ll go ahead and answer my own question.

Yes, Funkhouser can work effectively with this Council to accomplish good things for our city. He can do that by continuing to work creatively and subtly through other council people, the majority of whom will, when push comes to shove, get on board for the right reasons on the big issues for the good of the city. Jan Marcason and Beth Gottstein, for example, are not going to vote for a lousy Cauthen budget no matter what they think of Funkhouser or his wife. Most of the council is composed of grown-ups, and they can separate their disagreements on the anti-volunteer ordinance from good policy in facing the substantive issues they need to address.

All that said (and apparently beyond Kraske’s imagination), Funkhouser has an opportunity right now to jumpstart his working relationship with the City Council and kick off 2009 in the most productive way possible for our city’s future. In one fell swoop, he could eliminate his biggest problem in image and the city’s biggest problem in reality.

In my opinion, Mark should approach those city councilmembers who really do have the good of the city at heart with a proposal to dismiss his Volunteer Ordinance lawsuit in exchange for their support in getting rid of Wayne Cauthen. Most agree that Cauthen is simply the wrong man for the foreseeable future, and I believe they would welcome such an opportunity to get back on track in solving our city’s very real problems.

I feel like I owe some explanation, since I loudly called upon Mark to file his lawsuit, and I continue to think that the anti-Volunteer Ordinance is an unconstitutional bastard born in a backroom from spite and dishonesty. Despite my dislike of the Ordinance, though, that single issue need not continue to distract attention and dominate the public discourse.

Right now, Mark is working just fine with his geographically flexible Mayor’s office, just as most of the councilmembers work effectively while spending little time in the four walls of their offices. While it feels wrong to let such an ugly little ordinance remain on the books, dismissing the suit does not make it constitutional. Someday, in a less critical time when we can afford to focus on “B” level priorities, the ordinance can be challenged in a more favorable environment. In terms of impact on the city, the Volunteer Ordinance is tiny in comparison to the damage wrought by the wrong City Manager.

Dismissal of the suit would also unplug the electricity surrounding rumors of Koster investigations and other nonsense. In short, Funkhouser would be rising above the Council’s petty mistake, diminishing a danger, and accomplishing a larger goal. It would also provide the good Councilmembers with a way to redeem themselves from their current tarnished, bickering image, and make a clean break from the past.

Would Funkhouser ever make such a deal? I have no idea.

But it’s a lot better question than Kraske’s breathless insider chatter about “political capital”.

Mayor Funkhouser Stands Up for What’s Right – Political Courage versus Political Opportunism

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Funkhouser has announced his intention to file a lawsuit seeking reversal of the Anti-Squitiro Ordinance, just as I argued that he must over a month ago. I hate to see litigation erupt, but the Council’s attempt to take over the Mayor’s office was a serious breach of governmental roles, and Mark’s suit is important and justified not just for his own convenience, but for future councils and future mayors.

It has been mildly amusing to see pundits and observers get themselves worked up about Funkhouser’s meetings at his home, when it has been obvious that Mark was simply “laying low” until after the Light Rail Election.

Of course, the expedient thing for Mark to do would be to simply set Gloria up outside the office and set her to work on a project of her choosing. Heck, if he asked her to take on elderly issues, or community health concerns, or some other topic, it would generate positive exposure for both of them. They could walk away from the pack of lies and backroom dealings that resulted in the “volunteer ordinance” and start building an invincible base of political capital for the next round of elections.

They know that. Heck, I know of at least one political coward who offered that advice.

But Mark has a lot more political courage than I do, and he’s going to stand up for the structure of our city government. The council does not control the mayor, and the mayor does not control the council.

Mark is entirely capable of working under the control of the council. He did that for years as Auditor. He’s great at it.

But it’s not his role now, and it wasn’t the council’s role to pass an ordinance directing him on how to run his office. Politically, the council saw an opportunity to pick on Gloria Squitiro when she was down, and they took full advantage of that opportunity. They did what was easy and convenient and politically expedient.

Now Mark Funkhouser needs to be the grown-up who looks above the rat-pack politics of the 26th Floor and considers what is right for the future of our city. By going one way, he could join in the Council’s political opportunism and make himself (and his wife) more popular than ever. By going the other way, he will expose himself (and his wife) to more hostility and frustration, but he will fulfill his responsibility to his office and to this city.

Thank God we elected a non-politician to the Mayor’s office.

Mayor Funkhouser, You MUST do your Duty

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Mark, when you started out on this effort, you knew this time was going to come. You knew that the forces that have controlled the city to their own advantage were going to attempt to seize control of the Mayor’s office. The time has come – not a time of your choosing, not the issue of your choosing, not even the opponents of your choosing. But you knew that it would come about like this – fighting an awkward fight on a tilted battlefield.

You must fight.

The City Council has quite literally sought to dictate who may speak to the mayor, and under what terms. The ordinance they passed has specifically included giving advice as a forbidden activity. They did so even though it had been pointed out to them that forbidding unapproved contact with government officials is not only undemocratic, but unconstitutional.

Sadly, the City Council seems to think this was simply about your wife. Indeed, they sought to hide that fact when they started on the twisted, secretive journey to passage of this ordinance. They claimed to be imposing a volunteer ordinance that applied to all volunteers, but were forced to strip away provisions that applied to the Parks Department, then to other departments, and finally passed an ordinance that was, as you wisely pointed out all along, drafted to apply only to your wife. It was sad to see how they stabbed Beth Gottstein in the back, leaving her hanging out to dry when she made the unfortunately false claim that the city council would not be so small as to draft an ordinance aimed at your wife. Even as she uttered her hopeful words, her fellow 4th District Councilperson was in a backroom boiling the ordinance down to its poisonous essence. They are ruthless, even to each other.

But, even though the ordinance was aimed at your wife, it was never about her. With all due respect for Kansas City’s first lady, she was merely a cruelly chosen target for serious people with a deeper agenda. Gloria is a tool they are using to cause you pain, but, if it weren’t her, it would be something else entirely. This is about power. This is about who controls the Mayor’s office. More centrally, this is about money.

Dirt and concrete – not bare feet and most definitely not words between former friends – are the reasons the council has acted as it has. As you knew when you started this whole effort, Mark, there are people who make money, huge money, staggering money, based upon the decisions of the Mayor’s office. For decades, those people have controlled the Mayor’s office. Mayors Cleaver and Barnes, in particular, saw that things went smoother when they made sure the very powerful were kept happy. And smooth sailing for the powerful meant smooth sailing for the politicians who kept them happy. To be fair, they accomplished much that was good while they were appeasing the powerful. They were talented politicians.

Dirt and concrete – real estate holdings and construction dollars – are very, very serious matters, as you well know. Those persons who control the valuable real estate (and their lawyer hired hands and other servants of power) in our city expect to see money spent on them, and taxes abated for them. Where many of us view political involvement as a civic interest or even a hobby, these people are in it for the deadly serious money. If they dream up a new project that enhances their holdings, the Mayor is supposed to be enthusiastically behind it, even if it means taking tax dollars away from our schools, and resources away from our poorer citizens on the East side, the West side, and the Northeast. Those cops patrolling the Cordish properties are not patrolling the areas that are seeing drive-by shootings and drug dealing. Why? Because the high dollar dirt and concrete are focused on Return on Investment, not returning hope to the urban core.

The citizens of Kansas City have very few opportunities to sit at the tables of power. In fact, they have none. Nobody is going to genuinely seek citizen input on whether we should gold plate the doorknobs on the latest Cordish fantasy. Nobody expects the public to have a voice when the powers that built the fantastically expensive convention center now say it is incomplete without a fantastically expensive hotel to go with it. Nobody was supposed to discuss development tools for the East side, or pledge to pursue TIF projects that benefit the areas that are genuinely blighted.

You are that nobody, Mark, and you have the chattering and monied classes in an uproar. So those people have manufactured an issue to knock you down a notch. They want to reach into your office, indeed, into your very marriage, and tell you how and when and where your wife can give you advice. The city council is willing to do that because, in the eyes of the real estate developers and the insiders, family values evaporate in the face of real estate values.

You are at a crossroads, Mark. You can allow the city council to wildly overstep its boundaries as set forth in the Charter and attempt to tell the Mayor how to do his job. You can ignore the unconstitutionality of their sloppy, treasonous little ordinance. You can go along and get along. You can act as though this ordinance is just a little bump in the road for your relationship with the council. You can even use this as a fresh starting point, and begin a rebuilding process to become the ribbon-cutting, cheer-leading, credit-claiming Mayor that this city chose to eschew when it voted Orange. In short, you can join in the reindeer games with the council and be one of them, all to your personal benefit. If you do that, you may retire after 8 years with a solid gold watch and a send-off party sponsored by the bluest of Kansas City’s blue bloods.

But I don’t think you can do that. Certainly not if you are the man I hope you are.

As I said above, this is most definitely not about cross words between former friends. This is not about one of hundreds of lawsuits pending with the city. It’s not about Gloria, or volunteers.

It is about power. The powers that be want to control the power that wants to be. They have convinced members of the City Council to pass an unconstitutional power grab, and even gotten them to lie about their motivation along the way. The fact that many of the majority are fundamentally good people who are acting in this manner shows just how deeply the control of dirt and concrete runs in this town.

I leave it to you and your legal team to figure out exactly how to challenge the ordinance. But I call on you, as my Mayor, as my representative at the tables of power in this city, to stand up and carry on the fight. I can’t be certain whether you will win, though I firmly believe that our judicial system stands as our most steady bulwark against the corrosive effects of money, power and influence.

The powers that be, acting through their influence on a too-easily-swayed council, want to dictate who may speak to the Mayor, when, and where. It is, of course, an outrage, and it was accomplished in a back room while committee members shamelessly ignored the public speaking against it.

If you fight and win, you will have struck a serious blow in favor of Democracy.

If you fight and lose, you will have provided an example of integrity that may inspire others to continue to fight.

If you do not fight, you will gain the peace and quiet and respite of the morally dead.

CCO and the Tom & Pat Sweeny Family

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Last night, I attended a fundraiser for the CCO at the breathtaking Scottish Rite Temple on Linwood. The CCO (now “Communities Creating Opportunity”, formerly the “Church Community Organization”) is an inspiring organization, formed by faith communities in an era of white flight. Since that time, it has become the go-to community organization in Kansas City for grass-roots involvement. Chances are, you’ve never heard of them, but chances are even better that, if you live in Kansas City, your life has been improved because of their work.

This year, though, the event had a particularly memorable and touching moment. The plan was to honor longtime civic activist and dedicated attorney Tom Sweeny with the Phyllis Bahner Legacy of Leadership Award – a well-deserved recognition for a man who has been at the heart of Kansas City’s most important social issues since the 1960s, when he marched for civil rights, through this decade, when he addressed voter suppression. I, like many in the crowd, was looking forward to applauding this lion of a man.

But Tom Sweeny was unable to attend. He’s battling with the aftermath of a 2007 stroke, and simply could not make it to the event.

What happened, though, was hauntingly inspiring. When it came time to give the award, they asked one of his sons to accept it. Symbolically, the award could not have been handed to Tom Sweeny any better had he himself been able to tap dance up to the podium and accept it. Tom Sweeny, for all the good he has accomplished in his life, is most proud of his next generation, and many of his 9 children were there for the celebration. They include some of Kansas City’s most dedicated and determined volunteers – and they will continue to impact our community for decades. If you’ve ever gotten involved with a project that has lofty goals and solid practicality, you’ve probably worked with a Sweeny.

The Sweeny clan’s patriarch was at home resting last night, but his involvement was very much present, multiplied by the children he raised and the lives he’s touched.

Well done, Mr. Sweeny. Kansas City took a moment to applaud you last night, though the good you’ve accomplished is just beginning.

Bad Legal Advice, or Decent Political Advice?

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I’ve been genuinely puzzling over the Marcason meltdown and the weirdness surrounding the volunteer ordinance being pushed by the Kansas City Council. Something has been “off” about the whole affair. Most of the potential explanations go part-way toward explaining the situation, but come up short or presenting a satisfactory picture.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Jan Marcason. She’s not a rude person, in normal circumstances, but the video shows her turning her back on good citizens and ignoring them in favor of a back room. (Update: The video didn’t catch the walkouts, as the camera stays focused on the speaker.) She’s not someone who would, in normal circumstances, threaten a fellow council member, but Sharon Sanders Brooks blew the whistle on a hasty, whispered threat. She’s not a sneaky person, in normal circumstances, but suddenly we see her sneaking a hidden ordinance into the committee so that she could ramrod it through without giving the public an opportunity to comment. She’s not a metaphorical backroom politician, in normal circumstances, but the video shows her, quite literally, resorting to the literal backroom for a place to play politics outside the public eye.

Clearly, these are not normal times. I have way too much respect for Jan Marcason and most of those who supported her to believe that I am seeing the complete picture. Something made Marcason melt down, and I refuse to believe that it was simply an ego-driven, petulant reaction to people refusing to accept her ordinance on her schedule. Something else is going on. For Jan Marcason to threaten Sanders Brooks with a refusal to support projects in the urban core, it had to be something pretty major.

It could be something related to the Bates lawsuit. Clearly, the ordinance does not directly impact the Bates litigation, so the arguments about “protecting the city from liability” don’t really add up. That argument also fails in view of the fact that Marcason’s last backroom draft of the ordinance excludes 99.9% of the volunteers used by the city.

Furthermore, the lawsuit simply does justify such extraordinary reaction. Even it it went to trial, and a jury found that every claim of the plaintiff was true and unmitigated by other factors, financial damages in this case are difficult to demonstrate, and punitive damages are an unlikely prospect. Certainly, the case was unlikely to ever cost the city anything near the millions of dollars that Marcason had been willing to spend on consultants to provide countless hours of expensive training for thousands of volunteers.

One alternative method for the ordinance to become very much related to the Bates litigation, though, would be if it was somehow tied to a proposed settlement agreement. This does make a modicum of sense. Ms. Bates and Ms. Squitiro were, all agree, former friends, and it is not hard to imagine that a settlement of a case arising from a broken friendship would include an attempt to “settle the score” beyond mere money. This explanation also would encompass the near panic level of urgency that Marcason brought to the ordinance – most settlement proposals include an expiration date.

It’s speculation on my part, but it’s the only thing that explains the meltdown, the urgency and the willingness of Marcason to toss out every detail of the ordinance until it focuses exclusively on one person. All that other nonsense about trying to create broad volunteer guidelines in line with other organizations – methinks someone was making that up, and regrets spinning that line of malarkey in hindsight.

But, still, even if it is a part of a settlement agreement, it doesn’t make a whole lot of legal sense. As described above, the Bates case, even on its best day, wouldn’t justify the expense that Marcason was proposing to spend on consultants and criminal records checks. A quick look on Casenet shows that there are almost 800 cases of various types pending in Jackson County with “City of Kansas City” included in the parties. It would be bad legal advice, indeed, to agree to pass ordinances every time someone sues the city.

But legal advice is different from political advice. It would be a mistake to confuse good political advice with bad legal advice.

Kicking Gloria out of City Hall makes political sense for certain members of the council. It would be a way of undermining the Mayor, reaching into his office and making staff decisions for him. It would deprive him of his most trusted and important advisor. It would even be a bit of an embarrassment for him, and perhaps even be something that a councilmember with Mayoral ambitions would like to use during the next race. A settlement of the suit would also prevent a public airing of any defenses or explanations by Ms. Squitiro, such that only one side of the story would ever gain the public’s attention – again, weakening a Mayor who is out to change the way things are done in our City.

It’s even possible that the councilmembers believe they would gain the appreciation of a certain blogger, and get favorable treatment in the next election cycle.

Clearly, the Kansas City public does not know what is going on with this ordinance. Clearly, there is more afoot than simply trying to come up with a good volunteer policy, and we are being kept in the dark.

What happened in that back room? Until someone comes forward and explains it, concerned Kansas Citians are forced to speculate.

What’s Behind the Weirdness?

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Why did Jan Marcason go overboard and threaten Sharon Sanders Brooks if she didn’t support the anti-volunteer ordinance NOW, as opposed to waiting a week? Why was it so important that the ordinance get passed before people had a chance to read it? It doesn’t make sense if Marcason was really only trying to pass the ordinance . . .

Which leads us to the overwhelming question – what WAS going on in that backroom?

Will we ever find out?

Shamelessly Stolen from BlogCCP

Friday, September 5th, 2008

BlogCCP has really come into its own lately, and I anticipate it being the top source of local progressive perspectives on the coming campaign season. During the convention, it had two writers providing content fresh from Denver – great stuff!

Yesterday, it provided the following gem:

Quote of the Day
Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama for leaving the comforts of a big firm and becoming a community organizer. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Quote of the Day – “Or, you know, maybe someone needs to remind Sarah Palin that Jesus Christ was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.

5 Words for Our City Council

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Yesterday morning, three members of the Kansas City Council’s Finance and Audit Committee voted for new restrictions on volunteers in Kansas City. I would love to link to the language of the ordinance, because, as citizens of this city, it is your right to know what is happening, but the drafters of this ordinance are far too embarrassed and timid to put their backroom-drafted ordinance into the public eye.

Since they have hidden the new ordinance, the actual words of the ordinance are unavailable to this blog. So, it’s up to us to come up with our own words this morning.

No single word accurately and completely describes the actions of councilmembers pushing this ordinance, and yet so many words apply to aspects of their behavior. So, I’m going to offer up five words which I think are near the target, but I’d really appreciate your help in choosing which one is best. Or choose your own . . .

1. Arrogant: Please watch the videotape of the behavior of the Finance and Audit Committee. Have you ever seen such arrogance at this level? Come on, Councilpeople, at least act like you care what the voters think! Obviously, the only action that the majority cared about was going on in the backroom, out of the sight and hearing of the lowlife citizens who dared to intrude on the precious time of the majority. Wow. Some of us knew those council people when they were mere mortals . . . I wonder if the ghost of Pendergast was holding court in that back room?

2. Fraudulent: While we elected a Mayor who has sought to be smart with the money, somehow our council has decided to be dumb with the money. The Fiscal Note attached to this ordinance claims that the only expense it generates will be up to $100,000 for police reports. That was never true – it was a lie covering up the vast amounts of money (millions?) which the council could have directed to their consultant friends to pay for all the training volunteers would go through. But now, according to the paper, they have restricted their ordinance to apply only to volunteers for elected officials, though it still apparently requires the City Manager to make all department volunteers to go through training. How much is this costing us? That’s the dirty little secret that the majority keeps hidden. Why?

3. Cowardly: As described before, the genesis of this ill-conceived effort was the constant drum-beat of a single, repetitive blogger. Yesterday, the blogosphere chortled at Tony’s victory. Tony has proven himself a stronger influence on Kansas City than any single councilperson. And certainly much stronger than the voice of reason. (As a blogger, my hat’s off to Tony. That was honestly impressive. What will your next trick be? Can you get them to stand on their heads?)

4. Intellectually Dishonest. Was this ordinance focused at Gloria Squitiro? One admits “yes”, one says “of course not”. They claim that this is an ordinance focused on protecting volunteers, but first excluded the largest user of volunteers, and now are (apparently) excluding virtually all volunteers. Would you please make up one story, and stick with it?

5. Ineffective. The funny thing is, they have accomplished absolutely nothing. They’ve gone through all these contortions, and they won’t get the change they want. They sought to regulate volunteers, and now they’ve excluded virtually all the volunteers from the ordinance. They sought to eliminate Gloria Squitiro (No, they didn’t! Yes, they did!) from City Hall, and to run the Mayor’s office, but it’s not going to happen. All they’ve done is waste a lot of time and resources that could have been spent on real Kansas City priorities. While they’re playing around with a dishonest ordinance that regulates volunteers but doesn’t, all the priorities they were elected to address remain on the table.
_______________

Well, I could probably come up with more words than 5 to describe the debacle in the Finance and Audit Committee, but 5 will have to suffice. Fortunately, these councilpersons are not really the corrupt and inept cowards that they behaved like yesterday. These 5 words are intended to describe their actions yesterday, not their personalities nor their typical behavior. Yesterday, they behaved as I describe them, and I suspect they’ll do the same thing today. They deserve our condemnation, and they will, I assure you, come to realize that they’ve made a mistake, just as they know they made a mistake in foolishly extending Cauthen’s contract.

When they regain their sense, and look around, perhaps this will be the time that they realize that Mayor Funkhouser was right again. Their volunteer ordinance is a sham. Their extension of Cauthen was a mistake. And Funkhouser was right on both counts. It’s not too late for them to start learning from their mistakes.

Kansas City Deserves Better From Its Council and For Its Volunteers

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

The Finance and Audit Committee is meeting this morning to hold its second hearing about the Anti-Volunteer Ordinance that the nine council members introduced a couple weeks ago. It meets at 8:15 in the morning, assuring that it will only hear testimony from insiders and the self-employed. The good people who work all week and volunteer in various capacities in their off-hours are effectively shut out from the process.

That exclusion is made even more complete by the legislative sleight-of-hand I understand is being cooked up for today in the back offices of the City Council. While the self-employed and privileged are invited down to testify this morning, they will be handed a NEW, REDRAFTED ORDINANCE when they get there. Good luck in preparing your thoughts and analysis ahead of time! Good luck doing any research to respond to the potential new flaws in the redraft of an already flawed ordinance!

(It should also be noted that the Fiscal Note for this ordinance is horribly flawed. It admits that the ordinance will cost $100,000 for criminal checks, but includes no provision at all for paying current staff or contractors for providing all the orientation and training surrounding “Anti-Discrimination/Harassment, Policy Against Violence in the Workplace, Drug & Alcohol Misuse Testing Policy, Policy Against Nepotism and instruction on conflicts of interest, confidentiality and proper use of City equipment and electronic communication devices”. Somehow, that just happens for free.)

On the one hand, I’m pleased that the Council has seen the light and agreed with me that the ordinance they came up with was horribly flawed. It’s refreshing to see that they realize that they made a mistake, and are endeavoring to fix it. In all seriousness, they had enough people cosponsoring the original, deeply flawed ordinance that they could have simply passed the flawed original if they truly didn’t care.

But, in this case, redrafting the ordinance is simply insufficient. Is a good deed, half done, necessarily a good deed?

The Council is keeping its new ordinance under wraps until the hearing. Those of us who submitted thoughtful commentary on the original version are excluded from even knowing what will be in today’s version. Given the muddled history and contradictory statements made by the cosponsors on what, exactly, this ordinance is attempting to accomplish, Kansas Citians have no reason to believe that this ordinance is much better than the version the council is now backing away from.

In this day of email and websites, there is no reason in the world for the Council to spring a new ordinance on an uninformed public at the same time it accepts testimony from that public. Volunteerism in Kansas City is an important issue, and an ordinance restricting volunteerism warrants complete and thoughtful attention.

This morning, we will get to see what the Finance and Audit Committee is up to. If they submit a new ordinance and seek further comment, then they will demonstrate that the good of the city is at the top of their agenda. If they dodge meaningful public comment and ramrod through an unexamined ordinance, they will be responding to an urge somehow deeper than presenting the best possible ordinance to the entire council.

We get a clear result this morning.