Yesterday was Funkhousers last day as city auditor. Today, his own front yard looks like someone had a party there last night a half-dozen lawn chairs are circled closely around a chiminea. His son likes to have friends over and sit around the fire, Funkhouser explains as he lets me in the front door.
In a couple of days, Funkhouser will hold a press conference to announce that hes running for mayor. By the time Pitch readers see this, the news will be out. What folks wont read in The Kansas City Star or see on the TV news, though, is Funkhouser at home, wearing jeans and a V-neck sweater, an ancient yellow lab hanging out quietly nearby. They wont meet his wife, the endearingly warm and direct Gloria Squitiro, a natural-childbirth instructor (she runs a company called BirthWays) who pushes herbal tea on her visitors. She doesnt call her husband Mark -- she calls him Funk.
Here in his dining room, Funkhouser is anything but the dour Dr. No he often seemed to be in newspaper stories about his audits reports that pissed off parks board members and development lawyers but made Funkhouser the person at City Hall whom regular people trusted most. Today, hes a free man. Hes exhausted. Hes smiling. Hes unemployed.
It would be a terrible day for Kansas City, except for the weird news that hes running for mayor.
You see, Funkhouser always seemed above politics. Politics is sleazy and dirty, but Funkhouser is 6 feet, 8 inches of dignity and integrity. Besides, the mayors job in this town is mostly about smiling and ribbon cutting.
When I heard that he might be running, I thought he must have cracked. After all, enduring 18 years at City Hall would have to wear anyone down, and in recent months, Funkhouser had stood calm despite the most petty swipes from Kay Barnes and her shadow, Chuck Eddy ("One Bad Audit," May 4).
But no, Funkhouser has thought about this for a long, long time -- even before the last mayoral election. Four years ago, one of his staffers told him that shed written in his name on her ballot. His auditors arent suck-ups, Funkhouser notes.
I thought, Damn, if she thinks I can do this , he says. So, while he worked until 6 p.m. on his last day, Squitiro put together a campaign headquarters a double-wide at the old Westside Cabot Clinic at 18th Street and Summit and compiled phone lists, ordered computers and set up a rudimentary base of operations that cranked up for real on Monday.
Im not interested in the ceremonial aspects of the job at all, Funkhouser says of the ribbon cutting. He understands that, even though Kansas City technically doesnt have a strong-mayor form of government, its the mayor who appoints the city manager (with the City Councils approval), and its the mayor who sees the budget before anyone else.
Its always a hoot to me, when people say I have no political skills, Funkhouser says. Let me see -- I have survived in a political environment for 30 years, almost. There are politics everywhere. Politics is the elemental stuff of daily life. Its how all decisions are made anytime two or more humans are gathered -- do we want to go see a movie tonight or stay home and watch a DVD.