Driving Mr. Funkhouser

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Terrifying Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser was offered a free Honda Civic from a local dealership, said "yes," and is facing blowback for taking the expensive (city-approved) gift.

Funkhouser called the concerns much ado about nothing.

He said there is nothing illegal about him accepting the Civic when one becomes available in a few weeks. There is no additional cost to the city, he said, and Honda of Tiffany Springs expects nothing in return other than free publicity.

He said he cannot afford a new car.

"It is a nice new car," he said. "The new mayor is not mentally challenged. Somebody offers you a brand new car you take it."

Duke Cunningham pauses in his prison cell, looks up from up the tiny model of the "Dukestir" he's building, and wishes he thought of that excuse.

Obviously if elected officials are going to take gifts, "well-publicized and declared" is the way to go.

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  1. He looks like Saruman

  2. How can this possibly be legal? As a government employee, I have to do ethics training every year where they tell me that I’ll go to jail if I accept any gift, let alone a car. Do they not have ethics in Missouri?

  3. “It is a nice new car,” he said. “The new mayor is not mentally challenged. Somebody offers you a brand new car you take it.”

    It’s great that he refers to himself in the 3rd person…an obvious giveaway that he’s taken lessons from Urkobold.

  4. Damn. Sounds like Funkhouser can Bring Da Graft.

    We want da graft! Give up da graft!
    We want da graft! Give up da graft!

  5. Fools! He distracts you as he seeks the One Ring!

  6. Is “terrifying” referring to just his appearance? That’s enough, but I want to know if there is any further background there.

  7. Is it really immoral if there’s no conflict of interest? This is really just a larger-scale version of accepting a free meal at a restaurant so the owner can have a picture of you shaking his hand on the wall. Illegality, though–I have trouble believing the “the mayor is not mentally challenged” line if he actually thought this was a good idea.

  8. I’ll go to jail if I accept any gift

    No Christmas for you!

  9. Is “terrifying” referring to just his appearance? That’s enough, but I want to know if there is any further background there.

    From the link –

    “Funkhouser called the concerns much ado about nothing.

    He said there is nothing illegal about him accepting the Civic when one becomes available in a few weeks. There is no additional cost to the city, he said, and Honda of Tiffany Springs expects nothing in return other than free publicity.

    He said he cannot afford a new car.”

    Are clueless public officials terrifying enough. I’ll venture a guess that the mayor of K.C. makes more than the K.C. median wage.

  10. Fools! It’s just a distraction from the imperialist-capitalist plot to enslave us all!

  11. He’s apparently 6’8.”

  12. Does this mean he’ll be giving up his $600.00 a month car allowance?

    Seriously, he claims he can’t affort to buy one on his own?? What’s the mayor earn per year in addition to the six hundred a month?

  13. Well, if the citizens of KC don’t like the fact that their mayor is taking gifts, they are free to move to another city.

    It’s not as if they are forced to live there at gunpoint!

  14. From the looks of it Davebo, I’d say “no”. I mean, he instituted the $600/mo allowance after he was sworn in. Also, on that point, who can’t “afford a new car” and gas, particularly a Honda Civic, for $600 a month???

  15. Ammonium says: “How can this possibly be legal? As a government employee, I have to do ethics training every year where they tell me that I’ll go to jail if I accept any gift, let alone a car. Do they not have ethics in Missouri?”

    How is this significantly different than taking campaign contributions in exchange for an unwritten agreement to vote for the largesse demanded in return for the contribution?

  16. J sub D,

    You acted like you were going to answer my question, but I don’t really think you did. Am I missing something here?

  17. highnumber,

    I’d say it’s the resemblance to Christopher Lee.

  18. “Somebody offers you a brand new car you take it.”

    Maybe next the same logic will apply when he’s caught with an underage hooker…

  19. “kwix” said “Also, on that point, who can’t “afford a new car” and gas, particularly a Honda Civic, for $600 a month???”

    Well, for starters, me. I’d have to live in the car. But then I’m not getting a mayor’s pay. I work in the social service field. Yes, that’s right, not everyone is rich and can afford to pay more for a car than he pays for rent.

  20. Al,

    What you wrote makes no sense. You seem to be saying that if someone gave you an extra $600/month for car expenses, you could no longer afford your rent.

  21. I think there’s a misconception as to the nature of the gift. The Honda dealership is not giving Funkhouser the car to own…it’s essentially a free lease for him to carry out his job (the mayor of KC is given a monthly budget to rent a car for official business). The city already has a lease on a Lincoln (which Funkhouser’s predecessor signed the day after she lost her election), but it exceeds the mayor’s monthly car budget and the city is having to pay for that vehicle (the story is unclear as to whether the mayor’s budget is still being applied to this or whether the money is coming from somewhere else). So the city is attempting to get out of the Lincoln lease (which is probably why they don’t want to use that car until the issue is resolved) but the mayor still needs transportation, thus the city needs to find another car for the mayor (one which he must also pay the insurance and gas for out of his monthly budget). So Honda offered a free lease to the mayor’s office (not to the mayor himself) in exchange for the publicity that the move would generate…not necessarily to bribe the mayor or the city in any way (the dealership has no business currently pending with the city).

    I agree that the move is somewhat unseemly and perhaps unethical, but it’s not illegal and it’s not a case of the mayor trying to take free gifts for himself as personal property. The situation could probably have been handled better, but I think this is also a matter of the story being skewed to portray the mayor in the worst possible light, when it may not be merited.

  22. Funkhouser turned down the Lincoln, and has been going to work in his 199X Corolla. He’s trying to make some sort of statement about government waste.
    Taking the Honda is probably a bad idea, but if this is corruption, it’s very, very mild when compared to KC standards. City boss Tom Pendergast (literally) showed Chicago’s first Richard Daley how to run a machine. Since then, the form of the corruption has changed, but not the extent.

  23. I see no problem whatsoever with the car dealership giving the mayor a car. If you are worried about a conflict of interest (i.e. this gift of a car could really be a bribe), you are definitly not familiar with all the sneaky ways you can give someone money.

    I mean, really, they could just give the mayor a duffel bag of cash just as easy.

  24. Number 6,

    I’m reading American Pharaoh right now. Pendergast gets only a passing mention (p 38 of the paperback), listed as one of a list of Irish-American political bosses along with “Boss” Tweed, and James Michael Curley.

    Totally irrelevant to this conversation. I’ll go back to wondering what Al was thinking.

  25. You did not seriously think that a mayor could contend with the will of Honda! There are none who can.

  26. Highnumber- For some reason, Pendergast is all but ignored in the history of machine politics. Yet it’s hard to think of any machine, other than Tammany Hall, that did more to provide a model of municipal corruption than Pendgergast’s.

    The odd thing about machine politics is that it seems to work. Trash gets picked up, the roads get fixed, and the city generally works fairly well. Living under a machine isn’t bad if you remember to vote early and often for the right person. In Kansas City’s case, the machine is gone, the city doesn’t work at all, and the corruption remains.

  27. The mayor looks like a crazed Elliot Gould of M*A*S*H. Maybe the Holiday Inn will let him live in the Mayoral Suite to save the state money, and which store is gooing to clothe him? He might get to eat free at some plush place, too. I’m sure his newspaper will be given him. He isn’t going to be influenced by anyone, since he, unlike most people, has NO sense of gratitude. Like having an affair in the open isn’t cheating, neither is being influenced or used by the private sector.

  28. Of the M*A*S*H cast, I see him more as a latter-day Donald Sutherland.

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