The Power Elite and The Man and The Woman in the Street|
Reading The Kansas City Star is indispensable for gaining an understanding of downtown development. The Star's real estate and business development reporters and columnists keep readers informed on the needs and wants of the power elite, including the vested interests behind the scenes who, to quote Veblen, "get something for nothing" because they happen to control the markets involved or properties at stake. That is, their control and the rewards therefrom are disproportionate to their personal virtue because of the accidents of chance and fortune. That is not to say that the upper class do not work like dogs for a living, but rather that their living exceeds their moral worth, at least according to the estimate of many folk who are much less fortunate and who believe the lifestyle of the rich and famous is downright obscene.
Kansas City Star business reporters associate with and interview the people upstairs - political and business leaders - hence when they write they tend to talk over the heads of the men and women in the street, many of whom could care less what the Star writers have to say, and prefer to read the free street-paper, The Pitch, instead. That is not to say that elite and vulgar interests in the development of Downtown Kansas City necessarily conflict, or that the Star's reporters do not report the squabbling among developers and city planners. Nonetheless, the squabbles rarely express the interest or perspective of your average taxpayer, who is funding development with the TSF (Tax Slush Fund).
Again, the common interest may very well coincide here and there with that of the power elite. We might not want to bite the hand that feeds us, but it would behoove us to publicly talk back to and question our betters once in awhile. If we were ignorant or wrong, the reasoned responses would educate us and prove us wrong for our own good. We certainly could use a good forum to that end. Although the Star is one of the best Establishment papers in the country, it appear's to this naive writer that it does not serve that end, at least not where the business development of stagnant Downtown Kansas City is concerned.
Although the Star has a circulation of over a quarter-million, the reports and columns on downtown business development are probably read by no more than a hundred people - members of the elite, gadflies, wannabes, critics. The man and woman in the street is virtually ignored by the professional business journalists who hang with the power elite. For what do ordinary downtown residents know about real estate development and city planning? Next to nothing, it is supposed, so leave that and the Tax Slush Fund to the elected and unelected experts.
I must leave off here before I am locked in. The area must be secured. I'm at the Country Club Cafe at 12th and Baltimore. It is crawling with Secret Service agents and Kansas City policemen. Vice-President Cheney is in the building raising money for Missouri's Republican candidate for governor. There are only a handful of demonstrators protesting outside. I have seen more Kansas City cops in the last hour than I have in the entire two months I have been here. I asked one officer, "Where are the cops when we need them at night in the neighborhood around the downtown police headquarters?" He spoke quite frankly of the drug and prostitution problem there, and said many sting operations are conducted in the area, "But, he said, " downtown is so dead most of the time that we must go where the action is, and even there we are spread too thin.
"I sure hope you and your fellow officers will drive through our area on your way," I said.
December 12, 2003