Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kraske Seeking Answers: Freedom Inc. - What is the Point?

I tend to be fairly hard on Steve Kraske - for someone who works a 40 hour week focusing on local politics, and who has access to the resources and tipsters of the Star, his level of insight ranks just below the drunk guy at the end of the bar, and far below most amateur blogs. If the Star hired a clever and attentive beagle to write the local political analysis, they could probably get similar columns, and Gusewelle would enjoy coming to work more.

But, on in his Sunday column, Kraske takes a new tack. It appears that he has recognized his limitations, and will, from now on, simply ask questions that other, wiser, more perceptive people can answer for him. He writes:
What’s up with Freedom Inc., the African-American political club in Kansas City?

First, the group signals that it will oppose the 1-cent sales-tax renewal for capital improvements. Then it reverses course.

Now, the group has yet to take a stand on the big question of whether public schools in Independence can pull out of the Kansas City School District.

At some point, the question for Freedom becomes: What is the point?
Good question, Steve, and one which requires a little knowledge of history and current events, so it is wise of you to leave the question of what is up with Freedom, Inc. to others.

Freedom, Inc., was formed back in 1962 - only 45 years ago according to the calendar, but centuries ago in terms of societal change regarding the role of blacks in government. When it started, it served the purpose of helping get black people to the polls and voting for supportive politicians. They would screen candidates, and those candidates would make donations to the organization to support their get-out-the-vote and other functions. Great leaders like Leon Jordan, Alan Wheat and Emanuel Cleaver received crucial support from Freedom, Inc., and Kansas City has benefited from the leadership that Freedom, Inc. has fostered.

Over the past several years, though, the organization has lost its way. It is unable to attract young leadership, and its ability to deliver the votes is acknowledged to be a thing of the past. The busloads of voters clutching their Freedom sample ballots are an icon of a bygone era.

The tradition of seeking donations from candidates has continued, though, and the suspicion that Freedom's endorsement is for sale has undermined the reputation of the organization and the impact of its support. Perhaps the nadir was reached in 2006, when Freedom threw its weight behind Charlie Wheeler and Jason Klumb in two hotly contested races. Both endorsements were suspiciously pro-establishment, and both resulted in stinging defeats. In a prior era, the Freedom, Inc. endorsement would have been the deciding factor in both elections, but, in 2006, it was at best irrelevant, and possibly even a negative.

In 2006, Freedom, Inc. suffered a further embarrassment when it was fined by the FEC for failure to register as a PAC and comply with contribution limits and other provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

So, Steve, you ask what is up with Freedom, Inc., and the answer is a simple one. An organization formed to support social change has changed its focus to money. When Freedom, Inc. came out against the sales tax, it had nothing to do with what was good for the community. When it came out in favor of the sales tax, it had nothing to do with what was good for the community. The change in position was due to a change in how it perceived the money would flow.

As for the School District issue, the reason that they've remained silent is simple. Nobody has written them and told them how they should feel about it. As soon as someone writes to them in their preferred form, they will have a position. Their preferred form being, of course, in the memo section of a large check . . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep. Craig Bland has taken over as President since the 2006 election. He has the organization evolving in the right direction. The changes won't happen over night, bu they will occur and will be positive.

The ideals of Freedom are still alive and well among the people. Did you attend the 100+ picnic this summer? Words of support were offered by Congressman Cleaver, County Exec. Sanders, Rep. Bland, Sen. Wilson, Rep. Page, Rep. Hughes, Rep. Holsman, Rep. Talboy, JC Leg Garza, Councilman Sharp & a host of candidates for Sherriff & other local positions as well as Nixon reps.

Pretty impressive list of Jackson County leaders who still think Freedom has a purpose.

10/30/2007 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous - you are correct that the bulk of the problems pre-date Rep. Bland, though the sales tax flip/flop and the school issue silence are on his score sheet. I really, truly hope that Freedom recaptures its mission and focuses on the community. That would be wonderful.

I wouldn't misinterpret a bunch of politicians paying tribute to mean anything more than a bunch of politicians sucking up, though, would you?

10/30/2007 10:38 AM  
Anonymous civilitas patri said...

Once again it is clear that we need to elect outsiders like Jason Kander as a counterbalance to the Me-Too crowd that went to the Freedom Inc. picnic. I am glad to see that our soldier was not listed in that group of Camp Followers.

Bland is Sanders "boy" pure and simple. Cal Williford is supposed to run Bland for Boss Sanders, but Cal's legal problems are not making him a very good overseer.

10/30/2007 3:28 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I don't delete comments, CP, but racist comments like yours are disappointing. Notice that Amy Coffman wasn't listed, either. Neither of them, I am certain, would want to be associated with your kind of talk.

10/30/2007 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delete this fool. He/she's doing the same routine on all your posts and then over at the blue blog.

Get a life, CP. Amy doesn't need your kind of under-handed assistance.

10/30/2007 5:01 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous - I won't delete the comments - I think, as a general rule, the damage that would be done by my attempts to decide what speech is appropriate is greater than the damage done by letting readers see for themselves just how awful such people are. Give 'em enough rope, I say.

I also need to step out of my pro-Kander role and question your conclusion that this nutcase is actually a pro-Coffman advocate. I respect Amy, and I don't think that anyone who shares her beliefs, or Jason's beliefs, would actually be capable of publishing crap like that. No, I think we're dealing with a lone sicko, answering only to the voices in his or her own head.

10/30/2007 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CP also has no idea about the recent history of JC politics.

Me-too crowd??? Camp followers???

Hughes not supposed to win in 04'

Garza not supposed to win in 06'

Talboy not supposed to win in 06'

Holsman not supposed to win in 06'

Page running for LTGov in 08'

& how exactly do you be the Congressman for the district and the County Executive and not be part of the establishment?

CP your not only an insensitive disgrace - but you also have no clue what your talking about or you don't pay attention to details which makes you dangerous, mostly to yourself, seek help before its too late.

10/30/2007 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I basically agree with you and your analysis on this question, I'd point out that people have been saying exactly the same thing about Freedom for more than 30 years. Seriously, I was doing research in the library the other day and picked up a copy of Walt Bodine's book from 1976, Right Here In Rier City, and there were a few pages on Freedom, saying that although it was the "political voice of the black community" many thought that it just went for the cash and was an organization bought and paid for. We're talking before Bruce Watkins run for mayor, during the supposedly "good ol' days" of Freedom. If this rap goes back that far, my question is, has there ever been a time when folks didn't say this about Freedom? And, if not, is it maybe just possible that the whole image of Freedom as following the money is a constructed one designed to undermine its effectiveness and give those who don't really want to do anything for the black community anyways an excuse to say that the demands made by black leaders are illegitimate?

10/30/2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^ the title of the Walt Bodine book should be "Right Here In River City", co-authored with Tracy Thomas.

10/30/2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Porchpundit said...

Actually Dan, Amy Coffman was at the Freedom Inc. Picnic this summer, I talked to Amy Coffman there using my given name. Based on the previous posts should we add her to a list or subtract her from a list? She was there with her husband.

I am not sure what this effort to assign every Kook for Kander (approved or not) to Coffman is supposed to prove but I am really tired of it. It is the assumptions being posted (on blog after blog) as fact that really upsets me the the most. The whole dynamic leads me to my own assumptions, which I don't think the Kander faithful would like.

Dan, I appreciate your post on the subject. I would also appreciate if other bloggers followed your lead on the matter.

10/31/2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

PP - Thanks for the correction.

Given the level of credibility that anonymous or pseudonymous blog-commenters have, and the ease with which anyone can comment, I'd caution all readers not to weigh such comments very heavily in making decisions about candidates. Certainly, if they raise important, legitimate issues, and present them rationally, then the information should be considered. But don't draw any conclusions from the attitude or tenor of one side's advocates - particularly a negative conclusion.

If I wanted to, and had no integrity, it would be an easy matter to comment pseudonymously as a nasty advocate for any candidate. Now would also be an appropriate time to point out that I, myself, am just some random person out there who happens to be backing Kander, among others. It's not Kander's fault or Page's fault or Harris' fault if I type something stupid and offensive . . .

10/31/2007 6:03 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

I assume this poster (CP) is trying to make Kander look bad. I don't assume the poster cares either way about Coffman. And I agree with Dan that it's unwise to hold candidates responsible for the anon/pseudonym comments of their supporters on the internet. Doing so only empowers the type of people who find it necessary to engage in all the nasty anonymous posturing.

Having said that, playing "secret agenda" watch is kind of fun. Like any game, it's just not to be taken too seriously.

10/31/2007 3:21 PM  
Anonymous WheresWaldo said...

What are you talking about failure to attract young people? Freedom has its own Young Freedom organization. I know quite a few of them including the former and current presidents. They are great people on the rise. Craig Bland is a great guy and leader that will only attract more young faces. Mike Sanders and Calvin Wiliford are both great guys, but they don't control Freedom.

Every political club plays politics. But many leaders of all races have moved through the ranks thanks to Freedom and have a lot of respect for their history and past leaders. Mark Bryant was a punk , but expect that club to find its second wind with its new leadership. Im looking forward to it as a counter balance to the obvious increase in racism throughout Kansas City suburbs.

11/01/2007 1:01 AM  

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