Kansas City’s negotiations with Edgemoor Infrastructure for a new airport appear back on track, thanks to level-headed council members who worked to rescue the talks.
The City Council on Thursday adopted a resolution extending discussions with Edgemoor at least through January. It establishes reasonable dates for the city’s lawyers to finalize an agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, with the firm.
The resolution outlines areas of concern for the City Council. It provides for regular public updates.
Taken as a whole, the resolution provides a needed framework for progress at Kansas City International Airport. Had the council passed it a week ago, Kansas Citians would have had little need to worry about the terminal project.
That did not happen, of course. Nine members of the council voted last week to kill the Edgemoor agreement — without a clear path forward. In fact, the only concrete proposal left on the table then was a resolution explicitly ending talks with Edgemoor.
Council apologists want voters to ignore those facts. Concerns about the MOU were legitimate, they argue.
But the agreement wasn’t handed down from a cloud. It was the product of negotiations between Edgemoor and the city’s own legal advisers. Any problems with the MOU were partly the city’s fault.
If council members were unhappy with the deal, they easily could have postponed a decision and continued talking — or fired their attorneys.
They did not. Instead, the nine members pulled the plug and walked away. Many Kansas Citians understandably concluded that the real goal was a bait-and-switch to dump Edgemoor.
What other conclusion was possible after Councilman Lee Barnes offered a resolution to immediately open talks with second-place finisher AECOM? After AECOM quickly announced its readiness to cut a deal? After Burns & McDonnell said it would join the team?
Plenty of voters were justifiably outraged. They demanded a do-over with Edgemoor. They got it Thursday.
The new framework is fair. It requires regular updates on the negotiations, with the goal of finalizing a resolution by the end of January.
While attention will focus on the city’s efforts in the January talks, Edgemoor also must show flexibility in addressing community concerns.
That includes better minority hiring and sub-contracting goals. It includes aggressive targets for involving women-owned businesses, whose interests have largely been abandoned by some activists and council members.
Edgemoor must provide additional financing details. The company should offer a more generous agreement on community benefits. The cost of a breakup should be reduced.
It’s possible the firm will find the city’s requests too onerous to proceed. Likewise, the city may want to walk away at the end of January.
If that happens, though, voters will know precisely why. All sides will have had an opportunity to improve the deal as part of a transparent process. That will give everyone confidence in the outcome.
This is how government is supposed to work. A week ago, council members forgot that. On Thursday, they remembered just in time.