Midwest Voices

To old annoyances soon forgot

Updated: 2013-12-28T23:46:24Z


Special to The Star

This is my last column of the year and I am faced with a minor internal dilemma. Do I channel the spirit of the holiday season and look upon the good around our fair metro? Or do I use this as an opportunity to take one last swing at the people and policies keeping our city and country from moving forward? Well, unlike the politicians supposedly representing our interests, I will take the road less traveled, a path down the middle.

Since it’s always nice to end things on a positive note, let’s start with some dispersal of Santa’s coal and for that I will pilfer from my father for a minute. Jerold Westfall is a very smart and insightful man who worked his way up through a company, raised three children and provided them with opportunities he was never given. And while he has a tendency to indiscriminately refer to everyone in a position of power as a moron, I believe he does it out of a concern that our country is becoming less a place for fairness and opportunity than it once was.

(Though I have also heard him use the word moron to describe local newscasters and game show contestants, so it may have more than one meaning.)

He thinks that politicians should get only one six-year term to serve, that lobbying should be a federal offense with a minimum of five years in a non-resort-like prison, and that too much of our country’s time and money is spent overseas while people here go hungry and homeless.

While I don’t know if I would approach things exactly the same way, I do agree that the pervasiveness of money, and the fortress-like political structure we have, does keep us from making the tough, yet sensible decisions that many Americans on both sides are ready to make.

On a more local slant, I would also put coal in the stockings of our city’s ruling class of business, government and civic leaders who tout the importance of the public voice, yet often operate in the shadows with secret school district plans, development deals and a Tamba Hali-like push to get a one terminal airport, as evidence.

More coal offerings go to road construction planners, sensationalist local television news and our inability to act as a region instead of dozens of little cities vying for competitive advantage. And anyone who doesn’t realize Google picked KC for its long standing as a great product test market, gets his or her stockings confiscated.

OK, I promised a happy ending so here it goes: KC sports teams, local arts, live music, great restaurants, penguins at the zoo, downtown hotel development without a tax incentive, possible cease fire in the economic border war, the amount of KC’s charitable giving of time and money, and Google Fiber (why they came doesn’t matter if we do something with it).

And finally, a recognition that while faced with geographic and historical divides, and differences in class and race and beliefs, we share a spirit of work and play and concern for others unique to KC that binds us together and, if we embrace it, will guide us to better days to come. Happy new year.

Robert Westfall of Kansas City is the founder of Instinct, an innovation firm. To reach him, send email to oped@kcstar.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108. The 2014 Midwest Voices panel, featuring 10 writers from the last decade, will begin next month.

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