When Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser came on KMBZ with Shanin and Parks Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. he freely stated to them that he was in Nashville. He gave as his reason for being there that he was visiting his mother. At that point, I was unable to do more than make a note of it on Facebook, but at the time, I wondered how it would play with the electorate, the mayor being out of town with the storm coming, as did the radio boys.
South Kansas City Observer is amazed. Mayor Funkhouser did an interview with KMBZ & said *he was NOT in Kansas City; he is in Nashville visiting his mother. Question: did he intend to go to the mayoral forum that was scheduled for tonight??
Tony's Kansas City picked it up Tuesday evening. Commenters to his blog post added the information that the mayor was also doing his side job, giving lectures. His topic on January 31 in Nashville: "Honest, Competent Government: The Promise of Performance Auditing." Finally Wednesday, a few mainstream media outlets made note of his absence. KSHB noted that he left Sunday, and was planning on returning Monday evening. Tony rounded up the situation in this post Wednesday; the information shared by the mayor via the mainstream media only raised more questions about his travel timeline and his money situation.
So does it matter if the mayor was here for the blizzard? In a way, with our weak mayor form of government, in practical terms, it may not matter that much. In the EOC, it's the city manager, the police chief, the fire chief, the head of the street department and other public works' department chiefs that really do all the heavy lifting.
However, it is a huge "optics" problem. It just looks bad. It especially looks bad in light of how much warning we had about this storm. (I was emailing a friend on Sunday that we might have to postpone our Tuesday lunch.) In addition, I would like to know how divided the mayor's attention is from his duties as mayor by his side job giving lectures on honest, competent government. The problem becomes that when he signs up to give speeches, he really has an obligation to be there, as these type of things are scheduled in advance and often serve as vital continuing education for the professionals attending. So when a blizzard is coming, does the mayor let down the Tennessee auditors, or stay on schedule and risk looking like his attention is not with the people of his city? Yes, he can through the miracle of modern communications stay in touch with what's going on, but is that the best course for the mayor, especially in light of the coming election?
I would say that the best course of action is that the mayor should not schedule lectures until his term is completed. In addition, I think the mayor needs to document how he handles travel expenses with regard to his lectures if he chooses to continue giving them. In addition, he should have a cancellation policy with the organizers in case he is needed here in the city.
But really, how tin is this man's ear that in this late stage of his mayoral term that he is doing stuff like this?!?