Monday, June 18, 2007

Clear Thinking About Funk's Car

The Star and a few bloggers have been striving mightily to manufacture a scandal out of the fact that Mayor Funkhouser has accepted a Honda Hybrid Civic from Tiffany Springs Honda. The Star managed to keep the nonstory front and center for at least 4 days, and several bloggers (like Tony and Heidi - who has a funny take on it, I must admit) have whipped themselves into a frenzy over it.

People, if you stop to think about it, it might not be the smartest thing he could have done, but it is certainly No Big Deal. Let's take a few seconds and walk through a few points.

1. It's not illegal. Governments run by rules and laws. There is no rule or law preventing this gift. If we want to pass one, let's do that, but let's not get the cart before the horse.

2. It's not anything new. People have given gifts to mayors in the past, and nobody has squawked about it. Why should this mayor be held to a different standard? Because Mark is so determined to be up front about everything, we happen to know about this one, but we have no idea who paid for what in prior administrations. And you'll note that nobody's talking, either. Methinks that's a can of worms nobody wants to open. Mark, on the other hand, is doing this the right way.

3. Our other politicians get free gifts all the time. Go through the lobbyist disclosures if you want to see free gifts. Check out how Kit Bond went fishing in Alaska. I know that "everybody's doing it" is a pretty weak moral justification, but, the fact is that everybody IS doing it, and it's legal, and you don't see the Kansas City Star flogging the story on the front page for days on end. Why the double standard?

4. It's Too Late. If a politician is going to be bought by gifts, it's not going to happen when s/he's in office. Funkhouser just wrapped up a campaign season of calling everyone in town and asking for money. (As did every other candidate.) If you are concerned about grateful politicians, look at their campaign disclosures. (Note that the Republicans have abolished limitations on donations in Missouri.) Why pretend that Tiffany Springs Honda, which was probably only looking for a little favorable publicity, is a bigger threat to governmental integrity than the law firms, real estate developers and political clubs who give money when politicians are really desperate? If you want money out of politics, you need to look at public financing of campaigns.

5. "It doesn't look right" is fuzzy thinking. When pressed to justify their complaints, many of Funkhouser's critics resort to the last refuge of fuzzy ethics - "It just doesn't look right." That question draws the question of "Why doesn't it look right?", and there's no good answer. It's not illegal, it doesn't violate any ethical codes, and it's nothing new. The only thing that makes it attract any attention is that the Star and a couple bloggers have decided to try to manufacture a controversy out of it.

***********

The only reason we even know about the car deal is because Mark Funkhouser is running the most transparent administration in Kansas City's history. As a result, we're going to be treated to a bit of a civics lesson. If Barnes had accepted a gift (who paid for all those damned flowers?), we wouldn't hear about it and we wouldn't have to think about it. I like this way a lot better.

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42 Comments:

Anonymous the nitwit said...

Dan, Dan, Dan, where to even start here. You're so far off base here that I honestly thought you were being satirical at first.

"1.It's not illegal." Lot's of things that are legal are still wrong, politically stupid, and fly in the face of being a mayor for "regular folks." Wow. What low bar you're setting. What's your next defense? He could have done something even more wrong?

"2. It's not anything new." You're not actually going to resort to the "everybody else does it" excuse are you? I thought we elected a different kind of mayor.

"3. Our other politicians get free gifts all the time." Again, just because Kit Bond does something, does that make it right? Besides, I defy you to find a single $23,000 "gift" that Bond or pretty well any other elected official has accepted. No wait, you said yourself the "everybody does it" exuse is lame. So why did you use it twice?

"4. It's Too Late." You can't really be that naive, can you, Dan? Why do you think lobbyists and special interests dole out so many campaign contributions during sessions? Because they're trying to influence legislation. The ability to influence an elected official doesn't end after election day. Come on. This excuse is lame beyond belief. Your line that "it's not going to happen when s/he's in office" is just so cute.

"5. "It doesn't look right" is fuzzy thinking." Hmmm. Much of Funkhouser's campaign was based on atmospherics and the notion that he was a different candidate and would be a mayor of the people. Now in office, he's doing something that makes it appear that he's no better than any other politician (and frankly a little worse than most). In politics, appearance is reality. And if voters think something you did looks bad, then it looks bad. Period.

Of course your defense of Funk's free car didn't bother to hit on the indefensibles in all of this.

1. He's still taking his $600/month car allowance, despite the free car. If the car is free, then why does he still need $600/month? He should give that up immediately. At a minimum, it sets a lousy example for other city workers, nevermind that it's bad fiscal policy.

2. Funk offered up the extremely bogus excuse that even with that $600/month allowance "he cannot afford a new car." In what world does he live that you can't make a car payment and pay insurance and gas for less than $600/month?!?

3. He intentionally tried to get mileage out of his crusty image of driving his old car (including taking reporters out for drive-along interviews), but now he's sold that image out for a freebie that he's only getting because of his office. And you want to say "it doesn't look right" is an invalid criticism?

4. Part of his argument against Barnes' car rental deal was that it would cost the city too much. And yet, while he was criticizing that $700/month rental, he put in place a $600/month in a car allowance for himself. So under his plan, the city would save a paltry $100/month? Oh, but wait, we also have to pay $7,500 to get out of the rental deal. Hmmm. So how exactly is he saving KC any money here? Answer: He's not.

5. His statement: “The new mayor is not mentally challenged. Somebody offers you a brand new car you take it.” Clearly Funk didn't think about this one at all. He saw a chance to get a "brand new car" and he jumped on it. It may not be illegal, but you don't need someone witht he political acumen of James Carville to tell you that it's a politically stupid move.

Now, I'm sure you'll look for some minute and trivial detail that I got wrong somewhere, Dan, because that's what you do. But no matter how much you try to nitpick, you and Funk are wrong on the broad strokes on this one.

And hey, maybe we can agree on this: I'd almost rather have a mayor who sells out to a car dealer than one who appoints members of racist groups to city boards.

6/18/2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Nitwit:

Even without repeating my name three times, I think you have the longest comment in recent history. Thank you sincerely for the thought and effort.

Thank you, also, for agreeing with me that it's not illegal and it's not anything new.

You seem to propose a new standard for Funkhouser that no politician anywhere has ever been held to - is it too much to ask "What is it?"? What may he do, and what may he not do? The laws are no guide in the moral universe you seek to catapult Funk into, nor is history. I take it he must conform to whatever you and your ilk think "appears" okay.

Mark is a new kind of mayor, and his transparency is a welcome opportunity for us all to learn a little about how government works. It is not, however, a justification for holding him to unstated standards that are randomly invoked.

6/18/2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Heidi said...

The nitwit makes good points, so the only one I will reiterate is: Funk campaigned against "business-as-usual." I kinda doubt Bond did.

http://markfunkhouser.com/orange.html

Disclosure alone ("I'm telling you I'm acting like every other politician while I pretend that I'm not really a politician.") isn't always enough to get credit for being different.

6/18/2007 11:22 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Fair point, Heidi, but, again, it's a little amorphous to complain that he doesn't stand for change because he's doing some things politicians do. Will he get slammed for reaching compromises on important legislation? Will he get slammed if he listens to the community and accepts Semler's tendered resignation? Indeed, shouldn't he be slammed for getting Nutter's support?

How far does this new standard go, and what does it look like?

6/18/2007 11:43 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

My question is, exactly when did Funk know that Tiffany Springs Honda was going to give him this new car? Did he know it before he turned down the city car, before he accepted the car allowance? In other words, I think ethics could come into play here depending on the timing. Of course I have no way of knowing. I'm just asking? Only Funk and Tiffany Springs know the answer to that, but it would be a question I would ask if he was my mayor.

6/18/2007 11:47 AM  
Anonymous JP said...

Dan- Great Blog, but I have to differ. What about the fact that The Ford Claycomo Plant previously offerred him a Ford Hybrid and he turned it down?

I would say representing our local hard working Auto Workers comes before a car dealership. Surely you agree?

6/18/2007 12:13 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

The flip side of transparency is being open to the other side talking back. If he's going to be more transparent, there will also likely be more of us talking back--even some of us who campaigned and voted for him. So maybe we all need to get used to a little more discussion.

You seem to want all potential disagreements planned for four years in advance. Let's go back and poll all 42,000-some voters who voted for Funk to get some consensus on what exactly we all thought "not business-as-usual" meant when we elected him.

Your examples are a bit of a straw man. Of course while mayor (if he wants to get anything done) he will need to listen to the community and change and admit mistakes and work with others to reach consensus. He doesn't NEED to accept big ticket gifts. Or considerably more money each month from taxpayers than it will likely take to insure and fuel a free hybrid, for that matter.

Maybe it boils down to something that is basically for personal gain vs. for the city's benefit. This situation is basically for personal gain.

6/18/2007 12:24 PM  
Anonymous DaveKCMO said...

"manufacture" is the right word. it was a slow news week and made a nice bookend to the parks board brouhaha.

6/18/2007 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Brent said...

Dan, I agree, to a degree, that many are making mountains out of mole-hills. And I really don't have a a beef with any one of his decisions on the car thing -- or any two of them -- but I don't like the combination of the three.

If he's going to decline the car rental, I don't have a huge problem with him keeping the $600 a month for his personal car expenses. He'll drive his car a lot to city functions, and deserves to get mileage like any other company worker would.

I also don't have a problem with him getting the new car from Tiffany Springs Honda. He's supporting a local auto dealership (it's not like he accepted one from JOCO or St. Louis or something) -- however, I think now that he is driving someone else's vehicle, he should then go to, say, $300 month allowance (he'll still have to buy gas).

I think the precedent of not taking the city's car, but taking someone else's gift car, and then lining his own pocket with the car allowance looks really bad...and sets a real negative tone to his office right now...

And just because others do it doesn't make it right...if I wanted the same ol same ol I'd have voted for Alvin...

6/18/2007 12:39 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Dan, I'm not the one proposing a new standard for Funkhouser. He did that on his own. You can't run criticizing the status quo and self-serving politics and then turn around and serve yourself. He put himself in this box, and he has to live with it.

Of course, Funk also promised us that he'll make lots of mistakes, and so far he's delivering on that promise in spades. Taking the car was amateur hour at its finest. A "new kind of mayor" indeed!

Also, you still haven't addressed Funk's essentially double-dipping -- taking the free car and the $600/month. At the barest of minimums, if Funk really cares about fiscal responsibility, then he needs to set an example and give up his car allowance (or the free car). Otherwise, why should anyone at City Hall think twice about wasting office supplies. It's not like one worker's personal photocopies (or whatever) are costing the city more than $600/month. Care to defend him on that one? Or is that a fair criticism?

I do appreciate your attempts to defend Funk, but if "not illegal" and "nothing new" is the best defense you've got, then you're already treading on pretty thin ice. In politics, perception is reality. And this car deal smells bad, and doubly so because it contradicts with the image Funk presented as a candidate.

Sorry, but the criticism of the car is 100% fair. Funk's not saving the city any money by taking it, his double-dipping sets a bad example, and he's not benefiting anyone but himself. A "new kind of mayor" indeed!

You reconsidered your position on Semler and finally found reason. I suggest you take another (unbiased) look at the car deal and ask yourself, what if anyone other than Funk did this? Would you really defend Kit Bond or Matt Blunt for taking a $23,000 car?!? Would you now? Really?

6/18/2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Brent, you make a decent point, and I'll agree that, from what I know now, he probably should reduce the amount he is taking as a car allowance.

Nitwit, you do a decent job of repeating Brent's comment, but, since you challenged me to nitpick you earlier, I'll point out that he hasn't accepted a $23,000 car - he has accepted the use of it. Pretty big difference. More substantively, though, you fail to state the new, unprecedented standard you think he should live by.

6/18/2007 1:17 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Dan, first, it's not my standard to set. It was Funk's and he did so in the campaign. You supported him, so you should know the standard better than me. Funk said he was different and he was out to represent us "regular folks" and that the days of "business as usual" were over.

But now we see him personally benefiting from his position in two ways -- free car and a more than generous car allowance. Hardly sounds like the kind of situation us "regular folks" find ourselves in. It's funny the car allowance went virtually unreported since that in itself would have flown in the face of his "regular folks" persona. Give him $.35 a mile or whatever for using his own car, but $600 a month? Come on. And he says he still couldn't afford a new car on $600?

Second, great job nitpicking. I knew you'd sink to it since it's your classic defense anytime you're challenged. Look for the minor nuance and try to use that to try to "destroy" your opponent. Did they teach you that one in lawyer college? And what a genius move on your part. He won't actually "own" the car. So what. The ownership issue doesn't erase the fact that he's getting a free car to use (and possibly a new one every year that he's mayor) and the perception that this car dealer may want some payback down the road. Again, if Alvin Brooks took the free car would you be so quick to forgive it? And if the owner of Tiffany Springs Honda calls City Hall with a question about a zoning issue or anything else do you think the Mayor is more or less likely take their calls now? But sure, it's "not illegal" so the public is well served.

Sure Funk doesn't own it, but even he said himself "Somebody offers you a brand new car you take it." So it would seem your hair splitting doesn't match Funk's own rhetoric. But nice try. I'll give you a 35 (your argument has a great melody, but I just can't dance to it).

Oh, and don't forget, Funk's already suggested he's going to sell his trusty old, rusty old Toyota, meaning he'll pocket some cash. If he does that, he'll be triple-dipping off this arrangement. Talk about a trifecta. A different kind of mayor indeed!

6/18/2007 1:35 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Since Dan is so stuck on this "new, unprecedented standard you think he [the Mayor] should live by," I'll make an opening suggestion:

http://markfunkhouser.com/why.html

You'll note, Dan, that transparency wasn't the only concern on there. Integrity was too.

And btw, I love how even bloggers and commenters feel compelled to repeat the dealership's name all the time when it's not really material to the issue. The Mayor said that free publicity was all they wanted in return for the use of the car, and by gosh, even citizens opposed to the deal are doing their best to help provide it wherever they can!

6/18/2007 1:41 PM  
Anonymous KCCoug said...

I just have to add a comment as a Funk supporter and volunteer, that this item also bothers me greatly for all the reasons nitwit lays out in the first post.

Particularly troubling to me was the "Somebody offers you a brand new car, you take it.” comment, completely dismissing a whole host of valid ethical concerns. Ethics involve more than following laws. In the military, we were always taught to avoid impropriety and "the appearance of impropriety" i.e., "It doesn't look right." Admittedly, that is a subjective standard, but this is clearly an issue that has enough appearance of impropriety to concern a large number of people, including many supportes such as Heidi and myself.

And this is part of a growing line of arrogant statements by Funk where he seems to indicate that he does not even have to dignify with a response concerns that are shared by a good number of city residents.

6/18/2007 1:41 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thanks for appreciating the nitpick. You called for it, so I didn't want to let you down.

Your failure to articulate the new, unprecedented standard which appears neither in law nor in history proves my point. Mark promised to run government differently. He is doing so. The very fact that we know about the car deal is proof of that fact.

Now, it appears that when you heard those words, you imagined something wildly different. Perhaps you imagined he would refuse his salary, or that he would not hire staff to help him, or that he would submit all policy decisions to a board of bloggers. That's not what I thought he meant - I thought he would bring in a new level of transparency and competence, as well as a new level of scrutiny for real estate tax breaks.

So far, I'm pleased as heck with the job he's doing. I disagree with him about Semler, and I would like an explanation about the car allowance. But, I think he deserves tons of praise for his approach to his appointments, which is so wildly different from anything that has ever happened before. I also admire his effort in getting a blog going. I admire him for doing an open house in the third district. I think he did a good job with his committee appointments. Heck, I even think the Parks Board is going to be fantastic - Fierro will be a great chair, and it is a diverse group (though I wish Semler weren't on it).

6/18/2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Funny observation, Heidi. I don't think I'd ever heard of "that dealership" before this episode.

6/18/2007 1:55 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, when you start out your defense with

"it might not have been the smartest thing he could have done"

how do you expect us to take your defense that follows seriously?


Three points here, Dan.

(1) A good test of right from wrong is to ask yourself "if everybody did it, would the world be a better or worse place?". So in this case, the question would be "if every government official excepted commercial goods, that the city has been previously paying for, for free, would city government and citizens be better or worse off?".

I think we all kow the answer to that.

(2) What an easy thing it would be to "just say no". And then move on without all the ethics and other attendant issues. Dan, can you honestly blame anybody for taking issue with the Mayor eccepting a free car?

And Dan, I think you're as much in need of poliical advice as Funk is -- use your energy, this blog, and your powers of persuasion on behalf of the Funk where the Funk has more credibility. You're going to lose your credibility defending things that can't be defended.

And quite frankly , shouldn't be defended.

(3) My God, Dan, what would you be saying if Brooks won, and he accepted a car from a real estate developer, saving the city the same amount of money?

(3.5) What would you say about that?????

Geez.

6/18/2007 2:07 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Again, Dan, it's not up to me to "articulate" this new standard you keep chirping about. Funk did it himself. It's his own standard, and he has to live by it. When he doesn't then he deserves to get whacked. Nevermind that if we were talking about anyone but Funk, we all know you'd be crying foul about the sweetheart deal. It's hard to imagine you taking a pass on this one if Brooks had won the election, much less puzzling about why other bloggers think it's a big deal.

As for your claim that "the very fact that we know about the car deal is proof" of some increased transparency and more effective common-sense government," that's about as spurious as they come. Are you actually suggesting that the fact that Funkhouser took advantage of one of those "insider deals that benefit the well-connected few" and then told the public after the fact somehow equates to "transparancy" in government? That's just plumb cute, Dan.

Nevermind that Funk would have had to disclose it down the road anyway to avoid breaking the law, and he would faced a barrage of questions about the "new car" when he started driving it.

But hey, as long as you're "pleased as heck," then I guess the rest of us should just shut up and stand by while integrity takes a back seat in a shiny new Honda hybrid.

You see, Dan, here's the deal. There is no "new standard" at all. To a lot of us, for any politician to game the system like Funkhouser did is wrong. It doesn't matter who does it. It doesn't matter that other people do it. It's wrong.

6/18/2007 2:14 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

And by the way, DAN, I'm not manufacturing an issue here.

I voted for Funk, and still support him.

But if a turd is thrown on the floor in front of you, I'm not going to look you in the eye and try to tell you it's a rose.

Comprendé?

6/18/2007 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream -

Do I have to say it WAS the smartest thing he could have done to be taken seriously? I don't think that makes sense. We live in a gray world, and I'm not going to respond to the people who are acting like this is the end of the world by acting like it was a brilliant PR coup. I'd much rather be honest than exaggerate the strength of my position.

As for your first point, yadda yadda yadda. If everyone in the world came here and made comments based on extreme hypotheticals, I couldn't afford the traffic.

On your second point, I'm not "blaming" people for raising questions. Not at all. That's one of the wonderful things about Funk's transparency - it's going to bring a whole lot more informed analysis than we're used to. I'm simply showing that they are misguided and falling into fuzzy logic. And I appreciate your political advice, but I'll continue to expose weak thinking where I see it, and risk losing a popularity contest or two. I'm not going to pile onto Funk just because all the cool kids are doing it.

As for your third and third and a half points, if Brooks had won, we wouldn't know about the gifts being accepted by the Mayor's office. So we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. Also, it's not a real estate developer who gave the car to Mark. It's a car dealer, who has no pending business before the city and anticipates no future business before the city. If Brooks had taken a car in circumstances similar to Funk, and if I somehow learned of it, I seriously doubt I'd be posting about it either way.

6/18/2007 2:33 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

This is really getting to be a bit funny. How many of you know someone that is provided a car by their company to do their job and even get to drive it home? I know tons of people, even construction people. It's a work perk and it's common.

All of this could have been avoided if Funk had taken the leased car that is normally provided to the Mayor. Granted it was not the coolest of cars, but at least it was well within normal, accepted practice of not only the Mayor's office, but tons of companies. Certainly there can be no dispute that he requires transportation to do his job.

6/18/2007 2:34 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Good point Travelingal. I know, just letting the city pay for the car seems to be such an obvious, simple solution.

Dan, Let's talk about fuzzy thinking - because the dealership currently does not have any business before the city, it's ok to accept the gift?

I think you're a lawyer, aren't you? And you're making that statement with a straight face?

Academics and real world, pragmatic political operatives will both tell you that gifts are made prior to, and as well as after, political favors are made that benefit the gift giver.

The shorter answer here is that no one in their right mind would believe that argument.

AND WHAT ANALYSIS HAS RESULTED FROM THIS NEWFOUND TRANSPARENCY?

That's great Dan, talk about generalizations - you contend the Funk's "new transparency will initiate a dialogue and informed discussion" - you would have us believe.

OK. I'm looking for this discussion, and I ain't finding it. I hear ethics professors, all kinds of people engaging in the dialogue and what is Funkhouser's response? "You get free new car, you take it".

That's the extent of the Funk's civic engagement on this matter. Nice.

So Funk's engagement on this issue is absent, for all practical purposes.

I know exactly what your response is, and it's the same as the Funks. If you disagree with Funk's decision, your and Funk's tactic is to diminish the critics as partisan, small minded people. You ignore the ethics question. You don't engage with people, and you don't say things like "some people have a good point, I've thought about it, considered your point of view, and this is where I stand, after I've taken the diverse opinion of regular folks into account".

It would be nice to see an open, fair-minded, public discussion andreasonable approach that was promised during the campaign.

Maybe I'm wrong Dan. So correct me, tell me how the Funk or his Administration has engaged the public on this issue, after they have been "transparent". Because transparency without civic engagement doesn't mean crap.

6/18/2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Travelingual, here's an even funnier thing. If Funk had just stuck with the car Barnes leased and as such forgone the car allowance and the need for the city to buy itself out of the lease deal, the city would save ~$1,300 a year.

I'll lay out the math here to assist Dan in making the futile effort of debunking my point on some mundane and barely relevant petty detail.

Difference in Barnes lease and Funk Allowance:
$700 - $600 = $100 * 12 = -$1,200

Cost to extract city from lease (which I believe is a three year deal):
$7,500 / 3 = $2,500

Total additional cost to the city because of Funk's actions:
$2,500 - $1,200 = $1,300

I'm sure in Dan's world this all somehow works out to a benefit for us the taxpayers, but I'm certainly scratching my head. And of course none of this has anything to do with the ethical cost of his taking a free car.

6/18/2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Oh, dammit, there is a hole in my reasoning.

1,000 apologies go to Dan.

Kay Barnes road around the state and country in a private jet provided by KC Southern and who know's who else. The previous mayor got lot's of free transporation perks.

So you're right, the Funk can follow that example - and you're right it's legal. And heck, the dollar value of that little ole Civic is probably less than all those other transportation perks Kay took.

As a matter of fact, Funk has a lot of catching up to do.

I respectfully withdraw all of my criticisms of your defense of Funk on this matter.

6/18/2007 3:06 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream,

If the auto dealer is not doing seeking favors from the city, then where's the problem? There's no tit for that tat. If they were to seek TIF financing next month, then, yes, we would have to reevaluate, but they won't, so we won't have to.

As for the discussion, we're having it right here, and Funk has had it within his office and outside his office.

And I don't understand your criticism of my dialogue here. I've listened to some of the reasonable commenters, and agree that the issue of the car allowance may be worth exploring.

If you want to talk to Mark about this, go post a comment on his blog. Go to one of his community forums, if you're not afraid to go where he goes to meet regular folk. I know that he knows what goes on at this blog, and others. He's listening, he's taking phone calls, and he has staffers going out and asking people their thoughts. What do you want? That's not a rhetorical question - what do you want? If you have a good idea on how he can improve communications, I know he'd like to hear it, and I'll be happy to pass it on to him and his staff.

Nitwit - thank you for doing the math. Yes, you are correct that Barnes' arrogance cost us $7,500, but Mark is saving us $1200. Signing up for that stupid car was a classless, manipulative, petulant gesture on the day after her candidate lost the race. She should be ashamed of herself, but, in the context of the millions of dollars she burned on unnecessary and wasteful tax incentives, $7,500 is a small price to pay.

6/18/2007 6:36 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I'm pleased with the discussion we're having on here, Dan. I'm a little non-plussed you don't agree with me, but you'll eventually come around I'm sure.
:o)

And Mark doesn't need my specific advice, he's hearing it articulated much more eloquently by many others, I'm certain.

Note I did give Mark my advice on the Semler issue on his blog, on his June 13th schedule I think, (there wasn't anything else to post to). I plan on being a frequent and respectful contributor.

Now, Dan, how many people are saying Mark made a good decision with the Civic?

You're not saying he made a good decision.

I can think of potentially four people that would tell him he did the right thing. But it's not you, it's not me, and it's not anyone commenting on his blog.

What's my point? My point is that he should give the Civic back, period, end of discussion. It's a small issue but a BIG liability, because he has so many detractors trying to build a story against him. It's small stuff, but the small stuff adds up.

So Dan, what's your point? I'm guessing here, but in a nutshell it's probably "it was a bad decision, but it's a small matter that is being exploited by his distractors."

Never understestimate the power of the detractors, they're novelists building a negative drama around Funk, and on the look out for material.

And we're handing it to them on a platter.

As you're finding out, people that were previously backing Funk look upon this decision and they become a little less enthisiastic. Add to that Semler, and they become even little more less-enthusiastic.

That's my general point. In a very long-winded way. Sorry about that.

6/18/2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"4. Part of his argument against Barnes' car rental deal was that it would cost the city too much. And yet, while he was criticizing that $700/month rental, he put in place a $600/month in a car allowance for himself. So under his plan, the city would save a paltry $100/month? Oh, but wait, we also have to pay $7,500 to get out of the rental deal. Hmmm. So how exactly is he saving KC any money here? Answer: He's not."

I have an instinctive fondness for the Funk. But, I have to assume his 10 year old Toyota is long since paid for. Why does it cost $600 a month to operate it? Isn't he still responsible for his own car insurance and gas? I mean, it's his car - his responsibility. He should be eligible for the same mileage reimbursement as every other city employee.

If The City were supplying his transportation, than The City would be on the hook for insurance, gas, maintenance, etc.
But if he insists on using his own vehicle, the same rules should apply for any other city employee using their own vehicle on city business.

Does the dealership who supplied the hybrid get a break on their city taxes for donating services to the city?

The dealership may not have any business before the city now. But what if they do next week? Is a local business going to be in the position of leaving the Mayor without transportation if they take offense at something he says or does?

I'm no politician. But the company I work for has a code of ethics that would have SERIOUS issues with any of it's employees accepting a gift of this magnitude from any of it's customers.

You may disagree with this, but in my opinion, any business within the city limits is a customer of the city government. They pay fees (taxes) for services rendered (police, fire, infrastructure, sewage, etc.).

Accepting gifts from your customers lends an air of impropriety. A more seasoned political team could have avoided such a rookie mistake.

What They Should Have Done: Decline the town car, use Funks 10 year old P.O.S., take the standard mileage reimbursment that all other city employees get, and calculate a reasonable (lot less than $600 a month) amount to cover routine maintenance on the increased usage of a 10 year old car. Enough to cover oil changes, brakes, tire rotations, stuff like that.

If they had done that and been "transparent" about how much a month he was getting, what formula they used and what it covered, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

We'd be discussing how other city governments were demanding that THEIR mayors follow suit.

6/18/2007 7:43 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Very well-said, Xavier. I couldn't agree more.

I would have been fired from two major corporationsas a mid-level executive, for accepting gifts even near that amount.

However, while I do agree with you that a more seasoned political team would not have made that decision, I would also argue that after the ethical implications were made clear, it doesn't take any poltical wisdom to make the decision to give the car back after the fact - just common sense.

6/18/2007 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Aimee G. said...

5. "It doesn't look right" is fuzzy thinking. When pressed to justify their complaints, many of Funkhouser's critics resort to the last refuge of fuzzy ethics - "It just doesn't look right." That question draws the question of "Why doesn't it look right?", and there's no good answer. It's not illegal, it doesn't violate any ethical codes, and it's nothing new. The only thing that makes it attract any attention is that the Star and a couple bloggers have decided to try to manufacture a controversy out of it.

This is classic.

Where was the "it doesn't look right" defense when you were sliming my aunt and uncle in the Mayor's race.

Oh you cried - I'm not accusing - it just the appearance.

Some choice quotes:

**BUT - we both know that the appearance of unfairness, of partiality, or of corruption is destructive to the public's faith in the judicial system, which is far more important than having a 12th candidate in the mayoral race. Your assurances don't address that problem. And it is a real one.

And then . . .

There's an important distinction between impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Even when you are not guilty of impropriety, you may be guilty of the appearance of impropriety.

I said it before & I will say it again - you fit your justification of Funkhouser to what suits you/ him at the moment.

6/18/2007 10:28 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

I'd say that's a slam dunk, Aimee. But of course Dan will just find some bizarre, minute distinction between his attack on your family and his defense of Funk and then somehow pretend that he's still right. At least in his mind.

Mainstream's spot on, Dan will eventually come around. Dan may be arrogantly stubborn in sticking to his beliefs no matter how wrongheaded they are, but he holds no candle to our Mayor.

Of course, ol' Funk and his defenders are probably just being paranoid. I love the idea that his "critics" are "out to get him." Like we all get together and hold meetings and plot how we'll get that darn pesky Funkhouser next time. Please. We like our city, and we want good leadership and good government. We actually want Funk to succeed. Unfortunately, it's also kinda hard not to laugh in dismay to see some of our most basic concerns about Funk realized.

Even more so, we're laughing at the exhortations that some Funk supporters are going through to defend the very things they would have villified others for. It took Dan a full day to admit that appointing a member of a hate group to the parks board was a mistake, so how long will it take him to admit that something as complicated as Funk selling out his appearance of integrity was a wrong move too?

6/18/2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Aimee, long time no see.

Here's the difference you're missing. Your aunt and uncle solicited money from lawyers with cases pending before your aunt, right? That's a little different from taking a gift from a car company without any likely business before the mayor. Don't you think.

There's also the fact that your aunt has a specific provision to uphold - "The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired." Al's taking money from people with cases appearing in front of her was unwise, wasn't it? Especially where they could have taken a few simple steps to avoid the taint.

Nitwit, I will change my mind when someone comes up with a convincing argument that I should do so. As an independent blogger, I'm free to call 'em as I see 'em. So far, I'm not seeing it.

6/19/2007 6:35 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, why shouldn't the generally same ethics standard for judges, who have the public trust, be applied to elected officials, who also have the public trust?

"The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the Mayor's ability to carry out his public responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired."

I think the key phrase here is creating a perception where impartiality is impaired.

If a real estate developer gave the Civic to Mark, you would be instantly against it, correct? You would be against it because you would guess the motives of the giver might be to get tax breaks.

So with the Honda dealership as the giver, you are unable to guess their motives, therefore it must be ok.

Do you really think, with varied extent of people's insight into other's motives, that's a reason for judging whether a gift is ethical to accept?

I think that's a good reason why there is so much focus, in ethics, about appearances.

We don't know each other's motives, it's incredibly hard to guess each other's motives -- so we set ethics rules into place that prevent abuses of power based upon appearances.

I don't think that's fuzzy logic.

6/19/2007 7:37 AM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Dan, if you were an "independent" blogger, you would be railing at Funk for this. Instead, you're biased on his behalf. Is he paying you? Nope. But you're hardly impartial. As an independent blogger, you should be speaking the truth to Funkhouser rather than trying to explain away his mistakes. The only reason you're "not seeing it" is because you're blogging with orange colored glasses.

Kudos to you for finding yet another weaselly way to explain away your inconsistencies. It's reassuring to know you think good ethics only apply to judges. No wait, that's right. They apply to anyone not named Funkhouser too, don't they? I mean, it's not like getting a free car because you're mayor somehow flies in the face of Funk's own campaign rhetoric about ending the "insider deals that benefit the well-connected few."

Oh, and as for your assertion that the car dealership doesn't want anything in return, what's that based on? It's the word of the guy giving the free car and the word of the guy taking the free car. It's not based on anything else. Hardly uninterested parties. So why are you so quick to assume it's true?

And why exactly are you so quick to assume that a guy who would trade the appearance of integrity for a free car might not trade on the appearance of integrity (if not the integrity itself) a little bit more down the road? Hardly seems implausible at this point. I mean would you give that benefit of the doubt to anyone else? It doesn't seem you did that for Aimee's family.

6/19/2007 8:27 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, My note above at 7:37 a.m. addresses the importance of adhering to an ethics policy.

No one can credibly argue, I think, that the Funk is even close to abusing the powers of his office.

6/19/2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Aimee said...

Your aunt and uncle solicited money from lawyers with cases pending before your aunt, right?

Wrong. My uncle solicited donations - many came from lawyers.

We share similar friends such as Steve Bough and are both part of CCP. But you intentionally malign my aunt & uncle with absolutely no defenses for judging Funkhouser with the same standard.

It's too bad because I am sure we land on the same side of the fence on 95% of the issues but your blindness to the fact that the Funk is a fraud hurts your credibility & your likability.

Funkhouser shouldn't have taken the car. But let's move the fuck on & govern this city. Our environment is a mess & the murders are out of control. Can Funk govern?

6/19/2007 9:12 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Aimee -

You're right about your uncle, not your aunt, soliciting the donations from lawyers with cases pending before your aunt. That's a major difference, and I apologize to your aunt, and anyone offended on her behalf.

I'm working today (I was sick yesterday), and I try to avoid commenting from work, but I wanted to acknowledge I was wrong on that point.

6/19/2007 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

I'd like to acknowledge that apparently Funk and his administration has had a 'change of heart' and are now declining the car.

Whether the decision to accept it was in and of itself a good or bad one may be subjective, but it is quite clear that it was a PR fiasco for the Mayor's office...and not worth the criticism he was getting for it. I think it was a good decision to give the car back so we can move on to improving the city instead of bickering about trivial stuff...

6/19/2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Incredible. Apparently Funk finally woke up. Still, I'd hardly pat Funk on the back on this one. It took a lot of criticism to get him to realize what a politically bad move it was.

Funk clearly needs someone with real political experience advising him. If he can't get what's wrong with taking a free car, it's difficult to imagine him having the political acumen to pull of an issue as daunting as light rail or fixing our sewers.

And Dan, where are you going to fall on this one? Are you going to praise Funk for his wise move to give back the car or are you going to criticize him for caving to political pressure?

6/19/2007 1:13 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Ok, now with that issue behind us, I'm turning now to the comments made by an outgoing City Plan Commission member, who apparently is upset about reduced Northland representation on the Commission.

His name is Dick Holwick.

He's threatening to withold Northland support for the upcoming one-cent infrastructure tax renewal.

What's up with that? Holding the much needed infrastructure tax(refer to the Chamber of Commerce report) hostage for more northland representation on the City Plan Commission?

Where are the sane people? City Government is resembling a circus.

6/19/2007 1:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Nitwit - I think he made a good choice in listening to the ill-informed, fuzzy-thinking, inconsistent voice of the people.

6/19/2007 2:26 PM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Yada yada yada, Dan.

I'd say it's a good political move for him to back down, but frankly he should have had the foresight and wisdom to know it was a stupid mistake to begin with.

How long until the next gaffe? For some reason they don't seem to be listing them in his schedule on his blog.

6/19/2007 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case people didn't know, the city has a large fleet of CNG vehicles. The majority of the CNG vehicles the city owns are Honda Civics. Do you think that if the Mayor would have accepted the hybrid Honda wouldn't be trying to sell more Honda civics to the City?
Think again.

6/20/2007 2:17 AM  

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