Yael T. Abouhalkah

Ten gifts for the Kansas City area’s naughty and nice leaders

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (left) had a rough 2014, and next year isn’t shaping up much better. But Kansas City Mayor Sly James appears ready to romp to re-election in 2015.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (left) had a rough 2014, and next year isn’t shaping up much better. But Kansas City Mayor Sly James appears ready to romp to re-election in 2015. The Kansas City Star

Plenty of people are opening presents on Christmas Day. Most of us want the goodies under the tree, but a few won’t like what they unwrap.

That’s a lot like this column, which today hands out praise for some of the Kansas City area’s nice leaders — and lumps of coal for several naughty ones.

For U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, some humility so he can stop insulting the intelligence of the people he represents in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. Yoder’s recent machinations in Congress to help big banks came with the flimsy excuse that he was looking out for the little guy. Upon further review, that explanation fell apart. Yoder should just try being honest next time.

For Kansas City Mayor Sly James, a worthy opponent in the 2015 campaign who will help bring out the best ideas for improving the city. Right now it appears the popular and productive James will coast to re-election. But as we saw when James faced the experienced Mike Burke in 2011, competition can be invigorating for the candidates and enlightening for voters seeking the best person to lead Kansas City.

For Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, the intelligence to come up with a plan that won’t further damage the state. It is a bit disturbing: The same guy who signed deep income tax cuts that helped create a $1.1 billion revenue shortfall is also being counted on in January to unveil a proposal to solve the mess. Brownback and the Legislature hold in their hands the future of the state’s K-12 education system and retirement plans covering thousands of people.

For Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, other women in powerful elected positions. Weir today is the only woman leading a large city or county government in the metropolitan area. That’s a big change from less than a decade ago, when women brought their own styles of leadership to the two Kansas Citys, Lee’s Summit and almost all the counties.

For Cerner Corp. CEO Neal Patterson and UMB Financial Corp. CEO Mariner Kemper, the ability to be more realistic about what local taxpayers actually owe the American Royal the two men fervently support. Should the public really give much assistance to building a smaller events center if Kemper Arena is knocked down, as the two men have basically demanded? I’m not married to keeping Kemper, but the public actually should be asked at some point if they want to invest in a thoughtful revival of the entire West Bottoms area.

For Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, a real clue about what it means to be a pregnant woman seeking an abortion she believes she needs. Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, has introduced a misogynistic bill that ludicrously would require such a woman to get permission from the man responsible for the pregnancy.

For Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the backbone to re-engage in the issues facing the state and doing battle with Republicans in the legislature. True, he’s the biggest lame duck around. But Nixon will need to push back against the onslaught of bills likely to come from lawmakers who want to curtail social services and abortion (see above) while further expanding gun rights.

For Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert, the desire to work more closely across the state line on transit, arts and employment issues. Eilert recently backed a successful effort to save money for The Jo, the county’s bus service, by combining some operations with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. More collaboration is needed to move this region forward, and Eilert and Johnson County need to be at the table for those actions.

For Kansas City Star readers, the knowledge that — heck, yes — you also are leaders in this community. You vote, and you are responsible for funding many of the dreams of local politicians and business executives.

Merry Christmas and let’s kick butt in 2015 finding ways to make this region a better place to live for 2 million people.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter: @YaelTAbouhalkah.