A group bent on forcing a public vote on a proposal to raze major parts of Kansas City International Airport and build a single terminal delivered nearly 1,600 more petition signatures to City Hall on Monday.
By ERIC ADLER
The Kansas City Star
“The petition doesn’t really say whether we’re for or against the new airport,” said Dan Coffey, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Government/Friends of KCI. “The petition says that the voters ought to have a say — that it shouldn’t just be in the hands of the City Council and Aviation Department to spend $1.5 billion.”
Earlier this month, Coffey delivered a petition signed by close to 3,800 people asking that a referendum be placed on the April ballot.
The group needed 3,573 valid signatures from registered Kansas City voters for the petition to be considered, but a check by the election board showed that several hundred signatures did not qualify. The group needed 574 more valid signatures and had 10 days, until next Saturday, to comply.
The signatures delivered Monday now must be checked by the election board.
“The response was phenomenal and should send a message to local politicians that the people want a say in City Hall,” the group said in a written statement. “It’s our money, and we want a say in how you spend it.”
A proposal to demolish two of KCI’s three terminals and reconstruct the airport as a single-terminal facility has become one of the most contentious citywide.
Although a single terminal would not have as many gates, proponents say it would offer better security, more parking and far more retail and eating establishments. They also say it would save on the cost of inevitable infrastructure repairs to the 40-year-old airport.
Opponents fall into two camps. Some contend that the current airport suffices, and they like its ease and convenience. Others say that while the current airport may need significant upgrades, costing perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars, demolishing and rebuilding is unnecessary and would be too costly.
“I think we need to do something up there,” Coffey said. “It needs to be refreshed, but it doesn’t need to be torn down.”
In recognition of the public’s strong sentiments, Mayor Sly James this spring formed a citizens’ KCI Terminal Advisory Group to examine possible options.
“They are doing a thoughtful and diligent job,” City Hall spokesman Chris Hernandez said Monday.
The advisory group is led by architect Bob Berkebile and Dave Fowler, a former managing director of KPMG, the audit, tax and advisory firm.
Several public opinion sessions are planned in February and March, including in Johnson County, home to many KCI customers. The group also accepts written public comments at KCMO.org. It is expected to announce its recommendations in April.
“We are staying focused on our mission statement, at the request of the mayor, to look at current and potential configurations of the airport,” Fowler said Monday. “We can’t concern ourselves with other matters either at City Hall or among outside interest groups. We’re neutral to any of those other matters going on until we make our recommendation.”
Some City Council members have said that any changes to KCI would not occur hastily. Any new construction probably would require financing through revenue bonds, which, under Missouri law, must be approved by a public vote.
But Coffey and others in his group aren’t convinced that revenue bonds would be the chosen financing method.