publisher's note
January 26, 2007



A crowd at the gate
by Bruce Rodgers

One can take the half-full/half-empty approach to explaining why so many people (latest count 12) want to be mayor of Kansas City, MO.

The half-full observation can go something like this: It’s great that this many people want to contribute to making Kansas City a better city for its residents.

The half-empty take could be: This bunch is it…this is all we got for candidates?

At the KKFI candidates' forum on Jan. 23 both sentiments probably wafted through the crowd at various times during the two-hour, on-air event held at UMKC’s Grant Hall. The proceedings went fairly smooth despite a crowded stage and one microphone that died early on. The large turnout was a pleasant surprise to the organizers and the sprinkling of political consultants in the room gave this first-time effort by KKFI’s news department in seeking to be an alternative source for information legitimacy.

The panel, moderated by C.J. Janovy, editor of the Pitch, included Joe Arce, publisher of the Hispanic News, Judy Ancel, from the Institute for Labor Studies and Patrick Dobson, columnist/reporter for this web site. The questions centered on economic development, particularly the study “Uneven Patchwork: Tax Increment Financing in Kansas City,” neighborhood issues and transportation, with the focus on the recently passed light rail initiative formulated by Clay Chastain.

For this observer, nothing new, exciting or innovative came from any candidate. (I guess it’s the half-empty approach.) If anything is remembered from the event, it most likely will be Albert Riederer sniping at Mark Funkhouser, Funkhouser firing back; and Henry Klein getting a jab in at Becky Nace after she noted that Wal-Mart built a new energy efficient or so-called green store without mentioning the corporation had closed a store located in the Bannister Mall area the same day it opened the new outlet — after receiving TIF.

Unfortunately, the number of candidates, the two-hour time allotment and the want of organizers to get a few questions in from the audience limited the amount of time the candidates had to respond to a question. But here’s an abbreviated account of responses to certain questions.

Ancel asked if the candidates had read TIF study and to comment on its recommendations. Most said they had read at least the executive summary.

Alvin Brooks: Downtown would never had grown or been redeveloped “without TIF.”
Charles Eddy: Need to “look at the area” (needing TIF) and ask why.
Janice Ellis: Need to apply TIF to “those areas where it is needed” and monitor the return
John Fairfield: The use of TIF has been a “renaissance” for downtown
Mark Funkhouser: The study is “an appalling indictment of the elite of Kansas City.”
Stanford Glazer: “TIF is a good idea and I have read it and agree with it.”
Henry Klein: “I’ve read it and support all six recommendations…you always want to look out your window and see cranes.”
Becky Nace: “Every election TIF is a topic of conversation. I am the only candidate to vote (out of the those candidates who are city council members) against TIF” for Briarcliff and the green space at Vivion Road and North Oak.
Albert Riederer: “I have read it and (in response to the Funkhouser’s comment) it’s an indictment of the people at city hall.”
Katheryn Shields: “I have read the summary and agree. Generally, I support tax incentives but not (for) retail.”
(Jim Glover had not yet arrived at the forum.)

Arce asked why women- and minority-owned businesses were not utilized (more) in city contracts.

Shields: “We have the ordinance, enforce it.”
Riederer: “Let’s enforce the law.”
Nace: “Special interests wanted to rush through the $27 million waiver in the Sprint contract; I said ‘no’.”
Klein: “Need to help minority businesses qualify…need a mayor’s office for small business.”
Glover: “I helped sponsor the ordinance.”
Glazer: “It’s a shame we have to talk about gender and who is a minority…it’s a shame we have to talk about quotas.”
Funkhouser: (In response to Riederer’s earlier comment) He “hasn’t paid any attention to how things operate” (at city hall). Too many minority businesses are “forced” into being subcontractors.
Fairfield: “The caps need to be adjusted and to work to give (minority owned businesses) jobs that last.”
Ellis: “We need outreach, a registry attached to city contracts and enforce the law with sanctions and monitoring.”
Eddy: “Need incentives for a minority business to become a major company.”
Brooks: Need a “checklist” and to “incubate” minority businesses.

Dobson asked about implementing the light rail plan passed by voters in November and building more trails and bike pathways in the city.

Brooks: “Can’t do it with a 3/8 cent tax…need a plan” to pay for light rail.
Eddy: “Kansas City can’t do it by itself.”
Ellis: “The issue is a regional one. In the meantime, implement what voters passed.”
Fairfield: “I worked on trails and bike paths…the (light rail) plan that passed won’t work. It will be years before it comes into play.”
Funkhouser: “God Bless Clay Chastain! It’s not possible to do his plan but he got our attention. We can do this regionally but got to reach out.”
Glazer: “I’m for it but we can’t afford it. Need to go back to the voters.”
Glover: “We can afford a balanced transportation system and we can go to the federal government (for funding).”
Klein: “I support light rail. We need a regional and non-regional approach."
Nace: “We need to connect the dots…put a bistate initiative together to fund a hub at Union Station. It’s a parochial issue and my plan”…points to finding money based on that.
Riederer: “Light rail needs to be integrated into the bus system and regional” in its approach.
Shields: “The November vote was an opportunity.” The solution “has to be part of a regional system.”

A question from the audience dealt with finding the money to fix the city’s sewer system to comply with EPA regulations. Glazer gave the most honest answer by saying he “didn’t know.” Fairfield mentioned the possibility of raising fees and sewer taxes. The rest of the candidates either re-stated the problem or talked of the need for a “plan.”

Ancel’s question on the need for a living wage ordinance got support from all candidates in varying degrees. Funkhouser supported it “as broadly as possible as a municipal government” can. Glazer spoke of caution because “prices would go up.”

Arce’s question about how well the PIAC (Public Improvement Advisory Committee) process worked in getting projects completed received a near uniform admission that the process doesn’t work very well.

Answers to the preventing crime were the often repeated yet proven approaches: community policing, bike patrols, job development and education.

The top two that get through the primary election, held Feb. 27, would have separated themselves from this pack of eleven. Conventional thinking has Brooks as a sure finalist because of his name recognition, electoral strength in the black community and likeability. Some talk has Riederer entering the race to undercut support for Glover, and big negatives are hanging on Eddy in south Kansas City because of his earlier support of a new bridge on Red Bridge Road and for backing the Richards-Gebaur transformation to a rail hub. Nace gets attention, as does Glazer, on local Republican web sites and Fairfield has a sizeable war chest that some observers tie to his hearty support of TIF north of the river. Funkhouser’s populist rhetoric seems to appeal both to fiscal conservatives and liberals tired of the same old faces. He could be a surprise depending upon campaign money. If Shields found a dose of humility concerning her image problem, she could be a factor. Like Funkhouser, Ellis is a thinker but with little political muscle. Klein should have made a run for one of the city council seats.

It’s beyond me why so many people are in the race. It’s either democracy playing itself out or some people are in the race for reasons other than being elected mayor.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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