City leaders were surprised to learn the other week that things were amiss with planning the new airport terminal. As a result, the completion was delayed about a year and the price increased about 50 percent.
First, on June 14, The Kansas City Star reported that the opening would be delayed six to twelve months. A week later, the delay was confirmed to be eleven months. Among the reasons for the delay: The contractor, Edgemoor, hasn’t finalized labor union contracts, the FAA had yet to approve environmental analyses, and the previous cost estimates relied on dated information and were for fewer gates than the current plan envisions.
In a November 8, 2017 press conference recorded by the Star, City Manager Troy Schulte said, “our goal is to deliver a new terminal to this city by the end of 2021.” But on June 27, 2018, Schulte tweeted, “November of 2021 was never a realistic date.”
The problem—as I have argued repeatedly, and as the video above documents—was that the ballot measure voters approved was so bereft of details that it amounted to a blank check. Before the election, it was disheartening to see that the Star editorial board was so eager to endorse a new airport that it misrepresented the facts, possibly because it was relying too heavily on pro-terminal talking points. Now, of course, the same editorial board is dismayed city leaders aren’t delivering what was promised.
What I wrote in September 2017 remains true today,
Process is important in public policy, and while the Star editorial board and others may be relieved that Kansas City finally has a vendor and we’re cleared for a November vote… to advocate for this plan simply because the process is over amounts to letting policymakers off the hook for years of bad behavior. Kansas City deserves much, much better.
No one should be shocked that the voters of Kansas City are not being given what they were sold. Those we expect to represent the public interest—civic leaders, pundits, and the Star’s editorial board—lose their credibility in calling balls and strikes if they root too eagerly for one side. This was an unforced error.