Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Funk, Authenticity, and the Cheesecake Factory

Let's take a little test. Which makes you feel better about being a Kansas Citian - Olive Garden or Garozzo's? Wendy's or Winstead's? Famous Dave's Barbecue Ribs or Arthur Bryant's? The Cheesecake Factory or Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard? Budweiser or Boulevard?

If you're the sort of person who picked the second choice on most of those questions, you need to be looking at Mark Funkhouser as your candidate for Mayor of Kansas City.

I support downtown redevelopment - I really do. But, when push comes to shove, I know that the downtown redevelopment is going to produce a generic product of nationwide crap that will leave visitors wondering which mid-range touristy hell-hole they've wandered into.

And, today, the Star reports that even the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce - the Chamber of Commerce, for Pete's sake! - has issued a report saying that all of the drunken-sailor subsidies for out-of-state billionaires is putting Kansas City's streets, parks, and basic services at risk.

We're already on the hook for downtown, so we have to make it a success. Mark Funkhouser knows that, and will make it happen. As the Chamber study makes clear, we've put all our eggs in one basket, and now we have to watch that basket very carefully.

The ironic thing is that the things that make this city truly great are damaged by the things that make this city mediocre. Troost Avenue is the coolest, up-and-coming boulevard in the city - with hardly a nod from the powers-that-be. 17th and Summit - a block from Funkhouser's HQ, is a thriving block with two of the greatest restaurants in Kansas City right there, without even a tiny fraction of the money spent on 18th and Vine.

Real development happens organically. Nobody planned the 39th Street boom. Westport was a cluster of symbiotic bars and businesses that took off and became a heart of the city. The Crossroads area has thrived despite City Hall's best efforts to kill it.

A central question of this mayoral election is how you want Kansas City to grow. If you want Kansas City to be planned in a New York City boardroom, then go ahead and pick any of the other candidates. Any of them will suffice as a rah-rah puppet of the huge business interests that would give us Famous Dave's instead of Li'l Jake's Eat it an' Beat it.

But Funkhouser stands for a different kind of development. Give Kansas Citians decent services, with smooth streets, reasonable police response, and trash pick-up, and Kansas Citians will give you small businesses employing people and paying taxes. Those taxes will maintain the level of service that will enable other Kansas Citians to create the kind of city we will all be proud of.

Today was a big day for the Funkhouser mayoral race. 3 of his opponents (Brooks, Fairfield and Eddy) actually voted for declaring Briarcliff (Briarcliff!!) to be a blighted area, so it would qualify for incredible tax breaks. Mark used his considerable good judgment and political skills to set himself apart from the field, and show that he is the candidate who will bring us responsible development and a healthier city.

I'm toasting Funkhouser with a Boulevard tonight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Check your RSS feed. I haven't seen anything in my reader since 12/20/06.

Yardsigns come out this weekend. At least the first batch. I have you down for the 40' x 20' Wornall-style billboard, correct? The cranes will arrive at 5AM sharp.

1/12/2007 4:28 PM  

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