Friday, January 02, 2009

Praise for the Council

On New Year's Day, I received a chipper and realistically optimistic email from Jan Marcason, wishing her supporters "good health and happiness in 2009". The other night at the beer party, someone asked me why I am so positive about Jan Marcason, Beth Gottstein, Russ Johnson, Deb Hermann and several other city councilmembers who have, at least to all appearances, not been supportive of Mayor Funkhouser, whom I also support.

The question has many answers.

In the biggest sense, I don't necessarily want a monolithic City, County, State or Federal government. I've never understood the perspective of those who feel that government is working best when it is bickering least. In reality, government is one of the battlegrounds where clashing interests meet to decide on shares and rules - peace is an unnatural state in any legislature, including our City Council. When Barnes had a dependable majority behind her, she drove our city into financial disgrace and allowed TIF pigs to plunder our future.

Beyond the inherent conflicts of legislative life, I also accept that each elected official is a human being. I think all of them have had grand moments and boneheaded blunders. The Mayor, for instance, made a mistake in the Semler appointment/retention, and his go-it-alone approach to firing Cauthen was simply foolish. As for the Council, the Volunteer Ordinance is an hysterical embarrassment, and the thoughtless decision to give Cauthen a raise and a three year contract may have been the only way to be more foolish than Funkhouser in the Cauthen saga.

In short, if I want to find a perfect politician who never makes costly, bone-headed mistakes, I had better search someplace other than City Hall.

But I think they're, on the whole, doing a darned fine job. They joined together and rejected Cauthen's ludicrous, unrealistic budget. They did the hard work to come up with a far better budget and are already working toward doing it again in an even bleaker economic context.

They came up with a good Economic Development Policy, and have generally eschewed the sort of high-cost, high-profile, high-risk projects that typified Credit Card Kay's tenure. Instead, their few investments have focused on the long-neglected East Side of Kansas City.

They have also done the hard and completely non-glamorous work of drafting a sewage overflow control plan, as required by the EPA. Jan Marcason led them to approval of a well-thought-out, innovative and environmentally-friendly plan that will improve our city for at least a generation. The plan may not capture quite as many readers as a deposition in the lawsuit that the City Council has kept alive, but it is far more significant to our city's future.

It's easy to get frustrated by the continuously-mistaken, bickering bunch of knuckleheads that you read about in the paper and on blogs. But if you pay attention to the work they do, and tune into Channel 2 from time to time, you'll see that they are not the same people you read about.

They are gracious 99% of the time. They are cooperative most of the times when they ought to be. They represent conflicting interests effectively and competently. They answer calls and emails, and seek out the opinions of citizens. They take on difficult tasks without expectation of glory or lucre, and they do those tasks well. They respond to problems day in and day out. They endure attacks on their intelligence and character without responding in kind.

We are truly fortunate to have the City Council we have right now. There is great work going on at City Hall, and those of us who pay attention too rarely offer appreciation.

To borrow from Jan Marcason's email, I wish the Mayor and each of the Councilmembers good health and happiness in 2009. Thank you for your work on our behalf in 2008.

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Anonymous Dan's Neighbor said...

"I wish the Mayor and each of the Councilmembers good health and happiness in 2009."

And just when do the co-mayors start their mental health therapy?

Smudge sticks, crystals and the Book of Shadows do not count.

1/02/2009 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice classy post, Dan. How surprising that a Funk hater lowers the tone to gutter gossip.

1/02/2009 3:05 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thanks, anonymous. I'm not surprised by the ugly attack - some people are very predictable.

1/02/2009 5:55 PM  
Anonymous gutter gossip said...

I'm not impressed with an unfunded sewer proposal.

1/03/2009 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, great articles and research. Very accurate. A good read. A question now for those "in the know" out there....
1. I was told that the new racetrack and the shopping that surrounds it (Now in KCKS) was first offered to the city of KCMO while under the direction of Former Mayor Cleaver, and since it was proposed to be placed near KCI and did not benefit the KCMO "inner-core" and no one on the council could make a fast buck on it, the city said "NO" this true?

2. Will the ridiculous stop lights on 71 Hwy ever be removed??? And who in their right mind agreed to this without a public vote??? I mean really, traffic at rush hour on a major inlet/outlet highway with three stoplights? Oh I forgot, somehow it benefits the inner-core. Wait, still a Cleaver decision??...

3. The rumor mill also gave information that Wayne Cauthen was "being handed his hat" in Denver when we scooped him up to work here. True or not?

4. North Kansas City is becoming a state-of-the-art city (new streets, community centers, new police & fire equip. etc...) with all of the money the city receives from Harrah's......same story in Riverside, MO.....The city of KCMO has two casino's...who's pocket is that money going into and how do we know how it is being spent?

My opinion, not that it counts, the city of KCMO needs to lift it's residency requirement and stop using the city as a hiring pool. It has created a vicious circle. The city employees (most live in the urban-core) have to send their kids to KCMO schools (which are some of the worst in the U.S.) to receive one of the lowest ranked educations in the country. Most who receive this education stay in KCMO and go to work for the city (see a pattern forming here?). We need qualified construction workers and water services people (to name a few examples) who know their jobs, taking care of our city, not Joe the high school drop out who's only qualifications are...breathing and a resident of KCMO. The city of KCMO is swirling down the toilet. It's only going to get worse unless we all get more involved, but most don't have the time. Dan...any suggestions?

1/14/2009 1:33 PM  

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