Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mike Burke or Sly James: Will either provide a new vision of city government or will it be the same old-school politics yet again?

Thinking about the mayor’s race in Kansas City and what my story about Mike Burke’s father, Jim Burke, might say about it.

True, that story is 30 years old. But, it seems to me a man’s relationship to his father never ages. My father was a union man. He was a Republican then the war in Vietnam made him a Democrat. He had a very strong view on loyalty. He also had strong views on Las Vegas and those who spent their money there. He had strong views on the Methodist church and who should sit in the front pew (us!). He couldn’t sing a lick but he believed everybody should sing hymns loud as they could.

He had an incredibly strong view on responsibility. “Son, if you don’t signal that turn, the guy behind you will slam on his brakes, the stupe behind him who is not paying attention will slam into the back of him and two kids in the backseat may die… all because you were two damned lazy to signal.”

So, I hear his voice in my head all the time, even if I don’t want to.

Now, I’m not trying to guess what Mike Burke, one of the candidates for mayor, hears in his head. But, if he hears his father’s voice, and if my 30-year-old story was accurate in relaying his father’s voice, then my guess is he is guided by some of these principles.

I might venture the notion that he is probably committed to development, the way his father apparently was. I see him as a person who considers development a key element in the health of a city. His father’s work was mostly north of the river, where undeveloped land could be purchased – I would guess his focus might return north of the river as often as possible.

One thing we tend to see in politicians is they tend to be formed by their first political successes.

I think this old article might point to the idea that he is well connected. And, I don’t mean connected to Tom Pendergast, as his father was. I just mean connected to the business and political establishment – as his father was. In that way, his roots run deep in the way things have been done in the city across decades. My guess is a vote for Mike Burke is a vote for political stability. It’s up to you whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing.

For me it’s a bad thing. I’m willing to try almost anything in Kansas City as long as it isn’t the same as what’s been going on since Emanuel Cleaver left office.

On the other hand, I like what his father had to say about Pendergast. In the article, his father allowed that the Pendergast years, “were the greatest growth period in Kansa City history.” Now, I’m not in favor of boss politics but I do think it is good for a mayor to keep in mind what made boss politics work – and it wasn’t always muscle. Sometimes it was the fact that people worked which made boss politics work.

My guess is neither candidate has the background to suggest he will provide something new in the mayor’s office. And if there is one thing the city needs, it’s something new.

Because the old school ain’t working.


No comments:

Post a Comment