Saturday, May 31, 2008


Everyone has been complaining about the lack of posts. Sorry about that. I've been busy with marriage, gardening, marathon training and the mayor's office. I think we should all come to grips with the fact that I'm going to be one of these post-every-couple-weeks-with-a-laundry-list-post kind of bloggers. Much as that sucks.

First, marriage. Allie and I are doing great. Very much in love. Which is all too vast and personal and wonderful to express in this forum. We're slowly remodeling the kitchen.

Second, gardening. We've been eating lettuce and radishes for weeks now. Got some chard that's ready to pick. In early spring we had some nice over-winter spinach that was fabulous. Now all the hot weather plants are in the ground -- tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, eggplant, ground cherries, various herbs. And the asparagus I planted a while back has come up and now we've got some wispy little trees here and there. Over Memorial Day weekend I spent many hours out in the yard, listening to audiobooks and just loving every minute of it.

With the running, I'm still technically in my recovery period after the Flying Pig. Official training for Chicago doesn't start for a couple of weeks. But I've pretty much already started laying the foundation. My plan for Chicago is to run three days a week, and bike and do strength training the other three. For the three running days, I'll do two with some sort of speed or agility/stride training and one long run. I've been doing this schedule for about two weeks now and I'm actually feeling myself get stronger. I also seem to have bumped up a notch on the speed meter. I'm now clicking along at less than 10 minutes a mile, once I get warmed up. That's pretty encouraging.

In the mayor's office, it's been very exciting. As a candidate, Mark campaigned for a regional transit system built around light rail. Once in office, he started really pushing it. Soon it became his number one priority. All along the way the newspaper and political smart people have been basically calling him a fool saying there's no way you can get a regional, multi-county system approved by voters all at once. They've all been saying you have to start with a "starter line" -- a short showpiece running from downtown to some of the tourist attractions. "Every other city has done it that way," they say.

Well, they think he's nuts, and we think they're out of touch with the mood of the public. And we finally got to prove it. We were able to have a poll conducted which showed overwhelming support for the concept of a regional system and better-than-50-percent support for a sales tax for that concept. Light rail has never polled that well in KC (except once when it was on the ballot as an impossible plan to span the whole city with no tax increase, which was later repealed). What's more, the "starter line" concept polled miserably.

So we had a chance to gloat around the office knowing all the political wisdom was wrong and we were right. Of course, the know-it-alls haven't admitted this. They've either continue insisting that a starter line is the best way to go, even though all evidence suggests it'll lose, or they act like they agreed with us all along.

Kind of fun, kind of infuriating.

So now the push is to try to get it on the November ballot. To do that, we have to convince three county legislatures to go for it which remains a pretty daunting task at the time of this writing. But yesterday we hosted a summit of local elected officials and about half of them agreed that November's the best time to do it. Others want to wait until next year.

Either way, the mayor is big winner. Let's say he "fails" to get it on this year's ballot, and it's delayed a year. That's still years and years ahead of how conventional political wisdom had things going. They said that we'd only get a regional system after KCMO approves, builds and gets up and running a small starter line. Once the outlying communities see how cool it is, the wisdom goes, they'll want it for themselves. Considering that it'll take at least 7 years to get the first segment up and running, you're looking at well over a decade before the region is on board.

But now, thanks to the skyrocketing cost of gas and the frenzy for "green" solutions, and the mayor's dogged determination, the entire debate has shifted and the timeline has accelerated.

So consider this. The two previous mayors each served two terms. They both had "legacy" projects -- big ticket developments like an arena, downtown entertainment district, improvements to Brush Creek, etc. All of these things happened in their second terms and they were Kansas City-only projects in the hundreds of millions. Now it's looking highly likely that this mayor will have pushed for and won a $1.2 billion, possibly $1.8 billion project done in collaboration with three counties and nearly 50 municipalities -- barely halfway through his first term.

And there will be no disputing that this is his initiative. In the early stages it was only him pushing it -- driving in his Toyota to distant suburbs to meet with mayors to sell the idea, taking constant hits from the newspaper and those in the political know. They all came out on the record, saying loudly and clearly that it was a bad idea, that it would fail, yadda yadda yadda.

During our first year, when things were rocky, all the people "in the know" were saying this mayor's a failure, a one-termer. There was talk of a recall effort, then a silly ill-fated one, and a lot of these folks -- including newspaper columnists -- thought it was plausible. I think a lot these folks still think he's a bumbling mayor, that his chances of reelection are slim. But I'm telling you, they are drunk on conformity. By the end of his first term, this mayor will have so many accomplishments, will have such enormous name recognition, that there will be no way any of these tired old power players will have a chance to beat him.

There. How's that for a rant. Good thing this blog is by invitation only, huh?


MAWG said...

Hey Joe. Great hearing from you. City hall actually sounds exciting.

I'm cool with the random posts - just wish you could figure out a way to have it feed my google reader and still be invitational so I didn't have to keep checking. But its a minor complaint.

Applecart T. said...

(yes, i read and digested and appreciate the rest of the post, but here's my main comment):

glad your kitchen is coming along!