Wednesday, July 06, 2005


On Sunday, I was confined to my bed with the pain of a bruised rib. Allie came up and dropped a copy of the Star on the bed beside me, thus breaking, for a moment, my news fast. Top story: Waris pleads guilty to lying to FBI.

I skimmed the piece, and the sidebar, after which I was quite pleased, not so much because Jackson County appears to be headed for a much needed house cleaning, but because the Star finally used the word "patronage" in an article about a white guy. (For now I'll ignore the fact that this comes only after an indictment and admitted guilt of a felony.)

A few tidbits about Waris that have been missing from the coverage:

When he was Jackson County Executive in the early 1990s, he made a big show of not collecting the tax increase Federal Judge Clark ordered as part of the Kansas City desegregation case.

In case you don't remember, the school district had been unable to pass a bond levy since 1969, the last year the school district's student population was majority white. To end segregation, Clark ordered a costly magnet-school plan, which the district couldn't afford. After a bond initiative failed yet another time, Clark ordered a tax increase himself. The matter made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Clark had no Constitutional right to raise taxes. But he could order the school district to do so, they decided.

Of course the whole ordeal raised quite a ruckus. Folks got all pissy, and the national press decended, and Waris saw his moment to step into the spotlight and play the spoiler. Which, obviously, he couldn't really do. The Supreme Court had made its decision; the tax had to be collected.

But here's the punchline: A little over ten years later, Waris winds up with a fat lobbying contract with the district.

He's one of several folks who've been publically critical of the district's financial business who also wound up sucking a few checks out of the public-school tit.

Worse, I don't have a sense Waris did much of a good job as a lobbyist for the district. This is based on a pretty narrow focus, admittedly.

In spring 2001, I wrote an article for the Pitch about how the state high school activities association wouldn't allow the Central High debate squad compete at a very prestigious tournament. The story generated a bit of buzz. KC school board members met to discuss ways to fight the decision, and several state legislators wrote a letter to the association's executive director.

Well, while Waris was supposedly looking out for the district's best interest in Jefferson City, a bill came up which would have dealt directly with the problem. It came from a representative from the St. Louis area. But apparently Waris had no clue of the board members' and the legislators' desires, because the bill came up and tanked in committee before any of Waris's clients knew anything about it. (I was the one who wound up telling them about it, after the fact.)

Our tax dollars at work, I suppose. Certainly another example of why Democrats aren't necessarily the saviors.

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