Thursday, November 8, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ballot Preview

It is a bit of the eleventh hour to be studying up on the election, but better late than never.  If you live in Missouri, particularly Kansas City, it is good to take time to read a sample of the ballot you will see in the polling place.  The place for all info election related is the website for the Kansas City Board of Elections.  There you will find all you need to prepare to vote November 6th.

Home page of the election board

Pdf of a sample ballot for November 6th.  A note: when you get the ballot on Tuesday, read the instructions.  It will be especially important to read instructions if you intend to vote a straight ticket of one party's candidates.  Even if you don't do this, take a quick scan of the top of the ballot.  That way you don't inadvertently invalidate your ballot.  For example, if an election reads vote for "one" or "no more then ____."  note that voting for more then the prescribed number of candidates will invalidate your vote for that office.  You can always vote for fewer.  You cannot vote for more.

The website can help you find your polling place too, if you've lost your notice to vote postcard.

Finally, do vote, if you are properly registered.  Vote only once, and vote in the polling place that serves the district/ward/area  you live in.  Do not vote where you do not live, and do not vote under someone else's name...

Keep it clean folks.

4 Days Away

Well, here we are a mere 4 days away from the election.
I've written a million posts in my head, about how divided we've gotten, about how candidates should have just kept their mouths shut, about how it appears that presidential politics influenced decision making in current foreign policy...and so on.  But as you can plainly see, none of my thoughts made it onto the blog.
No I haven't opined on the horribleness of our MLB and NFL franchises, or what sports life has been like in Kansas City.  I haven't burbled happily about the winning ways of our MLS franchise.
I haven't offered an opinion on the two mile train route, or the downtown hotel, or the east patrol station mess.   I was trying to figure out why I had  not blogged about any of these things and I have come to a couple of conclusions.
One, is that sometimes I have little time anymore.  I realize that I write horribly, incredibly slowly. It isn't that i    am even trying to be perfect, it's is more like  a slow thinking process.  Thoughts that seemed so brilliant need fleshing out and structure to be ready for the written form.  Every so often lightening will strike, but it's pretty rare. Most times, writing is pretty labor intense.
I realized another thing just the other day. Some commentator was talking about polls and whether or not they were accurate; I think it was Limbaugh but what he said next could apply to any voter.  The so-called undecideds may not be so undecided; they may be waiting until they can cast that secret ballot before declaring their choices.  It could be that 10-15% of eventual voters for either party are not talking to pollsters, candidates' offices or even their friends about their choices.  They are not posting political matter on Facebook, nor are they responding to political posts on the social media site from their friends or pages.  Speaking strictly for myself, I am tired of the fight.  I am tired of the endless challenges to positions, the spin that makes the truth elusive, the personal attacks that question my worth at its very core.  People question my loyalty to my gender, my intelligence, even my right to live and have an opinion.  I am so sick of that.
The last is this;  Both polls of politics, left and right, are convinced that their plans will work.  I am not convinced and I suspect I am not alone.  I am not convinced that using money to generate a bunch of government projects will help our economy.  However, nor am I convinced that tax breaks will create an environment that will spur on job creation.  I think that the polarization has closed minds such that an honest evaluation of ideas is not possible.  Now it is all perceived as attack when an idea is given a bad grade.

So, hey, that is a few thoughts and if I have time, I might write a few more posts over the next few days as election day draws near.  Then I will vote, and watch the results come in along with everyone else.
As for the Chiefs, they just really really stink.  Really. Stink.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lewie's latest...

You all read this, the latest by Lewis Diuguid in the Sunday Kansas City Star--or on line?  I'll link to it, and you should read it, because it is a truly breathtaking piece.  Here is the link to "The very wealthy are driven by a silent addiction for more." 
What do you guys think?  I found it a racially and economically charged piece, designed to divide and induce guilt, that is what I think.
Words fail me. Maybe when I am not trying to hurry I can take this failure apart more thoroughly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"50 Million Uninsured"

I recently engaged in a discussion about this claim that 50 million people in the United States do not have health insurance.  It wasn't so much about how true this worn out bumper sticker of a political saying is, but its validity and helpfulness in the debate about the health care system in the United States.  As most bumper stickers do, it overly simplifies the situation and raises up strong feelings in people who see it.
The implication becomes that 50 million people are dying in the streets for lack of medical attention.  This is not true, as there is a law that requires health care institutions to treat people with life threatening conditions.  Now, of course, this does not mean that those people working under that situation get terrific medical care, but they are not dying in the street.  Further, the law is an unfunded mandate, leaving health care providers giving care without hope of full compensation.
Some choose not to carry insurance for whatever reason.  Some are just willing to toss the dice.  Some do not trust the medical system, so they just stay away.  Some are wealthy enough that they can, for all practical purposes, self insure, with a special health savings account.
Some have insurance, but with absurdly high deductibles, that cover almost no preventative care.  $5000 is a hard number to reach without a hospital stay.  How "insured" are those folks?  So you see, this statement about how many uninsured there are only serves to inflame the passions of the "sides"--something that is completely unhelpful in formulating a solution to the problem of the dysfunctional health care system.
Yes, the system is still a problem.  The awkward, overly complicated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in the spring of 2010 is not the answer.  Despite its 2000 page bulk, it is not complete due to the compromises it contains.  It does not address tort reform.  It really doesn't aggressively demand an accounting of the charges that health care providers put on their bills.  It is an uncomfortable amalgamation of public stick and private sector for profit service.  It is the first program that required participation and a payment--thus the Supreme Court's tortured ruling that it is a tax.
Employment and the middle east have emerged as the issues driving the presidential campaign thus far and health care reform has been shoved aside.  After the election, when the dust has mostly settled, the nation and the occupant of the White House will wake up and realize that this legislation has been implemented in its many pieces.  What will that mean to our nation and our nation's finances then?
Talking in bumper stickers does not help us now, and it will not help us then.  So let's drop the cliches.  All they do is engage feelings, not thinking.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

3/11/2002


The first time twin towers of light were used to memorialize the losses of September 11, 2001 was six months after the attack.  The site was still a pit of loss and destruction.  The simplicity of the simple beams of light and the way they reach up to the sky; it is my favorite of all memorials I have seen over the years.

Never forget.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

State of the Blog Report

It has probably been over a month since I posted here and longer on some of my other blogs. The third anniversary of this blog passed without me taking note of it. I gave some thought to shutting down this blog and my others too.
Part of the lack of posts was a lack of time discipline with regard to a decreased amount of time to blog. Another part of the lack of posts was being discouraged about the state of our city, our world, the election and the rest of the mess.
Well my free time situation has changed-- an unfortunate thing since it involved a change in my employment status. Further, while still discouraged, I am beginning to think that my moderate voice does have a place in this mess. The left and right talk to themselves becoming a giant echo chamber that becomes louder and louder and more and more distorted to those of us standing outside. When they talk outside their group, it is to yell at the other, degrading the opposing view, working up spin and volume rather then logical arguments and debate.
So where does that leave the South Kansas City Observer? I can't see my self posting quite as frequently as I did. But I don't think I'm ready to shut it down just yet.  Especially during a presidential election year.  I mean, really, no blogging during this fall campaign?  (Even if it is to say that neither candidate rocks my world in any sort of way...)
So you all are stuck with me.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Election Musing: No Fun to Take the GOP Ballot!

As I was looking at the ballot for the coming election I saw again the results of living in an area where one party dominates the landscape locally.  Once you get past the national and statewide races, the ballot for republicans in Jackson County gets very boring.  Many races feature that very busy entity, "No candidate filed."  Meantime on the democratic ballot, we have such juiciness as the Moreno-Runions race, with its dueling mailers and flying accusations. You just can't beat the Jackson County Sheriff race for silliness and drama...
It leaves the right leaning voter with a difficult choice:  take a GOP ballot to have a say in the 8 person race to be the republican nominee for the US Senate race against incumbent Claire McCaskill, the 4 person race to decide the nominee for Missouri governor, the 4 person race for lieutenant governor, and so on, down to whether or not to give Jacob Turk another crack at Emanual Cleaver or take a Democratic ballot as to vote on those local people who in the end might have more influence in the daily life of the voter but have no say in who will take on Claire, or Jay Nixon on the GOP side.
Too bad you can't split the ballot apart or run the local races non-partisan; it would be interesting to see if removing this annoying Hobson's choice made a difference in results or turnout in the end.

Election Coming Up August 7

Most of the shouting has been about the big day in November but the election on August 7 will set the table for that big day, as well as determine winners of one party races locally.  In addition, three "issues" are on the   Kansas City ballot.  As a public service, the Observer will display the ballot language on the issues.  With 95 days before the big deal in November, some may think this August vote unimportant.  Reading these city ballot issues might help that apathy.  (Excuse me, you mean that sales tax has no sunset?)


OFFICIAL BALLOT
STATE OF MISSOURI
PRIMARY ELECTION, TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2012
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 2
Proposed by the 96th General Assembly (First Regular Session) HJR 2
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed;
That school children have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools; and
That all public schools shall display the  Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.
It is estimated this proposal will result in little or no costs or savings for state and local governmental entities.

OFFICIAL BALLOT
CITY OF KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
SPECIAL ELECTION, TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2012
QUESTION 1
Shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri:
Prohibit the renewal of the expired annual $12.50 per motor vehicle fee,
Cease billing and collecting the trafficway maintenance tax by setting its assessment at $0.00,
Cease billing and collecting the park and boulevard maintenance tax by setting its assessment at $0.00,
Cease billing and collecting the boulevards and parkways front foot assessment by setting its assessment at $0.00,
Enact as a replacement a parks sales tax of ½-cent authorized by Section 644.032 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri for the purpose of providing for the maintenance and operations of local parks, parkways, boulevards and community centers,
Establish a dedicated fund to be used exclusively for street maintenance, and
Transfer no less than 7.5% of the net annual earnings tax receipts to the dedicated street maintenance fund effective January 1, 2013 and each following year for as long as the parks sales tax is in effect?
QUESTION 2
Shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri issue sanitary sewer system revenue bonds in the principal amount not to exceed $500,000,000 for the purpose of extending and improving the sanitary sewer system of the City, including compliance with the federally mandated Consent Decree for the Overflow Control Program, with the principal and interest of the bonds to be payable solely from the revenues derived by the City from the operation of its sanitary sewer system?

For voting information for Kansas City residents, visit the Election Board's website linked here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Public Reaction to Mass Shootings

Unfortunately, the United States is the world leader in mass shootings--one, occasionally two people with weapons going to a public place and shooting people.  Sometimes it is a random act and sometimes the shooter has a motive of anger or revenge.  It is always shocking to us because it occurs in our common spaces--our shopping malls, movie theaters, schools or work places--where we feel relatively safe.  We don't expect to be wounded or killed when we are in the store.
The typical blather has been heard after this latest shooting incident in Colorado.  Gun control, terrorism, and mental health care have been among the topics explored.  Included in this are questions about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's stance on those same topics. 
It is not the discussion or even the talking points that are so irritating.  It is the self appointed experts, blathering along, seemingly without a care about the losses to the families or trauma to the community that are so irritating.  Also, it becomes increasingly difficult to strike a balance in public expression:  after Columbine or Virgina Tech did we have a presidential proclamation or put the flags at half staff?  Did political discourse grind to a complete halt?  What to make of ABC News deciding that a certain man named Holmes was the shooter without fact checking something as simple as age?
At some point we will have to ask questions, but now, with families still reeling from the physical and psychic trauma and little or no information about the shooter and his possible motives, is not the time for such things. Stick to just the facts, mam, and keep the self appointed experts and professional arguers away.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On John Sharp

John Sharp has been involved in something in Kansas City just about the entire time I have lived here--and never have I felt more ambivalence towards a politician.  So often he seems to have insight into situation--the reason I am writing this blog is his grasp of this city's need for a new animal shelter building.  His statements as reflected in this Kansas City Star article are very encouraging that he has a grasp of the issues.  I have seen Mr. Sharp reflect sensibly on some other issues as well.  Early on in the MAST/KCFD debacle, he was  a reluctant supporter of a city take over of the EMS; at first working  towards creating an EMS department, separate from KCFD.  Gradually, pushed by Louie Wright and the political power of local 42, Mr. Sharp caved, but  many of his early statements on KCMO's  EMS were pretty good.
In addition to his insights, Mr.  Sharp is visible in the sixth district, especially east of 71 highway.  His rapport with those in the east side of the 6th is obvious, and his fight to preserve the old council boundaries no doubt grew out of this personal comfort zone.  Still, rare is the event, opening, or dedication that does not have Mr. Sharp in attendance.  I have also seen him in such places as the neighborhood McDonald's.  I think that is pretty cool.
Yet...yet.  When John Sharp was involved with MAST, money became a problem, and most pointed at John   Sharp as the problem.  When John Sharp left the Hickman Mills C-1 school board, many were glad to see him go.  Many disliked his defense of the old 6th district boundaries, his advocacy for some of the plans to redevelop the Bannister Mall site, and the way he brought about the water spray park on Longview Road.  Sometimes when you observe Mr. Sharp it appears that he was more interested in promoting John Sharp and his agenda.  Sometimes, Mr. Sharp seems very sharp indeed, sometimes he appears quite dull, and other times, he seems most concerned with John Sharp.


John Sharp is termed out in 2015.  He has been involved in administrating government services, and making political decisions for over 20 years--closer to 30.  It will be interesting to see where John Sharp goes from here.  On the one hand, he is a perceptive, available member of government, who is at ease with the people who elected him.  On the other hand, his actual performance often falls short, creating problems that have to be fixed.  You watch him in action, you think he has some potential to be someone who can govern wisely and well, and then...you find yourself a bit disappointed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Really, I Like This Place!

After reading the comments to the last post, I want to say something and that something is that this blogger does not hate all things Kansas City!  I love the fact that there are some world class amenities here, and some things that our city does very well.  I like our sports teams, our Plaza, our boulevards.  I like what comes here because of what we have here.
As one of the comments alluded to, it is a balancing act between insuring that essentials are taken care of and investing in things that look forward.  Anything that looks forward is by its nature risky, since we can't tell the future.  As anyone who has run a small business, or been close to a small business, knows you must look forward, as well as maintaining the quality of the work you do now.  If you don't, you run the risk of falling behind.
I do think that if we underestimate the risk we are at right now, we could end up in a bad spot.  Maybe not East St. Louis bad, or Detroit bad, but still in a place we don't wish to be as a city.
I have long felt that a prolonged diet of bad news, as provided by the "if it bleeds, it leads" media, is bad for one's personal outlook.  The news programming feeds fear.  I have long maintained that the decay of the Bannister Mall area was accelerated by the news coverage given to each and every incident.  This was compounded by the mall's poor PR efforts.  The enclosed mall might have eventually died anyway, as many have in the metro, but from the more natural causes of changes in consumers' habits.  The death would have been slower; thus easier to prepare for and less damaging to the self esteem and unity of the community.  When the movie theater opened at Red Bridge not long ago, I remarked to a friend that I hoped that folks from Johnson County would come over to enjoy the art films and smaller venue offered by the cinema.  My friend didn't think JoCo people would come over.  This startled me, and when  I said something, my friend said they were scared to come over.
Part of our quandary is trying to figure out our identity.  There was a period in the 1970s and early 1980s--paradoxically when eastern cities were really struggling--where it looked like Kansas City would become more then just a pleasant medium large city.  Along the way, sometime in the late 1980s or 1990s, something changed.  I am not sure what is was, but something changed in this city, and in the economic conditions surrounding it.  Kansas City stopped looking so go-go.  I think those go-go times are past--and that is not a slam on the city.  We are what we are.  We are not New York, Chicago, or LA.  Some of the things we've done may have been too big for our britches.  We need to learn from that, and settle on our identity, and glory in that.
What is happening on the East Side of town does impact all the city.  People don't take in the fact that that is just a small part of the city, and lump the whole town in to the East Side.  It requires our attention.  Furthermore, the trust issue with City Hall needs to be resolved.  City Hall needs to prove that it really is good with the money.  The grifters need to be stuffed, sent away empty handed.
So no, I don't have a grim view of the city's future. I have a cautious view of the city's future.  I have an investment of time and treasure here.  I have investments in the people here.  I want to see success, not failure.  I just think we need to be careful, and not reckless in the risks we take.
(A little choppy, but written in reaction to other stuff. )

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Caring About Kansas City

I am trying to write this from my heart, and I am struggling to get started.  I want to talk about caring about a city, caring enough to fight for its future, caring enough to wonder why others don't care, watching divisions ruin neighborhoods with fear and distrust, watching leadership that is too busy sticking its nose in the trough to call people to account for their behavior, watching money wasted...
When we left New York City in 1974, the place was falling apart--at least that was the perception.  The grimy graffiti stained streets gave the impression of a city out of control, riddled with crime.  The news media and popular culture helped it along with their reporting and portrayals of the city.  If you are old enough, you remember them:  "Death Wish"  "The Warriors"  "Fort Apache: The Bronx" among others.  In 1975, President Gerald Ford vetoed the bill that would have bailed out the city as it teetered on insolvency.  (According to this article, Mr. Ford never did tell the city to "drop dead" as the New York Daily News reported.)
New York survived.  The feds did help out with loan guarantees, not unlike the bailing out of Chrysler, the city eventually paid it all back.  Gradually New York cleaned up its act and was once again a great city.  Not perfect by any means, but taking care of its needs and making priorities.  When 9/11/2001 happened, it did not happen to a city that would crumple under the pressure of the tragedy .
I have lived in the Kansas City metro since 1989:  The first years in Grandview, and then a home owner in South Kansas City.  It's not New York--only downtown reminds me of the city of my birth.  New Yorkers would be amazed at the openness of the city, the fact of yards and houses.  Kansas City would do well to remember that it is not a big city like New York or Chicago.  The Kansas City experience is not the big city experience.  Kansas City has its own unique vibe.  And it is still a place where people can succeed, can meet goals, can find a satisfying life.
However, each day that headlines blare out about violent crime, each time someone is affected by property crime, each time that the infrastructure fails, each time public safety is cut instead of projects, each time City Hall shows selfishness and a lack of common sense in its planning is one more time where people start asking questions about how viable the city is, and how it will thrive, how it will turn things around and whether it can.
There is much that is good about our great city.  However, we are suffering for a lack of people willing to take responsibility for their actions and hold communities to account.  We are suffering for all the divisions--Black/White, leadership/people, rich/poor, etc. etc.  It will not be easy to turn around, it will hurt and it will probably cost someone their political career.
I found it interesting that one of the conclusions of the article I linked above is that the way things worked out, it was for the best.  Many thought that if the president had given in then, New York might never have recovered.  But that big headline cost President Ford his reelection bid.  We need that kind of strength now in our town.
Just a few thoughts from someone who still gives a damn, who likes living here, and wants to live in a great city.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NO NEW TAXES!

Long ago I decided my vote on any new tax proposals would be no. Nothing said by the new gang at City Hall has changed my mind.
No to mass transit.
No to any tax that is not designated as to where it will be spent.
I would vote for a sales tax to help with the water system if three things are a part of it: 1) the water company comes under professional management 2) it sunsets or has an expiration date. 3) there is a moratorium on rate increases greater then 10% for KCMO water customers.
I do not trust this group at City Hall with a new pot of money provided by Kansas City's taxpayers! The fact that Kansas City's leadership has lost so much of the trust of the people IS eventually going to hinder the progress of this town. Too many promises have been made; too many projects have wandered off track; too much money has been spent where results have not been productive or worse-- we don't know where the money went.
So, as I said, no new taxes, with the narrow exception I noted above.
City Hall, you should take note. And note this: I am not alone. We don't trust you any more. Regular citizens are pretty much convinced that the government does not work for them--in either sense.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No Kill Kansas City?

The Observer took an evening and went to hear a man named Nathan Winograd speak.  Mr. Winograd is a former lawyer who has become intensely involved in the rethinking of how to work with homeless companion animals.  It was a very interesting and very challenging presentation.
In a nutshell, Mr. Winograd believes that if you do certain things whole heartedly and have leadership committed to the idea of not killing animals that can be placed in homes, you can reduce the number of companion animals that are killed in an animal shelters.  Over 4 million animals were killed in animal shelters in the United States in 2010.  Winograd believes more lives can be saved and the leading cause of death for cats and dogs is not being killed in an animal shelter.
Winograd has worked in several shelters around the United States, both as a leader and a consultant.  His formula for action is for animal shelters to do the following things and make a commitment from kennel floor to boardroom to not killing healthy animals for whom it is possible to find homes.
1. high-volume, low/no-cost spay/neuter
2. comprehensive adoptions
3. foster care
4. use of volunteers
5. marketing/public relations
6. medical care and rehabilitation
7. behavior care and rehabilitation
8. neuter and release (TNR)
9. working with rescue groups
10. pet retention efforts
11. proactive redemptions



Mom cat and kittens at KC Pet Project
Most of this list is pretty self explanatory:  reduce the numbers of cats and dogs born in a year, adopt as many as possible, use foster care as a bridge to adoption or further rescue, lots of volunteers to spread out the work load and give the best possible care to animals, making sure the community knows about the shelter and the animals therein, caring for the medical and behavioral needs of animals in the shelter, trapping feral cats and returning them to locations creating stable colonies,  working with other organizations in a cooperative manner, helping pet owners solve problems so they can keep their pets instead of having to give them up to a shelter, and helping owners find and be reunited with their lost pets.  After hearing and reading about the success stories, a person could think that this is possible.  I still think it is possible, but in this spring season of puppies and kittens, and watching many animals come in the front door of the Kansas City Missouri shelter, and not very many go back out that same front door in the possession of families and rescues, it seems like a very large task.  It was discouraging today to look around the KCMO shelter and watch the staff and volunteers of Kansas City Pet Project labor with the knowledge that not enough animals had yet found their way out the front door.  
I am still digesting what Mr. Winograd said and still reading his books.  One thing is clear to me.  You can't just do one of these  items listed above--you need to do all of them, and not halfway.  Some of them interlock as well.  However, the spring is when the scope of the problem is truly appreciated.  It's not just that there are many animals, it is just that it isn't their fault they have ended up in the situation they find themselves and it becomes a matter of proper stewardship and care to find a solution to homeless pets that does not involve killing them.
Kansas City Pet Project is less than six months old in operating the Kansas City Missouri shelter.  They are still building their base of donors, volunteers, and foster families.  If you are interested in helping the shelter in anyway, visit the website, www.kcpetproject.org or call 816-513-9821.
For more on the work of Nathan Winograd visit www.nathanwinograd.com.

Adoptable dog at KC Pet Project


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

KCFD Ambulance Response Issues

Ambulance responding, March 2012, by The Observer

I bet you have been wondering where I have been during the fracas that broke out last week over the ambulance response times falling so short of the standards.  Where was The Observer--how come there was no jumping on the fire department for its apparent failure at running Kansas City's EMS?
I will tell you how the Observer was--just sad about it all.  Sad that an ill conceived and thought out plan had been put into action.  Sad that almost every complication that was forecast has come to pass.  Sad that no one is willing to admit the obvious:  That this was a mistake, and while we can't bring MAST back, to take an honest no-BS look at the thing and ask how it can be made better then it is now.
I am no EMS expert, but I am a sensible person who has some ideas and concepts that if used, could improve things.
1.  Quit thinking that fire suppression people know EMS and get real EMS experts to run EMS.
2.  Split shifts in busy houses--12 hour shifts for EMS assigned personnel in the busiest firehouses for ambulance calls.
3.  Consider the creation of lighter response vehicles that respond to assist ambulance crews, and lessen the number of times a pumper truck responds.
4.  Allow dynamic units to actually use fire houses to post--I keep seeing units at QuikTrips--is this the choice of the crews?  (So much for getting rid of the dynamic post and all of its supposed horrors.)
Is anyone thinking of new ways do the job of EMS in Kansas City?
There has been a great loss of experience and expertise as former MAST paramedics and EMTs have left the fire department for other jobs or fields--a real brain drain.  Some people have reported an unfriendly work environment and an unwillingness to hear real concerns.  In extreme cases, the MAST people feel run off and the KCFD people feel the former MAST people are just chronic complainers.  It gets played out in the back rooms and kitchens of firehouses, the EMS rooms of hospitals and the comment sections of blogs.  NONE of this stuff actually helps the delivery of EMS to the citizens of Kansas City.
It is time for the mayor, city council and fire department brass to put their faces to the wind and bend to the task of correcting the mistake of three years ago.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cruise Nights Are Back!

Yipee!  It is car cruisin' season again--a nice way to take a break from the troubles of the day.  Here are some pictures from the Branch cruise in Overland Park.  This is an all makes cruise that is every Friday night starting at 6 p.m.  Come on out--bring your classic ride if you have one--if you don't just come on out to enjoy the classic metal.
 One of the most iconic rear ends in the automotive world.
 Mustang!
 Offerings from each of the big three from the 1950s.
 Car peeps doing what car peeps do.
 What is it?
 Taste not required in the 1970s.
 The curiosity of  the day:  NOT a motorcycle!
Friday, April 6 was the first cruise night for this cruise--a good turnout and excellent weather!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not Trustworthy

If you have been following along here in Kansas City, we are in a time of budget austerity with cuts all over city government as our city struggles with decreased revenue and increased costs.  However, at the same time, the city council and the mayor have been championing both a large infrastructure improvement plan and a downtown train.  Both proposals are attracting criticism for the spending of money (and tax increase) and the train is being attacked as being impractical at best.
This recent article in the Wall Street Journal documents the issues around the support of the Power and Light District downtown, that this project has not been able to support itself and is a continuing drain on the budget of the city.  A lot of promises were made concerning the downtown redevelopment--I admit I bought some of them myself.  No body is buying these types of promises anymore--well, almost no body.  It is funny to read the posts by transit supporters in blogs and news articles and just find yourself not buying any of it.
We have lost trust in our political leaders.  We just don't believe them.  If they tell us the sky is blue, we are going outside to check it for ourselves.  They have proven themselves not to be trustworthy.  For whatever reason, whether out of dishonesty, greed, graft, or stupidity, their word has become untrustworthy.
Someday, there actually might be a good idea out of 12th and Oak, but most of us wouldn't trust it.  We've been burned too much.
The city fathers might find that regaining trust is easier if you go back to fulfilling the basic tasks of city government first reliably.  Get back to basics.  And for goodness sake, do not ask for more money!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Man-Up

I found this flyer on a table in a south Kansas City McDonald's...looks interesting...

Click on the image to embiggen

It is not just the Black community that can stand for its men to step up and take responsibility and show the way for the younger generations.  Our society has suffered for not having men be strong and involved in family and community--men for too long have allowed their attention to be diverted by work and leisure.  There is more to life then pleasuring oneself, material gain and pursuing the grail of "respect."  Life includes some deeper aspects that are important too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why the Dry Spell?

I think I have figured out why I have been a bit dry on the blog as of late.

I can't debate any more.

It is not just because of the mean spirited nature of discourse these days, although that is part of it. It is not that I don't enjoy a good back and forth on issues and interesting topics. It is not that I have no training in forensics and sometimes feel undermanned in debate.

There are several reasons why debate action does not excite me. First, I often hold nuanced positions that are not easily rendered into a slogan or three points and a poem. For example, on gay marriage: I struggle with the idea of making the marriage of two people of the same sex the equivalent of a marriage between two people of opposite sex. Yet, I also know that the judging of others' worthiness is not in my job description--my job as a person of faith is to show the love of God to everyone. I can annoy both sides with my position, and they can annoy me by trying to push me further towards their positions. Being pushed is no fun!
Secondly, I dislike the division and polarization that has happened. For example, it is automatically assumed that because I profess Christian faith I cannot possibly be for women, or in favor of equal rights for women. I am automatically lumped in with people I really disagree with. To put it the other way, being Atheist becomes a requirement for being pro woman. The third factor is that I am not quite prepared to think that in our difficult times that any of the sides actually know what will actually work to solve our problems. Both left and right are convinced that they have the ideas that will help our country solve its problems and start growing again--I am not so convinced that either group has the formula that will help us start healing and growing our nation.

This does not mean that I have any shortage of opinion, but it does mean that I may not always have the stomach for rancorous and pointed debate. I am more interested in solving problems and making our city/state/nation/world the best place it can be.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

I hope that you all had an enjoyable Easter holiday out there!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

East Patrol Real Estate: Something Doesn't Smell Right

So OK, it isn't south Kansas City, but our so-called Mainstream Media needs to follow up this fine work that one of Tony's readers did Thursday afternoon and evening. If this is true about the land that the future East Patrol Police Station will sit on, especially in light of the fact that it wasn't KCPD's first choice, it may reveals a distressing degree of corruption in our city. Has this sort of giving with the left hand and taking with the right hand become the way things work these days?
So, KC Star, The Pitch, KCTV, KSHB, FOX4, KMBC--how about it? Is this just real estate savvy and a bit of luck for an east side land owner--or was this location for the patrol station selected with the knowledge that that land owner would benefit? Get to work, Fourth Estate!! Read the research work for yourself on the comments section of this post on Tony's Kansas City, or find the Reader's Digest version below:


If only they would build the new East Patrol where the KCPD wanted to build it. But that's what you get when you've got council members trying to grease the palms of a certain pastor that owns the majority of that land to be acquired. Yeah let's give the corrupt city council control of the PD. That ought to work out really well.

So,3:15, what is the minister's name? Give us a chance to check your assertion through the public records.

It's Morningstar Baptist Church, Reverend John Miles is the church at 27/Wabash. He owns a large amount of the land and property nearby. He is a KCPD Chaplain as well.

4:33, only one lot is owned by Morningstar Development Corporation.

It will take more digging or more info....



Oh, here we go 4:33. Search in the county's recorded documents under "Morningstar" shows several properties owned by Morningstar Church and transferred to Morningstar Development Corp.

Now, a cross reference to the Missouri Secretary of State's website shows that among the organizers of the not-for-profit Morningstar's Development Company are, TADA

John Modest Miles and Roy Anderson.

Coincidentally, they are also the ones who signed the Warranty Deeds transferring the property to MDC on behalf of Morningstar Baptist Church.


Now all that needs to be done is a cross reference of all the properties similarly transferred, pull up the IRS 990 filings, and write it up.

Let's see the 990 shows that from 2009 to 2010, the value of Morningstar's Development Company's land assets increased from $168,000 to $324,000.


Somebody went on a buying spree that year.


Had 10 minutes while the chicken cooked and used the time to review property transfer records.


Here's an ironic twist.

There are several parcels of property in the new East Patrol development area that the City will have to acquire from Morningstar's Development Company. MDC was either given the properties outright or bought them for a song ($100 for several parcels) from-you guessed it- THE CITY AND IT'S REDEVELOPMENT AGENCIES.

The land that Miles is selling to the City is land the City owned in the first place.

Miles persuaded the City to give him the land for a song.

THEN they condemned it to buy it back from him.

Smells kinda funny to me. Wonderful work by a blog reader doing research one afternoon. Like I said, just cries for follow up work from the established press...or is that the problem--that it is the established press? The established press that is afraid of certain power elements in the east side of this city?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stereotypes and et cetera

First, some important definitions:
Prejudice:
a: (1). preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
b: an instance of such judgment or opinion.
c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.
Racism:
1: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
2: racial prejudice or discrimination.
Race:
2. a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock.
b: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics
3. a: an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also: a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group
b: breed
c: a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits
Stereotype (noun):
something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment

The other day I was out at a fast food restaurant. Just as I was coming to a table, a family was leaving. It was a big multigenerational group--a toddler, a teen, two 25-40 adults and a 65+ gentleman. As usual, I forgot my napkins, and I went to get them. I passed by the table that this group had been sitting at. They had left everything on the table, all their leftover food, wrappers and cups they didn't take with them. It was a mess. I wish now I had taken a picture before I cleaned it up.
It was the sort of incident that could cause a person to become prejudiced, to decide that rude and self entitled behavior is part of belonging to people who look like this group. There really is no excuse for not busing your table at a fast food joint--there is no question that you are supposed to toss your papers and leftovers after you are done. People form judgments based partly on what they experience from people--yes, prejudice is taught by outside forces as well--but reinforced by seeing bad behavior.
The reason I started out with the definitions is that prejudice and racism are often confused, partly because they overlap and partly because the one can lead to the other. You see enough bad behavior by a certain group, and a person can decide that a certain group is not as smart or capable as another.---
This is not where I wanted this post to go: Here is where I really wanted this post to go, and I am going to be blunt and not dance around the point. If you want people to lessen prejudice and "pre-judging" your group, you are going to have to behave in such a way as to prove them wrong. I am sorry but that is unfortunately the way it is. Human nature and the way the human brain works makes us tend towards generalizations and assumptions so when we see a group behaving a certain way, especially if it seems to happen over and over, we start assuming that that behavior is standard issue. It is not necessarily about race. I grew up in a state with a tiny percentage of population of persons of color and there were still groups and classes of people who were subjects of prejudice. Members of those classes of people had to prove that they were not like the stereotype of the group that existed in the larger population.
So, what does all this have to do with the behavior of the family in the restaurant? Well, it is this: every time a person with an identifiable ethnic heritage, or "race" (race is a specious concept but that is for another day...) does something that can be called bad or wrong, it is another brick in the wall of prejudice and stereotyping. I was shaking my head thinking to myself, "Yet another brick for use in building walls of prejudice. Some may decide automatically that a group like yours is a bunch of inconsiderate boobs, who are too lazy, entitled and self centered to clean up after yourselves. People, if you want opinions to change about your ethnic group, you have to step up your game. You have to behave better, even when it isn't easy, or you want to rebel."
Every wrong act is ammunition for those who want to keep you down. Every wrong act is something someone can point to and say that your group is inferior, intellectually, ethically, or any other way. Performing as well, or better, while the tougher road, is the right road to take. Indulging in a victim mentality, rebelling or giving up will just reinforce the bad stereotype about the group.

Author's note: I started this well before (March 15) the current Martin/Zimmerman mess. There is not a word I would change. I could add some, but that will be later. Pay attention to the definitions. They are important.

Definitions from Webster's on line dictionary....

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do You Think Kansas City Is Turning Around?

It has been a busy day, and I have not been able to examine Mayor Sly James State of the City speech in detail. I have looked at some of the news coverage and bloggy coverage, and I see a big contrast. In the newspaper, it is all roses and a positive review for Mayor James. In the blogs, it seems as if there is way more skepticism and mistrust. The newspaper is supportive of the downtown train. Most bloggers are not supporters, and feel that it would be a waste of money.

I am not really sure how the majority of Kansas City residents feel about the direction and state of our city. Some things clearly need work, such as our crime rate and homicide rate--I would say the majority of people believe that crime seriously impacts the quality of life in our city. It is hard to assess how people feel about putting more money and stuff into the downtown area, especially transit projects. I think people are fed up with the government spending too much money.

So readers, how do you and your circle of friends feel about this city's direction? Are our leaders making sound decisions or poor ones?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where's the Reset Button?

I have been trying to figure out what to blog about these past few days, and as I noted on the Facebook, it is just epically depressing to look at the news these days. Crime and money problems for our city, an indifferent collection of potential opponents to the current occupant of the White House, more issues with divisions, racism, and uncivil discourse, class warfare, add your own to the list...
I keep thinking of how people in past ages have thought the world was completely unraveling before their eyes. We certainly have seen empires fall apart, political upheaval, technological revolution, and other sorts of change occur throughout the course of history. I think what makes these times at least seem different is that the changes are more rapid and are more known throughout all the world. There are rare corners of the world that move at the rates of the 18th, 19th or early 20th centuries any more. Even the rate of information flow that occurred in 1968 seems slow compared to our hyper communicating super fast world of today.
For that reason, it is hard to see if it is really "worse than it has ever been." I have Christian friends who are convinced that this is the end times and that Jesus is coming back any time. I always remind those people that Jesus was quite specific about predicting his return--mainly for people to avoid trying it.
There are moments when humanity shines--they occasionally even show up in the news--but it is usually small groups and individuals, not our ruling class. Our ruling class seems to be selfish, narcissistic, out for themselves, and not very bright; they rarely provide us bright spots in the news broadcast.
We need "Control-Alt-Delete"....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woof!

That is all I got for now...see you all tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Managing $500,000

Of course, the main point of this story (link) is that the winner of a $1 million dollar lottery prize in Michigan was still taking food stamps after she had won the prize and taken delivery of the $500,000 check. The outrage was palpable. Of course, the state should have known it, but also the failure of honor on the part of the winner was notable. Some people were upset that lottery tickets were purchased in the first place by someone who was on public assistance.

But we are not going there today. One of the themes that has recurred over and over in commentary concerning this story is that the lottery winner, Amanda Clayton, will run through her money and be broke again, and back on assistance in a year or less. That made me wonder: how would I personally handle a windfall of $500,000?

I know for me, I would spend some money, and some of it on similar things to Ms. Clayton. My car, which I like a lot, has 130K miles on it. I would be buying a new one. Something modest mind you--I would not spend more then about $20-25 K on a car max. Then I would probably drop at least $30K on my house, taking care of deferred maintenance and making improvements. Nothing fancy--no granite countertops or any of that junk. New roof and windows, a revision of a preexisting remodel that wasn't done correctly, redone electrical system, new gas range, tree and landscaping work. The only indulgences might be the back up generator and the wood stove that I would love to have. I would also use the money to help with the cleaning up and thinning process I have been doing for a while, to rent a portable storage bin and a dumpster. After improving my house and car, I would improve myself. I would invest in some education to make myself more employable, and I would continue to work and earn a living, even if it was part time in this economy. There's something about having a skill, practicing it, and getting a bit of money on a steady basis that has a lot of appeal. I could go entrepreneurial too, if I find I have a good idea that others would want--and would pay for.

Say, after all that I have spent $100,000. There is still $400,000 left. Plenty to invest, save and use in many ways if you are willing to live modestly, not show off, and say no to the inevitable grifters, related and otherwise, that will come your way. But unfortunately for Ms. Clayton I think those saying she'll be broke are correct. At the end, she will only have left those things she paid cash for, and if she hasn't figured out that she needs a skill (she's only 24 so plenty of time to train for something--now that would be a good use for her winnings!) she will lose those things as she tries to figure out how to support herself. After that? It's hello, dole.

The irony of all this is that most people, such as myself, who have a clue about money rarely play the state lottery games. We know how long the odds are of winning.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Next Item...

So, we've beaten the Limbaugh thing about to death, to the point almost of "wag the dog" (So what is going on with Iran and Israel, Syria, gas prices, the stock market, real unemployment, yada yada...) and it is time to see what the next controversy is. By the way, have you noticed in this day of the internet how quickly something can blow up to a size totally out of proportion to its importance?

The next thing is local, and it is a bit more important than Rush, but it is another lap around the same mountain--the mountain of race. I am, of course, referring to the story of the 13 year old boy that was burned when he was set on fire reportedly on Tuesday, February 28 as the victim was walking home from school in his northeast neighborhood. First reports of the incident came out over the weekend, and it has been linked on Drudge and picked up in the U.K.

There are still a lot of questions about the case and some are doubting the veracity of the victim's report. Apart from that aspect of simply investigating to see if a crime indeed did occur, a debate has come out about whether or not this is a "hate crime." Now, I really find the entire concept of "hate crime" sort of silly. If a crime was committed, it was committed. It is pretty hard to determine a suspect's state of mind when a crime was committed. Does a crime need the "hate" intensifier? Then we get all this BS that hate crimes can't be committed against the "majority race". Hate crime laws are one of those things that sound good at first, but when you apply logic, they rapidly stop making any sense.

Think about it: someone has to pick out what someone was thinking during the commission of a crime. If the victim is being truthful, a crime has been committed indeed. Attempted murder, assault, etc. are possible charges. If the victim is lying, and he made up the story to cover up something else, then he can be charged with making a false report. It is imperative that there be a thorough and impartial investigation into this incident and a search for the two other parties involved. Once all the facts are in, then prosecute the crime that happened. I am not trying to minimize the event--it is horrible enough as it stands on its own--regardless of which way it falls. How horrible is it to put fire on another, live human being? Or to be at a point where you would put fire to your own skin?

Not everything has to be about race all the time. That is the mountain we keep going around and around, like the people of Moses in the Old Testament. A lot of people filter a lot of life through the funnel of racial matters. The "hate crime" laws are just one example. Trick laws that look so good on a casual peek turn out just to be just another way to divide and separate us; just another way to pick at the scabs of all the hurts of acts of prejudice and racism over all the years. How in the world are we ever be able to come together if we erect all these laws that major in pointing out differences?

Find the crime, gather evidence, prosecute as indicated.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

On Rush's Misstep

Warning: Not Politically Correct Content within.

"Rush is mired in an era when sex, especially outside of marriage, indicates some kind of avante-garde, hippie lifestyle. He misses the fact that the timing of childbirth is a discussion nearly all couples engage in, or wish they had."--Kansas City Star editorial

This is it-- why everyone's knickers are in a knot--sex. You see, before contraception was available every time you had sex there was a risk of a baby. There wasn't just a moral imperative to remaining sexually continent there was a practical aspect too. Actions had consequences. Once reliable and easy contraception became available the consequence was unattached from the action. Only the moral imperative stood in the way. In the end, for many, it was not nearly enough and with each succeeding generation the acceptance of the "rightness" of being chaste has been less and less until we come to today, where today's sexually loose lifestyle is regarded as normal by the majority. Those who think otherwise are regarded as odd at best or weird or, amazingly, just WRONG.
Taking a pill is not the only choice for avoiding having a child outside of marriage. There is that old reliable-- choosing not to be sexually active. Not only will the risk of an unwanted pregnancy be removed, so will risks of AIDS, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea and cancer of the reproductive organs and genitalia. Not to mention skipping all the heart- break that happens by uniting in sex with someone who is not deeply committed to the relationship; when people, especially women, get their hearts broken when they are set aside like dirty socks...
The idea of remaining chaste outside of marriage should not be invalidated just because contraception is available. Finding disagreement with an active sex life is not an opinion just to be mocked or laughed at--being sexually under control is an option that should be considered, even in this day and age of contraception.
Really.

Rush Limbaugh was crude when he called Sandra Fluke names. He was wrong to do that. Contraception needs to be available to those who have real medical needs as well as being available for those who want it in this day and age. To me, however, some of the towering outrage is from the question standing behind Rush's objection: the questioning of just how good and right an indiscriminately active sex life is for both the individual and for our society. Some of those who heard that question were outraged that the rightness of their lifestyle choice was under even a little scrutiny.
You throw a stone at a pack of dogs--how can you tell which one got hit? The dog that yelps the loudest.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Proposed Fire Department Cuts and Changes


In response to the call to be prepared to cut 105 jobs out of the fire department, Chief Smokey Dyer of the Kansas City Fire Department brought the following changes of the operational configuration of the department to the city council this late morning, early afternoon:
1. In the northland, station 3 at 11101 N. Oak Traffic Way would change from a station with a pumper and a truck to a combo unit called a quint. So just one crew (set of crews really, 3 shifts worth of crews, and that applies to all of the following) would be required for station 3 instead of two.
2. Station 39, at 11400 E 47 street, would get the same treatment going from a pumper and a truck to a combo unit.
3. Station 36, at 99th and Holmes would get the same treatment as well.
4. Pumper 32, stationed at station 19 at 550 west 43rd street, will be eliminated. It was not clear if it would be incorporated or replaced by something else. It sounded like it would just be taken away and not replaced.
5. Station 1, at 155th and Holmes, the home of pumper 1, would be closed, with the elimination of the pumper.
6. Change the crews of the technical rescues, stationed in 3 separate stations, would each be reduced from 4 to 3.
7. The crew of HazMat 71 would be reduced from 4 to 3.

There was a lot of other conversation with Chief Dyer concerning the operation of the fire department, including questions about saving money elsewhere, "auto aid" and "mutual aid", examination of the mission of the department, and some words about EMS. One interesting note about that--Chief Dyer said at least twice that his department did not seek out the merger with EMS--that it was mandated by the political action of the City Council. KCFD was placed in the position by the council of having to take up the mantle of EMS after the votes of the council. It is interesting to me that he felt it necessary to say that.
Retirements will be sought from the twenty longest tenured people (no mention if that included any EMS people)--no mention if these were early retirees--and the rest of any layoffs would be from the bottom up. It was noted by the chief that he took in all former MAST employees and have only replaced them as needed due to normal attrition with newly medically trained organic KCFD personnel.
I was just reviewing some things looking for reaction to the day's activities when I saw a reaction to the statement by the fire chief that this years budget was "adequate" to run the department at approximately $131 million (2011-12) but that it would need to go to $144 million (2012-13) to be adequate for this year. My guess is that the difference is inflation. I also think that ye olde EMS Division is costing more then was anticipated and given steady or normally growing revenues coming in, the FD would like more money. Instead, the revenues are going down, and the city is asking for costs to be cut. It would be interesting to see a pie chart of FD expenses; I suspect the majority are in salaries and benefits and this is why the city jumped on the chief to reduce the number of fire fighters.
That being said, Smokey is very committed to continuing the staffing of pumpers and ladders at four people. His commitment is to the point that suburban departments must sent four people per firefighting apparatus even if that is not their normal staffing in order to provide mutual aid for KCFD. When the council pressed him on comparing expenses of fire departments in comparable cities to KCFD, he seemed to interpret this as an attempted attack on 4 person staffing. Thus the quote of the day:
"I will not be here if we have three person pumpers; whoever my replacement is can get that information."
In other department's notes, the police chief appeared to be requesting more money for salaries, to the tune of about $10 million. Chief Forte also noted that the All Star Game will cost an additional %250,000 or so in PD OT. From the public services departments, the main thing that seemed to emerge was a proposal to eliminate the spring leaf and brush neighborhood pick up.

This City Council meeting appeared to only concern itself with just the operating budget and the council reiterated its commitment to a "structurally balanced budget" in the face of a revenue stream that continues to decline in the area of TIF disbursements, gaming taxes, and miscellaneous revenues. There was no discussion of the big dream ideas with regard to a downtown train, infrastructure work and there was no discussion of the pension issues that are still outstanding.

If you want to follow along with budget fun, the rough schedule for budget hearings and such is as follows: The budget itself will be introduced today, March 1. There will be opportunities for discussion March 7 and March 14. I don't think there will be opportunity for more public comment. The budget will need approval by March 22nd.

What I Would Have Said If I Had Been There

Sports won out over civics.

Last night I had a conflict: Watch the Grandview High School Bulldogs as they started their quest for a state championship in basketball or go to a public hearing at the Hillcrest Community Center about the budget process put on by the Finance and Audit Committee of the City Council. Well, I hate to say it, but hoops won out (and congratulations to Grandview for its blowout victory over Lincoln Prep) I still have been thinking about the budget though and I thought it would be interesting to write down what I might have told the committee last night had I not yielded to my sporting instincts.

Honestly, I am not sure how much good these budget hearings do: they have not been very well promoted. I hope that you, the committee, have learned something about how the citizens feel about the city's budget and how the city handles money.

The budget reflects a tension that is visible in all economic planning and thought in these difficult days. Even the most casual study of economists reveals the rift between those who insist on austerity in order to reduce debt accompanied by a reduction in the size and scope of government to help the economy and those who believe that spending on projects funded by the government is a way to propel the economy forward. That rift is reflected in the Kansas City budget. On the one hand, you have a large plan that will cost a billion dollars that concerns itself with infrastructure and on the other hand, you have a budget that is austere to basic services such as police, fire and public services to the point that it may affect the quality of life in the city.

What emerges is a picture of a city that seems willing to spend money on new mass transit pieces, and the promotion of development but is busy telling the police chief, the fire chief and the head of public works to cut, cut, cut their budgets. Furthermore, citizens feel that neighborhoods that are still very viable and lively are left hanging, while the neighborhoods that are in very bad shape are having a lot of money poured into them. In addition, the attempts to revive the downtown area are continuing to require subsidies, and the citizens resent any plan that puts any more money towards projects in the downtown area.

I am as big a fan of mass transit as anyone. I grew up in Manhattan, New York City, where transit truly is practical (although it is still not completely self supporting); we have to face facts: Kansas City mass transit will not ever be practical unless this city contracts substantially and becomes much more dense. If gas ever reaches $10 a gallon, you might see that, but it would be more likely that the city would become dense in naturally occurring centers that already exist, such as commercial centers or schools. It may be that, other then small locally centered efforts, even in the face of European style gas prices, Kansas City may never look like it did in the 1950s. What you would see is neighborhood villages rather then a predominant downtown city center. It may be time for the city leaders to give up on the idea of one city center. In the end, Kansas City may become a city of hubs, with one larger one and many small ones.

I think the closer a government unit gets to the people, the more it needs to concentrate on the issues close to the people. That means catching criminals, preventing crime, putting out fires, providing help to the sick and injured, mowing the park, plowing the streets, patching the potholes, picking up the trash and all the other many details of running a city. Trying out interesting theories of Keynesian economics may be best left to larger and broader government entities. The quality of life in the city is directly related to the quality of the services rendered by City Hall. Poor service will kill a city. Police that do not respond to calls in a timely manner, that appear uncaring because they are overworked, lack of resources to solve crime and a dirth of resources applied to prevent crime by working proactively will result in a perception of a lack of safety in the city--this is just one example of what could happen if basic services are cut to the point of neglect.

The only place where there needs to be a substantial investment in infrastructure is in the water and sewer area. This area is seriously problematic to me, in that it appears in so many ways that the water department is not a competent department, having had a lot of turnover in leadership over the years. Frankly, before any more rate increases are done, and certainly before any other sources of money are given to the water department, the department MUST stabilize its leadership and obtain real expertise in its field. The water department in so many ways has the feel of a department in which patronage has taken precedence over competence. This is not acceptable in light of the task that is before the water department.

In short, it is time to concentrate on basic services. If we are asking ourselves what it is that we can and cannot do, then it is time to bear down on doing the things that make it nice to live in the city. If there is a perception that one is not safe in one's home, that the place is messy and not in good repair--it just looks bad--it matters little what development is provoked by tax breaks and subsidies to private and other entities. No one will stay in a unsafe and unkempt city. That is a fact. Thank you for your time and attention.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Write?

One day I had a very brief (thankfully) moment of self pity because no one had "liked"any of my posts in a closed Facebook group I am a part of. It stopped when I asked why I posted on the forum. I did not post to get applause, or likes--I posted hoping that my resource would provide some kind of uplift for the potential readers. It would educate them, or encourage them or remind them of an important truth. However, this entire train of thought got me thinking as to why any of us display our creations in a public forum. Why do we sing songs and play musical instruments in front of others? Why do we invite others to read our writing? Look at our drawings? View our photos? Do we sing, dance, write, paint, photograph for ourselves or for others?

I think the answer is truly the "Yes" we all joke about. We do create for ourselves--it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to cause something to come into being that wasn't there before. A work of art did not exist until the artist came along and created it--and it is unique to that artist--our visions are unique to our selves. Yet, there is something in us that wants to show it to others. Sometimes it is for altruistic reasons: we think it will add to the community new ideas and serve to build up everyone. Sometimes it is because we like to hear the praise of others. Sometimes we actually benefit materially from the fruits of our creative labors. Sometimes we do it because we like the challenge of our work going out into the world meeting the opinions of others.

Anyone who creates and puts their work out in public has to recognize all the motives, pure and not so pure, that stand behind the action of putting their creation out there before the world.