I’ve just finished a book called The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson, who wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was recently made into a movie starring George Clooney. Ronson’s latest book, which comes out in May, is about “the madness industry,” and it says that a disproportionately high number of psychopaths are in leadership positions.
When I read that, I started thinking about all the characters I got to know during my stint at City Hall and wondering which ones might be dangerously insane.
But first, let’s have a little refresher course in psychology. Psychopathy is a unique condition in the annals of headshrinkdom. It refers to people who “are so deficient in empathy and conscience that they pose a threat to their fellow human beings.”
So who in city politics fits that description?
Über scum political operative Steve Glorioso comes to mind, of course. As does Terry Riley, the bullying councilman for the southeast part of the city.
And the name at the top of the list?
Northland Councilman Ed Ford.
The best example of his potential madness is a story I wrote about a few years ago for a different website. There was a downtown development deal that went bad. The deal had some tax breaks, which were taking money away from the Kansas City School District. A nice, non-psychopathic member of the Council met with the developer and worked it out so that the school district would once again receive its share of the taxes on the property.
But Ed Ford swooped in and killed the deal.
Because the development was in his district, and he wasn’t consulted on the deal.
At the City Council meeting where Ford bullied his fellow Council members into voting the deal down, he made a big deal about respect for his power in his own district, but said nothing about the poor kids who would have less as a result of his actions.
Who cares about impoverished kids? All that mattered was Ford’s ego.
I first started to see this aspect of him soon after my old boss Mark Funkhouser got into office.
Remember the whole Francis Semler thing?
Where Funk unwittingly appointed a member of the racist Minutemen organization to the Parks Board? Right in the heat of the controversy for that deal, the other members of the Council passed a resolution scolding the new mayor for his appointment.
What’s not known is that Ford was the main instigator of that power move.
It wasn’t because Ed Ford cares about immigrants, I can tell you that.
It was revenge because Funk didn’t appoint Ford to be Mayor Pro Tem. (Incidentally, that ‘s the same reason why Terry Riley was constantly conspiring, often with Ford, to make Funk fail.)
And after Funkyman removed Ford from his position as chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ford vowed to “destroy” Funkhouser. And he spent pretty much every minute of his time as a Council member working to that end.
For instance, the ordinance banning Gloria from City Hall was originally Ford’s idea.
All this stuff comes to my mind today not only because of the Ronson book but also because The Kansas City Star has enthusiastically endorsed Ford for re-election. At the same time, the paper has reported a lot about how the soon-to-be-ex-mayor alienated his fellow members of the Council.
This is true. But it’s only part of the story.
The fact is, that the Council had a number of very seasoned politicians, some of whom might well be psychopaths, who were doing everything they could to make sure that Funkhouser failed.
Not once, so far as I’ve seen, has the paper pointed this out or challenged the perpetrators.
Now the paper is pushing for another mayoral candidate without specific experience with City Hall politics: Sly James.
That’s all well and good. But please allow me to make this prediction:
If James doesn’t give Ed Ford everything he wants — Mayor Pro Tem, committee chair positions — Ford is going to devote his life to taking James down.
He’s kind of crazy that way.