Posts Tagged ‘Sly James’

5 Reasons to Vote for Sly James – Reason #1: Sly James Can Rally Broad Support

Monday, March 21st, 2011


Way back when Sly’s candidacy was just a rumor, I had a conversation with the Greatest Political Mind in Kansas City (GPMKC) in which I opined that, if he ran, Sly would probably win the race. The GPMKC dampened my enthusiasm, though, pointing out that nobody really knew if Sly was willing and able to do the hard work of campaigning – calling friends for money, listening to constituents rant about non-city issues, and keeping focus on winning the race.

The Greatest Political Mind in Kansas City was right. At that time, Sly was unproven. All of Sly’s charisma, all his people skills, all his great ideas, all his intellectual ability – none of that would have mattered one whit if Sly did not exercise the dedication and humility necessary to become a successful politician.

Sly James has proven himself. He has run the long race.

He has shown up at dozens of forums, smiled and greeted people, called on friends and strangers to ask for money to fund his campaign, hired great people to run his campaign, and, through it all, maintained a cheerful, positive campaign that speaks to the best of Kansas City. Both candidates demonstrated this weekend that they would not be tempted by the cheap tactics of negative campaigning, and my respect for both of them grew.

But Sly has run the better campaign. With no elective experience, he has run a positive and effective campaign. He has raised more money than Mike Burke, even though Mike is the one with the Rolodex full of wealthy developers and entrenched business interests. Sly has also raised money from more people – more individuals have been moved by their contact with Sly James to pull out their checkbooks and invest in Kansas City’s future. He even inspired my politically-cautious wife to write a check for him – I cannot remember the last candidate she has done that for.

Mike Burke, on the other hand, has cobbled a campaign together through donations from old money like Jim Nutter and the TIF trough. He was forced to lend himself 6 figures to get through the primary. While the statistics aren’t readily available, I doubt he has more than a handful of non-family first-time donors, while Sly James has rallied support from a host of fresh faces and newly-engaged constituents.

Sly represents a fresh approach, while Mike Burke seems happy that Charlie Wheeler and “Credit Card” Kay Barnes think he’s the right guy to return us to the same old ways of doing business at City Hall. Sly James has reached out well past the old mayors and same old political class to inspire a new group of Kansas Citians.

Sly James has shown that he can literally rally fresh investment in Kansas City, while his opponent has relied on the same old crowd that has always run City Hall.

It’s time for Sly James to bring his excitement and enthusiasm to Kansas City.

BUSTED – How Low Will Burke’s Supporters Sink?

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

UPDATE: It now appears that while the piece was paid for by Nutter, a Burke supporter, the money changed hands before Nutter had shifted his allegiance to Burke. Both candidates have disavowed their third party mudslingers, which is wonderful news. While I still believe that Sly James is the best candidate for Mayor, my respect for Mike Burke remains solid.

Sly James has run a clean campaign, just as I knew he would. He’s just that kind of guy.

Mike Burke’s campaign has been floundering, though, just as I suspected it would.

That’s why I was honestly shocked and disgusted when I got a poorly-produced hatchet job in my mail today, attacking Mike Burke. Totally unprofessional, out of character for Sly, and completely unnecessary for a campaign that is winning with a joyful grace that has made me proud to know Sly.

It made me angry, and so I decided that I was going to do what I could to expose the creeps behind this kind of crap, even if they were fellow supporters of Sly. Wrong is wrong, dammit, and so I went to poke around the Missouri Ethics Commission website and see what kind of low-lives would do this.

The answer shocked even me.

The piece was paid for by none other than Mike Burke’s own strong supporter, James Nutter. The flyer was paid for by “Citizens for Integrity, Calvin Bender, Treasurer”. There is no such organization, but Calvin Bender is treasurer of the “Committee for Integrity”, and here’s the report of who gave money this year. Nutter is, as Burke is proud to point out, a prominent Burke supporter.

Now, why would Burke’s friend send out an amateurish piece doing a botched hatchet job on Burke?

Because it provokes in other likely voters exactly the reaction it provoked in me – revulsion at the perpetrator. And most people aren’t going to be as vengeful as I was, and bother to track down the creeps who produced it. So the taint would get unfairly placed on the innocent, clean-campaigning, Sly James.

Cleverly, they even chose to attack Burke on the fact that he is a development lawyer, an issue which has been obvious since day 1, and hence not anything that will lose Burke any further votes.

I am well aware, of course, that “Committee for Integrity” is not officially part of the Burke campaign, though I am also well aware that campaigns are able to exert strong influence over third-party mailings without technically “controlling” them. If anybody wants to be naive enough to believe that Mike Burke’s fingerprints are not all over this despicable bag of garbage, then those people should join with me in calling upon Mike Burke to publicly condemn Mr. Nutter, to return Nutter’s campaign donations to him, and to publicly state that Sly James has run a clean and honorable campaign, despite the lies being spread by his own supporters.

Anything less would leave Burke in the company of sleaze.

Update: Check the comments for a plausible alternative explanation from commenter “Doc”.

5 Reasons to Vote for Sly James – Reason #2: Sly Embraces the Heart of the City, and Won’t Flee His Roots

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Sly James lives in Hyde Park. His office is downtown. He grew up at 44th and Montgall, and went to Bishop Hogan High School (now the high-performing Hogan Preparatory Academy). He went to Rockhurst University. He served on the Board of Operation Breakthrough, and was President of the Board at Genesis School. His roots in the heart of Kansas City are deep and strong. He lives about 2 miles away from where he grew up.

Mike Burke grew up about 2 miles from Sly, but now he lives a world apart, across the river, in a cozy upper-middle class northern suburb. He fled his roots.

By no means does a home address in the Northland disqualify someone from serving effectively in the Mayor’s office. Lots of great people born and bred in the Northland have contributed hugely to the city we share. And, if you’re paying attention, the Northland is looking more and more like the rest of our city – with a growing population of immigrants and minorities. The river is no longer the barrier it once was.

But, if you roll the clock back a few decades to the time when Burke chose to flee the midtown area, it meant something else entirely. Northland neighborhoods were proud of their “ethnic purity”, and minorities were distinctly unwelcome. Moving north from midtown, a few decades ago, was the equivalent of moving to Johnson County while still holding onto a KCMO residence, which could be helpful for an up-and-coming politically-astute development attorney wanting insider appointments.

Sly James is who he was, and he will remain that person when he becomes Mayor. Mike Burke is a development lawyer who suddenly opposes development on the Plaza, but we have no idea where he and his insider buddies will decide to plan when the winds of political expediency change. Mike Burke has fled his development roots (and we’re supposed to believe him?). You just can’t count on someone who ran a clean campaign until he realized he was losing, and then unleashed attack ads through old insiders like Jim Nutter.

In contrast, Sly has announced clearly and strongly the standards that need to be met to gain his approval. He won’t flee his political roots of rational, unifying decision-making.

Sly has deep roots in the heart of our community. He has deep roots in standing up for what he believes in. He has deep roots in clean campaigning and unifying rather than dividing. It’s who he is.

Sly won’t flee his roots. Never has, won’t now, never will. That’s why he has my vote.

Update: I had no sooner hit “publish” on this post than I received a slimy flier from the ironically named “Citizens for Integrity”, going very negative on Mike Burke – at least as negative as the TV add that Burke’s supporters used against James. I really do try to be fair, so, unless someone can prove to me that Burke had control over the message of the TV advertisement, I shouldn’t blame him for the slime any more than I would blame James for this piece. Third party mailings are the bane of good campaigns.

5 Reasons to Vote for Sly James – Reason #3: Sly James Means Better Jobs for Kansas City

Friday, March 18th, 2011

What kind of fresh insight can you expect from a guy that has been endorsed by Charlie Wheeler, Kay Barnes, and Jim Nutter? What kind of change can you expect from a guy who brags that he’s clued into the current staff of city hall? How can you feel optimistic about a guy whose plan to create new jobs is (I kid you not) to “Work with local chambers, the EDC, and the Kansas City Area Development Council to develop a strategic plan to market Kansas City, targeting specific industries and businesses”, and to go to Jefferson City to beg for more incentives to give to developers and their lawyers?

When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Mike Burke cannot help it – he sincerely believes that if you want to get something accomplished, you should talk to rich developers and make them richer. It’s what he has done for his entire career, and now he wants to have more meetings and more committees with chambers and development groups.

Yawn.

The problem is not just that Mike Burke has a boring proposal, it is that his proposals amount to doing exactly the same things that have failed in the past. Hey, Mike, here’s another old idea for you – why don’t you propose to “Revamp and expand the business retention program of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in cooperation with local business groups.”

Oops, I see that you already found that tired, same old, same old idea. Notice that he loves meeting with business groups?

Reading Mike Burke’s campaign material is like reading copies of the Star from the 1950s. Been there, done that, didn’t work.

Sly James has a better way than going back to what doesn’t work. Sly has created a “Get to Work” program for Kansas City, and it represents a strengths-based approach to jobs creation for Kansas City. Download a 2 page executive summary from this page, and you’ll be impressed that FINALLY, someone is trying to help Kansas City succeed based upon its real merits. Mike Burke might believe that we are just one more expensive developer boondoggle away from becoming a convention mecca (the Allis Plaza hotel didn’t do it, the convention center didn’t do it, the P&L Center didn’t do it, so let’s try one more time with another hotel? What’s next on the developer wish list?).

How about if, instead of spending all our money in hare-brained schemes to become a glamorous convention destination (so we can change bedsheets for the world?), we build upon the real strengths that Kansas City has. Sly James isn’t dreaming of Kansas City becoming the next Orlando or Las Vegas – he has the common sense to notice that “Located at the juncture of three interstate highways, four interstate linkages, and 10 federal highways, Kansas City is served by more than 300 motor freight carriers. Kansas City is the third largest truck terminal in the United States, the second-largest rail center in the United States and is served by four of the country’s eight Class I rail carriers, as well as three regional lines and one local switching carrier (Kansas City Terminal).”

Sly’s talking about GOOD jobs – jobs in life sciences, health care, green jobs, and international trade, including light manufacturing. That’s exciting – that’s sustainable, and that is common sense.

Or we could try the old way one more time.

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.

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.