Saturday, May 12, 2007

Time to Abandon the Funk?

Recent coverage of Mayor Funkhouser has provided a case study of perspective. I've made no secret of the fact that I have backed Funkhouser from the day he announced, and I continue to do so. I think he'll make positive changes to our city, and change the atmosphere of "Rich developers first, common folk last" that, in my opinion, is what the Barnes administration morphed into. But this post is not intended to focus on the merits of Funk.

Now, I see the Star and some of my fellow bloggers turn on Mark, and it's odd to be in a pro-mayor mindset. He throws a free party for the city, and discloses who paid for it, and people attack him. He keeps driving his economy car instead of an ugly behemoth Barnes chose, and people attack him. He pays his Chief of Staff a typical salary, so the Star adds in money he had already earned and attacks him for it. He shows up at a George Clinton concert, and people attack him.

The thing is, I get it. It's a matter of perspective. As a contrarian, it's your habit to pick up whatever nugget of information you can get, and inspect it. Hold it up to different kinds of light. Turn it upside down. Compare it to other nuggets. And, if you can find something negative about it, scream it from the rooftops.

I just can't get there right now. Sorry.

When I began supporting Funkhouser, I thought he was a policy wonk with a straight-shooting, call-it-like-it-is approach and a quirky charisma. Nothing has happened yet to change my view. It's not that I'm being stubborn, or a pollyanna, it's just that I haven't seen anything that changes my mind about him.

But, here's where it gets interesting (well, I guess you're the judge of that). I know myself well enough to admit that, if Brooks were mayor, I might take shots at his inauguration party, no matter what form it took. I might question his choice of car, or Chief of Staff. (I wouldn't criticize him for going to a George Clinton concert, though - that's just wrong.) Maybe I wouldn't, because I genuinely like Brooks, but I sure as hell would if Barnes were somehow still in office . . .

More frighteningly, I probably wouldn't even know I was doing it. My hypocrisy would be unconscious and, thus, probably incurable. I wouldn't be taking cheap shots at Barnes - I would be exposing her corruption and wrongheadedness. I would be full of the same moral superiority that the Funk-slammers are feeling now.

And I'd think that anyone who defended Barnes was ignoring the signs of her corruption and spinning the truth to avoid facing it. Stupid kool-aid drinkers.

A part of me wants to get back onto the attack. And, I promise I would if Funkhouser really did do something that altered my view of him. But the fact that he won the election was not enough to turn me around.

Truth be told, I think bloggers are more valuable in the role of critics of power, and Funk now has some power (though not as much as the status quo). But I can't bend my view of the truth just to jump back to my preferred role.

The guy I helped elect is, in my opinion, doing a good job so far. The criticisms thus far have struck me as strained and artificial. When I read about what he's doing on the inside, I'm wildly impressed. He wants to strenghten and broaden communications between his office and regular voters - I genuinely believe that. And he's insisting that his people remember to be good people first. I know Mark, I know Gloria, I know Joe Miller, I know Ed Wolf - I trust them. Maybe I'll be disappointed in them at some future date, but I haven't been so far.

I had a lot of fun recently with a commenter who did not have his facts straight, and wanted to accuse Funk of being paranoid. One of the things that struck me in the exchange was that he felt entitled to be wrong - that if his attack was in the ballpark of the truth, it ought to stand unchallenged.

Sadly, I acknowledge that, in other circumstances, I might stand alongside him. I see people take quotations from rightwingers out of context or twist their words slightly so that they say something egregious, and then bash away, and I don't often correct them.

I'm not going to jump over and join the "gotcha" crowd on Funkhouser. I still see him as a good man with great priorities. But I hope that the experience of supporting the man in titular power forces me to be more self-critical in the positions I take in opposition to those I oppose.

And if I ever criticize someone for liking George Clinton, my son will boycott Father's Day.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might not have liked Barnes, but she wasn't corrupt. If you say that she was, you need to offer supporting FACTS.

5/12/2007 1:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Actually, anonymous, you are wrong. I never said that she was corrupt, and even if I had, I don't "need" to offer you any facts. Or FACTS, for that matter.

If you'll reread the post, I was acknowledging that my perspective would be skewed if it were Barnes, because I have a predisposition toward cynicism toward her.

But, because I'm in a generous mood, if you want to know where the stench comes from, look at her dealings with Kristl and some of the other TIF pigs.

Personally, I doubt she's technically corrupt, in the sense of taking bribes or the like. I think she started off as a good public servant, and got swept up in the power and influence, "us vs. them" and "What's good for the wealthy is good for the lowly." She forgot about the East side and focused on glitz. It's more a corruption of the soul than any technical violation of the law.

I don't like her, but I still think she'll be a better Congressman than Graves.

5/12/2007 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might have jumped off the bandwagon too soon. As I said in one of my posts, there were a lot of things that were making me second guess myself. Salaries was one of them.
People expect better from Funkhouser because he was supposed to be better than Brooks. All he has done up to this point is draw attention to himself, some of it not so good.
I'd suggest he quit trying to be cute (like the George Clinton thing), get to work and show the voters why he was a better choice.

5/12/2007 6:57 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Not knowing anything about Missouri politics (cept I did work with Barnes daughter-in-law for a few years - good gal) your post, Dan, is quite an interesting examination into unconscious hypocrisy. Personally, I think we all exhibit it more often than we realize.

Made me think about myself.

5/12/2007 8:45 PM  
Blogger joe said...

Thanks for the kind words. Keep watching. Wait till we start making the news. It's only been a week and a half. Wait, for example, until Mark announces the parks board. I have a hunch that'll make for some interesting news. And the communicatiions team hasn'r even begun to roll out its stuff. I was all chomping at the bit to get that stuff rolling this week, but we're going to wait until mid-June.

Point being, when we get our feet squarely planted and we start driving the news, it's going to be a whole lot different.

And regarding the salaries: What was missing from the story is the fact that Mark's mayor's office budget is the same total dollar amount as Barnes. So while Barnes paid her employees less, and her staff was the exact same size, she spent just as much. So what did the she buy with the difference? Patronage contracts! We don't have any of those. Did you see that in the news? No.

5/13/2007 7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are not too smart to begin throwing around words like "patronage contracts" less than a month into the job.
I'm not defending Barnes but where's the proof? Why are you being defensive?
Besides, a month from now the Mayor might find himself needing some outside help. What is he going to do then? Ask for more money? What kind of questions would that raise?
Think stuff through before you post it. You are embarrasing your boss.
One last thing: don't engage an anonymous blogger. It's like arguing with a drunk.

5/13/2007 10:08 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous 6:12 - Yeah, you did jump off the bandwagon too soon - you're the one who got hysterical about the car, aren't you? I don't think that even rises to "fair weather fan" level - you were calling yourself stupid for supporting him on 4/28 - before he was even in office. I'm not trying to be mean, but can you see how some of us might not take you entirely seriously after that episode?

Joe: Thanks for visiting. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous 10:08 - You just don't get it, do you? It's a documented fact that Barnes handed out contracts to favored interests. Now, you're questioning Joe's intelligence because he's telling the truth? This is EXACTLY what we voted for - someone who is willing to cut through the BS and speak to us like adults.

There will be time for Barnes and Funk to kiss and make up. He did a whole lot better up north than her annointed candidate did - she needs him more than he needs her right now.

5/13/2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are the documented facts? We are talking about contracts with the mayor's office now. Be specific.
The reason I call Joe "not smart" is because it's pointless to make the accusation. It will take him away from his duty, which is to advance the current Mayor's agenda. Attacking Barnes is just petty.

5/13/2007 11:11 AM  
Blogger les said...

Interesting take, Dan, with more than a grain of truth. What I find interesting is the speed--reporting things, pitching things, whatever, as if they are defining, when the man hasn't been in office long enough to define himself or an administration. Funkhauser may have brought some of it on himself--when you run as different from the prior occupant of the office, partisans will latch on to any similarity/difference as evidence of failure/success. But we really don't know much of anything about how he will guide the City yet.

5/14/2007 10:11 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Go Funk!

So he and his staff are not perfect? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, we're going to see missteps. And that's not a bad thing.

Advice to Funk staff - your detractors are watching and waiting. Act smartly because everything will be scrutinized. And there are a lot of people watching waiting and ready to build a case beased upon a bunch of small things, and if they get lucky, a few big things.

Advice to Funk supporters: don't defend everything that the Mayor' office does. It hurts your credibility as a defender, and it does the Mayor no good - constructive criticism is a good thing, and we're not (at least I'm not) going to put blind faith into anybody.

And as for patronage contracts, let me burst everybody's bubble here - let's watch and see what city business Jeff Simon's firm is going to get. (or what business Jeff Simon will choose for himself) Is anybody going to deny that the campaign chairman's law firm isn't going to get significantly more city business?

It's reasonable to expect when you win you can do two things at once -serve the regular folks and reward the people that got you there.

Patronage will exist with the Funkhouser administration, and I would argue that within reason, there isn't anything wrong with that.

5/14/2007 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Joe Miller I've heard about the Parks Board. Word on the street is you're going to appoint Dan's favorite politico Mel Solomon. We'll see how long you keep getting Gone Mild love after that.

5/14/2007 2:02 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

What's the issue with Mel? I've met him a few times and he seems nice enough, although I've heard he has a nasty temper...

5/14/2007 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the deal with Mel?

Yeah, he's a real nice guy.

5/14/2007 2:55 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Poor Mel. I just thought he was clueless & pretty much harmless. Sounds like he's pissed a few people off....

5/14/2007 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol I'm really not into politics much, I've just been browsing your site for years so I feel compelled to still visit. However, your son looks sooooo much like you, sooo adorable!!

5/14/2007 4:50 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

I don't live in Kansas City so I really don't have a cock in this fight (OH STOP!! Grow up!).

But as a relatively disinterested outsider who really like Funkhouser's portrayal of Saruman, I have a suggestion.

How about waiting until his administration actually DOES SOMETHING before passing judgement or decidining to jump on or off of bandwagons?

Hell, they're still divying up the offices with windows and deciding which knick knacks to decorate their desk with.

Give 'em some room.

5/14/2007 6:48 PM  

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