Wednesday, November 4, 2009

when exceptional spoils

This morning, I listened to local builders, contractors, and a consultant propose forming a “Capital Projects Division” in the city’s government. They are tired of the slow and disjointed bureaucracy that they see stunts the growth of Kansas City public works and infrastructure projects.

They desire a change based upon their pleasant and profitable experience while building the Power and Light District.

Recently an urban historian called our recent growth, the project downtown, “non-organic”…it was an exceptional project, something special and out-of-the-norm.

Presently, business people hear of stimulus funding awaiting consumption. The funding requires efficient and fast grant-writing, project planning, centralized control, and quickly awarded contracts.

However, Kansas City’s government is back to its “organic”, slow, divided, fiefdom collection self again. The Power and Light is...lit.

The city manager is relaxed and crowned a hero, by some. The city departments have said goodbye to all the consultants who parachuted in with best practices and driving zeal.

The exceptional time spoiled everyone, lulled them into a high-powered time of streamlined autocracy (not bureaucracy) not unlike the business atmosphere and system in China. Like China, the government could, for a short time, turn on a dime as the promise of profits danced in their heads and consultants consulted. Crash, boom, bam, we’re not only back to organic normal, but now in a slump of epic proportions. A new normal? Hardly.

To make this more complex, the spirit of exceptionalism is alive and well again as people who can profit from the stimulus, see clearly that unless the city becomes a lean and aggressive player, no one will play because no stimulus money will arrive under the current state of the disunion. It seems to be a repetitive story here.

The good news is that Kansas City has never been a boomtown…and that is part of its beauty and a secret of success. Despite non-organic, exceptional situations, the splendid disjointed diversity of this city keeps us stable in storms both euphemistic and real.

The bad news is unemployment continues to rise.

What I heard this morning were four people who need a job and are ready to hire people as well…these were job-makers, people who build things.

Can the government of Kansas City and its complex agencies make a change to capitalize on these potential, admittedly temporary, “exceptional” funding streams that are part of the stimulus package?

The people may be disheartened and possibly angered when they realize that we lost jobs due to selfish turf conflicts in their elected collection of personalities.

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