Often, I wonder where the blue is in these “blue-ribbon committees” that make recommendations on various aspects of local governments.
I refer specifically to two Kansas City committees — whose members were appointed by Mayor Sly James — that recently submitted recommendations to the City Council on different subjects.
They were the Police Governance Committee and the City Charter Review Commission.
Let’s take them one a take them separately…
Police Governance Committee
On a 13-12 vote, the governance committee recommended to the City Council that the Kansas City Police Department stay under state control, instead of coming under the mayor and council.
State control — where the governor names several commissioners, who, along with the mayor, comprise the Board of Police Commissioners — is a vestige of the days of crooked government under the Pendergast regime.
St. Louis was in the same state, so to speak, until Missouri voters last year approved a change to local control.
Kansas City now has the distinction of being the only city in the state where the governor has more power over a local police department than the locally elected mayor and city council.
How can this be?
Darryl Forte seems to be a good police chief, but shouldn’t the chief be hired and fired by the mayor and council, not an appointed board controlled by the governor?
As long as we have good chiefs, the damage should be minimal, but God forbid if we got a chief who flatly refused to cooperate with the mayor and council. It’s a recipe for potential chaos.
About that vote last night…Dave Helling’s front-page story in today’s Kansas City Star said that five commission members were absent. An editorial posted on the kansascity.com website today said four members did not vote. And in an email tonight, Yael Abouhalkah of The Star told me the city today corrected the record, saying four of 29 potential voters were absent.
Hard to fathom, isn’t it? You’ve got an issue that’s decided by one vote, and four members miss the meeting?
I’ve got a call in to Jason Hodges in James’ office to try to find out who was on the committee (see comments), how the vote broke down and who was absent.
God knows you can’t get that kind of important detail from The Star. It dishes out the bare minimum on its government coverage. (As far as I can tell, The Star never published the names of the members of either the governance or charter review committees.)
The tattered-ribb…I mean blue-ribbon…committee does not have the last word on this. The City Council could vote to seek local control. But that wouldn’t end the matter: The Missouri General Assembly would make the call, short of a statewide initiative petition, which isn’t likely.
That means a bunch of rural legislators who have no use for Kansas City and St. Louis — and generally want to keep the cities under their thumbs as much as possible — would have the final say.
I think I’m gonna cry.
Kansas City Charter Review Commission
This commission, appointed by Mayor James, last week recommended that the City Council should have 12 people elected solely in districts, instead of the current system of six council members elected in districts and six elected city-wide.
The recommendation to change is utter balderdash: Only the mayor, the 13th member of the council, would be truly focused on the good of the entire city. Every other member would be going around — heads down, blinders on — trying to pick up crumbs of pie, instead of making sure the pie was baked properly and that it would appeal to a broad majority.
The charter panel also made two other recommendations:
1) Give the mayor the power to fire the city manager without needing the concurrence of six of the 12 other council members.
2) Move the city’s election dates from February and March to April and June. (The primary election would come first and then the general election.)
Both of those recommendations make sense. How or why a commission majority came up with the 12-districts plan is beyond me.
Fortunately, those recommendations also will go to the City Council, which will decide which, if any, recommendations to put on an election ballot.
I urge you to call or email your council members (the one in-district and the one elected at large) and tell them to drop the notion of changing the City Council make-up.
There is nothing to be gained from a chopped-up, hydra-headed council.