To thrive in the future, Kansas City (probably) needs a single, modern terminal at Kansas City International Airport and definitely requires local control of the Police Department.
By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH
The Kansas City Star
However, lots of people love the convenience of the current KCI. And much of the business community and many officers embrace state control of the police.
So how can the city move forward on both issues?
• Aviation Director Mark VanLoh and the citys elected officials must stop bungling the campaign to build the $1.2 billion terminal.
Remember VanLohs first plan to put it four miles south of the current KCI? Its dead in the water after further study showed it would cost hundreds of millions extra. Meanwhile, for months, no one in or outside City Hall has provided compelling evidence that a new terminal would benefit Kansas City.
Recently, VanLoh conceded defeat in the public relations area and hired a consultant, Global Prairie, at a cost of $117,000 to put a positive spin on the project.
Here are a few ways to do that, starting with two public hearings today at City Hall.
Show that the new terminal could add a lot more flights at KCI; get the public some proof from the airlines, not just bland promises. Show how it could attract jobs and boost the economy. Provide statistics showing whether comparable cities have gained flights with modern terminals.
Clearly illustrate to the public how the new terminal could still be convenient for them. Dont throw out a mushy promise, as VanLoh has done. Tell passengers how close-in the parking would be. Give walk times from the front door, through security, to the gates.
Finally, pull together all the promised savings on security and upkeep, then prove that this would reduce ticket price inflation in the future. That could help get more Kansas Citians excited about the single terminal.
Its very telling that VanLoh and the politicians are finally concerned about how Kansas Citians and not just the airlines feel about the new terminal, now that its possible the federal government wont be a huge financial contributor for it. Instead, Mayor Sly James may have to lead a campaign to get voters to support bonds paid for by KCI users, not taxpayers to help construct it.
That better lead to a much more focused campaign on behalf of the project.
• James made a wise decision to appoint a blue ribbon commission to make a recommendation on future governance of the Police Department, which soon inexcusably will be the only one in the nation under state control.
Lets hope the panel reaches the conclusion to give control to local voters and elected officials.
The views of the citys cops will be crucial to whether this effort proceeds, so commission member Brad Lemon executive vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police holds an outsized role here. He said Monday the FOP would hold meetings with officers to inform them about the issue and get their feedback.
But what will Lemon and other FOP leaders tell the cops? What about the extremely critical future of officers pensions? The commission likely will study that and other issues, so the timing of its findings will be key to any decisions made in the future.
The commission also is heavy on community leaders and light on top business executives which is where much of the behind-the-scenes opposition to local control has existed for years. Getting buy-in from the civic community will be essential, especially since the city would have to go hat-in-hand to the General Assembly to seek an end to state control.
Backers of local control must persuade skeptics that Kansas City can operate its Police Department without undue political interference. The blue ribbon commission ultimately should give residents that opportunity.