In a recent column, The Kansas City Star editorial board bemoaned the instinct of Mayor Sly James to be opaque and secretive in his negotiations. Specifically, the Star’s piece argued that negotiations over the construction of the new airport terminal and the related community benefit agreements should be open to the public. No one would disagree with that.
Kansas City leaders tell us that the bonds issued by the Kansas City Industrial Development Authority to fund the construction of a billion dollar new terminal at Kansas City International Airport pose no risk to taxpayers. Repeatedly we are assured that if the project fails to generate enough revenue, the loss will be borne by private bondholders, not taxpayers.
Tell that to Platte County.
For years, Kansas City Mayor Sly James asserted that revenue generated at the airport cannot be redirected to the city. This is incorrect. Airport funds have been redirected to the city to cover other bad economic development investments. But his strong insistence makes the recent news all the more puzzling.
On Thursday, July 19, the Show-Me Institute’s Patrick Tuohey appeared on KCPT’s Ruckus to discuss concerns over a new KCI terminal and other issues.
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.
One year ago, Steve Vockrodt of The Kansas City Star wrote an excellent piece on the “original sin” of the airport’s new terminal effort. Among his findings was that the then-director of the Aviation Department, Mark VanLoh, did not know that Missouri law required a public vote on airport bonds. It may have been that ignorance of the need for public approval that so hampered the campaign.
On Thursday, June 21, the Show-Me Institute’s Patrick Tuohey appeared on KCPT’s Ruckus to discuss the delayed opening of Kansas City’s new airport, a sales tax proposal to fund universal pre-K in Kansas City, and other state and local issues.
In the lead-up to the November vote on tearing down Kansas City International Airport’s terminals and building a new $1.2 billion single terminal, we editorialized on KMBC:
Important details of the new terminal remain unknown. We don’t know the final costs. We don’t know the financing details, or how building contracts will be awarded. All those things are being reevaluated now. Voters should vote no on Question 1 until they know exactly what is being asked of them. This is too important to get wrong.
On October 8, The Kansas City Star editorial board urged readers to vote for a new airport terminal in the November 7 election. It wrote:
To us, one of the main selling points of the proposed new terminal is the expectation that airlines would add more direct flights out of here, and maybe even some international flights.
In April 2013, Kansas City Mayor Sly James called for an “adult discussion about the facts” regarding the proposal to build a new single-terminal airport. Reach your own conclusion about whether that has happened.
The Show-Me Institute’s Chairman Crosby Kemper III appeared on KCPT’s Ruckus on Thursday, September 21, to discuss Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ visit to Kansas City, the latest push to build a new airport terminal at KCI, and other local and state issues.
The Kansas City Council’s Airport Subcommittee has recommended Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate as the developer for a new billion-dollar single terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
Polling indicates that building a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport is unpopular, yet we seem inundated with surveys that purport to show that opinions are changing. It’s tough to say, because we don’t necessarily know if the information is trustworthy. What we do know, however, is not comforting.
Both Kansas City and Saint Louis are considering major changes to each of their biggest public assets: their airports. While the circumstances of each project are different, the inclination of some officials to avoid public scrutiny may sink both efforts. Regardless of the merits of any proposal, the process must remain open and transparent to taxpayers.
Even if Kansas City builds a new terminal and begins to perform as well as peer airports in raising retail revenues, conservative policy analyst Joseph Miller calculated the airport should only expect another $1 million or $1.5 million per year in extra funds.