Who will save the raft?
by Patrick Dobson
Newspaper columnists, power
brokers (through their political clubs), and radio commentators have
framed the terms of conversation and language of the Kansas City mayor’s
race. But the future of our town — whether it remains a big-city
wannabe or becomes a forward thinking, compassionate home for all its
residents — hinges upon us, as voters and residents, determining
who would best serve us.
Not big business. Not commerce and finance over people. Not political
suck-ups who want more room at the public trough. But us —
the people who make a city work despite the fortunes of its big players.
For this reason, it might be a good idea to take a slightly different
approach to judging which of the candidates, 12 in all, is best to take
leadership of our city.
So, let’s set the candidates in a raft we’ll call Kansas
City. We’ll put that raft on the ocean and see what happens.
By the way, there are two actual Kansas Citians in the raft with the
- Chuck Eddy sits in the back, chin on his chest,
and keeps pushing his classes up and saying his name over and over
again. Under his breath, he keeps praying for a miracle that will
make him look like the hero when the raft comes ashore. All the while,
he’s nervously punching holes in raft with his pen and wondering
if anyone will remember him when Davy Jones hides him in the locker.
- Janice Ellis thinks she should be in charge of
the raft. After all, she argues repeatedly, she has been training
seminars on high-seas survival. She was on the committee that conceptualized
rubberizing the raft and designing the paddles. Knowing how raft and
paddles work, she argues, she can ably create committees to steer
the craft, set fishing lines and distill drinking water from the ocean.
She thinks she should tell everyone else what to do. They’ll
survive if they would only listen.
- Becky Nace makes sure everyone knows that she was
responsible for everything good that happened to the raft since it
was invented — including the holes Eddy is punching in the rubber.
Her hands, however, are as soft as Ellis’. A callus from hard
work has never tarnished her pink little palms, and never will. She’s
planning what to do when they get ashore. She’ll claim responsibility
for the rescue, she thinks to herself. That will build her image and
credibility among the rafting community. Meanwhile, she’s rooting
around in the emergency rations, hoping no one will see her.
- Jim Glover is muttering about all he did to get
the raft out to the sea. He’s “the good raft guy”
he says. He knows how to keep the raft afloat and safe. But he keeps
looking toward the horizon for the container ship and its captain
so he can sell the raft for cheap. It’s value, after all, is
being diminished by the holes he’s punching in the raft with
his pen. If he plays things right, he thinks, he can maintain his
“good raft guy” status and be a hero of the rescue. When
Nace doesn’t have her hand in the survival goods, he does.
- John Fairfield keeps talking about the raft, but
no one knows what he’s saying. It doesn’t matter to him,
though. He just has to keep sounding important. When the raft comes
ashore, he knows he’ll greet the natives with a smile worthy
of the evening news. He hears the hissing of air escaping through
the holes in raft. But if he doesn’t pay attention, it will
go away. After all, he also has a pen.
- Stan Glazer doesn’t know a thing about the
raft, rafting or surviving the open sea. But it doesn’t stop
him from cracking wise over how good things will be if he’s
- Kathryn Shields has suffered delirium since we
put the raft at sea. She says she invented the sea. The raft and paddles,
she claims, were her ideas, too. Out loud, she thanks God she had
so much foresight. The sharks that have taken an interest in those
tasty Kansas Citians are her friends, and they’re depending
on her for a little treat.
- Albert Riederer has a vision for the raft. He shouts
above the din of the candidates’ bickering that they just have
to have his vision to get out of this mess. He doesn’t know
what the vision is yet. But he’ll know once he gets to dry land
and forms a “vision committee.” For now, he sticks close
to Kathryn because the sharks are his friends, too. When she goes
over the side in a wild fit of grandiosity, they’ll be on his
- John DiCapo complained about the raft for a long
time. Now, he’s sleeping soundly despite the noise.
- Henry Klein has some great ideas for making sure
the raft gets rescued and everyone stays alive in the meantime. He’ll
actually take a paddle and use it if he gets the chance. But no one
takes him seriously when he says he can pilot the raft. The sharks
are eyeing him lasciviously.
- Alvin Brooks has actually used a paddle before.
He knows how raft and paddle work in the ocean. He sees some stormy
weather ahead but has kept his cool. Now, if he can only get Nace
and Fairfield out of the way and keep Riederer and Shields from stealing
the paddle to wave around to show how great they know paddles.
- Mark Funkhouser sees the storm, too. But he knows
the raft, the ocean, and how to use a compass — and he is paddling
like crazy. He was careful to set the fishing lines and calculate
how many fish will feed this crew. Plus, his drinking water still
is working and the other candidates, including Brooks, are drinking
the water and eating the fish. The problem is that no one admits he’s
responsible for the food and water. They also won’t give him
credit for thinking about what to do with the human waste accumulating
in the craft, which everyone is sitting in.
The two Kansas Citians are confused. Nace and Ellis
talk almost as good a game as Fairfield. Nace and Fairfield,
though, have pockets of cash to wave in front of our citizens, as well
as wireless connections to savvy people on shore who are telling them
how to talk. Riederer, too, despite the emptiness of
his rhetoric, has cash and consultants, but even he seems sort of the
same old story — the one that’s filled the raft with poisonous
and bacteria ridden fecal matter. Shields seems out
of the question because of her frenetic blather. Klein
seems like good mayor material, but everyone in the raft keeps saying
he can’t win. Our intrepid citizens, like Eddy
wonder, who he is. They also like having Glazer around
for his sense of humor.
DiCapo is clearly out of it, which makes that choice
The Kansas Citians want a “good raft guy.” Glover
talks the game well when he’s not muttering but he always seems
to have something up his sleeve. Plus, he won’t commit to anything
— always having to see about things the way he does. To our Kansas
Citians, it seems “having to see” means having to check
with his consultants and the money behind them. Something about him
On the other hand, Brooks and Funkhouser
seem to be the only people working to get the raft home. But without
the goodies and soothing talk the other candidates seem to have for
them, the two non-politicians don’t know what to make of them.
After all, they have never seen honest politicians in their raft.
So, if you were in the raft, who would you depend on to get you home
Patrick Dobson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.