Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mayor's Forum on Financial Preparedness

Yesterday morning, concerned Kansas Citians gathered at the auditorium of the Liberty Memorial Museum for a conversation just as bleak as the weather outside. The structural imbalance of Kansas City's budget and the crazed tax-giveaways of the Barnes years have left us facing a $84.9 million dollar shortfall which will grow to a $111.5 million shortfall if current trends continue. The short answer, brought home by Deb Hermann, Mayor Funkhouser and the consultants who spoke, is that current trends cannot continue. So what are we going to do about it?

In a nutshell, we failed to come up with workable solutions. The ideas that seemed to have the most support all placed the misery squarely on the average city worker or average citizen, and involved little or no sacrifice for the ultra-wealthy Kansas Citians who spoke out at the meeting. "Charge for trash" and "cut back on city workers" were the strongest suggestions offered up by the multi-multi-multi-millionaires who grabbed the microphones before going back to their taxpayer financed enclaves. Funny how nobody even suggested graduating the earnings tax, or even delaying Payments in Lieu of Taxes so we get a year's worth of interest on the money we are paying to finance their castles. Indeed, one of the wealthiest men in the state openly scoffed at any thought that some of the problem could be solved on the revenue side of the equation. The suffering, it was clear, belongs to the peasants.

That said, I'm glad I showed up and participated. Almost all the smart councilmembers attended, and it was wildly impressive to see 60 of Kansas City's heaviest hitters show up on a frigid Monday morning in Christmas week. Notably absent were Wayne Cauthen, Kay Barnes or Steve Glorioso. Also, no Federal, State or County politicians attended - we're in this on our own, Kansas City.

While we didn't solve the massive budgetary problems we're facing, the morning was time well-spent. We all learned a little more about the issues, received a briefing on the consultants' report (available for download here), and we got to think a little and brainstorm on ways out.

Perhaps most valuably, we got a flavor of the political realities faced by our elective representatives. On the one hand, we had the uber-wealthy loudly and jealously guarding their advantages, while we also faced fantasy-land fossils grumbling about free trash promises from generations ago, and calling for repeal of the earnings tax. We heard ill-informed, reckless suggestions tossed out by those without a clue on implementation, and we heard earnest, factual statements about the financial unsupportability of doing nothing.

Walking out after 3 hours of financial bad news, it was hard not to feel a strange sort of optimism. We have some great people in this city, and the City officials who showed up are focused and smart. Deb Hermann did a great job of presenting, and Funkhouser did a great job of getting everyone's attention focused on the problems we're facing.

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Anonymous Sophia said...

Kay Barnes was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but she did send along some recommendations:

1. Crackdown on skateboarders and charge them $1000 fines.


3. Downtown Baseball Stadium!!

12/23/2008 7:26 AM  
Blogger Capt. Geoffrey Spaulding said...

Did ANYBODY mention the $20.5-million the City just gave away for that "high-risk (STAR's term)" Citadel Plaza project?

Didn't think so...

12/23/2008 7:36 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...


How could anybody think that a random group of people in several hours could solve the city's financial issues?

Let me be clear - this was a random group of people. You don't have a serious gathering to solve a problem JUST HOPING SOMEONE KNOWLEDGEABLE JUST MIGHT SHOW UP.

It's an insane expectation.

Absolutely insane - hope some knowledgeable people show up, and if they don't - no problem, we got people gathered -- we should be able to solve this problem, right?

Absolutely, unequivically WRONG.

It may be a good publicity stunt, but this kind of effort never solves the problem, AND IT SHOULDN'T.

Serious businesspeople and serious policy makers solve these problems through disciplined process and thinking among experts - people who are experienced in making these types of decisions - over a period of time.

Trying to solve problems with random groups of people is nonsense.

Save that BS for people like Sarah Palin - after all, she's a "common woman" who pays a mortgage, right? She should be able to solve the mortgage crisis, right? Just like a random group of people can solve KC's financial problems.

12/23/2008 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

Who said anyone expected to solve the financial issues? I know Dan didn't. I know Funk didn't. I know Deb didn't.

Barking at the moon there, Mainstream? Those invisible demons pestering you again?

12/23/2008 8:57 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Nope. I get the idea that this meeting is a springboard of sorts.

But it's not.

Random gatherings of people sometimes, on a good day, make a good focus group for market research. Sometimes.

Random gatherings of people only are useful if you want to diseminate information.

Not for problem solving, at any level.

It was a useless exercise, as most people admit. Someone with an ounce of common sense would have predicted that.

12/23/2008 9:06 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

But Kingsfield, keep defending Funkhouser and his leadership.

12/23/2008 9:07 AM  
OpenID Eric Rogers said...

Thanks for the recap! I wonder how many of the CEOs in the room were actually residents of the city?

12/23/2008 9:08 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

From Funk's Front Porch:

"The Mayor will soon hold a Forum on Financial Preparedness with community leaders, council members and experts, who will assess the city’s finances, consider the impact of the global financial crisis and begin to develop a contingency plan should Kansas City experience a dramatic decline in revenue."

Sounds like the meeting was called to initiate a problem solving process, and the only thing that happended is information was "shared" and everybody there got an "appreciation" for the scope of the problem.

Most of the people that should be in on siolving this problem weren't there, anyways.

That result like information sharing, not problem solving. Info sharing, not problem solving, is what you would expect out of a random gathering of people.

That was not, however, how the meeting was positioned.

So let me ask the question, how is our mayor going to lead our city to solve this problem?

12/23/2008 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

Were you there? I wasn't, so I can't really say for sure whether it was useless or useful. But, by Dan's reporting, it sounds like it helped a lot of people focus in on the problems, gained some additional readers of the report than could otherwise be expected, and helped some of the city's elite gain a better understanding of the political constraints. Pretty good morning's work, I'd say.

Dan - which council people were there? You mention "almost all the smart ones", which I assume means Marcason, Johnson, Hermann, Skaggs and Jolly - were any of the dumb ones there (like Riley and Circo)?

12/23/2008 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody is fooled by your Kingsfield alias Dan.

12/23/2008 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan you are really breaking the needle on the pathetic meter. An imaginary friend on your own blog AND that refers to a character who knows something about the law to boot!

No other officeholders or public officials were there because Funkhouser does not matter. First of all, the Kansas City mayor is little more than a cheerleader based on the powers rested in it by the Charter. You Orange Revolutionaries could never understand that so you were doomed from the start. Second, Funkhouser has destroyed any standing he might have once laid claim to. He treats other officials as underlings and they simply will not put up with it. And of course there is the Gloria smudge factor, which makes it impossible for Funkhouser to be taken seriously - or even tolerated.

This "forum" was simply a placebo, an inflammatory for Funkhouser's delusional Id, not a prescription for what ails the city.

Funkhouser sees himself as the school teacher, the oracle and Fuhrer whose views cannot be questioned. He has to have his wife, a gnomish, sexually obsessed, racially and religiously intolerant cave-dweller, close at hand to enforce the purity of his Will -- just like another self aggrandizing sociopath had Dr. Goebbels. The comparisons only break down when one considers that there is no historical evidence that Hitler ever needed to go to the bathroom at the same time as Dr. Goebbels, but that said they both groups had mountain hide-a-ways.

12/23/2008 10:39 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Do you know what I'd say, Kingsfield?

I'd say you're making crap up.

That's what I'd say.

I'd also say the meeting didn't accomplish much - unless you consider a bunch of random "folks" standing in a circle holding hands and singing "kum bah-yahhh, muh Lord, kum bah yahhhhhh".

Now I can't get that song out of my head.

Wait a minute....I feel better about things already!!

You're right, that was a good meeting!!!!!!

12/23/2008 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put Mainstream.

Dan, I am not surprised at your comments in the second paragraph. Having looked over the attendees and later inquiring as to the absence of a couple of people who really could have contributed, only to learn they were not invited, I question some of the motives behind this gathering. A lot of the people I recognized are only interested in the impact that any actions would have on their personal turf.

Again, there are built-in brains with institutional knowledge that could have given confidence to the whole of the group, as well as offered constructive and workable ideas for change, but instead some of the attendees were invited for other reasons, while at the same time some were not included for the wrong reasons. Not necessarily with the interest of our city in mind.

Again, consultants are going to offer up high priced observations and suggestions that could have been free. They offer text-book answers and solutions, not those based in reality within a governmental structure and political realities. In otherwords, it will ultimately come down to whether or not the council has the fortitude to gore somebody elses ox.

Dan, you have a couple of good suggestions that warrant serious consideration. Hopefully, we can get beyond "posing" and press events and get down to meaningful strategies to reduce costs. I hope that when the Mayor et al put together the next group, they invite experienced participants that have no axe to grind or fiefdom to protect, OR fee to earn.

12/23/2008 11:05 AM  
Anonymous ray ray said...

Dan, leaadership via pulic forums is not leadership.

Also, pls ask our frugal mayor why is is supporting the city guaranteeing the bonds for the soccer stadium development (the exact reason why we are in a pinch with many TIF's) and why he signed off the the Citadel disaster?

A City that Works for you is really a City that is staus quo.

12/23/2008 11:30 AM  
Blogger I Travel for JOOLS said...

I pay $10.96/month for trash service and I don't live in a "rich" JoCo town. I've paid for trash service wherever I've lived, including in other states. Hell, in one Wisconsin town I not only paid for trash pick-up, I was required to purchase their bags and recycle and that was on top of the monthly fee.

We are currently facing an expensive need to replace our water plant. Concerned citizen meetings were held here too to gain input on the best choices and how to handle the costs, but these meetings were open to the public. Was the above meeting open to the public? If nothing else, at least it lends transparency to the issue.

And, as for consultants, of course consultants are used in situations like this. Does the city have the resources (time/money/expertise) to address the problems themselves?

12/23/2008 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

Dan - Our secret is out - we are the same person. Which means you owe me half your beer.

12/23/2008 12:15 PM  
Anonymous bo said...

while we also faced fantasy-land fossils grumbling about free trash promises from generations ago

Dan, unless I am wrong, when the etax was passed, it was promoted that it would cover trash pickup.

You seem to be saying that when voters approve a tax for one purpose, that those same voters should have no say when the tax is used for another purpose? Is that correct?

So if KC suddenly takes the bus tax and uses that income on Power and Light, instead of buses, would you call voters "fossils" if they complained?

If the museum tax was redirected to the Sprint Arena, would I be a "fossil" for complaining about that?

When you promote that a new tax will pay for a certain service, I don't understand why it is wrong to complain when the tax is not used on that service.

12/23/2008 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget: It is $85 to $90 million in the next budget. The total projected shortfall over 5 years nearly a half a billion dollars ($440 billion) on page 1 of the consultant's executive summary report.

That is a massive debt. You can't address one year without eliminating on-going costs that impact years out.

12/23/2008 1:03 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, how can you shop at Costco at a time like this? You should be on your blog defending yourself.

And btw, I thought you were a beer-lover - why are you spending all that time in the wine section?

12/23/2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream - that's more than just a little bit creepy . . .

I MAKE my beer, I buy my wine.

Merry Christmas!

12/23/2008 3:54 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

What can I say, I'm a creepy commenter.

Merry Christmas to you!

12/23/2008 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kingsfield 9:16. You left a few Council people out of your smart/dumb ranking. Are the excluded ones average? Or just not ranked?

12/23/2008 7:05 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

while we also faced fantasy-land fossils grumbling about free trash promises from generations ago...

Wrong again, Dan. The free trash promises are paid for specifically by the earnings tax which was imposed upon the citizens you disparaged in your post.

The earnings tax remains and in fact, the promise of free garbage has already been chiseled a bit over the years ---> no longer does the City provide the Citizens with free trash bags and and garbage bag after the second one costs a dollar.

So as I see it, the tax that pays for the garbage is in place and the service that was promised has been chiseled but is still in place.

Why wouldn't any one complain if something they paid for was taken away? Or more accurately something that was paid for gets charged to them a second time... what's good or fair or reasonable about that?

12/23/2008 7:48 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

In a nutshell, we failed to come up with workable solutions.

I find this choice of words fascinating. Are you now on the Mayor's Payroll? Or have you become a City Employee? Or have you been appointed to a City Task Force for budgeting?

Absent one of the above, you were a regular citizen, the kind that the Orange Revolution was supposed to represent and come to the table with answers to the fiscal problems of the City provided for by it's leader, Auditor of the Century and 19 year auditor and civic naysayer and gadfly Funkhouser.

Doesn't seem like the Funk had any answers other than to charge the hapless citizens for their trash.

Ou et Le Funk, Dante? And where is the Orange Revolution? Dead, I'm afraid.

12/23/2008 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that this was merely a grandious attempt to get Funk supporters who had lost faith and confidence back under the tent?

If Dan is correct in Glorioso's invitation to participate, could it be a testimony to Funk's vacillating and PR attempts at inclusiveness, not necessarily just an attempt at solving the financial crisis that the City is facing.

Could it be that George Blackwood is behind many of the ideas coming out of the Mayor's office of late.

12/24/2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much does this City waste on free take home vehicle and gas for 99% of the police officers in the City? Cut Information Technology Department, The Action Center, Human Resources, and Human Relation Departments. What good does it do to support these services if we can't get smooth streets, safe bridges, and clean drinking water. Yes, cut curb side recycling and charge for trash collection.

12/24/2008 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Nuke said...

Nothing to do with the topic, but Merry X-mas Beerman!

12/25/2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Dan, let's just have those with money give it all to the city and let the city decide what to do with it. They are so darn good at making such decisions. Let's invoke a graduated earnings tax (really?) even though the promise when it originally passed was that it would sunset. Of course, it hasn't. The city needs to stop wasting money. WKB

12/25/2008 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still want to know which Council members are considered smart or not, other than the ones already listed.

12/26/2008 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Councilwoman Gottstein is highly educated.

12/27/2008 10:40 AM  

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