I've been staying out of this sandbox lately.
It used to be a fun place to play until the stray, anonymous, trolls started using it as their own personal litterbox. The overwhelming stench of petty, agenda-fueled fecal matter drove me away.
But my good friend Dan, over at Gone Mild, for whom I have great admiration and respect, lured me back with his post about how unfair and onerous it would be to pass a City Ordinance that would require ALL city workers, elected, hired or volunteers, to take diversity, sexual harrassment, anti-discrimination classes and, yes, submit to a criminal background check.
In other words, everyone employed by Kansas City in any capacity would be required to submit themselves to the same level of education, scrutiny and accountability that has been an annual, required, documented ritual in corporate America and any entity receiving federal funds for the last 30 or so years.
What I find most astounding about this is that, apparently the government of Kansas City, does not already have such policies in place. How is that possible?
I was content to speak my peace in a single comment on Dan's blog and be done with it.
Until I saw this childish, petulant, unprofessional, ill-informed, self-authored and potentially self-incriminating post on the official blog of the mayor of Kansas City.
[INCREDULOUS SIDENOTE: Since embracing Google Reader, I have not visited the Mayor's Official Blog directly. Having done so tonight, I immediately noticed one good thing and one bad thing. The good thing was that the picture of the mayor sitting on his front porch, surrounded by family and staffers with his wife sitting on his lap had been replaced by a picture of just the mayor. Good call. The bad thing was the link to "Brule Native American Concert LIVE and Coyote Wisdom Workshop: Native American Techniques for Healing Body, Mind and Spirit Hosted by KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser". Are you kidding me? On the official blog of the mayor of Kansas City, paid for by Kansas City residents and people who work in and visit Kansas City, you have a link to some supernatural, New Age, shaman crap? Spell this word with me:
U N P R O F E S S I O N A L.]
The citizen's of Kansas City (a group to which I can proudly proclaim I do not belong) paid for this (with my wise and pithy responses interspersed...any bolding or italicizing is mine):
"from Funk's Front Porch by Funk
This week I’m writing the newsletter instead of Gloria.
As I’m sure you’re aware, nine members of the City Council co-sponsored an ordinance on Thursday that would place severe restrictions on would-be volunteers for the city.
Even a casual read of this proposal reveals it to be bad policy.
For instance, there are 7,694 volunteers in our Parks Department alone. This ordinance would require those generous citizens – even the ones who give up a Saturday afternoon to clean their neighborhood park – to undergo hours and hours of antidiscrimination and harassment training and a criminal background check.
And it would stipulate that not one of those thousands of people be related to anyone in the Parks Department. So if a city worker is short on help for a special event, they can’t ask their spouse or kids to lend a hand. It would be illegal.
In fact, my colleagues on the City Council wouldn’t be allowed to have their kids come in and stuff envelopes, help answer phones or even move furniture around.
So, yes, it’s bad policy."
O.K., just that first sentence alone tells you this is going to be a bumpy ride. As HORRENDOUS as Ms. Squitiro's contributions to this trainwreck have been, this could only get worse. At least before, the mayor could (lamely) claim some sort of plausible (ha!) deniability.
Not on this one.
No, Mr. Mayor, it's really not bad policy.
The actions of anyone performing duties for the city, especially in the public eye (whether it's in a public park or city hall) reflect on the city they are serving. I don't understand what it is about this concept that is so difficult to comprehend.
Individuals performing duties on behalf of the government of Kansas City should not engage in discriminatory behavior. They shouldn't sexually harass someone. They should not have a criminal background (above a certain well defined and documented threshold...parking tickets...no problem...rape and murder...we need to talk)
City officials should not be dragging in friends and family members to make up for the fact they they don't have the professional staff and resources to run the city!
Governing a city the size of Kansas City is not a mom and pop, "you make the costumes, I'll paint the sets, we'll use dad's garage for a stage, let's put on a show!" operation.
City government needs professional staffing. Not amatuers and well meaning (but incompetent) volunteers. Especially at the executive level.
"But smart policy is not the point here.
This ordinance is a bald-faced, mean-spirited political attack on me."
Wah, wah! All the cool kids are picking on me!
You are the one who made the decision (well, maybe it was you...maybe not) to step onto the political ballfield and get yourself elected mayor of Kansas City. Either suck it up, walk it off, rub some dirt on it and get back in the game, or take your worn out, second-hand, flea market baseball glove and go home.
But don't whine.
"To understand this, you only have to ask yourself one question: Why now?
This ordinance is obviously a reaction to a lawsuit against the City, me and my wife. Yet if it were to pass, it would have no impact on that lawsuit. Worse, it would essentially render a guilty verdict in that lawsuit without due process. And this is America. I’m sure that if we could somehow strip this whole situation of petty personal politics, my colleagues would agree that conviction without fair trial is fundamentally wrong.
It’s especially wrong in a case such as ours, in which the allegations are absolutely false. I am very confident that we will prevail through the judicial process.
But when you ask, Why now? You have to take into consideration everything that is happening in this administration, the progress that is being made.
"This ordinance is obviously a reaction to a lawsuit against the City, me and my wife."
Gee, ya think?
The Mayor's actions have shined a laser-like spotlight on some unbelievably archaic legal vulnerabilities in Kansas City's existing HR policies. The City Council has rightly decided to plug those gaping holes and limit the city's future liability by adopting new ordinances.
"Yet if it were to pass, it would have no impact on that lawsuit. Worse, it would essentially render a guilty verdict in that lawsuit without due process. And this is America. I’m sure that if we could somehow strip this whole situation of petty personal politics, my colleagues would agree that conviction without fair trial is fundamentally wrong.
It’s especially wrong in a case such as ours, in which the allegations are absolutely false. I am very confident that we will prevail through the judicial process."
Didn't he just say all of that a minute ago? Are there no professional proof readers in city hall either?
"But when you ask, Why now? You have to take into consideration everything that is happening in this administration, the progress that is being made."
No. We really don't. All we have to take into consideration is whether the charges against you and your wife are true or false. Pretty sure a judge's instructions to a jury will say pretty much he same.
"In just 14 months, we have adopted a fiscally prudent budget, a debt policy and an economic development and incentive policy, which the city never had. We’ve passed two important sales taxes – one for infrastructure and another for transportation – by historically wide margins. We’ve placed on the November ballot the best light rail proposal this city has ever seen, and we’ve made so much progress toward a regional transit system that I predict we’ll see portions of that system up and running before my first term is complete.
And now we’re starting to move forward on bold new initiatives that will have a profound impact on the future of our city. Over the last two months, I’ve reached out to my fellow mayors across the metro area and across the state – all the way to St. Louis – in an effort to build alliances. As result, we’re now taking the first steps toward creating a metropolitan mayors caucus and a statewide urban partnership through which we can impact lawmaking at the state and federal level to improve conditions in our city. Since May, I have been working with leaders from across the city to develop new ideas for economic development in the most distressed areas of our city. In the coming weeks, I will appoint a group of leaders to move those forward, turn them into plans and policies which greatly improve the quality of life in neighborhoods that have been left out of recent revitalization efforts.
With this ordinance, some of my colleagues on the City Council are diverting attention and energy away from these efforts and toward something that has very little impact on our city.
I know that some of you are skeptical about that statement. Some would say that I’m the one who is stirring unnecessary conflict because I insist on having my wife up here. If she would only stay home, all of this would go away.
And that might be true, were it not for one stubborn fact: Gloria has been essential to all of our successes."
Oh please, please, explain how a nepotistic, unpaid, unaccountable "volunteer" has been "essential to all our successes".
What, specifically, has she contributed that couldn't have been accomplished more efficiently and less controversially by a paid, professional, experienced, Executive Assistant?
"She is a vital member of my team, every bit as important as my chief of staff, my writers, policy analysts and scheduler. In fact, she’s the primary reason why we’ve pushed all of these big initiatives in such a short period of time. Because the biggest, most unique contribution she makes is to constantly push me to keep moving forward on my agenda."
So the mayor of a major metropolitan area considers his wife, an unelected, inexperienced, uneducated, seemingly crass, and universally unwelcomed former doula, to be "...a vital member of my team, every bit as important as my chief of staff, my writers, policy analysts and scheduler."
Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, if you don't have the drive and the initiative and the motivation to do your job on your own without the constant pushing and nagging of your wife...to the point that she needs to have an office next to yours in city hall...then perhaps this isn't the job for you. You might be happier doing something else like, I don't know, being an Auditor somewehere.
"So, in short, she’s your standard elected official’s spouse: the driving force behind the leader. What makes us most unique is that we don’t hide it. We don’t pretend that she’s just an adornment to my public life, someone who surfaces now and then to smile at a banquet. Instead, we are who we are: a man and woman who have been deeply in love and partnership for 29 years, and who will continue to be so for 30 more, should we have the grace to live so long.
And if you value what this administration has accomplished, if you share hope and faith for what we aim to accomplish, you will help me oppose this vicious political attack.
I urge you to contact you to contact your City Council member and tell them not to enact this bad ordinance. Tell them it will hurt the city’s ability to work with volunteers, and it will hurt this City Council and Mayor’s ability to make ours a city that works for you.
The "...standard elected official’s spouse..." doesn't have government office space, they don't speak for their spouse on matters of policy and they don't make hiring, staffing and security decisions.
Jesus H. Christ On A Crutch.
Good luck, Kansas City.
I cannot think of a more perfect rationalization for urban sprawl than Kansas City, Missouri.