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


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, or call 816-513-9821.
For more on the work of Nathan Winograd visit

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.