New Council Proves Itself 4-Star Chamber


Regional/ Kansas City:


By Jack Cashill

July 2007
Courtesy of

The controversy began with Funkhouser’s decision to swap out the traditionally blue-blooded Park Board with some red-blooded folks from the community.

His choices included the first Hispanic ever, a guy who wants reparations for slavery, a rose-growing grandma from north of the river, a male ballet dancer, and the utterly unclassifiable former councilwoman, Aggie Stackhaus.

These choices might strike the casual observer as the ultimate 21st century Mod Squad. But there was something basic about “diversity” as practiced in some quarters that the Funk failed to understand.

It goes like this: choosing people with different colored skin or different textured hair or, better yet, different ways of making whoopee, is essential, but for all these different folks to work together, they have to think more or less alike. 

Thus, the great enemy of the “diverse” for these folks—

a veritable stake through its fragile heart—is the “divisive.”

The Kansas City Star figured this out a long time ago.  Excepting its stubborn sports department, nary a rogue thought has escaped from 18th and Grand for a generation. Indeed, its columnists and reporters seem a veritable Vienna Boys Choir of pitch perfect, in-sync thinking.

Sensing this, an intrepid whistleblower passed some potentially divisive dirt along to the Star’s Dave Helling. Helling in turn ran it by the ever-alert thought police in Kansas City’s progressive community, and they judged it to be divisive indeed.

As it turns out, the 73 year-old Northland grandmother, Frances Semler, is no innocent rose gardener. Not by a long shot. No. Semler is in fact a card-carrying member of the not-so-secret organization known as the Minutemen.

“What? Oh, my God,” cried out Cris Medina of the Guadalupe Center when Helling told him of Semler’s troubling affiliation.

Now, there are those who might think Medina’s reaction was a bit, well, hysterical. After all, according to a Rasmussen poll, a clear majority of Americans think positively of the Minutemen and their non-violent mission—volunteering to help the United States Border Patrol protect our borders.

(And let me add quickly, I am not now or have never been a member of the Minutemen party.)

But in more enlightened quarters, Medina’s is the consensus opinion. As guardians of that consensus, the Star reporters were quick to alert its readers to the elderly barbarian within the gates.

“Groups want Semler out,” reads the subhead in an article by ace re-porters DeAnn Smith and Lynn Horsley. “The organizations see her views on immigration as divisive.”

The less sensitive among our readers might be a bit puzzled here. They may have been taken in by the Minuteman pledge that “ethnicity, race, religion and all such factors are incidental and do not affect our God-given, constitutional equality as American citizens.” They might even believe the group’s claim that “there is no tolerance among Minutemen for racism or bigotry.”

But for those whose diversity antennae are more finely tuned, it does not matter what the Minutemen say or even what the Minutemen do. What matters here is the “perception” of what they say and do. 

Fortunately for Kansas City, our new city council members are mightily perceptive. They have as keen a nose for the divisive as the folks at the Star and were not about to cut their conscience to the whims of the common people or to the rigors of common sense.

Within days of Funkhouser’s selection, the council voted 9-2 to deport the subversive septuagenarian back to the Northland whence she came. This rose-growing grandma, they argued in a resolution condemning Semler, would “likely be a divisive force in our community rendering the work of the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners suspect in many quarters.”

The Star nicely captured the Council’s concern. “Some worry that Semler will impose her views on the parks,” wrote Smith and Horsley, “such as attempting to mandate that all materials be in English and banning immigrants from using city parks.”

Presuming the Star’s accuracy, Semler aspires to keep all “immigrants” out of the parks. If this one-woman Checkpoint Charlie has her way, people like, say, Charo or Henry Kissinger would never even get to ride the much-anticipated gondolas in Penn Valley Park. That would be embarrassing!

Among the Vigilant Nine in this kulturkampf, the one that has impressed me most is my own 4th district councilwoman, Beth Gottstein. I must admit that I did not vote for Beth, but now I see that I greatly underestimated her creativity.

As Beth told the Star, the Minutemen are “just one step from the KKK.” Now admittedly, most of us would have a hard time linking an organization that works for peaceful, race-free enforcement of the laws to one that breaks laws in a violent, racist matter, but that’s why we are not on the city council, and Beth is.

“My world is totally rocked by this,” a soulful Beth told the Star. “We fight this every day. I am grieving for my friends in the Hispanic community.”

Kansas Citians can take comfort too knowing that our bench is deep. Should something ever happen to Beth, the woman that Beth beat for the 4th District at large seat, Rita Valenciano, is equally perceptive. 

“It’s like a member of the Ku Klux Klan” being appointed to the board, Valenciano told the Star. “I definitely think it disqualifies [Semler].”To be fair, Kansas congressman Dennis Moore and his media friends deserve some credit for pioneering the art of creative race-baiting. The following passage from BlogKC during Moore’s successful campaign against UMKC law professor Kris Kobach in 2004 shows just how effective our local watch-dogs can be when they watch together:

“Republican candidate for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, Kris Kobach, has accepted a contribution from a former Pat Buchanan aide who has ties to white supremacist (sic) groups. KCUR-FM’s Laura Ziegler covered the story, which was later picked up by Air America Radio. More details at,, and the Star.”

What makes this particular bit of innuendo all the more impressive is that the Buchanan aide in question had no actual ties to any white supremacist groups. Creative indeed!

So Kudos to the Funk for sticking with his pick. He has passed his first serious test as mayor.

As to Frances Semler, mutual friends tell me that this whole ordeal has left her crushed and humiliated.

“Boo hoo,” say the Vigilant Nine of the city council. After all, as their Uncle Joe used to say, “If you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs.”

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