Archive for March, 2011

Out here in blog land, a story is circulating that Dan Cofran has been given the hook as the “main debater” for the Save Kansas City Committee, which is pushing for retention of the earnings tax.

The implication is that Cofran has been reined in because of a statement he made to a woman who asked him what her options were if she worked in Kansas City and paid the E-tax but didn’t live in the city. “Then don’t work here,” was Cofran’s, sharp-elbowed response.

E-tax opponents have jumped all over it, featuring it in two TV ads.

And now, says a local blogger whose first name happens to be Tony, Cofran has been “sacked.”

Not exactly. Here’s the full story.

First, a disclosure: I am a member of the Save Kansas City Committee’s steering committee and have spoken to two groups, urging retention of the E-tax.


Cofran, a lawyer and former city councilman, indeed has been the main speaker on behalf of the campaign, although other officials, including civic leader and campaign co-chairman Anita Gorman, have also appeared.

Cofran has made a dozen or more appearances on behalf of the committee and represented the committee in a Kansas City Star debate, published last Sunday.

Cofran is not getting paid; he is volunteering his time.

The main spokesman for the opposition, a nebulous group called Freedom PAC, which has an address in Kansas City, North, is Woody Cozad, a former Missouri Republican state chairman.

He is getting paid.

The problem that has crept up on our side is that Cofran, while representing Save Kansas City, has also been working — for pay — as chief opponent of the proposed Polsinelli, Shughart building on the Plaza.

He and lawyer Dave Fenley of the Husch Blackwell firm debated the Polsinelli issue on KCUR yesterday.

Steve Glorioso, a consultant to the Save Kansas City Committee, said that even before Wednesday’s debate, “we’d been a little concerned about him (Cofran) mixing the two issues.”

“It’s confusing to people,” Glorioso said, referring to Cofran being perceived as a “swivel top,” that is, pitching retention of the E-tax one day and opposing the Polsinelli building the next.

Glorioso said he asked Cofran early this week if he could postpone Wednesday’s debate with Fenley, but Cofran said he couldn’t do that, primarily because a City Council committee is scheduled to consider the matter next Wednesday, the day after the E-tax election.

On Tuesday, Glorioso said, he learned that Cofran planned to debate not one but both issues on this week’s edition of KCPT’s Week in Review, which will be taped tomorrow morning.

Glorioso said Week in Review moderator Nick Haines had set up the show so that Cofran and Fenley would debate the Plaza building for 15 minutes and then Cofran would square off against Cozad on the E-tax for the remaining 15 minutes. Cofran agreed to the format.

That was way too much swiveling for Glorioso and other Save Kansas City officials.

Glorioso said he called Haines and said, “This thing on Friday just won’t work.” He told Haines that the committee would be sending Dianne Cleaver, a committee co-chairman, in place of Cofran.

Glorioso said he then sent Cofran an e-mail, laying out his concerns and telling him about the change of plans. He said Cofran sent him a response, essentially saying, “That makes sense.”

A group of ministers with the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2) appeared today outside City Hall with Mayor-elect Sly James to endorse the earnings tax, which will be on the ballot Tuesday in Kansas City. More than 90 groups have endorsed the tax. (Photo from Save Kansas City Committee.)

With just four days left before the election, only one more event is scheduled — on Monday — and Glorioso said Cofran had not been in line to be the speaker.

So, yes, Cofran got reined in, but not because of the “Don’t work here” comment.

And, by the way, I can’t see that comment persuading a large number of Kansas Citians to vote against the E-tax. Half the people who pay the tax live outside the city. And don’t you know we Kansas Citians just love having our friends who live outside the city help us pay for the streets, parks, entertainment venues and arts facilities that our “visitors” regularly use and enjoy?

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Here in Kansas City, we already know a little more about Wal-Mart than a lot of people because a former Wal-Mart c.e.o., David Glass, owns our Kansas City Royals.

The common complaint is that Glass runs the Royals like Wal-Mart executives run their company — on the cheap.

Well, cheap is one thing, but allowing unsafe employment practices is something altogether different. And that’s what it looks like Wal-Mart is guilty of in its two-year-old battle to overturn a $7,000 federal fine that stems from a customer stampede on Thanksgiving weekend, 2008, at a Long Island, New York, store.


In case you’ve forgotten — although it’s pretty hard to purge this from the memory — a 34-year-old temporary worker named Jdimytai Damour was trampled on Black Friday as he and other Wal-Mart employees attempted, unsuccessfully, to hold back a crowd of shoppers who charged into the store when the doors were unlocked at 5 a.m.

A story published in today’s New York Times summarizes the situation: “Eight to 10 employees were pushing against the door to counteract the press of customers trying to get in…Once the doors were unlocked, customers fell in the vestibule and employees climbed on top of vending machines to protect themselves. As in years past, the doors popped off their hinges. Mr. Damour was trampled. He died at the site.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Wal-Mart $7,000 — the maximum penalty — and last Friday, the agency’s chief administrative law judge, Covette Rooney, upheld the fine, concluding that unruly crowds on Black Friday in each of the three preceding years — 2005, 2006 and 2007 — should have prompted Wal-Mart to take precautions by 2008.

And what was Wal-Mart’s reaction? Accept the $7,000 fine and pledge to improve conditions? Oh, no, it’s planning to appeal the fine to the full OSHA review commission.

Well, you’ve got to hand it to Wal-Mart; it has been consistent on this. The company has spent more than $2 million on legal fees trying to overturn the $7,000 fine. Of course, the fine isn’t the point with Wal-Mart. It’s all about a bigger principle, the principle of the government sticking its nose in the company’s (and other companies’) business.

Specifically, according to another New York Times story, “Wal-Mart asserted that OSHA was wrongly seeking to define ‘crowd trampling’ as an occupational hazard that retailers must take action to prevent.”

In other words, Wal-Mart is saying, “Let us deal with our crowd-trampling problem, if, indeed, we have a crowd-trampling problem.”

Well, now, that rings a bell with me — and perhaps you, too — on a problem we had here in Kansas City regarding smoking in bars and restaurants.

If you’ll recall, when city officials first began proposing a limit or ban on smoking in bars and restaurants about 20 years ago, the proprietors raised a hue and cry. I remember, specifically, Carl DiCapo, owner of the former Italian Gardens, appearing before a City Council committee and saying, “Please, let us police ourselves.”

For a long time, DiCapo and other opponents of a ban were able to hold the city off — and did little more than designate, in some cases, nonsmoking areas. Finally, three years ago, a citizens initiative petition got enough signatures to put the issue to a vote, and voters implemented an effective ban on smoking in indoor, public places.

The idea of letting Wal-Mart and other big retailers police themselves in the matter of crowd control makes about as much sense as letting Carl DiCapo — a fine citizen in every other respect, by the way — and his entrepreneurial pals decide how to control smoking in bars and restaurants.

Fortunately for big-box employees and customers, as long as the $7,000 fine stands, retailers will have to begin putting in place new crowd-control guidelines that OSHA issued last year.

Wal-Mart wisely implemented some changes at all of its New York stores as part of a 2009 settlement with Nassau County, and it has extended the approach to most of its stores.

For one thing, Wal-Mart stayed open from 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day through the night. For some special-sale items, like electronics, people were given tickets so they did not have to surge into the store and make a run for the items. Also, outside the store, officials set up steel barriers in zigzag patterns to prevent a massive, forward press of shoppers.

The steps that Wal-Mart took were in line with the new OSHA guidelines.

The guidelines, according to today’s story in The Times, “say that barricades should start away from the store’s entrance, and that they must have breaks or turns in them to prevent customers pushing from the rear. The guidelines also say that employees should be assigned to specific spots, and that the local police, fire department and hospitals should be alerted about an event that might draw crowds.”

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have OSHA setting the crowd-control rules than relying on Wal-Mart to do so. After all, if Wal-Mart was so on top of things, wouldn’t it have taken action earlier, after surging crowds had popped the doors off the hinges at the same Long Island store in 2005, 2006 and 2007?

No, didn’t happen, not even after three consecutive years of difficulty managing Black Friday crowds.

And the result? The doors popped off the hinges again, and a 34-year-old temporary worker — a little guy working for a big, big company — lost his life.

I’m sure Wal-Mart regrets the loss…just not enough to allow the big, bad, federal government to hand down crowd-control guidelines.

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The winners go on to run the city. And good luck to them. I hope they — and the city — prosper.

And the losers? Well, we had a nice, wrap-up breakfast today at Kansas City Cafe, 1532 Grand.

The breakfast was compliments of our leader, Mike Burke, who will now focus on rebuilding his caseload at King Hershey, the real estate law firm that he heads.

I took the occasion to tell the group that a political race was like a horse race: You never know how it’s going to turn out when the horses enter the starting gate. But it sure is exciting when your horse is head to head with another runner coming down the stretch. Of course, it’s terribly disappointing when the other horse surges and beats you by a neck…but that’s racing, and that’s politics.

So, join me now in taking last look at our candidate and some of the people who helped him make it a stirring stretch run.

Roxsen Koch, a Burke law partner, and Ray James, former K.C. Election Board leader and Burke volunteer

Jason Parson, campaign manager, and Klassie Alcine, volunteer

Mary O'Halloran, message crafter, and John Burke, son and driver


Donna Mandelbaum, communications coordinator, and Tony Ladesich, TV ad producer

Marnie Burke (no relation) and Matt Pepper, volunteers

The recovering candidate, with Greg Williams, strategist, and Bob Reiter, Burke cousin and volunteer

Susan Ramirez, volunteer: "I'm warning you; this could turn out unhappily."

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As you know (and thanks for not raining ignominy down on me) my postmortem of the mayor’s race was slightly off — not to mention my prediction that Mike Burke would win.

Leave it, then, to Charlie Wheeler, pathologist and former mayor, to come up with an alternate postmortem.

“You can beat the fire fighters, or you can beat The Star,” he said Tuesday night, “but you can’t beat the fire fighters and The Star.”

Quite an insight, I think.

I would augment that slightly to say it’s almost impossible to beat a candidate who has The Star, the fire fighters, is well-funded and has a ton of personal appeal.

Sly James was such a candidate. I didn’t want to admit it during the campaign because, of course, I was “all in” for Burke.

But now that it’s over I will tell you that one of the reasons I liked the mayoral forums — before and after the Feb. 22 primary — was waiting for James to come up with a funny line or employ a unique image or metaphor. He seldom disappointed.

The winner

My favorite James line, which he uttered at a February Chamber of Commerce forum was: “Until I see a headline that says, ‘Ph.D. shoots master’s candidate at 39th and Troost,’ I’m going to continue to believe that education is the key to long-term reduction of crime.”

Let’s face it: James was not only a good candidate, he was an interesting candidate.

Burke was also a good candidate. But, let’s face it, he wasn’t interesting. As much as I like him and as much as I think he would have been a better mayor, he was careful and fairly predictable. Because of his charm and spontaneity, James connected with many more voters than Burke.

Burke, with (from left) campaign volunteer Klassie Alcine, mother-in-law Dorothy Stoeger, wife Melinda and campaign treasurer Joanne Collins

And so, it’s time to offer congratulations to James and all of his connections, including campaign manager Brian Noland, state Rep. Jason Kander and his wife Diana, and my friends Donovan Mouton and Mike and Carol Grimaldi. Everyone connected with James is rightly proud and thrilled, I’m sure.

When Mouton, former neighborhood liaison in Kay Barnes’ administration, told me about two years ago that a friend of his named Sly James was running for mayor, the first thing I said was, “Kansas City is not going to elect a man named Sly as mayor.”

Well, not only did Kansas City elect a man named Sly, it elected a fat black man named Sly.

That says a lot — a lot — about the man, the voters and our city. Sly convinced the voters that he’s anything but sly. He convinced them that he’s sharp, funny, forthright and likeable. It’s a winning formula, isn’t it?

You know, when you get beat by a 54-46 margin, it’s hard to go back and say, “Our TV should have been better,” or “We should have been tougher,” or “We should have been more specific about our candidate’s record.”

No, when you get beat 54-46, it’s usually the opponent who did it to you; you didn’t beat yourself.

At the watch party Tuesday night, I heard one Burke backer say that we should have capitalized to a much greater extent on Burke’s opposition to the proposed Shughart, Polsinelli building on the Plaza. Another was furious at K.C. Star reporter Dave Helling for his stories about Burke and his law firm’s dealings with the Port Authority.

Forget about it. None of that mattered. We — those of us on the Burke team — were up against personal magnetism, magnetism projected by a guy who made sense when he opened his mouth and who never got rattled.

At our Feb. 22, primary-election victory party — the night the TV cameras caught me dancing with council members Cindy Circo and Jan Marcason — an acquaintance of many years, Susan Stanton, offered a word of caution about the upcoming general-election campaign.

“Never underestimate a charismatic candidate,” she said.

I heard her, but I didn’t really believe her. I thought experience would count more than personality. Man, was I wrong.

At the same time, I have no regrets. It was a great, two-month run. Some people contended that it was dull, or that there wasn’t much to choose from between the two men. From my perspective, however, it was anything but dull; it was exciting, it was intriguing; it was good political theater. And I’m going to miss the curtain going up on the show night after night.

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I am happy to report that Mike Burke will be elected mayor today.

All those years that I was with The Star, the editors would never let me report a victory, or a loss, before it happened. But now that I’m a blogger, substitute school teacher and a quasi-political operative, it’s different. I checked the Blogger’s Code of Ethics (which I wrote) and found nothing that prohibits me from reporting the outcome of a political contest in advance.

Of course, you might wonder how I can confidently report, before dawn of Election Day, that Burke will prevail over Sly James.

Well, I’ve been pretty close to this race;  I contributed more than $5,000 to Burke, whom I’ve known for 25 years, and was fortunate enough to be included in his inner circle the last two months. As a result, I’ve seen the ebb and flow of the race up close, and I have observed the critical developments and milestones.

Join me, now, in taking a look at some of the key milestones, starting from the most recent and working backward.

Saturday, March 19

A nasty, anti-Burke piece hits mailboxes, accusing Burke of capitalizing financially on his “insider” connections. Although the piece was not financed by the Sly James for Mayor committee, it denied James the moral high ground he had claimed a day earlier, when a third-party-financed TV ad slapped James for being indecisive. The anti-Burke mailer quickly put both camps back on equal footing as far as moral rectitude.

Thursday, March 17, and Saturday, March 12

Perhaps never in the annals of American politics have parades played such a big role in the outcome of a political race. In the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Broadway, Burke, wearing a snappy, spruce green blazer and bright-green tie, walked the route and pressed the flesh on either side of the expansive boulevard. Trailing him was a group of enthusiastic, sign-waving supporters. James, on the other hand, rode in a fire truck and was photographed in proximity to a man wearing a T-shirt that said “Drink Up Bitches.”

Five days earlier, in the Brookside parade, Burke, wearing a bright green sweater, greeted a wildly responsive crowd at street level, while James sat on the back of a convertible, waving to the crowd from “on high.” (Side note: The Burke contingent, which was supposed to be immediately in front of James’ car, near the end of the parade, shrewdly took advantage of a lull in the pre-parade queue to jump the line well ahead of James. Take a bow, campaign communications coordinator Donna Mandelbaum.)

Thursday, March 10

They were billed as joint appearances in the Northland — one at Northminster Presbyterian Church, the other at Harmony Vineyard Church. But only one one candidate showed up. That was Burke. James, meanwhile, sent a representative, state Rep. Jason Kander, to “drop by” on his behalf.

Translation: James had conceded the Northland.

In a voice lowered and made raspy by a cold, Burke told about 35 people at Northminster, “I don’t think we can afford a learn-on-the-job mayor.”

Thursday, March 10

In a column that was shocking because of its criticism of KC Star-endorsed James, Star editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah said: 

“James recently hasn’t taken definitive stands on the Polsinelli law building/Country Club Plaza dispute, the future of Acting City Manager Troy Schulte and pension reform. His continued reservations won’t earn him points with voters who want leadership on issues that have been discussed for months, sometimes years…”

Tuesday, March 8

At a Chamber of Commerce debate at Union Station, when asked what could be done about the Police Department administration’s go-it-alone, keep-us-clear-of-City Hall attitude, James suggested mediation. Burke replied: “Sometimes it’s not about mediation; sometimes it’s about being tough.” He went on to say that millions of dollars a year could be saved if the city and the Police Department collaborated on health insurance, vehicle maintenance and computer operations. “Let’s do it,” Burke said. “There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.”

There might as well have been a referee in the house, shouting “…eight, nine, 10” over James’ inert form.

Thursday, March 3

The Burke campaign announced the endorsement of mortgage banker James B. Nutter Sr., who had backed Deb Hermann in the primary. (Subsequently, Nutter and his wife Annabelle contributed $6,000 to the Burke campaign, and Nutter put $30,000 into a third-party committee that financed the TV ad that said James was “lost in a fog of indecision.”)

Tuesday, Feb. 15

Former mayors Richard L. Berkley, Kay Barnes and Charles B. Wheeler announced their support for Burke at an electrifying news conference at Burke headquarters, Broadway and Valentine. Barnes was for Burke from the outset and had been quoted in a campaign flier. In a series of meetings and calls, Burke managed to win over Berkley, who had never endorsed anyone in a mayor’s race, and Wheeler, who, up until the news conference, was one of six opponents to Burke in the primary. “When I heard the other two were endorsing Mike, I decided that was good enough for me,” Wheeler said in his inimitable nasal-driven voice.

Saturday, Feb. 5

The Star endorses Burke and Sly James in the primary, clarifying the primary-election picture  and giving both candidates a huge edge over their five competitors.

There you have it, the pre-postmortem…unless I’m wrong.

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It started on Broadway and ended on Broadway. Where else?

The crowd was 10 deep in places.

Here are a few of the people — most of them with the Burke campaign — who celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Kansas City.

Burke campaign headquarters, Valentine and Broadway, about parade time

Volunteers nonpareil Marnie Burke (left -- no relation) and Becky Faust

Donna Mandelbaum, communications coordinator

Get-out-the-vote specialist Brendan Rhyne and volunteer Bob Reiter

John Burke...yes, related (offspring)...driver and photographer

Former Democratic state Rep. Jason Grill, volunteer

Kevin Murphy, wordsmith and legendary former KC Star reporter

Klassie Alcine, volunteer and political star of the future

Face in the crowd...best parade make-up

Dr. Charles Wheeler and friends

The Burke "float," compliments of Kite Singleton

The man of the hour

Excited voters of tomorrow

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Despite the blogs, the TV ads and the candidate forums, most frequent voters still rely on The Kansas City Star to help them sort out the issues and gauge the candidates in the mayor’s race.

In recent days, The Star has, in some instances, yielded valuable insight. On the other hand, it fell face-down in the mud on a story last Friday about the legal cases that candidates Mike Burke and Sly James — both lawyers — have handled.

Let’s get the mud-splatter job out of the way first.

Political reporters Dave Helling and Steve Kraske set up their front-page story about Burke’s and James’ legal backgrounds by quoting Jim Bergfalk, a longtime political consultant who engineered the ill-fated campaign of Deb Hermann, who finished fifth in the Feb. 22 primary election.

On the front-page part of the story, before it “jumped” to an inside page, Helling and Kraske said that “because both men have thin experience in public office, some attention has turned to the pair’s legal careers for clues about their approaches to government.”

Then came the stage-setting quote from Bergfalk: “It (the legal perspective) is absolutely relevant. It’s the only real body of work that voters have” for the two contenders.

Oh, really?

Never mind that Burke has served as chairman of three economic development agencies, headed the city’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee for five years, founded the July 4 Riverfest celebration and headed the committee that got Kansas City named an All-America City in 2006. And forget that James was co-chairman of the Save our Stadiums committee and served on the boards of Operation Breakthrough, the United Way and Genesis School.

First, shame on Bergfalk, who should and does know better. I don’t know what the hell he was thinking or doing when he said that. Maybe whichever of the two reporters who interviewed him led him in that direction. Maybe he was thinking about how, on his watch,  Hermann plummeted from favorite a month before the primary to fifth on Election Day.

But the bigger shame goes to Helling and Kraske, who also know the quote is completely misleading and are guilty of using it to artificially pump up the importance of that day’s story. OK, the candidates’ legal backgrounds are relevant — no doubt about that — but is it…

“the only real body of work that voters have” ?????

Come on…In my view, those two reporters were trying to sell their story to both their editors and their readers. Once again, as is often the case at The Star, one or more editors failed to rein in the reporters. One of an editor’s main jobs is to make sure a story is balanced and in perspective. Sometimes, editors have to stand up to heavy-hitting reporters, blow the whistle and say, “No, that’s outta bounds.” Unfortunately, the editor who handled this story was a milquetoast.

Just that one quote blew the legal backgrounds of the two candidates out of perspective and, correspondingly, unfairly denigrated their respective civic-activist backgrounds.

…Guess I’ve gotta rein myself in here…Let’s move on to the next point.

On Thursday, Yael Abouhalkah, Op-Ed columnist and member of The Star’s editorial board had a column that, in part, addressed the two candidates’ leadership styles.

As a Burke contributor and supporter, I have to say, I loved that column. To my surprise, Abouhalkah said that James’ emphasis on being a mediator was “starting to wear thin.”

I say that surprised me because The Star recently endorsed James, although it was complimentary to Burke.

It sounds to me, just from that column, like Abouhalkah either didn’t cast his editorial vote for James or he’s had second thoughts.

Listen to what he went on to say…

“James recently hasn’t taken definitive stands on the Polsinelli law building/Country Club Plaza dispute, the future of Acting City Manger Troy Schulte and pension reform.

“His continued reservations won’t earn him points with voters who want leadership on issues that have been discussed for months, sometimes years (such as city pensions).”

Wow. Those are two powerful paragraphs that the Burke campaign could blow up into 60-point type and smack James in the head with.  Whether the campaign will take advantage of that godsend remains to be seen.

That brings us to side-by-side stories in Sunday’s “A” section. Reporters Lynn Horsley and Michael Mansur interviewed both candidates on the most important issue in the race — Why should voters choose you? — and ran excerpts of the interviews.

Both stories were excellent and riveting — riveting to those of us who like politics, anyway. Here’s a link to the Burke story, and here’s a link to the James story.

Congratulations to Horsley and Mansur on stories that might prompt many voters to go for one candidate or the other.

I will leave you with the final questions and answers.

Question to James: Is there anything else we haven’t touched in terms of differences (between you and Burke)?

A: The key difference between Mike Burke and Sly James is we’re totally different people. Because I’m willing to accept that he has good ideas doesn’t mean we’re the same. … I believe I’m the leader that we need to go forward…I believe that the past is part of the problem for why we are where we are. I’m not saying that’s his fault. I don’t want that to be said at all. I’m just saying the time for politics as usual needs to cease and we need to do things a little differently in this town.

Question to Burke: Anything else in contrasting yourself with Sly James?

A: The main thing is who’s ready to walk in the mayor’s office and know how City Hall works, know who at City Hall are the good administrators, are the people you can trust for advice. That’s something I’m sure he can learn over time, but I don’t think we have a year or two of on-the-job training.

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I thought the Kansas City mayor’s race was the biggest story in town these days, but fellow blogger Tony Botello (Tony’s Kansas City) has pushed the powerhouse politicians to the curb.

First, Tony was the subject of a big, cover story in the March 3-9 issue of The Pitch. Then, yesterday, he was on KCUR’s Central Standard show with host Jabulani Leffall.

Congratulations to Tony, whom I call the Blogger Baron of Kansas City. Every blogger should have his or her 15 minutes of fame. Who knows? Maybe even JimmyC will get a nod from the mainstream someday. (Yes, I said mainstream: Even The Pitch has now moved into the mainstream, by default, because it publishes stories that the old mainstream media, like The Star, can’t do properly…See Tony Botello story, for example.)

However, Tony’s day in the sun wasn’t greeted with a warm embrace in all quarters. There’s this business of Tony’s “girls,” the busty babes that Tony sprinkles his blogs with.

Some people, I’m sure, enjoy the view. Others think it dampens his credibility. Some think it’s just plain sexist. Such a one is my friend, first name Stacy, who, upon hearing on KCUR that Tony might be involved in moderating a council-mayoral debate tomorrow, screeched loud and long.

Here are excerpts from two comments that Stacy posted yesterday, as well as Tony’s replies, one of which I posted yesterday. The other he sent this morning.


Okay – this has nothing to do with the post but I’m a little hot right now. What is this about Tony of Tony’s Kansas City hosting a debate for the candidates this weekend? WHY would this man be given this opportunity? Why would the candidates not demand a non-sexist host the debate? Seriously ticked right now…The type of photos on Tony’s blog supports objectification..You would think the candidates would try to get away from this type of person instead of giving him legitimacy by agreeing to this debate.

I responded that Mike Burke’s public calendar said that a TV news reporter would be the moderator but that I would try to find out if Tony would be playing any official role. I also wrote that while I believed a lot of women shared her feelings about the cheesecake photos on Tony’s blog, that he had established himself — through hard work and inspiration — as the top blogger in the area and could credibly argue that he would be a competent moderator of a mayoral forum.

I then e-mailed Tony to find out about his role in the upcoming forum. He replied quickly, saying…

Christina Medina is the Mayoral Moderator . . . KC Hispanic News publisher Joe Arce might help her.

I’ll be asking Council some questions just to get started . . .

But what I’m trying to do is get as many people there so there will be a crowd of people to ask their own questions.

Christina seemed very open to doing like an Oprah-type thing . . . Which is something a bit different than what we’ve seen.

But as far as the Mayoral Candidates go, I won’t be asking any questions.

My role . . . Promoting, trying to organize doing as much publicity as possible and I’ll be one of three panelists for the Council session.

Hope that helps.

However, I wonder . . . What question could I possibly ask that would screw things up?



That prompted Stacy to respond directly (in the comments section) to Tony.

It’s not what questions you may or may not ask – you may ask wonderful, insightful questions. It’s what your web site represents that makes we wonder why any candidate would want your promotion. I know that I am not alone in my reaction to the type of photos you post on your web site. It is very difficult to continue reading what you have to say, or to hear what you may be asking, when the thoughts that are screaming in my head are, “This is the type of behavior that hurts women. This is the type of behavior that lets men (and women) think that objectification of women is okay.

…I can’t stop the thought process that occurs after I hear someone who supports the objectification of women open his/her mouth. It’s the Howard Stern effect. I just stop caring what the person has to say and I can’t hear what the responders have to say. And I do try, but it’s just lost. I am not the only woman I know who feels this way. So, the question boils down to: Will the candidates be seen in the same light as your blog if you are one of the promoters?

Not knowing if Tony had followed the entire give-and-take, I sent him the excerpts from Stacy’s comments and offered him the opportunity to respond to the substance of her charges, that is, that he is sexist and treats women as objects in his blog.

Early this morning (he doesn’t sleep much, you know), he sent me an e-mail, apologizing for not responding “in detail,” but what he did write gives me a new frame of reference for “in detail.”

First, he said that he was a dues-paying member of La Raza political club, which is a co-sponsor of tomorrow’s forum (9:30 a.m. to noon, Guadalupe Center, 1015 Avenida Cesar Chavez). The other sponsors are Dos Mundos And KC Hispanic News, newspapers for which Tony has worked in the past.

Then, he turned to the issue that so upsets Stacy.

Why are they allowing me to participate? Again, because I’ve had a business relationship with the organizers. Even through the jokes, alleged misogyny and typos, in all of my writing and work, I strongly advocate for Latinos. The forum is open to everybody, but some questions will be geared toward our community that is one of the fastest growing in Kansas City.

However, I think the root of her question is: Why hasn’t this alleged sexism or misogyny caused people to steer away from me? I don’t know for a fact, but I’ll guess that it’s just plain old expediency, pragmatism and people with a better sense of humor than the old bag who is asking these questions.

JimmyC interrupts this soliloquy to state unequivocally: Stacy is not an old bag. Now, back to Tony…

Simply in terms of photographic content: The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is lot racier than my pictorial referencing on most days . . . But the editors aren’t branded with the “misogynist” label. Also, some of the nation’s best journalists have written for Playboy, amid straight-up beaver shots. Racy content in Rolling Stone hasn’t overshadowed groundbreaking reporting. And today some of the best alternative journalism comes from magazines like Vice that feature nudity and far more divisive (and funny content) than my daily ramblings. Really, the images I use from time to time are akin to Victoria’s Secret advertising, and that’s a multi-billion-dollar company propped up by a public that seems to consume their “content” at a rate where any objections are negligible.

But beyond that . . . I will acknowledge that I’ve written some very nasty things about women . . . in the context of a jokey blog with funny photos, typos, big red type and an overall spirit of cheeky news-ish (attempts) at humor.

Of course there are facts on TKC and even some breaking news . . . But I’ve never hidden my objective: More than anything else I consider my blog an exercise in entertainment.

When Andy Kauffman wrestled women, it was part of his act, and the charges of misogyny still didn’t stop a great many people from noting the genius of his performance art. Obviously, I’m not at the level of an Andy Kauffman, but that’s my gold standard and the best analogy I can offer for my rhetorical battles with the opposite sex.

Ask the politicos about why they “dare to associate” with me, but I think in the end it’s because I do have a rather deft touch when it comes to what to take seriously and when to simply do straight (dare I claim?) “reporting” rather than my bloggy shtick.

So, because I’m not getting in the ring and throwing around women, because the photos that I love are tame and boring by most late-night, cable-television standards and because I’m only one person among many working on a collaborative effort to inform the KC voting public . . . I don’t see a problem with my involvement and basically regard these complaints as overwrought and coming from a lady too wrapped up in her own political correctness, delicate sensibilities and with far too much spare time.

The lady is welcome to protest my involvement, but the fact is that city council and mayoral candidates already made their decision knowing full well my content offerings and weighing that against the more important concerns of KC voters in the urban core and the Latino community.

This lady is entering into a debate that has already been settled. If she’d like to go on a date, maybe we could trade numbers and I could ask her permission before I decided to pursue any other form of civic involvement.

In a world where porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry and working its way into mainstream culture every day, reality television has introduced drug abuse, intervention and therapy as prime-time entertainment, and Ben Affleck is trying to save the Congo despite his horrendous acting work in Gigli and Daredevil . . . the humor blogging and writing that I do has not precluded me from doing just a bit of local organizing in the context of a town where very few people vote.



There you have it — the prosecution and the defense?

What do you think?

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I turned 65 on Friday, and we broke out the hats and hooters at our house last night, celebrating well into the night — past 11 o’clock.

The only thing that blemished the party — for me and a few of the guests, anyway — was news that The Star had endorsed Sly James for mayor. (The endorsement editorial that appeared in today’s paper went up online last night.)

I said in a Feb. 26 post that, partly because I had contributed heavily to Mike Burke, I would not attempt to “cover” the race in the traditional journalistic sense, but that I would write about mainstream press coverage of the race.

The Star’s endorsement of James is about as mainstream as it gets. So, what’s up with this endorsement?

First, it obviously hurts Burke and boosts James. The editorial, probably written by Yael Abouhalkah, who has written about City Hall for more than 20 years, casts James as the candidate of “fresh ideas” and Burke as the candidate more familiar with “City Hall’s inner workings.”

OK, there in a nutshell, is the justification. But what’s going on behind the scenes with the seven-member editorial board, which made the decision? Besides Abouhalkah, the board includes publisher Mark Zieman, editorial page editor Miriam Pepper, Matthew Schofield, and columnists E. Thomas McClanahan, Barbara Shelly and Lewis Diuguid.

While I certainly believe the editorial board members worked hard at their decision and tried to come to it based on the pluses and minuses of the two candidates, other factors had to be in play. (I worked at The Star for 36 years and know something about how editorial decisions are made.)

Specifically, I think two factors tilted the board toward James: political correctness and the desire to pick a winner.

Political correctness

Four years ago, the editorial board chose Mark Funkhouser in what turned out to be one of the most ignominious endorsements in Star history. Funkhouser has been a disaster, and Yael and the board were so embarrassed that, a year or so ago, they rescinded the endorsement, and Yael later personally apologized for his ill-fated selection.

Back in ’07, however, The Star didn’t just select Funkhouser. It also passed over a relatively strong black candidate, City Councilman and community icon Alvin Brooks. It was a close race, but Funkhouser won, and he won for one reason: The Kansas City Star.

Once again, this year, The Star was faced with a difficult choice between a black man and a white man. I’ve got to think that The Star — a bastion of liberal thinking (which suits me just fine, by the way) — couldn’t bring itself to oppose another good, black candidate for the second consecutive four-year cycle.

Picking a winner

James started running more than two years ago and spent hundreds of hours developing connections and wooing support from people in various fields of interest. In addition, he proved to be an articulate, engaging candidate. In the primary, he cast himself as an eye- and ear-pleasing anti-Funk — a refreshing contrast to the glowering, sloop-shouldered mayor.

Burke has portrayed himself, justifiably, as the straight-and-steady candidate, the one with the most city-related experience and better prepared to start turning the city around the day he takes office. He says, convincingly, that his learning curve would be much less sharp than James’.

As is often the case, though, charisma is hard to beat. As I have sought out people’s opinions on the contest, a majority of the people I have talked to (those who have an opinion, anyway) say they favor James. Take a look at the yard signs, too, which is usually a good barometer. Again, James has the edge.

James’ populist appeal has not escaped Yael and his fellow board members. They sense that James is the candidate who is playing best on the streets.

Shamed by its selection of Funkhouser, The Star badly needs a winner to get back on track. Collectively, the editorial board members have their finger in the air, and they feel a breeze, propelled by a rush of east-side votes.

Does this mean Burke can’t win? Absolutely not. The race probably will be decided in the Ward Parkway Corridor, which has the highest proportion of registered and frequent voters.

In the corridor, never underestimate a Rockhurst High grad.

That’s Burke.

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One of the most infuriating moments that I ever experienced took place about 25 years ago in the bar of an Italian restaurant on “The Hill” in St. Louis.

We were in town visiting our good friends, Mary and Gus Buttice (a faithful blog reader), and talking with some of their friends while waiting for a table. A fellow in his 20s — an upbeat, lippy sort — was recounting that he had been living in Kansas City for a while but was delighted to have moved back to St. Louis recently. Kansas City didn’t hold a candle to St. Louis, he said. Then, he gestured at me and said, “Ask him; he knows.”

Flustered and on foreign soil, I didn’t know what to say or whether to say anything, so I kept my mouth shut. Inside, I fumed.

That was when St. Louis still led Kansas City (according to the 1980 Census) by about 5,000 residents — 453,000 to 448,000.

The worm turned in 1990, though, when Kansas City passed St. Louis (well, took the lead by losing far fewer people than St. Louis in the 1980s), and the margin has widened considerably since.

According to Census Bureau figures released last week, Kansas City gained 18,000 residents between 2000 and 2009 for a population of nearly 460,000. St. Louis’ population, meanwhile, fell 8.3 percent, to about 319,000. Perhaps even more startling, the population in St. Louis County, where St. Louis City residents have been fleeing for decades, also fell — by 1.7 percent, to less than a million people.

The Census story caused barely a ripple in Kansas City, but from my reading of articles in The New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the story had people in St. Louis grabbing the left sides of their chests.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said: “This is absolutely bad news. We had thought, given many of the other positive trends, that 50 years of population losses had finally reversed direction. Instead, by the measure of Census to Census, they continue…Combined with the news from St. Louis County, I believe that this will require an urgent and thorough rethinking of how we do almost everything.

“If this doesn’t jump-start regional thinking, nothing will.”

When I told my wife Patty about the St. Louis population figures, she paused for a moment and said, “That could happen to us, if we don’t fix the schools.”

I think she’s right. Unlike St. Louis, which is hemmed in on all sides, we have a Northland, where there is plenty of elbow room for growth. I couldn’t come up with specific figures, but I feel sure that the losses have continued south of the river, due mainly to people moving to the Kansas side for better schools.

We can’t count on the Northland to offset south-of-the-river losses forever. At some point, the Northland will cap out. What will south of the river look like at that point? I almost hate to think about it.

So, the stakes are as high as the hopes in this situation with hard-charging Superintendent John Covington and the “new and improved” Kansas City school board, headed by the young, dynamic and seemingly driven Airick Leonard West.

More specifically, regardless of what happens at a majority of the schools, if Covington and the board can’t put a stop to the fights and fires at Southwest High School, many of the young families banking on better days ahead (and trying to tough it out until it gets to that point), will bail.

Southwest is the crab that will not release its grip on the image of Kansas City schools.

Frankly, I don’t care for Kansas; its residents freeload off Kansas City but don’t want to pay its earnings tax, which fuels the core, which makes this a great area.

There are things I like about St. Louis, but I would never trade it for Kansas City. I wonder if that guy I talked to in the bar that night so many years ago would make such a harsh comparison to Kansas City now? Probably not.

I’m really glad and proud to call myself a Kansas Citian. But I’m worried.

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