Friday, June 24, 2005

an affair to remember

Back when I was pushing my skinny, beDockered ass around City Hall, the rumor was that he's boinking her. And one of my favorite memories was when I was interviewing a department head who accidentally referred to the lucky lawyer as "Herb Crone," and we both laughed histerically. But despite shouting "Holy shit!" twice during the first two paragraphs, my favorite part of David's story was Steve Glorioso providing a (lame) definition for patronage. Dude. You are patronage!

But seriously, Herb and Kay are premium Grade-A Kansas City dumbasses. I penetrated Kohn's lair just once during my time at the Pitch. He has a corner office on a high floor of One Kansas City. I was there to interview him about a young lawyer in his firm who was running for city council, but at one point he bid me to come by the window and check out the view. "We need to do something here," he said to me, or something like that, in a tone of voice like that of one engaged in a friendly argument.

It was an odd moment. I rarely got apointments with high-level cronies like Kohn. I usually had to mug them at public meetings, so there was hardly ever any banter. But here he was pulling me aside to make a point about our ailing downtown.

I've thought about the moment often. It says so much about our city. Few in the city's inner circle of leadership knew what to do with the Pitch. I think their preference would have been to dismiss it as hedonistic tripe, and a few of them did, but even the most disdainful among the Kay club had to admit that we carried a young demographic they had no clue how to reach. And, frankly, most of the time had no interest in reaching. Except when it came to the revitalization of downtown. My sense is that they were sincerely baffled that the alt weekly would continually shoot arrows at their revitalization plans. So there were a few of these awkward "Heh, heh, c'mere son" moments (not just with me, but with other reporters and editors on staff).

I have no idea what impression the exchange left on Kohn, if it left any at all. But for me it remains a defining moment in KC dumbassedness. I fantasize sometimes about responding, "No, we don't need to do anything here. Just let downtown rot."

There's an old saying, do what you love and the money will follow. I don't see why this couldn't apply to cities. KC loves to be a homey place, with big yards and porches and nice stores conveniently located nearby. KC loves places that sprout up with hardly any help from the city -- "Restaurant Row" on 39th St, River Market, Crossroads. All the big projects -- every last one of them -- have failed. They're like marketing blogs; no one wants to visit.

So we're gonna have this big, stupid arena with no tenant. H&R Block will have offices downtown (thanks to tax breaks), as opposed to office 20 blocks south on Main (thanks to tax breaks). And we might have a phony, tax-assisted entertainment district to go along with it (where black folks will be turned away for the style of clothes they wear). And it'll probably pull in a few Johnson Countians who are too scared to brave the 'hood and parallel parking arounf 39th St. or west Westport. But the life of the city will remain those areas that just happened on their own.

So here's my arrogant advice: Scrap the stadium and downtown deal. Chip off a few million for infrastructure improvements and small business loans for burgeoning commercial corridors like St. John Avenue, Troost, parts of Prospect. Declare KC a gay-friendly haven from the rest of Missouri (and really dig in on this one -- go national -- have renegade marriage-a-thons at City Hall -- wave a pink Rebel flag). Then market the city as a cozy-yet-cosmopolitan, cheap-yet-luxurious city that'll more than likely never face terrorist attack. And that it's a great place to raise a family, so long as you don't have kids in public school (hence the gay angle).

But what do I know? I'm certainly not schtoofing the mayor.

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