Tag Archives: Joe Miller
Hearne’s been sending me ideas all week for things to write about.
He wants me to write about Gloria again. But I can’t upload vomit.
He wants me to write about Tony’s Kansas City. But it’s the same thing with diarrhea.
He wants the “top reasons why Kansas City will never truly make it to the Big Time.” But that would be pretty stupid coming from me because there are a lot more reasons why I won’t.
He wants me to write a “road map for KC to mend its small town mentality ways.” But I don’t really think KC has a “small town” mentality. I think it has a suburban mentality, which is worse. So my road map is this: Remember that Kansas City is a fucking city.
But that’s not really enough for a column. And not just any column. My last column.
I’ve been writing professionally for about 17 years.
I’ve got boxes and boxes of clips and a whole wall of awards. I’ve written a book that was published by a top publisher and got great reviews and won a couple of awards. Yet I’m getting paid less now for articles than I did when I first started out.
For this 10-post series I’m writing for Hearne I’m receiving $500. And I had to fight to get that much.
I’m also working on a story for the Lawrence Journal-World about the Kansas Book Festival for which I’ll earn $50.
In the late 90s, when I was a largely inexperienced hack, I got paid $100 for the same kind of article.
By contrast, I sold my book for $150,000.
In 2003, a debate team from Central High School finished tenth in the nation – an unlikely accomplishment, considering the school had been declared “academically deficient” by the state of Missouri a year earlier.
Five years later, debaters from Central won the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues’ national championship.
Central has won the city championship more times than any other school, even Lincoln College Prep, a school students have to score high on tests to get into.
And dozens and dozens of Central debaters have gone on to college, many of them with full-ride scholarships, while more than half of their classmates have wound up being drop outs.
Now the Central High debate program is a thing of the past.
I’ve done a lot of drugs in my life, but I’ve rarely been as high as I was on Election Night in late March 2007.
I had volunteered for a campaign on a whim, and I wound up my masterminding an impossible upset of a popular politician who was the odds on favorite at the beginning of the race. I got a little help from the Star, of course, but they can’t take credit for it, so the victory was mine as much as any other’s.
So when the results came in and we learned that we’d won by the narrowest of margins, I felt a rush beyond compare.
One of the most disturbing moments in my short run in politics came right at the end, when I was working on the campaign for light rail in fall 2008.
I was the Mayor’s Office rep on the campaign committee, which was chaired by C. Patrick McLarney, a lawyer who worked for a long time at Shook Hardy & Bacon and who is involved with all kinds of civic stuff. Anyway, we had just finished a meeting with the committee and a few of us were lingering in the conference room at Shook’s headquarters when McLarney declared that he had an idea for how we’d get voters’ attention.
“We’ll just have Tracy stand out by the highway with her shirt off,” he said.
A year or so after I moved to Kansas City, the Star offered an opportunity for select readers to come and tour their newsroom and printing plant, and to attend an editorial meeting. I signed up for it without disclosing that I was a reporter for the Pitch.
I was in my early 30s then and I was the youngest person on the tour. All of us were white. When we met with the Star’s editorial board, one of the older members of our touring party, a man from a suburb on the far edge of the metropolitan area, told how he basked in the paper everyday, reading the sports page first, then the front section, then local and business, and finally the lifestyle section, and the comics.
A little more than 10 years ago, when I still bought into the notion of the honorable American newspaper, and there wasn’t yet a lot of talk about its eminent death, I traveled to Omaha for a journalism conference where I heard a reporter from the Kansas City Star named Mike McGraw say, “I love documents,” and my career instantly came into focus.
“I love studying them, skimming them, sifting through them,” he said, leaning comfortably against a podium in a hotel ballroom, in a voice of sincerity and wonder and ease. And I understood, finally.
OK, so this is some serious inside-baseball shit that will only appeal to current and former New Times / Village Voice Media Gossip Whores.
But it must be told.
Christine Brennan is VVM’s editorial second in command, the person who oversees thew chain’s flagship paper, the Village Voice, and it’s a mystery how she got there. As far as I know, she’s only written and published one story in her career and it was unequivocally libelous.
Seriously. Just read it.
Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of libel law should be able to see the burning red flags that wave all through it.
Anyway, the story is about Brennan’s ex-husband, a former Westword staff writer, with whom I once worked at an alt weekly in Boulder.
Long before I had any idea that Mark Funkhouser would become mayor, much less that I would work in the Mayor’s Office, he pulled me aside at a City Council meeting and said that a recent story I’d written was “wretched, absolute drivel.”
He was right.
The story in question was a fictional piece about Kansas City set in the far future, a total slam on then-Mayor Kay Barnes. The upshot was that the city had become a living hell, with pot holes the size of Midtown and sidewalks in such disrepair that people needed dune buggies just to get around.
And it was horribly mean. What I remember most is its reference to the factoid that Barnes had been a sex therapist in the 1970s.
I wrote: “It must’ve been aversion therapy.”
When I came to Kansas City to work for the Pitch in 2000, I was an enemy invader.
A few months before I arrived for my first day of work, the paper had been bought by a corporation, New Times, and there was a lot of tension between the new ownership and the old staff. For years, The Pitch (then Pitch Weekly) had been your classic alternative weekly staffed by underpaid, bleeding-heart, left wing writers who were free to write about whatever the hell they wanted to write, and who, truth be told, weren’t that good at it. New Times, on the other hand, owned a dozen or so papers around the country that all looked exactly the same, with formulaic stories that were beholden to no ideology, left-wing, right-wing or other-wing, and they’d won a shitload of journalism awards.
Every once in a while, a stranger will tell me they appreciated the way I handled the whole Funkhouser situation, the way I went from being the former mayor’s top lackey to being all over the newspaper and TV news spilling all the secrets of the administration. The kind words bring little comfort, though, because I know from experience that in Kansas City no one ever criticizes anyone to their face, and that for every compliment I’ve received, there are likely dozens and hundreds of people who think I’m a schmuck, even people I’ve never met.
As I’ve watched new Kansas City mayor Sly James do everything right his first few weeks in office I’ve thought about everything we did wrong four years ago. ..
Where to begin?
The most obvious place to start would be two days after the election when all of us who worked on KC mayor Mark Funkhouser’s campaign read the Star and learned that the guy we got elected would have his wife working in the Mayor’s Office, at Steve Glorioso’s old desk.
But this is my confession, so a better place might be the week before the inauguration when I got a phone call from Star reporter DeAnn Smith.
A few months after I quit my job in the Mayor’s Office, I read one of Gloria Squitiro’s “Notes from Funk’s Front Porch,” which was posted on one of the local blogs. In it, she wrote, “To borrow a phrase from Jerry Garcia, ‘It’s been a long strange trip.”
I wanted to write a comment ripping her for this.
For one, the phrase is, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Second, it’s a Bob Weir song, not a Garcia (though he does sing harmony on the line in question). Lastly, the lyric was written by Robert Hunter.
It’s a testament of missed opportunities.
Once again, the Star is the big winner on Election Day in KCMO.
During the primary, the paper of record conquered the Titans of Industry, the Chamber of Commerce and the secretive cabal of CEOs known as the Civic Council, when it backed Mike Burke and Sly James over Deb Hermann.
For the general, for the coup de grace, they vanquished the King Maker, the Old Mr. Moneybags who had never backed a loser in a mayor’s race: Mr. James B. Nutter.
So now we know, once and for all, who runs this city.
A word to Mayor-Elect Sly James from a man who has been 29th floor and failed:
Editor Rule #1: Protect your reporters.
Even if you know you’re going to have to downsize them on Friday, protect them.
If someone attacks one of your reporters: lash out, fight. It’s your job to make reporters look good and feel happy. And no one, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE can make them feel bad, except YOU. Punish all extra-editorial transgressions immediately and severely.
If, say, some overweight, droopy-eyed blogger were to refer to one of your reporters as, say, a chickenhead, it is your obligation decree that said blogger “will never appear in the pages of MY FUCKING PAPER except in stories written for the sole purpose of DESTROYING him!” (Decree must be shouted.)
This is especially true for a publication such as the Pitch, where you have the freedom to write really nasty things about really nasty people.
That thing I wrote last week about voting for Mike Burke? Total lie.
It wasn’t a lie at the time I wrote it. But today, as I stepped out of my house and headed for the polling place, I realized that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Maybe it was the conversation I had this weekend with one of my neighbors. He said he was voting for Sly James because his wife, who used to work right in the middle of everything at City Hall, said Burke is exactly the same kind of leader we’ve always had. He’s always been part of the in-crowd, and the in-crowd is who has made this city the fucked up mess that it is.
Hard to come up with a good response to that one.
So as I strolled down to the old Catholic church where I do my voting, I thought about who I might vote for.
1. First, a full disclosure: I’m going to vote for Mike Burke.
2. The troglodyte spewed all-caps glee all over his blog Saturday morning about how the Kansas City mayor’s race had “finally, thankfully” gone negative. He posted a YouTube video of an “attack ad” paid for by King Maker James B. Nutter, Sr., on behalf of Burke.
I watched it.
It’s not an attack ad. It’s a simple debate argument leadership style — the only issue the two too-friendly candidates have agreed to debate about.
The pro-Burke video offers a couple of examples of Sly James’s apparent indecisiveness and juxtaposes them to examples of Burke’s supposed decisiveness. Debate 101. All extremely fair.
Of course, it’s no surprise that the sickly cave dweller has sensationalized it.
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?
I know we’re not supposed to say anything bad about the dead, especially the recently murdered.
But in the case of Yuri Ives, who was gunned down in his mansion in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast last week, some negativity seems in order, if only to illustrate just how severely life can turn around and bite you in the ass.
At very least, Yuri Ives’s story, or what little I know about it, is probably the most brutal example of irony that I’ve ever seen.
I first met Yuri several years ago when we were both serving on an obscure public board called the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee. He left a very distinct, not entirely pleasant impression on me.
Eight things I’m thinking about on the first day of the Kansas City mayoral general election:
1. The Star is the big winner. Tuesday’s election proved that the morning paper is the most powerful political institution in town.
Not too long ago, I thought the Star had lost its power.
A big chunk of the newsroom destroyed by downsizing. A shriveled news hole. Constantly scooped by a porn-crazed trogladite.
But it seems they’ve only grown in power: Fewer people reading; fewer people voting; and the readers and the voters are pretty much the same few.
In this election, the paper of record showed that its more powerful than the titans of industry in this city – both the Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Council, a secretive but well-intentioned cabal of CEOs from the city’s biggest corporations in the city – came out early for Deb Hermann.