We’re now a week away from voting on a new single terminal proposal for Kansas City International Airport.
There has been an unprecedented campaign by the Chamber, KCADC and the Star to push the “yes” vote as well as over a million dollars collected for advertising and targeting of key voters. I’ve apparently been un-targeted as I have seen nothing in my mailbox, neighborhood or elsewhere. That’s ok, as I consider myself somewhat informed on the issue. The problem is, I’m so well informed that I consider myself a solid “maybe” vote.
I can make a decent case for a NO vote as well as a YES vote. I can even make a case for moving the vote to April though it’s likely too late for that now. The problem stems from the fact that they so wanted to get this on the November ballot instead of next April, that the final plan and cost may be different than what we think we are voting on November 7th.
Technically, when the city selected Edgemoor for the KCI project, they only selected them to sit down with and attempt to hammer out a final project agreement. This will not be finalized, let alone shared before the vote next Tuesday. This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) details the final specs, costs, responsibilities, liabilities, etc. for the terminal project. This may change from what was originally proposed because the original data in the RFQ/P was from the Exhibit K process that ran from 2014-16. It’s all being reviewed again including revising growth projections, the number of gates now needed, and updating project costs. So in reality, we really don’t know what we’re voting on. A simpler version of the ballot language could read, “Can we tear down the existing terminals and be trusted to come up with an affordable single terminal that will make you wish we’d done it four years ago?”
Of course, there are people on both sides of the issue who don’t care what the MOU says. For some, a new single terminal is worth any price, any sacrifice because a new terminal will bring dozens of unsubsidized non-stops to Europe, another World Series trophy and peace in the Middle East. Without it, every business will leave Kansas City and airline passengers will have to drive to Wichita to catch a flight. And for others, constructing a new single terminal will result in security lines stretching to Omaha, $1500 economy fares to Chicago, and an emergency sales tax rate of 35%.
For those in between those camps, here are some considerations as you ponder your vote:
You should vote NO if:
- You are not buying the inflated numbers of new jobs because there is already a shortage of available construction workers and are concerned about the impact of increased construction costs across the metro.
- You are not buying the “build it and they will come” sales pitch and are tired of the exaggerations and misrepresentations.
- You are holding out hope for divine intervention that someone will eventually find a way to renovate for less than the cost of new construction and do so in a way that will make the airlines support it financially and improve on convenience, flexibility and operating expenses for at least another 25-30 years.
- You think that good airport food is something you bring from home.
- You want to see the final specs, costs and designs first.
- You don’t want to reward those who botched this process from the git-go with a victory party.
You should vote YES if:
- You work in the construction trades and realize that this will likely drive up construction costs for everyone which is a good thing for you.
- You are concerned with the fact that Southwest is avoiding bringing new service to KCI because they have maxed their capacity here.
- You have noticed that airlines are moving to larger capacity planes that put more people in the gate areas waiting for flights creating problems that did not exist a few years ago when there were more commuter planes in service.
- You believe that the overall benefits of a new terminal on its worst days will outweigh the benefits of the current terminals on their best days.
- You want to be able to grab some Jack Stack and Boulevard post-security, regardless of which airline you’re flying.
- You trust city officials and the aviation department to get it right, and don’t need to see the final deal.
I scored 4 out of 6 in both groups and may just end up tossing a coin before I head in to vote.
This has been a long and grueling process. Please honor EVERYONE’s efforts by taking the time to vote next week.
Dan – what is your solution to this problem? Wait another 5-10 years until someone else tries to address this issue?
In addition, the ballot language allows private lender financing without a public vote, as opposed to normal voter-approved airport revenue bonds which, among other things likely carry lower interest rates. In light of the questionable way the City Council has handled terminal replacement so far, I’m not comfortable with the City Council negotiating private lender financing (which might among other things dilute city control of KCI). The City Council is getting the cart before the horse. We should wait until general design, cost and financing is determined.