Tuesday, November 11, 2008

winning the battle, losing the war

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser continues to baffle the pundits, the council, and the public. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against the city asking a Jackson County judge to overturn a portion a recent city ordinance that banned family members from serving as volunteers for city staff. The ban doesn't prevent the family members from occassionally volunteering for city staff, just from volunteering ad infinitum with the city.

The ad infinitum part was the problem with the mayor's wife, Gloria Squitiro, who was seen by many as holding the symbolic key-to-the-city and anyone who wanted through the door, had to first get past her. That the mayor and his wife couldn't see that the public resented this setup is hard to understand given his pre-election statements proclaiming "once elected, if the public calls out my errors, I will listen and respond". How many ways must one say, this isn't what we (the public) voted for when we elected you, before you begin to understand? The public has been screaming over this issue for a year now and the mayor still doesn't get the fact that he LOST this political battle. It's time to move on with the agenda of the city and the people.

In many ways, the mayor is correct. We really don't need laws that are written to address one person, one family. But more importantly the mayor is dead wrong on the political issue, which in this instance happens to be larger than the law. The council and the people (at whose discretion the mayor serves) have overwhelmingly spoken. There is no inherent aspect of being Mayor of Kansas City that allows one to have their spouse as the office gatekeeper. And this is a huge problem for the mayor and the city because publically he's getting beat up one side and down the other and still, still, he refuses to relent. This is a politcal loss being taken by the mayor as a personal one, and if the mayor wants to lead, he needs to get on with the job of leading. Intractability isn't a leadership quality.

Politically, it hard to imagine a politician who's been more adept at shooting himself in the foot. In this latest pot-shot, the mayor has lost most of his toes on his right foot and seems to be wobbling at the helm and in danger of falling over on his head. By filing this suit, the mayor continues to keep this black-eye issue in the news where it only serve to continue to diminish his ability to work with the council, the citizens, and the media. But more importantly, it prevents the mayor from showing true leadership. That really is the mayor's job, not to run the city (the city manager does that) but to lead the city forward.

Case in point. Light rail. This was an issue the mayor decided to lead on, and it went down to overwhelming defeat. Why? In Part, because people don't think the mayor responds to their needs, so why should they listen to him? It is hard to lead when you continue to alienate. Yes, the ordinance was, in part, politically motivated, but understanding when you've lost the battle and moving forward is where agile politicians shine battle. The mayor continues to be awkward and awkwardness is not helping the city in a tough time.

Remember the slogan? A CITY THAT WORKS. A good slogan, but the problem here, is that this isn't working. Get over it. Move on up. And get back to work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am completely baffelled.

Nota bene, the letter to the editor in the Wednesday kcstar written by son of Funkhouser. I read it. I think he was defending the honor of his mommy and daddy, but I can't even remember the poor kid's name. Well I do remember part of the story. The son (Is he charles?)and his sister were born funky but Gloria decided that since she didn't have any brothers to carry on her family name, the little squirts should be renamed, nee funkouser, now squiarto.

Note even better, the first couple of KC believe they were elected by the mandate of the people in kc to defeat the "evil forces of the developers." The most unnoticed and notable of these is Steve Glorioso, the local left hand of political sleaze and Kay Barne's former Chief of Staff. Every single nutty funkhouser story we read in the pitch and the kcstar have been force fed to the media by Glorioso. And he's got a million more if you liked the last one. Some of them even with cell phone pictures. I've watched this Glorioso for 24 years, he has a vendetta and is a pitiful little man. (And if you like that one I have a million more.)The Squiarto's believe it's their elected mission to combat this evil, this cabal, this clear and present danger. Coo-coo-aroo!

what is funk?
bush versus osama?
regan vs. gorby?
jfk vs castro?
Funk and the G-gurl
opague as semi-precious stones
and just as difficult to value.

I find it all completely confusing, but, unfortunately, no longer amusing. And we the citizens of kc wallow along with our royals and our chiefs.

john navarre for mayor