Sunday, March 25, 2007

Get out and vote, Funky Town!

One of the neatest things about this campaign is that it's inspired some folks to get creative. A week or so ago, a woman showed up on the Star's Buzz Blog in a mini skirt made from one of our T-shirts. One of our volunteers invented a yard sign that waves in the wind. We've even gotten photos of our yard signs taken in exotic locations from supporters who are on vacation.

But the above video, by M.O.I, is the best of them all.

That's why we at Team Funkhouser have declared it our official "Get Out The Vote!" video.

Please click the e-mail or "get link" button on the video player and send it to all the registered voter Kansas Citians in your address book.

And then come down to the Beaumont Club on Tuesday night for our Watch Party.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

St. Patty's Day

Click the picture above of my beautiful wife Gloria and I to see a slide show of the St. Patrick's Day Parade (I know I'm a week late with this. But what can I say? I'm campaigning!)

Needless to say, we had a blast.

Best thing that happened was when the Model A broke down and we had to walk. It felt more real that way.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Building Bridges

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the 6th District. It's one of Kansas City's most unique and vibrant communities. It's very, diverse, yet it has remained a strong community because folks there have been able to see past their differences to find common ground. They've made their community a livable community despite neglect from City Hall.

Unfortunately the 6th District has become even more divided from City Hall, ironically, over the building of a bridge on Red Bridge Road. The reason for this is that the leaders who represent this community at City Hall -- Alvin Brooks and Chuck Eddy -- have been unwilling to build consensus.

I've talked with many, many folks in the 6th District. A lot of them are working on my campaign as volunteers. And time and time again I hear from them that they feel alienated from City Hall. They feel like they're being ignored by their representatives on the Council.

The bridge on Red Bridge Road has become a symbol of this.

City leaders have not respectfully listened to regular citizens in this process. They have not conducted business in an open and transparent manner. In short, the citizens do not trust their elected leaders - and that mistrust has extended, in some cases, to neighbor against neighbor.

Where is the leadership?

Leaders need to bring folks together, not divide them.

As Mayor, I will use my kind of consensus building to resolve that situation as amicably as possible. I know it's never possible to please everyone. But most people can feel good about a process in which they are asked to be involved, treated with respect and have open access to information - even if they don't agree with the end result.

I don't believe in ramming through projects that are devised in back rooms where the people of Kansas City have no say. To me, that's not consensus building at all.

As Mayor, I'll go to the 6th District, talk to residents and begin to restore their faith in a city leadership that has their best interests at heart. Working with them, I'll help find a solution. City bridges and roads should serve the neighborhoods where they're built.

Because that's how I build consensus: by being open, honest, straightforward and including all voices - not just those of a powerful few.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bloggers Get TIF Audit Released

Kudos to local bloggers who led a grassroots campaign to get the city to release a draft of the Tax Increment Financing audit that was being held for political reasons. Today, they succeeded.

Last week,The Flogging of America, after calling for the release of the audit so that voters could get a clearer picture of how TIF has been used by our current Mayor and City Council, e-mailed me about the issue, and I posted my reply here. Having seen city officials' many tactics for delaying the release of an unfavorable audit, I was convinced the city would hold it until after the March 27 general election.

The exchange inspired another blogger, Heidi, of me, my life + infrastructure, to e-mail an open records request to the city. Heidi posted a sample Sunshine request letter on her blog, along with e-mail addresses of city officials. She urged others to file requests, too. A number of readers responded, saying they had filed requests and had e-mailed friends asking them to file requests.

Well, the city must have gotten a lot requests. Because today, less than 24 hours after filing the requests, both bloggers got e-mails from Acting City Auditor Gary White, releasing draft of the audit. Here is a Kansas City Star article that sums up the contents of the
audit, but doesn't mention why the audit was released.

I'm really proud of the blogging community for standing up for their - and other Kansas Citians' - right to know the results of their city leaders' policies. After all, it's their city, and it's their money that's being spent. All along, I've said that I believe a city that works for regular folks must have open, transparent government. This grassroots campaign really captures the spirit that I'd
like to see citizens embrace. Active, informed citizens make for a better city for all of us.

Hats off to all of you!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Truth About the TIF Audit

A reader e-mailed me about the Tax Increment Financing audit that I have stated is being held for political reasons. She wrote:

I recently wrote City Council members regarding my concerns over the hold-up of the TIF audit. I basically asked for its immediate release, or an explanation as to why it's being held hostage. My belief has been that the reason is a politically motivated one ... don't let the public see what a mess we've created until after the election.

Chuck Eddy was so kind as to get back to me, but his response seems to want to place the blame for the hold-up on your shoulders. I have attached my correspondence with him for your review, as I am very interested in your thoughts on the matter.

If it is in fact 'standard procedure' for the agency being audited to review their own report card before the public does so, I am interested in knowing what you think of this policy as well, as I feel it is more than a little bit backwards.

Here is Chuck Eddy's e-mail:

The facts that exist on this issue is that the original TIF audit was to be submitted to council last summer by the auditor, Mark Funkhouser. He did not submit this audit and stated that it would be submitted in December but was not presented until January and then was incomplete. The Acting City Auditor did not have this audit reviewed by the TIF commission and EDC who the audit was performed on. This is standard procedure for any audit. It was finally presented to the EDC and they returned it to the Auditor in February and it took more than four weeks for the auditor to send it back to the EDC for final review. As soon as the EDC can respond, this audit will be released.

Here's what I have to say about that:

Acting City Auditor Gary White knows the "standard procedures" for audits. Gary has been an auditor with the city for 20 years, has served with many professional groups, and has conducted numerous reviews of audit operations in other cities. He is a consummate professional. In point of fact, the audit cannot be reviewed by the TIF Commission and the EDC, because having those boards review the report would make it a public document. The standard procedure is to send the report for review to the persons to whom the recommendations are made. In this case that was the city manager.

There were two major reasons that the report was not completed nearer to the time we originally estimated. First, we had numerous issues with information from the TIF Commission. We'd think we had everything only to find another account or issue that they'd neglected to tell us about. It's not that they were uncooperative, but just that things kept coming up. The second issue was that several of the auditors had elderly mothers who had health issues. These resulted in those auditors taking a lot of time off of work, which slowed us a lot. At one time I thought that if one more mother got sick, we'd come to a complete halt in our work. Believe me, I would have preferred to get the audit out before I left the office, and I can assure you that Gary would have, too.

Finally, the powers-that-be at City Hall are throwing every threat and roadblock they can at the Acting City Auditor to keep him from releasing the report. They can do this by demanding that he send it to this or that group for additional review and that he address this or that additional fact or allegation. I've said all along that it won't come out until May 1, and I'm pretty confident that is so. The auditor serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council. I tried to get that changed during my tenure and failed. You can see now why it would be better if he had a little more protection from the political forces.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The TIF Commission

Here's another answer to a question submitted by a reader.

Adam asked,
How can we fortify the TIF Commission? Does it ever say no to a proposal?

Good question. First of all, the City Council does have varying levels of control over a lot of these projects, and it gets final approval on TIF projects. Second, the mayor appoints the members of the TIF Commission, and we need to appoint the right people. In addition to the usual economic development folks, I will to appoint folks who are concerned with social justice, along with folks in the arts community. It's important to have a commission full of people with a conscience, and the mayor should talk to them on a regular basis and watch their performance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade

What a day for a parade!

Today I walked the Brookside St. Patrick's Day Parade and had a great time.

Heidi, fellow blogger, took pictures:

Of course, Maria, the poodle, was a bigger hit than me. But she's been the star of this campaign all along. ;-)

I knew I'd have to kiss some babies on this campaign. But I figured they'd at least be real.

I was blown away by how many supporters were out there on the parade route. It was humbling, really. I feel honored. Deeply honored.

Can't wait for the BIG parade next Saturday. See you there!

Global Warming

As promised, here's an answer to one question submitted by a reader.

Supergirlest asked:

What are your plans for the city, in terms of global climate change?

Believe it or not, this is a question I hear quite often. I always start out by saying this is a global problem, and we're just one city. But this is an important issue, and there are definitely things we can - and should - do.

Right now, there is a global climate change committee working on a report with recommendations of what the city can do. They created a report, but I understand the Chamber of Commerce requested some revisions. Now, of course, I can't bless a report I haven't seen, but I would certainly be favorably disposed toward their recommendations.

Of course, two of the most important things we can do to combat global warming are to stop encouraging sprawl and to work toward an excellent public transit system.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

More Answers for Readers

As I'm sure you can imagine, I've been very busy as we gear up for the general election. But now that things are under control, I'd like to take time to answer some of the excellent questions readers have posted in the comments section of the blog. So, watch this space over the next few days for my responses to questions on TIF, schools and what the city can do about global warming.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Just in case you haven't heard already, I have backed off of my earlier position on vouchers.

At the last debate before the primary, I mentioned that I support school choice, including charter schools and vouchers. After that debate, I had a great many conversations with folks who are deeply involved with education in our city. I learned a lot very quickly, and I've become convinced that vouchers are not the right choice for Kansas City.

No doubt some will say this shows flaws in my leadership. But I disagree. I think the opposite is true. The worst leaders are those who refuse to admit when they're wrong, those who trudge forward with bad policy despite all the evidence suggesting they ought to go the other way.

I talked about this in a recent interview with Governing magazine:
Nobody — presidents, mayors, city managers — ever says "I could have learned from this mistake." You'll see the cops stop a car full of teenagers and there'll be some kind of altercation and the next thing the cops empty their revolvers into the car. And the chief of police will say "That's a textbook case. We handled that perfectly." And ordinary citizens say, "That can't be true."

If you never, ever acknowledge mistakes then it's not possible to learn. In the political environment, it is a huge deal to say, "Actually we should not have built the stupid damn arena" or "we shouldn't have paved the road with this kind of asphalt."

I don't know why. I acknowledge mistakes. I tend to say "I screwed up." To me it just seems absurd not to.

It's important, though, to keep this in perspective.

Vouchers were never a central component of my campaign. All of the "controversy" has centered on one sentence I said at a 90-minute debate.

But with regards to the key issues in the mayor's race, those areas where the next mayor can have an immediate impact on education in Kansas City, I've been absolutely consistent.

Indeed, regular readers of this blog might recall that one of the first entries I ever did was about education. And it wasn't about vouchers. It was about the tax incentives that the mayor and City Council have been handing out to politically connected developers for the last eight years, and how these payouts have harmed all of this city's school districts.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Good Satire

As you can well imagine, I've been very busy as we move from the primary into the general. But I did have a chuckle today when I read the news that I plan to close off downtown.

I've been called many things, but never a "ravenous city auditor." I never would've imagined that such thing exists.

But then, I'm probably the only certified auditor with a theme song by "The Prime Minister of Funk"

Thanks KCRag!