Saturday, June 30, 2007

Today's Defense of Funk

I suspect I will get a few blog-hits from people wondering what my defense of Mayor Funkhouser will be in light of the Star's report this morning. In a nutshell, Funk has established a wonderful open application process for his appointments to city boards and commissions, but then went around that process to appoint Frances Semler and Tyrone Aiken to the Parks Board without having them apply.

My defense is . . .

Umm, I can't really defend this decision. It was foolish to undercut the good work of setting up an open process by using the back door for personal favorites.

The foolishness is heightened by the fact that it could have been avoided so easily. If he had called and told them to fill out an application because he would like to appoint them, nobody could really complain, and the same result would have been reached. They could have come in through the front door by filling out a simple form.

This flap is all the more surprising because respect for process is one of the real strengths of Mayor Funkhouser. His auditor background and well-earned reputation for substantive competence should have prevented this headache. The problems he has run into up until today have stemmed more from political inexperience - he failed to foresee the ferocity of the anti-Semler sentiment, and he didn't anticipate the PR cost of the Honda deal - but nobody could really complain that he wasn't following transparent rules in either case.

So, yeah, I'll agree with those that want to call this a bonehead play.

But, to avoid disappointing those who come here to attack a Funk supporter, here are a few further points to consider:

1. It was a bonehead play to skip the application process, but let's remember that every single appointment made by Mayors Pendergast through Barnes skipped the application process, too. I'm glad Mark has set up the process, and I hope and expect he'll be using it religiously in the future.

2. It was a bonehead play to skip the application process, but let's not over-react. It's not like he incurred millions of dollars in debt on a risky development scheme, or gave away school money for TIF developers. It's not like he invaded another country on false pretenses. This is a mistake, not a scandal.

3. It was a bonehead play to skip the application process, but the timing of it is worth remembering. It's hitting the papers today, but the mistake was made way back before Semler was appointed. It's not like Mark is waking up every day and blundering into a fresh faux pas before lunch time. It feels like Funk is making new mistakes all the time, but we're really just learning new aspects of an old one.

4. It was a bonehead play to skip the application process, but let's hope he's learning from his mistakes.

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33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, Dan. All good points. (I voted for Funk, but am pretty upset at the way the past month has gone.)
My thoughts: Why, why, why would he appoint a woman who not only didn't apply, but a) stated she didn't want to be on the board, b) cannot spell, and c) had possible racist views that he was warned about before he announced the appointment.
And his claim that his wife was not involved in this? I guess that depends on what your definition of "was" is.

6/30/2007 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, I guess I misread. He admitted that his wife was involved in the process. My bad.

6/30/2007 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Kraske:
"Joe Aistrup, chairman of the K-State Political Science Department, said that if a spouse brings experience and wisdom to the table, great.

But if they don’t, “a lot of times this just doesn’t work out.”"

'Nuff said.

6/30/2007 10:42 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, you're sounding quite reasonable here. Of course I have to add my two cents.

I think going around the application process is NOT big deal whatsoever. He made a big mistake with Semler, but the process he followed, generally, was correct. I know this may seem strange, but I think Funk did the right thing in general, but picked the wrong person.

The big deal is that he went around it for someone who is a huge political liability - in other words, I think it's the selection itself of Semler that was the mistake, followed by not simply asking Semler et al to fill out an application.

However, this is an important point, Dan:

IF THE FUNK IDENTIFIED SOMEBODY HE THOUGHT WAS WELL-QUALIFIED, HE'S PERFECTLY JUSTIFIED IN PROACTIVELY SEEKING THEM OUT, OUTSIDE OF THE PUBLIC APPLICATION PROCESS.

Perfectly justified!!!

And it doesn't contradict ONE DAMN THING, and it doesn't contradict his philosophy of opening up the political process.

I've hired and recruited a lot of people, and that usually involves a requirement to post for the position - it's good policy.

However, the public application process doesn't guarantee you you'll get good people, or people that are right for the Board, a majorly important position. It only guarantees you that you'll cast a wide net and simply get people.

If you dumbly just select from this random set of interested people, you are not serving the city or the interested applicants well. You would be actually doing the city a disservice.

It's a balance. It’s neither white nor black, it’s simply good managerial hiring practice to do both.. If you know of people that are well qualified you damn well should seek them out, in addition to the public application process.

And it’s not compromising ONE DAMN THING in terms of achieving a broader, representation of more regular folks on our boards and commissions.

People that are critical of that simply don't have management experience. Ask how many people the Star reporters have hired and managed in their lifetime. None, I’m sure.

Ask anybody who is criticizing the practice, and I'll guarantee you they haven't had significant managerial recruiting experience.

Now, having said all that, Semler was the wrong person to pick, and he should have asked her to fill out an app. Add this to the growing list of dumb things that have been done. *sigh*

6/30/2007 10:46 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Is this a paid position? In my city, the mayor appoints the park board, there is no application at all and that also goes for the planning commission. Granted, I live in a little burg.

6/30/2007 11:17 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Travel - I don't beleive the Parks Board is paid. If they are it's just a nominal amount, if any.

6/30/2007 11:24 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream, I agree with you. Semler was a bad choice, but that dead horse has been beaten plenty.

I would have had no problem if he called up people he knew would be good and told them to fill out the application - I think I said that in my post. Not having them fill out the application was the bonehead play, but in itself, it's not a big deal. Thanks for making the point more clearly, though.

Travelingal - It's not paid, but it is appointed, and it's fairly prestigious. In the past, appointments like that were handed out without any open process. Now, the mayor's website has an application process for all the boards and commissions he appoints.

6/30/2007 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for transparency. The Star requested the records and this only came to light after an investigation. If he's so transparent, let's see the applications for all boards and commissions, including PIAC, Plan Commission, BZA, TIF, PIEA, and on and on and on.
Mainstream is correct in saying that appointments are the Mayor's prerogative. But this Mayor said he would be different. I want to see those applications posted on his blog.

6/30/2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous - those are public records, and if you want to get them, get off your butt and get them. Personally, I don't want to see them all, and I don't want Mark to publicize them all unnecessarily. Most people who applied would not want their personal information widely disseminated, and I see no reason to do that. I suspect the Star has seen them, though I don't know that for certain.

6/30/2007 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't we see those records on his blog? We have to put up with his daughter's stupid ramblings. City equipment should be used to provide information that is useful to citizens. I will make that information request. I want to know what basis Funkhouser had to appoint Finley to PIAC.

6/30/2007 12:04 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Again, Anonymous, I believe that most of us don't feel the need to list every single application, and would view it as a pointless exposure of personal information. The sunshine law exists to allow you to satisfy your curiosity. Let us know if you find anything interesting . . .

6/30/2007 12:12 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Yea, no question that those apps are public record and should be viewed. However, I agree, it's not appropriate to just put them on a billboard - that's not fair to those who applied.

I know if I applied, my application would be, in some manner, a part of the public record but I wouldn't want my resume just pinned up somewhere.

Plus, what is Anon (above) going to actually do with this information? I suspect nothing, other than having the satssfaction of getting their way, and hoping that someone else will apply some analysis or scrutiny to the list.

6/30/2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,
If I apply for a public post, that means I'm willing to have my information disclosed. Think of the campaign contribution records and how much information is disclosed on those.
If Semler and Aiken offer to resign due to this latest flap, Funkhouser better accept those resignations.

6/30/2007 12:20 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Anon 12:20 - why would Aiken even consider resigning?

I want Semler to leave, for the obvious reasons. But Aiken should serve.

Anon - give us a good reason why he should resign. And don't simply fall back to "he didn't apply". You have to have a better reason that because he didn't go through an application fomality.

You would agree with me, that if Funk called Aiken and asked him to apply,and he applied and then was chosen, you wouldn't have a problem with that, and you wouldn't even know about that.

So your going to tell me, because that application formality was skipped, that it is grounds to ask for his resignation?

Why don't you give us a real reason reason for him to resign, like he did something illegal, or he's a member of a hate group, or he's an ex-felon, or he's a diagnsed schizo - something, Anon -anything that would be reasonable....

6/30/2007 1:00 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Have some of you considered the effect this negative stuff against Funk will have on the city itself? I mean, anyone who donates anything or provides a service or serves in any capacity will be thinking twice that he/she or his/her business is going to come under some kind of scrutiny and public challenge. I even see potential reluctance to invest in Kansas City for fear of what could come down the road.

While there may have been some missteps made on the part of the Mayor's office, is the continuous outcry worth the potential negative consequences on the City itself?

6/30/2007 2:07 PM  
Blogger Funk's Front Porch said...

Hello Dan, thanks for all the support, we surely appreciate it. While I don't usually look at the blogs, I was told, repeatedly, about your support of Funk, so I decided to check in.

Just to let you know, the Mayor didn't choose to have people apply to the boards to restrict himself in the process, instead, he asked people to apply so that he could reach out to those beyond the people that he does know.

qdw

6/30/2007 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,

I hope you have more of these types of posts. Funk has screwed this up and should be called out. But you are correct it is not the end of the world and has cost us millions of dollars or anything.

The only things I hate worse than close minded Funk supporters is folks that make these errors out to be the end of the world for KC.

6/30/2007 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mainstream,
I'm going to tear a page out of Dan's book on the resignation issue.
I never said Aiken should resign. I simply said that if he were to offer to resign, Funkhouser should accept the offer. I'm not suggesting he resign. Semler, on the other hand, should make that offer and Funkhouser would be wise to accept it this time.
I see somebody from the Mayor's office has piped in. Please convey this message to the Mayor:
The process is either open or it isn't. The fanfare over the application process was the Mayor's way of telling people that the process is open. The claim that it was an effort to broaden the selection pool is political spin, or as he says, "happy talk."

6/30/2007 5:15 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

So, what do the initials qdw stand for?

6/30/2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I imagine it is George Wolf - a man I admire. He makes a good point, that part of me wishes I had remembered - this really was intended to supplement the appointment process, not replace it.

7/01/2007 8:07 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

That makes a lot of sense. It makes no sense to limit your selction pool to only those people that apply.

If Funk was in search of a database analyst, that would be one thing. The Parks Board as we all know is about a high profile as you can get in this town.

7/01/2007 10:56 AM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"The Parks Board as we all know is about a high profile as you can get in this town"

Really? REALLY? WTF?

Admittedly, I don't live in KC (anymore), I just work there. But what does that say about Kansas City's fucked up priorities if the committee who decides which lawn service contractor (i.e. illegal immigrant crew) gets to keep the grass mowed and the shrubs watered has a higher profile than the committee whose job it is to cut down on violent crime or fix the fucking sewers?!?

I drive over more steel plates than concrete every day and it's the Parks Board who has all the clout?

There was a drive-by shooting not 2 blocks from where I work just a couple of weeks ago and the fucking Parks Board gets all of the attention?

Kansas City likes to brag (based on no facts whatsoever, btw) that it has "more fountains than anywhere but Rome!"

Unless you want those fountains to be filled with blood and raw sewage, maybe you should rethink your fucking priorities and divert some money and influence from the Parks Board to a committee that ACTUALLY DOES SOMETHING!

Well manicured parks just aren't that appealing when they are filled with homeless people, dead bodies and backed up sewers.

7/01/2007 5:37 PM  
Blogger sarah and scott said...

great post dan!

speaking of faux pass how about this regarding our illustrious Boy Governor....from From The Blog of Independence:


Governor Matt Blunt will be in Kansas City on Monday (July 2) to sign the Missouri Healthnet legislation (SB 577) at the Cleaver Family YMCA Center at 11:30 a.m. Speaker Pro Tem Michael Gibbons will reportedly be with the Governor for the signing.

Yet while the leader of Missouri's Senate and our governor travel into the Kansas City, it has been reported to me that Sen. Jolie Justus, who represents major parts of the city's urban core was not even notified of the event. Yes, forget senatorial courtesy. It seems that Gov. Blunt and Sen. Gibbons want to use the Kansas City as a backdrop for their press event, but are not willing to give Kansas City's elected officials the respect they deserve.

The First Things First Coalition will hold an press conference at 11 am at the VFW Headquarters (406 W. 34th St.) to high light stories of those who are fallout victims of the massive health care cuts of the Blunt administration.

Sen. Justus, of course will weather this snub just fine and will continue to be a strong advocate for those left behind in the Blunt/Gibbons so-called health care reform legislation.
http://www.theblogofindependence.com

7/01/2007 7:23 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Xavier O, that was actually one of your better rants.

7/01/2007 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Legal Hispanic said:

Kiddies, skip the sour grapes... Applications are for the interviewing authoritty to be familiar with the applicant and do not necesarily guarantee anything.

What we have here is, at least one member of the COHO who got skipped over for the "prestigious" unpaid appointment. I have to agree that the city has more pressing needs than fountains and manicured lawns. Anyone who drives through its streets knows that maintenance is a sporadit issue there.

Lost in this is the fact that with the head of the commision and maybe one member from the Southwest Blvd/COHO axis, it could have given them the ability to funnel expenditures to their constituency and expanded their political base. After all, it is all about politics.

I didn't vote for Funk, but would have. A more important position for someone like Semler would have been the one that has to do with the police. Imagine if the current sanctuary policies were changed to one of reoporting any detainee who is not legally present? Let it go as the relatively innocuous appointment it is. It certainly could have been more signifficant.

And his exerting his personal authority is not a hallmark of a mistake. For a real boneheaded play, look at teh way the Hispanic coalition of exclusion has tossed their political muscle around tothe point that it is no longer taken seriously and must have another group chiming in.

7/02/2007 5:14 AM  
Anonymous the nitwit said...

Funk can appoint whoever he wants, but by subverting his much ballyhooed application process, he again tarnishes his "regular folks"/anti-status quo image.

He kicked sand at the outgoing board decrying "divisiveness" and "elitism." So what is Semler? A divisive insider handpicked by the Mayor's wife.

Question: where's Wolfe in all this? Isn't he supposed to be the sage hand helping guide Funk's ship?

[63 words]

7/02/2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

BTW, how I came up with the name "George" Wolf for qdw is a mystery to myself. I must have been in a weekend haze. Ed Wolf is the person who was in the back of my mind, but he would not sign his name qdw, I suspect. I try to avoid commenting during work hours, but I had to correct my own mistake.

7/02/2007 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed must be getting out-voted or trumped by Gloria.

7/02/2007 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

arewethereyet:

BASTA!

Why does our Mayor continue to throw Gloria Squitiro under the bus?
Each and every time when a screw up occurs the bloody foot prints lead back to his wife. Most elected official will acknowledge that the final decision is theirs. They do not point to their wives and say "ask her!" Generally speaking, wives are useful when a politician needs to exit quietly. You know...." I want to spend more time with my family" type stuff. Not our man Friday..
Her inept control of the 29th floor is becoming entrenched. Perhaps she should step away from the office and see why the home fires are burning her rear.
I know that Mark is deaf in one ear. Staff has tried to intervene pre screw up, but the man has selective hearing in his good ear.

And it is curiouser and curiouser that Ed Wolff is MIA.

7/04/2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ed Wolff (sic) is missing???? I saw him Tuesday - he's doing fine.

7/04/2007 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Mayor throws wife under bus."
That's the kind of observation only a true Funkhouser hater would make.

7/04/2007 7:43 PM  
Anonymous JP said...

Dan no offense man, I love your blog and you are a great guy, but your willingness to defend this Mayor at all costs amazes me. Although, I can understand it to a point due to all of the long hours put into helping get him elected, but I believe that you are really going overboard with it. I agree that its not the end of the world for KC, but its the beginning of a long tunnel with not a lot of light.

7/06/2007 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that it's that bad. If things continue like this, without a clear direction or accomplishments, true leadership will emerge from within the city council. When that happens, Funkhouser will have proven the Peter Principle and will become living proof that bureaucrats should not run for elected office.

7/06/2007 6:13 PM  

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