Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ruskin HS Boys Wins District 13 Basketball Championship

The Ruskin Eagles defeated the Rockhurst Hawklets 63-61 in double overtime. They will go on to play in the state playoffs. The next game is 6:30 pm Wednesday, March 2nd at the Independence Event Center against Lee's Summit North. (Go here for the full bracket.)

Congratulations to the Eagles for a hard fought win!

A full write up and a couple of pics can be found here and yet more photos here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Nugget From 2007

I was starting some spring cleaning around Casa Observer the other day when, buried deep in a reservoir of old papers was this little nugget from 2007:

It's the Citizen's Association endorsement piece for that March's general election! As you can see, almost all their chosen council people made it--only John Sharp was a winner over Darrell Curls for the 6th District. Of course, Alvin Brooks was defeated by Mark Funkhouser for mayor in that election.
A couple of other things: the tenor of the piece is completely different from anything you would find now. It' s a much more optimist look at our city than now. While there was recognition that there were problems, they did not appear as overwhelming or as difficult as they do now. It is amazing to think on what a different place the world was in 2007.

The question just begs to be asked: Did we elect people with "knowledge and character" then? Do we have people with these attributes to choose from this March?

Funk's Loss

What happened on Tuesday in the election was apparently quite the historical event. No incumbent since the 1920s had lost the Kansas City mayor's office. The only other time since then was when Charles Wheeler tried to run for a third term and was defeated in the primary. There has been quite a lot of analysis of why this happened, especially when many believed that Mark Funkhouser would go through to the general election.

I agree with most of the stuff that has been said. Any one of these personality related items might have been beatable, but the collection of them that amassed over the years, especially in the first two years of the term proved to be too hard to overcome.

Themes come through over and over: stubborn, unable to retreat from a position, dogmatic, demonizes opposition, tin ear towards others. Result: unable to get along with City Council, at odds with the City Manager, no sense of how offensive his wife's activities were to others. When the economy crashed in the second half of Mayor Funkhouser's term, it guaranteed that he would not be able to recover--he would not be able to make a big economic splash in the city. Snow removal woes in December 2009 were the icing on the cake.

By and large, with regard to managing the city's finances, if you leave out all the law suit settlements, Mayor Funkhouser has left Kansas City on pretty fine footing, especially when compared to many other cities. In addition, he insisted on more accountability with regard to TIFs, shutting down the gravy train of easy tax breaks. It's unfortunate that his inability to play well with others made it virtually impossible to retain him as mayor; he did do the city good in some ways that may not be clear for several years.

Photo by the Observer: Mayor Funkhouser during his May 2010 visit to Ruskin Heights.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monitoring the Election Thus Far

8:34 PM: It looks like turnout for Kansas City's primary election is going to be very low, in the area of 45 K. This means that 10% of the population is setting the ballot for next month. Prognosticators were predicting that turn out would be low, but not quite this low.

Just refreshed@ 8:36--Burke: 8,056 Funkhouser 6,598 James 6,465.

Third District is tight with SSB ahead of the disqualified Mike Fletcher 532-437. 3rd at large has Curls ahead of Ellington 11,200 to 7,800.

Fourth at large has Glover and Presley at the top.

Six at large has Taylor and Ward--that's a surprise to me.

8:53: Looks like we are still waiting on the 4th, 5th and 6th Districts to report in.

9:02: Still waiting on the 4th. Numbers haven't changed much except for a few people getting closer to Tracy Ward's second place in the 6th at-large. Still Funk and Sly fighting it out for second place.

9:30: Funk is out--it's Burke and James! Full summary tomorrow--after all that will be the beginning of the general. I could have more updates on Facebook tonight--feel free to visit!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vote Tomorrow!

Photo of all six mayoral candidates from the blog Jimmy C says--a very good news/political blog!

Kansas City's municipal primary is tomorrow and I hope that many registered voters take the time to vote. The Mayor's race especially is so close that a few hundred votes may separate the top two from the bottom four.

The third district has contributed more than its share of drama to the run up to the election. One candidate, Michael Fletcher, has been ruled ineligible due to residency failure. It appears that he spent some time in California, and testified on an official document that he had established residency there. That is a difficult thing to explain to a judge that you wanted residency in one place at the same time you want residency in another.

Durwin Rice, also running for council from the fightin' third has also had his residency questioned. The question is if Rice actually lives in the third, or in the forth. His case is complicated by race (so's Fletcher's if you read the comments on TKC) on account of Rice being a White guy.

So, the mailers will stop (for a little while) and the robo calls will stop (for a little while) after tomorrow--after which the general election campaign will start.

Then the e tax vote...

Why, I'll be all voted out by then. I hope all this voting doesn't result in another call to Jury Duty!

Here is a good summary of all the names that will appear on the ballot by Groucho K Marx at his place in case you need a refresher.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Laws of the ER

I laugh when I read blogs written by ER doctors and nurses that continue to tell stories of the immutable laws of the ER. These laws are first cousins of the immutable laws of EMS that I first learned as a callow young EMT back in the early 1980s. Both sets of laws are direct descendants of of the works of the inimitable Murphy whose "Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong" adage spells out the thoughts of pessimists everywhere.

So, let me introduce you to some fundamental laws of the Emergency Department:

A day in the ED may have a certain chief complaint as an overall theme and it seems as if the majority of patients present with that complaint: Chest pain day. Abdominal pain day. Psych day. Car crash day. Corollary: Things come in threes--three code blues, three GI bleeds, three traumas.

Some ER personnel are white clouds. The day is a day that runs smoothly and everything seems to go well when those people are around. It can be anyone in any position: Doctor, nurse, patient care tech, unit secretary, doesn't matter.

Conversely, some ER personnel are black clouds--also known as "sh*t magnets"--days go poorly when these people are on duty. They attract really sick patients, complicated patients, crazy patients, drunk/drugged patients and drug seekers. If they are major black clouds they cause beds on the floors in the hospital to mysteriously disappear, consultants to cop attitudes, and machines to break.

Saying the word "quiet" will cause patients to come to the ER. Never fails. One time I went with a friend and her sister to St. Luke's on the Plaza and as we were coming in my friend's sister said, "Well, it's seems quiet." We all recoiled. Yup, it worked. While my friend was having her work up, a trauma came in and the pace picked up.

ER patients come in randomly all at once. I think they caucus on the nearest corner, although that doesn't explain the ones that come in by ambulance at the same time.

Going back to my EMT days, my favorite law of EMS is this one regarding motor vehicle crashes: If you respond to a motor vehicle crash after 0200 and there is not a drunk present, keep looking around the scene, because someone is missing.

So, if you are a patient in your local ER and you hear someone referred to as a "black cloud" you can safely assume that you might have some waiting to do. On the other hand, you know that you have someone who has lots of experience and likely knows what they are doing!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Mailers

This week's haul. Included, there at the bottom is the sign that this particular brand of madness will soon end--my voter notification card.

Interestingly, nothing from Mayor Funky and nothing from Sly James.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When The 737 Was New

It seems as if the Boeing 737 has been around for a long time. Well, it has. These print ads date from 1967 when the jet was first introduced. Nicknamed "the flying pickle" the 737 has a admirable safety record and has proven itself well over the years. This shot clearly shows "the pickle with wings on it" shape of the well known plane.

The jet now is most famous or well known as the air ship of choice for Southwest Airlines, the low cost airline company started around that same time, incorporated in 1966 and flying its first flights in 1971. It was pretty neat to find these old ads of such a familiar sight as a 737.

Here a 737 in Southwest livery takes off. The photo is from Southwest's media website

Monday, February 14, 2011

Seen Around Town...

Things that made me go "Huh?" and take out my cell phone camera...

This is for sale at Marshall's. I also saw it packaged with shamrock seeds. Let's just say that it takes a person of Irish decent to tell you it's blarney. If there are people around that know blarney when they see it, it's the Irish. Takes one to know one!

And then there is this: seen at the neighborhood Circle K. That day it was pretty cold out, not the nice normal weather we've had lately. Note the pouch on the right hip. Also the socks--white with dark tops. Interesting...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Now, Wait a Minute!

I wondered when I first saw the brochure photographed at Tony's Kansas City but I thought, nah, couldn't be. Well, today, when I took a good look at the mailer as I assembled them together I realized that the author had seen my blog and decided my Red Bridge Road construction progress photos were useful for their advertisement for the Citizen's Association South Kansas City slate. Check it out.
The top two images are snips from the blog post with the photos, linked here if you would like to see it for yourself.

The bottom two are pictures of the mailer. The first is a close up of all the small photos on one side. The second is a more distant view of the entire page. Check out the two photos second from the top with regard to the blog photos shown above.

Yup, pretty sure of that! They cropped them some for fit and I am sure, to get my windshield wiper out of that one shot.

Now, I really don't mind, well, not too much, as it means that folks are looking in on and reading my blog, which is pretty cool. And I feel that fair use with the idea that use of images etc. is OK as long as proper attribution is made. I think of it as "footnoting".

Still, I might have to look into watermarks for my photos so when they wander, you can tell where they came from.

So Far...

These are the mailers that have arrived in my mailbox so far. I thought I got one from Sly James but I didn't find it when I put them all together.

Mubarack Decides to Leave

Happy Egyptian citizens celebrate after Mubarack's decision earlier today (Getty photo via CNN)

I have to admit I missed the distinct tone of resentment in the press coverage of now former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack's "I'm staying." speech last night. I was too overcome by the images, first of a sleepy eyed Mubarack on Egyptian TV delivering his defiant decision, then of thousands of people holding up their shoes in reaction to realize that the media had out smarted itself. News people, instead of just reporting what was happening, started trying to predict what would happen. Putting their ears to the rumor mill and trying to be first with the news of the resignation of the Egyptian president instead of reporting in a timely and accurate way what was happening ended up biting the new media in the butt.

I was not surprised that Mubarack ended up resigning and leaving Egypt today. The announcement, made by Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman around 6 p.m. local time (about 10 a.m. CST) caused rejoicing among the people of Egypt. The tone had been very negative after the Mubarack speech last night. The Egyptian military was not in Mr. Mubarack's corner and it was only a matter of time.

Now we will watch to see what happens. This is a tough situation for the United States. We are all for, or at least we have been, for the idea that people should be able to choose those who lead them. Yet many are fearful that the Egyptian people--and government--may turn to radical Islam. It is hard to tell how it will go. The people of Egypt do not seem to lead a particularly religiously oriented life, yet may express their new freedom in expanded expressions of religiosity. Egypt played an important role under Mubarack as a U.S. ally in the Middle East. There is no doubt that that role will be very different now.

The mood is celebratory now, but it is not finished. Our press corps as well as our government need to remember that as Egypt continues down this path of history.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egyptian President Does Not Step Down

Honsni Mubarack speaks to the Egyptian people on TV--tells them he is not stepping down but delegating some responsibilities to his vice president. This still of the Egyptian president, from the New York Times, about sums up how Mubarack is playing the people of Egypt. No matter how you feel about removing him, right now he is definitely playing his people, pulling at their feelings.

The showing of the sole of the shoe is deeply disrespectful in Arab culture. This is the response of the people in the square to Mubarack's speech.

Link to the New York Times right here. Photos from the New York Times.

Monday, February 7, 2011

City Government Part 2

In City Government Part 1, I looked at the different ways that cities govern themselves--who holds the power and by implication, how things get done. Here I want to take some time to consider how the structure of the government influences the political dialog and concerns of the people living in the city. Let's start with the current KCMO mayor for example.

Mark Funkhouser has a problem. He would like to be reelected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, but he is a long shot to survive the primary. The problem? His "people" missteps! A lot of them involve his wife's presence at City Hall as the unpaid assistant mayor or adviser to the mayor or whatever. She has been absent in body from 12th and Oak the past couple of years, but still remains a presence in the mayor's political life. It's not just her presence, which inspired the council to pass rules concerning volunteers related to the mayor, but she did things, like call a Black city employee "mammy" or something like that, that actually cost the city money.

People remember this stuff, and in my opinion, they remember it even more vividly because of the weak mayor form of government in Kansas City. Mr. Funkhouser cannot blow away memories of his wife wandering around City Hall with incense with some incredible plan he was able to execute through the auspices of his office. Any plan he comes up with has to go through the council and/or the City Manager. So it's far harder for him to make a big splash and deflect attention from these types of issues.

Despite that reality, when things don't go right, Mr. Funkhouser gets hammered just as hard as a "strong mayor." After the 3 day, 12 inch snowfall of Christmas season 2009, Kansas City's snow removal work was sharply criticized, and so was the mayor. This despite the fact that this really is the bailiwick of the city manager, in concert with the street department. Mr. Funkhouser was treated as roughly as New York mayors past and present--just ask the ghost of John Lindsay or Michael Bloomberg about screwing up snow removal.

I was listening to his radio ad today. He does rightly point out that at this time, Kansas City is not in terrible financial shape. However, as a FB commenter pointed out, the various lawsuits related to the way the mayor's office was run cost the city $600,000 in legal settlements and such. That's hard to get out of your head. It's harder for a weak mayor to overcome this kind of blundering. Funkhouser may have been smart with some money, but he was not smart with people, and this really hurt--and hurts--him. A weak mayor has a different situation than a strong mayor.

Many people have found the politics of Kansas City overly focused on personalities and who said what to whom--find it immature and rather like grade school. I think that some of that is because of the weak mayor form of government. We find ourselves looking at the mayor for vision and coherence and if we don't find it, we do two things: we look at the others in government and we pick at them and of course, we pick at the mayor. And everyone at City Hall is doing the same thing--picking at each other and the mayor.

Some have wanted to go back to a stronger mayor form of government, rolling back some of the reforms of the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps, it is time. Either that, or we need better city mangers. Both the one in the office labelled such, and one in the mayor's office. The one in the mayor's office has to remember to get the "optics" right, be a mission minded vision caster and someone who is not just "good with money" but "good with people." That is how a "weak mayor" who wants to leave a positive mark does it.


They're here! Political mailers, lots of them. I got this one from the Sharp campaign late last week. I wonder how much it cost to send this 11x17 piece out to everyone in the Sixth District:

But what cracked me up immediately is how photoshopped Mr. Sharp's picture is. The fake looking teeth, the perfect scalp skin...

I hope no one in the district thinks he really looks like this!

Friday, February 4, 2011

City Government Part 1

chuck's comment on the previous post got me to thinking about forms of city government. I have lived in cities with all sorts of forms of governments--New York, little bitty Vermont town (so small that if I named it, I might blow my cover), Lower Merion Township (a suburb of Philadelphia), Burlington, VT, and Kansas City, MO.

Once people begin to live together in close proximity with each other, they found they had to organize so that people would do things for the group welfare in an organized manner. Things like getting the garbage picked up and the streets plowed. In small towns, the authority rests with the Town Meeting. Held once a year on the first Tuesday in March, the meeting elects selectmen to represent the town and make decisions the rest of the year. Town meeting also attends to money issues like budget and taxes.

Usually a small Vermont town will only have a few paid employees. The Town Clerk keeps track of voting, meetings, permits and all the paperwork. The Road Commissioner will keep the roads in good shape. (Advice: Make friends with the Road Commissioner...)

Now, as towns get bigger, that direct democracy thing stops working so well. It's hard to have a big town meeting when you have a lot of residents. The "select board" becomes the "board of aldermen" or "the city council" and is elected by ballot by residents organized into districts or wards. The job of the day to day running of the municipality gets big. The elected representatives need help. Many cities then create the position of Town/City Manager. That person, hired by the City Council, is the COO of the town. This the structure of Lower Merion Township--they call the offices Board of Commissioners and Township Manager. They have no mayor in their town. A larger town in Vermont near my itty bitty town also has this form: no mayor, just an elected board and a manager.
And it is the form of government of Kansas City, Missouri. Except Kansas City has a mayor.

I really thought that Burlington, VT had a city manager but no. The town that gave the world Bernie Sanders has a "strong mayor" form of government. There is no manager, but the mayor's office is over a Board of Commissioners and city offices. Oh, the city council has to vote on stuff. But most things originate in the mayor's office.

Chicago may be the granddaddy of all cities run out of the mayor's office but I have lived in New York City and it too is run by a strong mayor. As you can see I had a little fun with Microsoft Paint demonstrating the difference between a strong mayor form of government and a city manager form of government in which, really, the mayor is optional.

In New York, you have the mayor, with seven deputy mayors and a 51 member city council. They are helped by the Comptroller who functions as a CFO. The five borough presidents are all probably overpaid for the work they do. They are probably an accident of history that has been hard to remove all these years.

Kansas City used to have a strong mayor form too, but the city became very corrupt. A reform movement created the City Manager's office. The mayor is very weak, having become one of thirteen voices in city council meetings. In a way, the mayor in KCMO is a bit of a vestige, like the NYC borough presidents.

Each form of government has its strengths and weaknesses. I'll explore those in a future post, especially relative to Mark Funkhouser, the current mayor of Kansas City, MO.

Click on my silly pictures to make them bigger. Use the back button to return.

Organizational charts of New York, NY and Burlington, VT. Descriptions of Lower Merion Township, PA and Kansas City, MO. Town Meeting Day is from personal experience, right down to Mr. "Point of order."

(Sorry, no link to Kansas City--at 1613, the site seems to be down...500...server problem.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Does It Matter Where the Mayor Was?

When Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser came on KMBZ with Shanin and Parks Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. he freely stated to them that he was in Nashville. He gave as his reason for being there that he was visiting his mother. At that point, I was unable to do more than make a note of it on Facebook, but at the time, I wondered how it would play with the electorate, the mayor being out of town with the storm coming, as did the radio boys.

South Kansas City Observer is amazed. Mayor Funkhouser did an interview with KMBZ & said *he was NOT in Kansas City; he is in Nashville visiting his mother. Question: did he intend to go to the mayoral forum that was scheduled for tonight??

Yesterday at 4:53pm
Tony's Kansas City picked it up Tuesday evening. Commenters to his blog post added the information that the mayor was also doing his side job, giving lectures. His topic on January 31 in Nashville: "Honest, Competent Government: The Promise of Performance Auditing." Finally Wednesday, a few mainstream media outlets made note of his absence. KSHB noted that he left Sunday, and was planning on returning Monday evening. Tony rounded up the situation in this post Wednesday; the information shared by the mayor via the mainstream media only raised more questions about his travel timeline and his money situation.

So does it matter if the mayor was here for the blizzard? In a way, with our weak mayor form of government, in practical terms, it may not matter that much. In the EOC, it's the city manager, the police chief, the fire chief, the head of the street department and other public works' department chiefs that really do all the heavy lifting.

However, it is a huge "optics" problem. It just looks bad. It especially looks bad in light of how much warning we had about this storm. (I was emailing a friend on Sunday that we might have to postpone our Tuesday lunch.) In addition, I would like to know how divided the mayor's attention is from his duties as mayor by his side job giving lectures on honest, competent government. The problem becomes that when he signs up to give speeches, he really has an obligation to be there, as these type of things are scheduled in advance and often serve as vital continuing education for the professionals attending. So when a blizzard is coming, does the mayor let down the Tennessee auditors, or stay on schedule and risk looking like his attention is not with the people of his city? Yes, he can through the miracle of modern communications stay in touch with what's going on, but is that the best course for the mayor, especially in light of the coming election?

I would say that the best course of action is that the mayor should not schedule lectures until his term is completed. In addition, I think the mayor needs to document how he handles travel expenses with regard to his lectures if he chooses to continue giving them. In addition, he should have a cancellation policy with the organizers in case he is needed here in the city.

But really, how tin is this man's ear that in this late stage of his mayoral term that he is doing stuff like this?!?

Snow Report

Well, the blizzard of 2011 pretty much lived up to its billing around here. The day after, as is frequently true after a storm, was bright and cold, perfect for getting out of the house and shoveling.
As harsh as it was, it could have been worse. Columbia, MO, the home of the University of Missouri Tigers, got 17 inches. I-70 was closed, not so much because of its condition in Kansas City, but on down the line cars were stuck, marooned in the snow. Also, although we got ice on Monday, and it was slippery at times that day, it was just a small amount accumulated, and the moderate (30 F) temps meant that chemicals worked to melt the ice.
Tuesday, just about everything was closed and today also just about everything was closed. Since the traffic was very light, the plow boys were able to do a little bit better on the roads to help the folks trying to get home in the afternoon and evening.
The airport closed after they pulled the plow crews off the runways in the early afternoon because visibility was so poor. They couldn't see each other, the runway markers, or any aircraft that might be around. By the time the airport reopened, there were no planes to fly in. Closing Midway and O'Hare in Chicago insured that.
Around the neighborhood, there was no plowing during the storm. This is not unusual, as the plows are concentrating on the main routes that connect the neighborhoods, and the feeders to the interstates. A neighbor reported to me this morning when we all convened with shovels to take on our driveways and walkways, that the plow was through bright and early at 0800. That is an improvement, as after the Christmas snow of 2009, there was no plow passing through the neighborhood. The plow did add a little extra work to the end of the driveway though. A small price to pay.
I have to say I was proud of our street. We all helped each other with the shoveling. I did my drive, then helped my neighbor do the walk and drive of someone who would not have been able to manage. Then we did my neighbor's drive. Meantime, one of my other neighbors sent her grown son and friend to their older neighbor's house next door. Just about everyone was done by 2 p.m.

Darn photos, posted in exact reverse chronological order, so from the bottom up: Glaze left on windshield by phase one of the storm on Monday. Next two: at the height of the snowing and blowing, around 3 p.m. This is the closest I got to leaving Casa Observer yesterday! Last two, nearest the top: today, the path shoveled from door to car, and a look down the plowed street.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Way Some Folks Dress...

Fashion trends, both current and ongoing older trends that leave me...well, what is seen cannot be unseen...

Words on trousers or shorts that land on the butt. This includes sports uniforms. Just looks goofy.

Pajama pants. Oh, get dressed to go out! Goes for slippers too. Only excused if you are going to the ER.

The ongoing saggy pants thing. Really. Thankfully, such baggy clothing makes bad guys easier for cops to catch. On the other hand, it's harder to search baggy clothing with many pockets. Oh, and your underwear? There's a reason it's called underwear!

Inappropriate clothing for the weather. Shorts especially. Cars do occasionally break down, and if it is 40 degrees or below, inadequate clothing can be life threatening. As in, wearing shorts can help make you dead.

Stupid premade fades and wrinkles on blue jeans. I'll fade my own stuff, thanks. Cheaper too, as most of this is in "high fashion" jeans that cost hundreds of dollars.

Too much eye make up on women. If you have your eyes clearly outlined, that's too much. If it looks like someone mugged you, that's way too much.

Bra straps showing from underneath tank or spaghetti strap tops. See underwear, defined.

Muffin tops. This results from clothing that is not fitted properly. Your waist band should not be pushing rolls of fat upward. It is possible to have clothing fit correctly! Close cousin of this problem: trunk fat rolls from wearing the wrong size bra. Listen, I am "of size" but I refuse to highlight my rolls. I want my clothing to fit but not be tight and not emphasize my roll-y defects!

Dressing inappropriately for age. Kids should dress like kids. Teens like teens. Adults like adults. Anyone over 50 needs to stay out of Juniors, generally speaking. Teens need supervision, but should be allowed out of the middle school section.

Fat guys wearing their trousers below their gut. This just cracks me up whenever I see it. Waist size of pants: 36 Actual waist size: 46 Denial is a very strong thing...oh, that reminds me: balding guys should avoid the comb-over. It just doesn't work, especially in the wind. It was a great moment in my family's history when a hair stylist talked my dad out of his comb-over sometime in the mid to late 1970s.

And finally (although I am sure I'll think of something else later--readers should feel free to add their own peeves), rolling the elastic waist band on warm up/sweat pants/shorts so that the unfinished side and the label stick out!

Nothing world shattering here, just the sandpaper of everyday life...