Patrick Tuohey

The rush to build something—anything—at Kansas City International Airport is calling into question the ability and even the seriousness of Kansas City leadership.

Consider a recent story in The Kansas City Star, which states that Burns & McDonnell would be given “the opportunity to equal other proposals if it chooses, since it brought the idea to a municipality to begin with.” The Star called this “nuance,” though apparently some thought it was a serious problem. Seven days later, the Star reported that:

City Manager Troy Schulte said Monday that the city’s lawyers had advised that the right of first refusal could potentially be subjected to a legal challenge, so it was eliminated.

How did a proposal outside the city’s municipal procurement code provisions, and possibly even fodder for a lawsuit, get past the corporate attorneys at Burns & Mac and all the attorneys on the City Council, including Mayor Sly James himself? Why did the City Manager announce the decision to allow Burns & Mac the right of first refusal without consulting with the city’s attorneys beforehand? If he did consult with them, how did they initially miss it? And how did The Kansas City Star, the city’s paper of record, unquestioningly describe a potentially unlawful bidding practice as mere “nuance?”

Could it be that this policy proposal—if it can be called that—is being rushed through? That may be an odd question to raise about a matter that has been under discussion in Kansas City for years, but it appears to be what is happening.

The public wasn’t convinced of the need for a new single terminal before this latest political fiasco kicked off. The deadline of a public vote in November has created a false sense of urgency—resulting in the kind of mistakes you’d expect from people more concerned with getting something done fast than with getting it done right.

The airport is an important and valuable asset. The consequences of a mistake in the planning or implementation of its development will reverberate throughout the region for decades. There is no reason to rush this decision—good policy is not served by hurried half-measures. The Starand the airlines themselvesought to suspend their calls for a November election, and the Council ought to ignore false deadlines. 

About the Author

Patrick Tuohey
Patrick Tuohey

Patrick Tuohey is the Director of Municipal Policy at the Show-Me Institute.