As the new year begins, anyone with e-mail is still snickering over Kansas City first lady Gloria Squitiro's 2007 Christmas letter, the details of which we don't need to repeat here.
Meanwhile, City Manager Wayne Cauthen confirms that he's a semifinalist for the city manager's job in Austin, Texas. Who can blame Cauthen for exploring his options after Mayor Mark Funkhouser's bungled late-2007 attempt to force him from office? For Cauthen, it's apparently small comfort that the City Council quickly rallied behind him. Insulted that Funkhouser had gone behind their backs in trying to fire him, the council ends 2007 by giving Cauthen a brand-new contract that will pay him around $700,000 over three years.
The first lady is undaunted. In the January 11 installment of the almost-weekly newsletter sent out by the mayor's office, Squitiro ends with a personal note about the we-ness of it all:
"We read an excellent quote by prospective First Lady Michelle Obama that hit home with us this week. She said that her husband was going all out at becoming President this time because running for office is very difficult. She goes on to state, 'It hasn't beaten the life out of us yet. We need to be in there now, while we're still fresh and open and fearless and bold. You lose some of that over time. Barack is not cautious yet; he's ready to change the world, and we need that.' This message spoke to us in many ways. The first being that this couple is definitely in this together, as evidenced by her speaking the word 'we' quite frequently. It also speaks to how I perceive Funk, as he too is fresh, open, fearless and bold. It takes these traits when one is trying to change the culture of government for the better."
Lawsuits fly over Funkhouser's attempted ouster of Cauthen. Minutemen member Francis Semler resigns from the parks board. Strangely, she complains that she didn't feel enough support from Funkhouser.
In this week's newsletter, Squitiro marches with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., even if she doesn't quite share his gift for metaphor: "Today's edition of USA Today spoke to the conditions on the East side of Kansas City since Dr. King's death in 1968. The article stated that, 'Poverty and blight have overwhelmed hopes of restoring a once-vibrant neighborhood devastated by the rioting.'... These statements speak to conditions that have plagued Kansas City for at least 40 years. They speak also to an important reason Funk ran for Mayor — to lift up the long underserved areas of our city and to make it a City That Works For Regular Folks....
"Right now Funk's at the stage of the change that is similar to what happens when one paints a house. He's scraped off the old paint — and the house looks worse now than it did before he started.... He's at the stage of the paint job that comes right before you begin to apply the new coat of paint that will make the house look really beautiful. My husband, your Mayor, is doing the same thing. Right now, he's at that really ugly stage of the change. He's at the part right before everything begins to turn in a better direction.... So our hope, on this day, the national holiday celebrating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is that we join hands and hold on tight while we navigate our way through the ugly part of this change. There will, no doubt, be mistakes along the way, but with hearts that are in the right place, there will be nothing left to do but to make the long journey to reach the other side — to the really beautiful part."