publisher's note
January 23, 2009



Pat Gray’s day
by Bruce Rodgers

There’s something bizarre about The Kansas City Star giving front-page coverage on Jan. 22 to a Pat Gray poll focusing on whether Mayor Mark Funkhouser should be recalled. Reading the second paragraph of the article, written by Steve Kraske and Deann Smith, raises the question whether the newspaper has the ability to gauge public sentiment — considering the layoff slaughter in the newsroom — without relying on non-news media sources:

“The survey obtained by The Kansas City Star was funded by some who wanted to gauge Funkhouser’s vulnerability and the chances for a successful recall. It showed 42 percent would favor removing Funkhouser from office …”

So here it is: The newspaper gives front page credence to a poll that it had no hand in creating, did not reveal to readers what questions were asked (if the Star knew itself), whom was asked and from what city council districts — so-called “frequent voters,” whatever that means — likely the Star didn’t “obtain” the survey but had it delivered to its offices, and either doesn’t know or won’t reveal which politicians or business interests — so-called “subscribers” — paid for the poll and how much they paid. Only one to fess up was Councilman Ed Ford, who might figure upping his name recognition in the media glare might help overcome campaign-funding obstacles if he does take a run for mayor.

The usual journalistic standard is to report as credible news a poll either conducted by news organizations, say The Kansas City Star and KMBC TV-9, or by a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, say like the political science department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, either on its own or paired with a news organization.

Instead, what the public got was no proof that the poll wasn’t “massaged” toward a specific outcome and no knowledge of who the characters paying Gray were as they practice their pitch before maneuvering among the moneyed classes in backrooms and boardrooms for funds for a run at Funkhouser in 2011. Everybody at the Star assumed the poll held all the water shown, including Funkhouser’s columnist buddy Mike Hendricks.

Meanwhile, veteran political consultant Gray can now raise his consulting rates to East Coast heights because he can get the front page of The Kansas City Star. Way to go, Pat.

The residual effect of Funkhouser’s goofiness with lawsuits, standing by his wife and his Greta Garbo-like governing style means every ambitious body at city hall has the opportunity to exploit the car-wreak curiosity that has emerged from the media or cover their ass until sanity returns and taxpayers begin to get antsy about money and city services.

Take for example City Manager Wayne Cauthen’s hiring of former City Councilman Chuck Eddy as chief of staff, for a nice $140,000 a year, not counting extra bennies. The city charter states the city manager is the chief administrative officer — so what's Eddy? Assistant chief administrative officer? The guy’s a chiropractor — what has he run and managed? A receptionist?

The only thing Eddy’s got going for him is his political lapdog tendencies, especially during Kay Barnes’ mayoral reign, and a good relationship with various current city councilpersons — particularly handy if Cauthen starts getting more heat because he hasn’t figured out the country is in a recession, or at least doesn’t remind the city council of such. Plus, Eddy is a convenient fall guy for Cauthen if things really get screwed up budget-wise.

If the Chiefs new General Manager Scott Pioli gets the football team on a winning track maybe he could then run for mayor. But better have the Star get Gray to do a poll first. Chiefs’ fans have a right to be heard.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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