Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thoughts on Tornadoes

Like any other good weather geek with a layer of emergency services interest I have been watching the videos and reading the reports about the tornadoes in the southeast. Presently we have reports of over 300 dead with billions of dollars in damage to the areas afflicted in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The pictures remind me of the photos I have seen of the damage after the great tornado that hit Ruskin Heights in 1957. Nothing left but stripped trees, flipped cars, piles of broken wood and empty foundations.

I posted a question on weather guru Gary Lezak's FB page wondering if the death toll in the Carolina storms/tornadoes earlier this month were unusual. He replied that it was most likely due to strong storms hitting a populated place. I still have some questions if the numbers of deaths from these latest storms had to be as high as it was, especially for a well forecasted storm and one funnel that was on the ground for miles and miles. Again I thought of the Ruskin tornado in 1957. That moved on the ground north and east from Stanley, KS to Ruskin Heights not lifting until about Nolan Road and Blue Parkway. With warning, NO ONE is in the gym at the high school, thus reducing the death toll by at least one. I hope that the folks in these southeast states don't just shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, strong storm." and take the time to make sure warnings were propagated and to what degree they were heard and heeded. However, many of these F4 and F5 tornadoes were 1/2 to 1 mile wide, thus making it hard to get away. It still would be worthwhile to check how the emergency was handled, and see if anything can be improved. Not to fix blame, or look for a scapegoat, but to open things up to honest assessment and problem solving to make sure everything is at the highest level for responding to tornadoes (which are NOT unknown in these areas--they just usually aren't that big and don't usually stay on the ground that long.)

Also blogger Meesha wrote a good post wondering about the strength of newer construction. Just as communities prone to hurricanes and earthquakes have specs for construction, perhaps it would be appropriate for a few guidelines for construction in tornado zones. I think he has an excellent point. For example, if construction of a "safe room" was done at initial build, it would cost a lot less than retrofitting an existing structure.

In the meantime, plan ahead and pay attention when the weather is hinky. I do not have a basement but I know which neighbors do, and I have spoken to almost all of them about taking shelter with them. My weakest point is notification at night--I need to acquire a weather radio that will collect the alert tones for my immediate area automatically and alert me to hazardous conditions. I also need to put together a "go bag" of items that are prepacked and I could just grab them in an emergency. Those are just a couple of examples of preplanning for a tornado emergency. It's not a bad idea. Meantime, we need to make sure our communities are completely prepared too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why No Posts on Economic Issues?

Yeah, we've been discussing economics on the porch in our neighborhood. (So to speak--it's been a bit wet and dreary around here, so kitchens and heated garages have been found to be both warmer and drier, but anyway.) So why no blog entries about the economy and what we should do to make it better? Well, what makes a good blog entry? Usually blog entries that are good ones are either informative or infuriating, one or the other. They either give you information you have not considered before or they give you an opinion that either causes you to nod and say "amen" or causes you think WTF? and to wonder if the writer has slipped a cog (maybe two).

When I write about the economy, it ends up being this mealy mouthed mess, sort of like wet crackers in soup, but not nearly as tasty. This is for two reasons. One is that I have never studied economics and I know just a little bit about them, especially on the grand scale of nations. Oh, I know about personal economics, and I've observed entrepreneurs at work--the life of the small business owner is known to me--but terms like "supply side" and "Keynesian economics" I don't understand in a way that makes for compelling reading.

The second reason is that from what little I do know, I am not convinced by either side that they really know what will work to pull this country up into a good economic situation from the current bad situation. You have some saying that if we cut too much from government spending, we will kill the economy. You have some saying that government spending actually costs more than it produces. Part of the problem, I think, is that we have conditions that have not been seen before. There are parallels to the 1910s, 1930s and 1970s but none of these situations provides the same scenario as today. It is helpful to examine this history, but is it predicative of how the new situation would respond to a given intervention today?

I have now written three last paragraph drafts. There is no good stopping point it seems. I am concerned, both on a personal level--in fact, I think that is why money matters get people emotional; there is a very real personal fear of being destitute or caught up in people's unmet needs--and for our country's future. How do we keep the American dream alive? How do we keep money from concentrating in just a few people? How can we help those with needs and not cripple them? Can we revive manufacturing in America? How much tax is too much tax? How much government regulation is too much? Are we going to end up with some different attitudes and actions concerning consuming "stuff"? Can I be secure economically as I age?

With that last paragraph, I think I fell in the deep end of the pool. Treading water now...planning on getting out, at least for the moment. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Year Out: After MAST Hangover Persists for KCFD

Well it's been about one year since the take over of ambulance service in Kansas City, MO and things are at best, unsettled. For many the feeling is that the service is not as good as it was. Recently, the editorial page at the Kansas City Star took notice--and wrote an excellent piece that asks all the right questions.Here's the link to the editorial, which is bylined "Kansas City Star editorial."

The issue of the response times has been talked about here and in other places. I have heard Chief Dyer's song and dance about how response times are not as important as they are made out to be and how it is important to deliver quality care. The times I have heard him he has been careful to not be overly dismissive. It sounds like he failed this time. In addition, I have heard the chief talk about how he feels that such concerns grow out of, not a public safety concern, but a political concern. However, all that posturing does not solve the problem--it tries to make itSomeone Else's Problem or even worse, says, "What problem? There's not a problem." All I'm hearing is that it is too expensive to solve the problem, or too hard to solve the problem. It's funny, we all know that MAST wasn't perfect, but did we hear about response time problems when MAST was running the ambulances?

The two other important concerns, raised by the editorial writer, are the use/non use of 24 shifts for EMS workers and the pension issue. The problems reflected in the 24 shift issues are those of badly blended work cultures and career goals, with a good dollop of legal labor issue thrown in. It is not an issue for fire departments where the EMS personnel are fully qualified firefighters and were hired with the understanding that they were firefighters as well as EMS providers--see Grandview and Lee's Summit for the easiest examples. Until the day comes that all EMS providers employed by KCMO are fully qualified firefighters also, this is going to be an issue, and a dividing point. Toss in the national discussion on the effects of 24 hour shifts, and this issue is not going away any time soon. As to the pension issue, it again is a function of the different nature of the personnel that the KCFD took in. MAST employees were under an entirely different type of retirement plan, one that cannot legally be rolled into or converted to the type of pension that firefighters are under. If the city had taken MAST in and made it its own department with its own management and command structure, something that would not cost the city as much (if any cost at all) could have been done without breaking promises that were made to the rank and file MAST employee. Now, it looks inevitable that the city will not provide a pension that matches completely the years of service of the former MAST worker. In the current political environment, I do not see that happening.

So there you go. The results of a politically motivated and understudied decision. Every single issue explored by this editorial should have been throughly studied BEFORE any action was taken, not a year AFTER the deed was done. To borrow a phrase, these were "known unknowns"--things we knew that could very well be issues with this merger idea. NONE of them were "unknown unknowns"--things that we didn't know were going to be issues.

It's a mess and now we have to, somehow, clean it up. Cleaning it up is going to cost, and there will be collateral damage of all kinds. Tough assignment for the new mayor and new city council--are they up to doing the best for the people of the city, above city hall and union politics?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Now, I couldn't leave you all in Good Friday...

"He is risen."

"He is risen indeed."

"He is risen!"

"He is risen indeed!"

"He is risen!"

"He is risen indeed!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday

My friend Pastor John introduced me and the congregation in Grandview back in 1994 to color as a part of the worship experience. Since then I have really come to appreciate it--it brings home some truths. Good Friday is the only day you'll see a church sanctuary in black--and it is quite striking.

On Sunday, it will be a marked contrast. As dark as our church worship spaces were on Friday, they will be light on Sunday.

Have a blessed Easter everybody!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You Just Can't...

You just can't leave your car unattended with the keys in it in a public place for even a minute--you just can't. I'm leaving the kids out of it because we all know that countless vehicles are stolen because the owner left them "for just a minute" with the keys in the ignition. Poof! Car and contents gone--and it did not taken even the fabled 60 seconds.

So we had yet another example last night of how you cannot leave a vehicle with the keys in the ignition for even "just a minute." Last night, a woman stopped off at the Dollar Tree in Truman Corners in Grandview. She ran into the store for just a minute, and while in the store, saw her minivan, which she had left parked and running outside the store with her two small children (3 years and 11 months) inside, move off without her. About a half hour later, someone notice the van parked outside an apartment building, with the two kids inside and reported it to the police. A little bit of detective work and the apartment where the car thief had gone was located. He was taken into custody after police surrounded his place.

Yes, the kids in the car left alone is an epic fail. BUT just leaving the car, running, unattended is an epic fail too. It doesn't matter what neighborhood. I wouldn't do it in Leawood any more than I would do it in Grandview. If you care about your vehicle and what is in it, do not leave it unattended with the keys in it.

Of course that goes double-triple-quadruple for kids, but do we even have to talk about something that is so obvious? Everyone knows you don't leave kids unattended in a vehicle "even for a minute." (Do you leave them unattended in your house for "just a minute"?)

So please, when you leave your car--even for a minute!--turn off the engine, take the keys, take all your valuables (including that annoying 3 year old!) with you and lock it up!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ray-Pec Bus Drama and DUMB Parent!

Last week a bus driver in the Raymore-Peculiar school district had to stop his bus and involve himself with two students on the bus who were fighting. The incident, which involved the driver physically contacting students, has caused some conversation. The event is being investigated by the school district. The video, which is grainy and jumpy, does appear to show the driver putting his hands on a child's shoulders near his neck at one point. The whole scene looks completely out of control. You know it had to be bad for the bus driver to pull over, as these buses are on strict schedules. There is no other video at this point and the bus was not equipped with its own camera.

A mother interviewed by KSHB said the following: "That is horrible. I don't think that school bus driver should be allowed to do that. If there is a problem occurring, don't physically put your hands on anybody, especially somebody else's child. He shouldn't have put his hands on him." In the videotaped interview, she allows that kids can be separated but continues to say that the driver should not touch anyone.

What a fool! I bet her kids are just angels from being handled with soft gloves. How do you propose the driver deal with that out of control mess without occasionally touching the darling children? Keep driving and let the kids beat the sh*t out of each other? Drive with all that distraction and risk a crash? Pull over, call for help from the police and wait, doing nothing, while out of control kids damage each other, the bus, and maybe run out into traffic? Yeah, that'll fly.

Woman, get your head out of your butt, and teach your kids, and all kids to show some respect to others, including adults! In the meantime, bus drivers without chaperones on their buses should probably just drive to the local police station when the little darlings start acting out. Let the cops "touch" them.

Links: KSHB's report, containing the above gem. KMBC's, demonstrating that gossip is still gossip, even with smart phones and KCTV5, showing that KSHB didn't find the only idiot mother.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Copper Follow Up: Now This Is Ridiculous!

OK, we had our little rant about "copperheads" last week. It's just ridiculous! I was thinking of the thieves who hit the fountains and the pair of dipwads they found in a closed school building taking copper pipes and wiring awhile back (police dog found those two, and shall we say, "took a bite out of crime") , but check this out--from the Kansas City Star just tonight:

You seriously just can't leave anything out! These freaks have pulled electrical wires, disrupted fiber optic cables, and stolen anything not fenced in or nailed down! Copper thieves cut the connection to the EMS headquarters once by tearing up the phone line while looking for copper.

I would seriously be looking at all the buyers for this loot. The problem is the crime could have occurred as long ago as Friday evening--they could be long gone. This is the sort of thing that a video camera could help with, but that has its own issues. So what to do?

You have eyes, people, eyes--use them! We can be our own surveillance system. If something looks wrong, call it in! At the very least, make a note of any strange vehicles, take down license plate numbers, note the time and date, and note descriptions. If something comes out later, what you noted could be key. How many people saw a truck and people in and around this company, may have thought, "Well, that's odd." and now wish they'd made a note or two about the situation, or maybe took a quick photo or video with their cell phone.

Most copperheads are dopers: They need rehab--they need to be serious about rehab and do it seriously and completely, or face continuous and repeated jail time along with requirements for restitution to those harmed by their misdeeds. Buyers who buy hot stuff need to lose their businesses. Middle men, probably also dopers, need to be squeezed for their suppliers and for the buyers. Somehow we have to get a handle on this. It's getting ridiculous out there.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just Fiddling Around

Could not resist this bit of awesomeness, from PunditKitchen, a division of the cheezburger folks. Isn't it so so so true? (Oh, was that my BlackBerry?)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Spectrum of Reasons for Failure

Observer introduction: I saw this is the Harvard Business Review. I really like it. I think there is a lot of truth here. It looks at reasons for failure with regard to blame and blaming an individual or group. Not all failure is created equal. This realization, along with removing a culture of fear to me is key to management of failure in a productive way. First, a bit of background from the article:
Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organizations, and cultures. Every child learns at some point that admitting failure means taking the blame. That is why so few organizations have shifted to a culture of psychological safety in which the rewards of learning from failure can be fully realized. Executives I've interviewed in organizations as different as hospitals and investment banks admit to being torn: How can they respond constructively to failures without giving rise to an anything-goes attitude? If people aren't blamed for failures, what will ensure that they try as hard as possible to do their best work? This concern is based on a false dichotomy. In actuality, a culture that makes it safe to admit and report a failure can--and in some organizational contexts must--coexist with high standards for performance. To understand why, look at the exhibit "A Spectrum of Reasons for Failure" [I reproduce it below], which lists cause ranging from deliberate deviation to thoughtful experimentation. Which of these causes involve blameworthy actions? Deliberate deviance, first on the list, obviously warrants blame. But inattention might not. If it results from a lack of effort, perhaps it's blameworthy. But if it results from fatigue near the end of an overly long shift, the manager who assigned the shift is more at fault than the employee. As we go down the list, it gets more and more difficult to find blameworthy acts. In fact, a failure resulting from thoughtful experimentation that generates valuable information may actually be praiseworthy. When I ask executives to consider this spectrum and them to estimate how many of the failures in their organizations are truly blameworthy, their answers are usually in single digits--perhaps 2% to 5%. But when I ask how many are treated as blameworthy, they say (after a pause or laugh) 70% to 90%. The unfortunate consequence is that many failures go unreported and their lessons are lost. (p. 50)

A Spectrum of Reasons for Failure:
Top--Most Blameworthy, moving towards more Praiseworthy.

Deviance: An individual chooses to violate a prescribed process or practice.

Inattention: An individual inadvertently deviates from specifications

Lack of Ability: An individual doesn't have the skills, conditions, or training to execute a job.

Process Inadequacy: A competent individual adheres to prescribed but faulty or incomplete process.

Task Challenge: An individual faces a task too difficult to be executed reliably every time.

Process Complexity: A process composed of many elements breaks down when it encounters novel interactions.

Uncertainty: A lack of clarity about future events causes people to take seemingly reasonable actions that produce undesirable results.

Hypothesis Testing: An experiment conducted to prove that an idea or a design will succeed fails.

Exploratory Testing: An experiment conducted to expand knowledge and investigate a possibility leads to an undesired result. (p. 50)

Observer commentary: This has a lot of applications in a lot of settings: workplace, government, personal life. It is not about creating an environment where excellence is not the goal or routinely expected, or shirking responsibility for one's part when failure occurs. It is about creating a positive and encouraging environment where failure is not covered up, but opened up, and is seen, not as something to punish but something to learn from.

Reference: Amy C. Edmondson "Strategies for Learning From Failure" Harvard Business Review 89:4 April 2011 pp. 48-55.

Yahoo! Fixed it! Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Copper: Something I Don't Understand

There's a lot of trouble with people going into vacant buildings and stealing copper piping and wire. They just yank it out and take it--they do a lot of damage. If the pipes are charged with water, the water gets all over. They go right through walls for this stuff. Most of them are dopers. They want that easy money. They get some metal and they go to the buyers. They get their money--typically way less than the actual worth of the items they've turned in--and get their drugs.

Ever since Nick Dutcher's murder by a serial burglar, I have wondered who it is that buys obviously stolen materials and objects from thieves. If just one of the buyers of the stuff the burglar/murderer stole from houses in Ruskin Heights had turned him in, Mr. Dutcher might still be alive.

So, who is buying all the obviously stolen materials that "copperheads" present? I mean, how many hot water heaters, air conditioners and long spools of copper wire can one person find without causing some suspicions?

Just wondering.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wayside Waifs Visit

Today was just one of those all around crappy days, where nothing got finished, and everything took longer than expected. After some time of prayer and meditation, I found that a visit to Wayside Waifs was also indicated.

As usual, plenty of wonderful animals were available. This is Pearl. She's blonde like a yellow lab, but has this beautiful black undertone to her coat. It's really soft too. When I first saw here in her kennel, she gave me a smile, then rolled over and showed me her belly.

This is Racquel, a shepherd mix. She was exclusively an outside dog for much of her life, but now sits for treats and pets. She's over two, but still looks like a pup. She is not as big as a full German Shepherd dog but she's not tiny either.

On to cats: This is the aptly named Fluffy, a two year old black medium haired cat. Such pretty eyes!

Kitten (and puppy) season will be upon us soon. These two little guys, grey tabbies, are in the vanguard.
This nifty looking fellow is 3 year old Bubba. Bubba is friendly to people, but somewhat timid at times. He is a beautiful brown tabby and white. While I visited with him, he rolled over and let us rub the really soft fur on his belly!

So now after visiting these critters and others, I have some more cute animal photos, and the faint oder of dog. The latter will dismay the cat crowd at home but that is what soap is for. To see wonderful critters for yourself, in person at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south Kansas City, MO or on line at Phone: 816-761-8151

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Voter Turnout

I hit'em all. Jury duty, anyone?

Predictions of a low voter turnout were, by and large, correct. But here are some numbers for your consideration:

Mayoral primary, February 22, 2011
Number of votes cast: 45,040

Mayoral general, March 22, 2011
Number of votes cast: 70,382

Earnings Tax referendum, April 5, 2011
Number of votes cast: 73,459

So it looks like tax votes bring out the ballots the best. Don't get too excited though. We are still only talking about around 20% of registered voters.

I don't believe there will be much of any voting until 2012 now.

E Tax Vote Reflections

With blogging I am at "I am so far behind I will never die." However, I can't let the recent earning tax vote result go by without a comment or two. First, I was surprised that it won by the margin it did. 78% to 22% is pretty much landslide territory. It's clear that the anti tax message made no impact on those who went to the polls to vote on this issue. Why do you suppose that so many of the 73,459 who cast ballots last Tuesday voted "yes" to continue the earnings tax? Here are my guesses as to why "yes" votes were the vast majority:

1. People were afraid that major cuts would be made in essential services. This point was the topic of much of the pro E tax advertising, and it is clear that people took it to heart.
2. People were fearful also of other taxes going up--especially property tax. There was talk of property tax going up at least 50% if the E tax went away. People used to paying, say around $1000 per year had no interest in paying $1500 per year.

3. The anti tax side never made a good case for voting against what seems one's own interest. This was never going to be an easy hill for the anti tax people to climb, but they never really caught on with voters. People only saw what it would cost them personally (decline in services, higher property taxes, paying [more] for trash, etc.) not how it might benefit the city as a whole.

We get to do it all over again in five years. I hope that the pols do not take this large margin as a license to spend recklessly. This is why I was hoping that if it passed, it made the pols sweat, to know that the citizens are going to be watching them handle the citizen's money. Unfortunately I am not sure that message is going to be received by the various interests at City Hall.

We need to watch these people with their hands lingering near our pockets...and remember how they did with the money five years from now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gotta Love It!

OK, so last Sunday night I'm outside dodging snowflakes as I am taking pictures of the coating of white we had gotten. This Sunday night, in the name of documenting, I am dodging chickpea and dime size hail stones being flung at 30 mph plus by a nasty north wind.

Here is one pile of hail stones. By then, it had stopped hailing.

Here's another. It was still raining with considerable gusto when this was taken. The yellow object is one of those hose adapters you screw on your outside tap. Not an intentional size guide, but handy none the less.

Yup, ya gotta love this Midwest weather! I thought New England weather was crazy!

What next? I don't even dare speculate...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Kansas City Earnings Tax: One Part

The Kansas City, Missouri tax on earned income has been in force since 1963. (For a great look at how it started check out this post from Kansas City with the Russian Accent.) Starting first at 0.5% and then being raised to 1%, the tax is assessed to all who live in KCMO regardless of where they work and all who work in KCMO. Due to the statewide affirmation of Proposition A, a citizen (well, one citizen, Rex Sinquefield) proposition placed on last November's ballot, Kansas City and St. Louis are having to vote on whether or not to continue their Earnings tax (or E-tax as it is commonly called) this April 5th. Needless to say with the tax collected in KCMO coming to around $200 million, there has been considerable debate over the E-tax's fate.

I could see my way to voting willingly for the E-tax to go away if I could trust City Hall to cut the right stuff. As an emailer to KMBZ's Shanin and Parks program pointed out, KCMO spends way more per resident than many comparable cities. Clearly, and I think everyone knows this, there is fat at City Hall. In addition, the city has allowed itself the luxury of poor discretionary spending choices (read TIFs). However, I do not trust the city to cut the right stuff. They will cut police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel, street and parks department workers who work on the front lines instead of the redundant layers of administration in each department has (and you know those redundant layers are there!). Those are the friends of the pols, the ones promised jobs and influence at one point or another. Not just those people but the $90 K glorified secretaries that run around City Hall every day. Those folks need to find real jobs for that money, not just retrieving coffee and making copies for the politicians.

Yes, there are a lot of grifters and hangers-on at 12th and Oak. Can we count on them getting the ax, as well as axing the breaks and payments to developers (those not legally required by a contract anyway), rather than the men and women of the city who work "in the trenches" daily? I am not sure, and I am afraid that if services are cut, living conditions in the city will decay in a way that the patterns of residency are affected once again. This time, it will be the flight of working people, who do not want to live in a city that doesn't "work."

The other part on the KCMO Earnings tax will be that E-mail that came to Shanin and Parks, courtesy of their FB page....

The Kansas City Earnings Tax: Another Part

This email was sent to Mike Shanin and Scott Parks of KMBZ and part of it was read on the air. It is one of the most fact filled opinions I have seen about the earnings tax situation. It's rather long, but well worth the read:
Hello Mike and Scott. Mike, I don't believe we've ever met in person but you may remember me as an occasional caller back in the day when my schedule permitted. I was "Frank, North of the River" then. I'm writing to share a perspective. Kansas City voters deserve anhonest discussion about the Earnings Tax. Instead, they have been targeted by a sound-bite advertising campaign that demonizes tax opponents while blackmailing voters with claims that draconian cuts will have to be made in police and fire protection, trash pickup and other basic services unless the Earnings Tax is retained. The Earnings Tax proponents' argument rests on the assumption that the cost of today's city-provided services is appropriate and that payment for today's costs must be maintained. That is, there is no waste, no corruption, etc. To say that this is a questionable assumption is an understatement. I benchmark complicated organizations for a living and have for nearly 30 years. Benchmarks are not predictive. They have no moral content. Benchmarks don't claim to suggest how any function or group of functions SHOULD be staffed or how much any function or department SHOULD cost to operate. Their best use is to identify areas that warrant further investigation. Kansas City is unique. ALL cities are unique in terms of population size, demographics, geographic area, revenue sources, history, and services provided. That is why comparisons at the grossest level (the highest level of aggregation) must be evaluated with those factors in mind. Here are some examples. Why does the City of Kansas City Missouri spend from $1,020 to $1,147 more per resident per year than its neighbors to deliver city services? Why does the City of Kansas City have 7,194 employees when Oklahoma City (which has 78,000 more residents) somehow gets by with only 4,327? Comparisons drawn at this level (the highest level of aggregation) are the most vulnerable to the "uniqueness argument" defense. That said, when the variance in observed performance at this gross level rises to the heights observed in Kansas City (1.7 to 2.0 times the peer group average per resident), it is up to The City of Kansas City to provide specific justification. There are always reasons for variance. The question is whether or not there are good reasons for variance. Simply claiming that variances are the result of "uniqueness" is not enough. It is much more difficult to use the uniqueness argument effectively when the comparison drills down to a specific department or service to which people can relate. For example Why does it cost Kansas City $273.45 per resident per year to provide fire department services when comparable costs in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Omaha are $140.73, $149. 02, and $155.45 respectively? Why does Kansas City need 1,370 fire department employees to cover 318 square miles and 482,299 residents when Oklahoma City covers 622 square miles and 560,333 residents with just 948 fire department employees? Why does it cost Kansas City $423.74 per resident per year to provide police services when comparable costs in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Omaha are $184.77, $199.98, and $234.82, respectively? The primary answer to these questions is straightforward. Government will spend the monies that are made available to it. Kansas City spends as much as it does because it can. The primary beneficiaries of the Earnings Tax have been Johnson and Wyandotte Counties on the Kansas side and Liberty and Blue Springs on the Missouri side. The Earnings Tax encourages waste, inhibits population growth, and kills jobs by discouraging new businesses from locating within the city limits. It is a fact that if the Earnings Tax went away entirely, the City of Kansas City would still have more money to spend on a per resident basis than its similarly-sized neighbors. It is time for the Earnings Tax to go away. Frank

I don't know how the writer found his numbers--probably through the wonder of the internets. By putting it out like this, I am sure that the pro E-tax crowd will have a counterpoint.

Just some more fodder for the brain before April 5th!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Update to KMBZ-Cosby Story

When we last left you all, we had the story of KMBZ's Jeff Bell being unable to participate in interview activities with Bill Cosby at the forum at Ruskin HS today. He was barred by Eric Wesson working on behalf of the consulting firm. Since then, Mr. Wesson called Darla at KMBC at around 6:15 p.m. tonight.

Out of the gate Mr. Wesson was defensive, calling the account given by KMBZ a lie, saying that Cosby never said what KMBZ said he said. It is never good to be defensive in situations like this. Best to lead by taking some responsibility for what occurred followed by an explanation of why it might have happened. The explanation did come eventually, but after this defensive opening, which appeared to call Jeff Bell and other eye witnesses liars, no one is really willing to listen to Wessen's explanations.

Basically this forum was a closed event--to attend required an invite. According to Mr. Wesson, he sent out notices to all media outlets and only two responded--Fox4 and the Kansas City Star. Considering the stature of Mr. Cosby and the environment of Ruskin High, this seems like a small response. KMBZ says they did not get any such notice. Wesson told Darla that he told Bell "No, you're [KMBZ] not on the list." When asked directly, Wesson said, "I don't have any problem with KMBZ; I'm honoring the contract." Mr. Wesson did concede that Cosby did ask why Bell was expelled. Wesson did not expand on this further. He said that "The management [Cosby's peeps] team is protective of his [Cosby's] brand and image." Wesson said to Darla that he might have tried to "fit in" KMBZ if reporter Bell had indicated that they had never received notice and had a chance to respond to an invitation.

Here's the problem: you can bet money that if Jeff Bell had put up a fuss instead of quietly and professionally leaving, we would not hear the end of it about arrogance and not following protocol. KMBZ also could have just sat on the situation also. Part of it is the power of perception; if Jeff Bell felt as if Wesson was barring him for no really good reason, just doing it because Wesson could, then he might have felt an obligation to report the truth of Wesson's behavior. The way Eric Wesson should have approached this is with an apology--I am sorry that this had the appearance of discrimination against certain media outlets and taking the responsibility for what happened. Instead we are left with a picture of someone who did appear somewhat unprofessional, and some "they said--they said" about the invitation.

It appears that after talking to Darla, Eric Wesson called Tony of Tony's Kansas City. and said many of the same things. The comment section to this post is interesting in that some commenters appear to know of Mr. Wesson and his style personally and that he can be abrupt and that he sometimes exhibits a temper.

KMBZ Stiffed at Cosby Panel at Ruskin HS

Display ad announcing the event, as seen in The Call dated week of March 25-31.

As I first reported on Facebook this morning(and please visit the badge and "like" my page if you are on Facebook!), KMBZ radio was shut out of interviewing Bill Cosby at his appearance at Hickman Mills High School this morning. According to Eric Bell, the KMBZ reporter at Ruskin this morning they were all set to do the interview, along with Fox4, when a person described as a local "consultant" stated that KMBZ would not get an interview. When Mr. Cosby stated his wish that no one be excluded, this "consultant" overruled him and stated again that KMBZ would not get an interview opportunity. Mr. Bell later reported overhearing later as he was packing up Mr. Cosby asking why KMBZ was excluded. Mr. Bell said that he did not hear any answer to the question.

Of course, people who were there emailed and whatnot to KMBZ more details about what happened. It turned out that the "consultant" was one Eric Wesson who is a columnist working at the Kansas City Call. He also works with something called "One Goal Consultants." As KMBZ looked further at the situation, it was remembered that KMBZ had done an investigation six years ago and discovered that Mr. Wesson was working both as a journalist covering the political campaign of Emanual Cleaver and as a consultant to the campaign, activity for which he got paid. It was ethically a little skanky and Mr. Wesson found himself with a problem due to KMBZ's reportage.

Now this was an invitation only event and the organizers have the right to limit media. However, Mr. Cosby is a force for good in the Black community and it makes little sense to limit access for the press. Furthermore, you can never have enough publicity. KMBZ would have done a nice puff piece, some interview time with Mr. Cosby that would have made a nice podcast, everybody wins. So there is no benefit to limiting the access by the local media to exclusives and only people with whom you agree. So this was just dumb. KMBZ repeatedly said that it was this one person, Eric Wesson, and not anyone from the Hickman Mills C-1 school district, or Ruskin HS or Mr. Bill Cosby himself. I certainly hope it was not at the direction of any school board members or Hickman Mills Superintendent Marjorie Williams.

Assuming Mr. Wesson was acting on his own, he was being a very bad model for the young people at Ruskin HS. He was being unforgiving, vindictive, petty and angry. He was taking the position of a victim (mean old conservative KMBZ caused me to have the problem!) instead of taking responsibility for his own choices and actions. This is something that should have never happened. It was unprofessional. It was petty. It smacks of the old "victim mentality" that has hurt many in the Black community. It looks too much like choosing who gets to report based on the presumed "position" of the prospective journalist. In the end, it cast a shadow on what should have been nothing but a feel good forum and educational event. And that is a shame.