Time Flies, But Ill-Conceived Terminal Proposals Do Not
(Originally published March 30, 2014) Today marks the one-year anniversary of starting this website. A year of my life that I will never get back, but one that has filled with new friends and has been rewarding, enlightening, at times frustrating and one for which I will be forever grateful.
The goal then was the same as it is now: Ask the questions that are not being asked, get the answers that are not being demanded and get the right people involved to create a better plan for one of our city’s most important assets.
In the past 12-months, many thousands have visited this site and have posted hundreds of comments. I’m happy to say that only one comment was not allowed – that due to abusive language. I invited the author to resubmit and he chose not to. I sincerely thank everyone for the civil discourse. Besides making this job easier, it proves that a rational conversation can take place on emotional civic issues.
So what have we witnessed in the past 365 days? First and foremost we have learned that with social media and blogging, the “average voter” again has a voice. I created this site on a Saturday afternoon. Dave Helling at the Kansas City Star and local bloggers found it Monday morning and posted about it. By Monday afternoon I had given six media interviews and had found a new part-time job. A few days later someone flew a banner at Royals Opening Day about the site. Days later the Kansas City Council voted to advance the single-terminal proposal but 3 councilmen voted no and the Mayor voiced concerns. By the end of the month, Friends of KCI formed and asked to link to the site. Petition campaigns from them ensued. Soon, Mayor James called for an “adult discussion.”
I asked for a meeting with Mayor James, in part to correct insulting comments that had been made by certain councilmen and others, saying that those who were questioning the single-terminal proposal were just “sentimentally attached” to KCI or were against any progress, were uninformed nanny-naysayers, Kemper Arena huggers, etc.. We had a good and open conversation, at the end of which he asked me if I would be interested in sitting on an airport terminal advisory group he was about to commission to consider options for KCI. All of this happened between March 30th and May 8th.
Of course, in the ensuing weeks and months the group has met, news articles have been written, TV stories produced and town halls held by the ATAG, Congressman Sam Graves and the Show-Me Institute. Most importantly the reasons originally put forth for the new terminal have been questioned and in nearly every case, have been proven wrong. Among other things we’ve learned that:
- KCI is not “inconvenient” but overall, is one of the most convenient airports in the US.
- The airlines did NOT sign-off in support of the single terminal proposal.
- TSA does not think there will be appreciable savings with a single check in point and in fact sees security advantages to the current set-up.
- The existing security areas ARE able to accommodate new security methods like TSA Pre-Check and according to TSA, their future security needs are expected to require a smaller footprint.
- FAA says that there are no federal funds available for a new terminal project.
- There is no environmental compliance issue requiring a new terminal. In fact, had we built the “south” option that the Aviation Department originally wanted, it would have created one.
- New retail and restaurant amenities already exist beyond security and in some places are under-utilized. Even if revenues doubled or tripled in a new terminal, they would cover only a tiny fraction of the cost of the new terminal.
- New terminals do not attract flights. Demand and low costs of operation do. Sacramento’s new billion dollar terminal is losing flights.
- The new terminal proposal would add debt service equal to over half of the current operating budget of the Aviation Department – the costs of which would have to be borne by passengers and airlines to the tune of $60-70 million per year.
- Rather than inefficient, airlines consider KCI very efficient.
- The infrastructure issues are not as extensive as the selective photos and videos depicted and can be repaired/upgraded for a fraction of the original number.
- There is more room to expand services/amenities vertically within the existing terminals but it has not yet been explored.
- We also learned that the Chamber of Commerce does not really represent the views of most business people in Kansas City.
The original goals of this site have been realized. There is a legitimate conversation taking place. The airlines and other stakeholders have finally been given a voice and the airlines will now be a part of the process moving forward. Most importantly, thanks to the efforts of Friends of KCI, the people will have a voice in whatever future plans come out of those deliberations.
Again, the lesson learned here is don’t be silent. Don’t assume that your opinion is of no value and that your efforts are in vain. Be heard. Be active. Vote!
There are many, many issues facing our great city. The quality of our solutions is directly related to the quality of our conversation, starting with the questions being asked.