A lot of people were surprised that Freedom Inc. endorsed Jim Rowland for mayor.
That’s because Freedom is a black political organization and Rowland is white.
But I knew he was going to get the group’s support when I looked in Rowland’s October financial report and saw a $1,000 contribution from Gayle Holliday. The combination of Holliday and dollar signs is perhaps the best indicator of what Freedom will do.
Back in 1999, when Kay Barnes was running for mayor, Freedom backed her opponent George Blackwood. Upon winning the election, though, Barnes promptly put Holliday on the payroll.
Her duties were dubious. According to the contract I dug up, she was to advise Barnes on African-American issues and help the white mayor communicate with the community. Other than the contract, I found invoices and check receipts but no evidence that Holliday that actually did any work.
No evidence, that is, until it came time for Barnes to run for re-election. By that time, Freedom was ready to back Barnes. Holliday had done her job.
I found all this when I was trying to figure out why Freedom came out in support of a sales tax measure to add luxury suites to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums a few years back.
The move didn’t make sense because Freedom represents a population that is disproportionately impacted by a regressive sales tax. And to pay for amenities that most Kansas Citians won’t ever enjoy because they can’t afford them.
The reason became obvious when Holliday landed a massive contract to oversee the use of minority subcontractors on the multi-million-dollar project. She earned more than $100,000 per year for what is likely a part-time job.
The results of her work are mixed. When I asked Rowland about it he said Holliday did an amazing job. Of course, he was the head honcho at the Sports Authority at the time so it was basically his job to say that, true or not.
But when I talked to some of my friends associated with Black Chamber of Commerce and other minority business associations, they said Holliday’s work was worth significantly less than $100,000.
It was obviously worth a lot to Holliday. This is the first time I saw her spend money before Freedom made its big sell-out move.
I was surprised, but it made sense when word got out that Rowland agreed to raise $50,000 for Freedom Inc.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.