February 2, 2007


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 candidates:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 in charge.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 side
  9. John DiCapo complained about the raft for a long time. Now, he’s sleeping soundly despite the noise.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 easy.

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 ain’t right.

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 alive?

Patrick Dobson can be contacted at


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