Beyond the Funk
Many Kansas Citians have begun to treat Mayor Mark Funkhouser and wife Gloria Squitiro like an eccentric neighbor who turns junk into brightly colored yard statuary, nails pinwheels to tree trucks, hangs cheap mobiles from the branches, leaves the Christmas lights up and on all year, and occasionally wears little to nothing when adding to the outdoor displays.
As a reaction to such a spectacle, first came the polite discussions, then the emotional pleas, later the threats of action, then the enlisting of allies to force a change and finally — after weariness had set in — an acceptance that some day the whole thing would be gone.
For others, the loner mayor and his weirdo wife retain their fascination if, for no other reason, that they add unpredictability to the otherwise bland exclusivity that is the norm of Kansas City’s City Hall workings. While the Chiefs and Royals may dominate bar conversation among locals, talking about the Funk and Gloria isn’t far behind.
Joe Miller, a former Funkhouser insider, recently added to potential barroom din. His Sept. 2 salon.com piece (www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/09/02/funkhouser/) recounts more of the peculiar and outlandish thought patterns that seem to emanate from the pair. For Funkhouser freaks — which includes most the city’s unelected political establishment, including local bloggers — much of what Miller writes about has been heard before. Think a woman possessed by a young man’s preoccupation with sex, afraid of any person of color, convinced the Divine is at work in her life with Funk, who himself, embraces the melancholy that he is incapable of challenging his wife on any matter even if it means humiliation.
Or, as Miller writes, “The power and air of entitlement that accompanied the office emboldened both of them, and turned Gloria into a monster.”
Miller, himself, has been called an opportunist and unethical for writing and speaking about what he knows about Mark and Gloria. His salon.com posting could be interpreted as the prelude to a book, a follow up to Cross-X, which received praise in many quarters. Miller writes extremely well and he’s ambitious, leading to speculation he joined Funkhouser’s campaign with a book in mind.
In response to an email about a Funkhouser/Gloria book, Miller wrote, “I don’t know that it ever will (happen). I’m working on the proposal. When that’s done, we’ll try to sell it.”
Book or no book, Miller wasn’t prepared for what unfolded before him. Clearly Funkhouser was ill prepared to be mayor, a fact that surprised his supporters, including The Kansas City Star. Throw in Gloria as the “co-mayor” and what happened was a wreak of expectations, leaving behind a recall effort and a disappointment among the electorate that has yet to be explored.
Miller wrote about such disappointment in his salon piece but it was from his point of view, his near-shame at having supported Funkhouser, working for him, being part of his administration and having been manipulated by his wife.
But the real tragedy lies with the people who voted for him. They believed he would change things, and he hasn’t and won’t.
That blow is magnified because Funkhouser was unique as a candidate in considering the types of support he attracted. A variety of political stripes were drawn to him. Conservatives from north of the river liked him, libertarian types in Johnson County gave him campaign money and midtown liberals called him one of their own, particularly when Miller, whose reporting includes a stint with the alternative press, came to his campaign. What united them all was their distaste for the status quo and their view that Funkhouser, as city auditor, had proven himself as not being part of the entrenched wealthy and connected establishment.
Funkhouser let those people down. They believed he could change things and their shared disenchantment with the outcome infects them all, regardless of political ideology. That’s where the real damage is, at the core of the democratic process, when a people’s faith in voting for someone they think can changed things withers through the resurrection of ego and selfishness.
If Miller writes his book, here’s hoping it goes way beyond the stupidity of Funk and Gloria, and asks the question why the people get such choices of mediocrity in candidates for office and why reform is just another word for nothing much else to run on.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
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