Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kraske Whiffs Again - What He Should Be Asking

Steve Kraske claims the upper right corner of today's front page of the Star, and manages to look good while whiffing almost entirely. It's kind of like watching an unschooled rookie with a sweet swing face the famed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Kraske swings mightily, but can't quite make his wooden analysis impact the baffling trajectory of local politics.

The headline in the dead tree version of the story is "Has mayor run out of political capital?", and the lede is an anecdote claiming that Funkhouser failed to gladhand at a democratic fundraiser. In short, Kraske asks the wrong question and answers it with conventional wisdom from the chattering class. That, my friends, is not "analysis" worthy of publication.

First off, the question is not whether Funk has run out of "political capital". The guy won by fewer than 900 votes and walked into a council chamber poisoned by hardball politicians seeking to become mayor. The guy never really had political capital - he walked in with a target on his back, and nobody on earth was going to trade that target for a 7 member dependable majority. And, to give his critics their due, he certainly has not behaved in a fashion well-designed to accumulate it, either.

The correct question is "Can Funkhouser work with this Council to accomplish good things for our city?". Because, really, that's what people wanted when they elected him, and that's how he will be judged. Maybe a few of the insiders and professional game-players such as Kraske care about style points or how well he shakes hands at a cocktail party, but the rest of us care far more about accomplishments. By focusing on shaking hands and fuzzy concepts of "political capital", Kraske focuses on the parlor game aspects of city government rather than on the street level effectiveness of city government.

Now, before the anti-Funk brigade reflexively misinterprets what I have written so far, I'm only saying that the question ought to be "Can Funkhouser work with this Council to accomplish good things for our city?" rather than "Has mayor run out of political capital?". I hope we can all agree that my question is the better question - who cares if he never shakes another hand and the verdict at Kraske's chattering class cocktail parties unanimously states he has zero "political capital", if he is able to work with our council to accomplish good things for our city?

Having thus refocused the issue from image to substance, I'll go ahead and answer my own question.

Yes, Funkhouser can work effectively with this Council to accomplish good things for our city. He can do that by continuing to work creatively and subtly through other council people, the majority of whom will, when push comes to shove, get on board for the right reasons on the big issues for the good of the city. Jan Marcason and Beth Gottstein, for example, are not going to vote for a lousy Cauthen budget no matter what they think of Funkhouser or his wife. Most of the council is composed of grown-ups, and they can separate their disagreements on the anti-volunteer ordinance from good policy in facing the substantive issues they need to address.

All that said (and apparently beyond Kraske's imagination), Funkhouser has an opportunity right now to jumpstart his working relationship with the City Council and kick off 2009 in the most productive way possible for our city's future. In one fell swoop, he could eliminate his biggest problem in image and the city's biggest problem in reality.

In my opinion, Mark should approach those city councilmembers who really do have the good of the city at heart with a proposal to dismiss his Volunteer Ordinance lawsuit in exchange for their support in getting rid of Wayne Cauthen. Most agree that Cauthen is simply the wrong man for the foreseeable future, and I believe they would welcome such an opportunity to get back on track in solving our city's very real problems.

I feel like I owe some explanation, since I loudly called upon Mark to file his lawsuit, and I continue to think that the anti-Volunteer Ordinance is an unconstitutional bastard born in a backroom from spite and dishonesty. Despite my dislike of the Ordinance, though, that single issue need not continue to distract attention and dominate the public discourse.

Right now, Mark is working just fine with his geographically flexible Mayor's office, just as most of the councilmembers work effectively while spending little time in the four walls of their offices. While it feels wrong to let such an ugly little ordinance remain on the books, dismissing the suit does not make it constitutional. Someday, in a less critical time when we can afford to focus on "B" level priorities, the ordinance can be challenged in a more favorable environment. In terms of impact on the city, the Volunteer Ordinance is tiny in comparison to the damage wrought by the wrong City Manager.

Dismissal of the suit would also unplug the electricity surrounding rumors of Koster investigations and other nonsense. In short, Funkhouser would be rising above the Council's petty mistake, diminishing a danger, and accomplishing a larger goal. It would also provide the good Councilmembers with a way to redeem themselves from their current tarnished, bickering image, and make a clean break from the past.

Would Funkhouser ever make such a deal? I have no idea.

But it's a lot better question than Kraske's breathless insider chatter about "political capital".

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Anonymous Lynn KC said...

Great. I hope he takes you up on your suggestion to dismiss the suit.

He won't though. We clearly have seen that he is incapable of negotiating or compromising.

I would be thrilled to see it happen but I am not hopeful. He is too far gone.

And it would be great if the City Council could get together and fix the infrastructure problem - sewers & streets.

And I know the "chattering class" gets in your craw Dan. But the "chattering class" are people who donate money and walk door-to-door for candidates - including Funk. Who does he have left besides you & hired staff Blackwood?

My guess is that he runs for re-election and does not even make the run-off. You can't run a campaign without money and no one is going to give him money.

But maybe he could turn it around. I would be extremely excited if he did so.

1/06/2009 9:31 AM  
Anonymous not a beauty contest said...

I have a boss - actually - I have four bosses. I don't like all of them, but if I am at a social function - or at lunch - I walk over and chat them up for a moment - pay a compliment - make him/her feel like I'm happy to see them.

Why? Because there are things I want - like a new stapler, a raise, promotion, continued employment, etc. If someone is not pleasant to talk to, AND they have no power to help me achieve my goals, I'm not going to waste my time.

That's what's happened with the Mayor - people know he has no power to do anything, so nobody bothers to shake his hand and chat him up. A leader's popularity with the "chattering class" is not a superficial popularity contest of looks and charm. It is a measure of how much power that person yields. With Funk - it is zero.

1/06/2009 10:30 AM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

Dan - I don't think its his political capital that is going to make or break his legacy in the mayoral seat. He had a lot of people cheering him on and supporting him and ultimately voting for him because he was NOT a politician's politician. I, being one of them, have really been turned off over the last year or so because of his lack of personal communication. I thought it was sweet that Gloria was such a big part of his campaign, and a big part of his office - but it made him very inaccessible. I think he suffered very personal attacks by members of the council, but he responded in a very immature and unsocial way. He led a very hard campaign, and has suffered many hardships through his short tenure, but our city is in a vulnerable position and we need a strong leader - not just one who knows how to cross out the right lines in a budget - but who knows how to meet situations head on and make them better. He can still turn it around. He can probably never do enough to satisfy the pundits and reporters, and probably never recover enough to get elected into another office again (but, golly, do you think he would want to), but he would do good by all us people who cheered him on in the first place, and defended him vehemently at first, quietly after a while, and have no other choice but to cringe in the end. He would improve the playground chatter, the mealtime discussions, and maybe even allow the national media to let up a little.
Your loyalty is a reflection of confidence in this man's character, and defensiveness of unfair treatment in the media - both of which are unquestionable. But Funkhouser has not proven to be the man that I voted for, and who I urged others to vote for as well. Even if you believe he has retained his own small amount of political capital - I risked a lot of my own personal capital in my support of him. I just hope he makes good on that . . .

1/06/2009 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

Agreed that the Kraske article was lame. And your response is interesting.

walked into a council chamber poisoned by hardball politicians seeking to become mayor.


He can do that by continuing to work creatively and subtly through other council people, the majority of whom will, when push comes to shove, get on board for the right reasons on the big issues for the good of the city.

How is it the council can simultaneously be poisoned by mayoral ambition and willing to do the right thing for the city? And your line about creative and subtle work through council members sounds like a stretch to give Funkhouser credit for leading when he's actually following. I personally don't care if he's leading or following as long as good things get done. And I agree with you that a majority of the council doesn't appear likely to block good ideas just to deny Funkhouser any credit. (Which is why the "poisoned" comment made little sense to me).

As for your horse trading idea... hmm. What exactly is the trade? I imagine the cost of defending the ordinance law suit is significantly less than the cost of buying out Cauthen's contract. If a majority of the council is already convinced Cauthen is bad, then do they really need the sweetener of dismissing the lawsuit? If they need to be convinced he's bad, is the dropping the suit sufficient incentive? I'd argue - no. Because I don't share your belief that it's unconstitutional, I think the ordinance will be upheld (easily).

The only real significant "trade" I see in your suggestion is the one you implicitly deny by your vigorous defense of the Mayor's position on the volunteer ordinance. The trade makes sense as a face saving way of admitting error. Council admits they were wrong to renew Cauthen's contract. Mayor admits he was wrong to sue over the volunteer ordinance. That would be a healing moment. It would help our representatives move away from stakes they've positioned in ultimately unworthy battles and towards governing effectively for the people.

1/06/2009 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great posts and great comments. I've got nothing to add but praise.

1/06/2009 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I continue to think that the anti-Volunteer Ordinance is an unconstitutional bastard

Remember Dan also predicted that Funk would win the first Cauthen lawsuit.

Dan was wrong then and he is wrong now.

1/06/2009 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever ignorant folk like Funk don't like the rules they cry "UNCONSTITUTIONAL!" but rarely do they explain how the rules violate the Constitution.

What part of the Constitution does the volunteer ordinance violate?

1/06/2009 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funk is done in this town. Who says he can come back?

Almost no one.

The focus of the remainder of his term should be on "doing no harm" to our city.

1/06/2009 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Emily L said...

I am lighting a smudge stick in honor of the Mayor right now.

1/06/2009 3:35 PM  
Anonymous ray ray said...

Dan, is 'going down with the ship' . At least Yael and some of Funk's inner circle have admitted they were wrong and jumped off.

1/06/2009 7:33 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Right now, Mark is working just fine with his geographically flexible Mayor's office, just as most of the councilmembers work effectively while spending little time in the four walls of their offices.

Dante, are you suggesting that it is OKAY for the Mayor of Kansas City (any Mayor, not just this schlemiel) to run the City's business out of his office?

Say it ain't so, Dan of Gone Mild.

1/07/2009 1:46 AM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Funkhouser can work effectively with this Council to accomplish good things for our city.

I ask again for the umpteenth time, what good has he done and how in heavens name can such an arrogant stubborn two faced lying bully who agitated the Councilpeople so much that the vanquished his wife?

Plus he's not exactly an easy fellow to get along with in general? Would you agree with that characterization?

By the way, Dan, before you get bent out of shape as you usually do about the way I have characterized the Funk, wouldn't you agree that he has acted in the way I have described/characterized him?

If you dispute this, I am prepared to back up everything I wrote with links and anecdotal evidence as well as the opinion of others. The only thing I don't I can do consistently is figure out why the buzzard of a guy has acted this way... sometimes I understand why but not always. I have to admit, from time to time, I am either confounded or dumbfounded by certain of his maneuverings... usually not in a positive way, I might add and as you are aware :)

1/07/2009 1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of your positions continue to reflect those of only the inner circle of this mayor. Why is it that every time you speak about a so called majority your opinion happens to differ from the real majority that exists in the real world?

Both economically and socially speaking this mayor has either failed to do the right thing or halfway attempted to do the right thing so that someone in this community will like him. That shouldn't be mistaken with his objectives or plan for the city because when he took office his priorities and plan for the city obviously had nothing to do with the right thing...moving kansas city forward.

1/08/2009 7:47 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Anon 747PM... I wonder who is in the Inner Circle of Team Funk nowadays? Of course the Squid, Schmendrick Blackwood... maybe Aggie Stackhouse?

I don't think there is any one else left from the original core group.

Dan, you seem to be close to the Funkhouser's? Any one I left out?

1/10/2009 1:05 AM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

You know something Dante, you are propagating a myth... you keep referring to the council titans as hardball politicians. The Funk is a politician too, just not a very good one. And he has been around the scene alot longer than any of the current crop. And lest we forget, until the last few months, he was the Star's boy... they and Jimmy Nutter pushed him past Al Brooks.

For the Star to actually "retract" it's endorsement was HISTORIC and unprecedented. And took some doing on the part of the Funk.

Let's face it big guy, the Funk has let a lot of people down including but not limited to almost all of his original inner circle of supporters and advisors. Let's be real again... who's left? Aggie Stackhouse, Bill Drummond and you. Which means that the original heavy hitting team of advisors he had with him are all gone.

Be real again... it's not like you don't know how many people have fled being anywhere near him. And we are not talking about his enemies... Evert Asjes, Jimmy Nutter, Big Jeff Simon Yael T Abouhalkah to name but a few... these are people of presumed substance who left this guy for dead and have otherwise cut him loose. Not because he isn't a good seasoned politician but because he is a jerk and let them down.

1/10/2009 1:15 AM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Oops! I forgot to name Big Ed Wolf... remember him? The guy the Funk told us was indispensable and had to be allowed to double dip against his KCMO buyout.

Yes siree Bob, or in this case Dan.... he didn't make it more than a year. And out the door he flew without notice.

How come all these inside friends of Funk are out and avoiding the Funk like the plague and you keep telling us how great he's doing and how satisfied you are with the job he's done????

Know that I think of it, you remind me of GW Bush :) Yep! The hero of New Orleans... the guy who told us Brownee was thumbs up fantastic :) The guy who stood on an aircraft carrier and told us MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

1/10/2009 2:44 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ina, you're factually mistaken on much of what you say, but I'll agree with you on your underlying point. It causes me great concern to no longer see him consulting some of his former advisers. That fact, much, much more than any of the little flaps that Tony and you like to yap about, makes me worry.

1/10/2009 9:06 AM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Da... you are avoiding what I say again and in not the most clever of ways.

Let us dissect what you wrote:

Ina, you're factually mistaken on much of what you say, but I'll agree with you on your underlying point.

What am I "factually mistaken" about??? Come on Da, make the case. SHow us that you are not just in avoidance of the truth mode. Oh, I would agree that Wolf lasted 1 1/2 years or so but the truth is that he wasn't functioning as Chief of Staff from earlier than that. But technically, he left after about 1 1/2 years rather than a year. Actually, I meant to write a year or so in my orginal post. BUT HE WALKED OUT WITH NO WARNING AND DISGUSTED AND NO PUBLIC EXPLANATION (other than the deposition).

It causes me great concern to no longer see him consulting some of his former advisers.

Some of his former advisors??? Come on, Da... be real.

I named most of the original core group. Other than Aggie (and I am not so sure how much he listens to her anyway), who is left from the core group??? Simon? No. Wolf. No. Joe MIler. No. Jim Nutter Sr. No.

NAME WHO IS LEFT??? And please don't count yourself or Bill Drummond.

That fact, much, much more than any of the little flaps that Tony and you like to yap about, makes me worry.

What "little flaps??" Do you mean something like the "little flap" they had with original supporter Ruth Bates???

Consider yourself called out. Let's see what specific case you can make????? Or will you go back to your hiding place in La La Land.

1/10/2009 2:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

So you're complaining that I called you factually mistaken, though you agree you're factually mistaken? Is that really an attempt to engage in intelligent discussion?

Sorry, Ina, it's really not worth the effort to discuss things with you. You have your facts wrong, you overestimate your importance (calling me out? what?), and you misinterpret simple language either willfully or ignorantly (it doesn't matter which).

Don't think I'm hiding from you, or unable to address your concerns. It truly is simply that you wear on me, and your inability to talk seriously makes you not worth engaging. I acknowledged some concerns, and all you do is attack and be silly. It's your schtick, I know, but I choose not to join in.

You demand that I "make a case" (for what, I have no idea), but you give me no reason to want to do so.

1/10/2009 3:08 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

You are pathetic :) ANd you are ducking..... your post said I was "factually mistaken on much of what you say..." and you are quibbling with wether Big Ed Wolf walked out in a year or a year and a half??? Fact is he left the Funk as fast as he could and for dead. The indispensible guy... ha ha ha!

YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DO BETTER THAN THIS, Dan. Come on now!!!! Or are you content to kid just yourself???

Let's see if you leave my post up. I already know what your response is and will always be :)

1/10/2009 3:22 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Oh I don't know Dan... make the case for the criticism you made. Or run away and avoid, duck, bob and weave :) La La Land it is for you, it seems.

"...your inability to talk seriously makes you not worth engaging..."

It's not serious to blog about the FACT that almost all of the original inner circle of Team Funk A DUnk is gone??? What's not serious or true about that???

What's serious is that you seriously don't like to get challenged or make the case for what you say.

If you were doing this amongst friends and just clowning around... who would care.

But you know me, one issue inafunkaboutthefunk.... I take what you say seriously even though it seems most of the time you haven't earned the right to be taken for more than a deluded fool. Sorry but true. You commentary on the topic of Funkhouser proves this point.

1/10/2009 3:39 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Ha ha ha! As I suspected, you chose to let this fade of the chart. At least I and others know how you act. Granted, how you act is not the purpose of the blog but it would make things better to have an administrator or founder (not sure of the right word) who was more straight forward. In any event, you are certainly not the worst or most deluded of the lot. Good luck :)

1/12/2009 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you know how Beth will vote?

1/25/2009 9:07 PM  

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