The current “not from City Hall” PR campaign for a new single-terminal at Kansas City International Airport turned another page today with a KC Star column from Steve Rose headlined: Kansas City Council must avoid a public vote on KCI upgrade. Frankly the headline is more important than the content. Moreover it appears that the headline was an afterthought and replaced a less-offensive, earlier version. Apparently some in the media have lost faith in the electorate in the last month or so.
Yes, there should be ongoing discussions about Southwest’s apparent flip-flop on the new terminal. Likewise an honest discussion about funding. “The airlines pay for it” is not an honest discussion given that we’re simply talking about rent and the previous documents contained no guarantees should airlines fortunes change and they pull out. Like they did in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and Memphis and so on. I do agree that private funding of any major changes at KCI needs to be explored. Recent terminal renovations in Dallas and Florida came in hundreds of millions less ONLY because Southwest drove the projects with private funding and the project oversight that naturally brings.
The idea of New Century Air Center competing for service is one we’ve explored here before. Besides being even more remote than KCI and a remarkably more expensive option for our friends in JoCo, the golfers on the north end of the runway at Prairie Highlands and Shadow Glen might not be real happy about it, nor would the residential developers in between. And can either side of the state line afford a landing fee price war?
As has been documented ad nauseum, and regardless of what we would like to see through our rose-colored glasses, temporarily shiny new terminals do not directly result in new service (unless coincidentally built in a rapidly expanding market like Austin.) And KCI has been impressively expanding service in the past few months after the airlines said they could no longer expand here.
Should we be making significant improvements/repairs to KCI? Yes. Should our largest tenant play a significant role in the conversation on how best to do and fund this? Yes. However, the reason there is now a vote required is that the city violated the public trust in their previous handling of the KCI issue. Suggesting that it now find a clever way to violate that trust again by circumventing its agreement with the voters just because it has yet to come up with a convincing case and a good solution, is not only arrogant and condescending but is yet another violation of the trust once placed in the fourth estate to be the independent voice and defender of the less-powerful.