KCUR FM’s Steve Kraske finally found a sweet spot…
He set off a few fireworks in an otherwise boring campaign with his final question in today’s mayoral debate. In the form of a loaded softball; “Where do you take visitors when your friends come to visit KC?”
Despite months of coaching from consultant Mary O’Halloran, candidate Mike Burke swung limply with an answer straight out of a – yawn – Chamber of Commerce video.
“Well…the Plaza and the stadiums," Burke mumbled. "And I’m looking forward to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.”
Next came attorney Sly James.
James loosened his necktie, and swung for the white picket fences of the undecided neighborhoods.
“We start at GiGi’s on Troost for jazz; on to BB’s Lawnside BBQ for the blues; Bryant’s BBQ, and then to compare and contrast, of course–to Gates BBQ. Then down to the Trafficway to LaFonda for some good Mexican! At my house, we like to eat when company visits.”
Upon which Burke interrupted and blurted out: “You’re gonna have some FAT FRIENDS!”
James didn’t miss a beat.
“You know, I like people who look like me," he shot back. "We also show them the stadiums, and the very best weekend for company is any First Friday, to go to the Crossroads. And we always finish up with the Negro Leagues and the Jazz Museum.”
Point to James.
Mikey, didn’t they teach you in kindergarten or in Weight Watchers? It’s rude to use the F word! As in "fat."
I could score the first 55 minutes of the debate, but it was so unbelievably boring. Kraske tried for 10 minutes to breathe life into things by asking why the negative ad from Nutter wasn’t pulled. (See my earlier post). But neither candidate would bite.
Basic differences on the weighty issues of the day?
James was adamant that the Polsinelli law firm will get no tax subsidy to relocate two blocks away on the Plaza. Burke, not so much. Imagine that, from a development lawyer no less. Tax abatements are his bread and butter.
James suggested that abatements should actually cure BLIGHT, (which was in the original definition and requirement.) He gave props to Portland, for redirecting at least 18% of any new taxes for housing and distressed areas.
James mentioned he served on the Land Clearance board, blunting Burke’s charge he lacks experience. James wants Kansas City to “wean ourselves from any sense of entitlement.” Which appeals to key white voters on the Country Club Plaza corridor who will probably decide this election.
Burke’s answers were so vague and disinteresting I couldn’t even Tweet them.
He did say, “Kansas is picking off our businesses one by one.” Said that twice in one minute. Awkward. Maybe his note cards got stuck together??
Burke: “I’ve worked with Westport CAN. We put in two Hispanic speaking officers and crime went down 50%. Riding around doesn’t reduce crime. We need to break up the cultural reluctance to be a snitch for the purpose of increasing your safety.”
James: “We need to change the focus of the officers. Busting a kid for dope, taking an officer to the station for 4 hours of reports is not a good investment. How long are we willing to wait to change? Let’s start right now.”
Burke: blah blah blah.
James: “There’s been no progress on Prospect for 30 years. You might need new people.”
Red Light cameras:
James: I’m for saving lives.
Burke: I’m for saving lives too.
Strong mayor form of government:
Burke: “The call for that only comes up after we’ve had a problem, a weaker mayor. I support the current charter, maybe with a tweak allowing me to get a resignation from everyone on every board and commission.”
James: I disagree. Cleaver and Barnes were not weak, and they supported a strong mayor form of government. I will work hard for a Strong Mayor Form.
James: “During my SECOND term as your mayor. That way, people will know I won’t benefit from the change. It’s just the right thing to do.”
The other funny moment in the debate was in response to Kraske’s question, “What role will your opponent play after you are elected?”
Burke: blah blah blah
James: “I want Mike to do something where he has some passion. So making KC the American Capital of the Arts. But absent that, he IS a good driver…!”
The crowd roared at James’ reverse image of Burke Driving Miss Daisy.
Overall, Burke did much better, was less nervous in this, the final debate, than the KCTV5 debate.
And it became clearer that this is a choice between The Nice Beige Man/The Insider in the Suit, and The Affable Guy Who Gets People Laughing and Thinking about the Future…while eating with people who “look like him”.