In an abrupt but needed about-face, City Manager Troy Schulte said Monday he plans to sharply curtail the park-for-free gig for selected people at Kansas City International Airport.
Unfortunately, this victory for common sense is occurring only after Aviation Department officials provided misleading information to The Star and the public about who could park for no cost in public garages at Terminals B and C.
Most egregiously, city officials last month scrubbed the names of two disgraced former Missouri state lawmakers from an original list given to The Star.
Former House Speaker John Diehl had resigned in disgrace in May after The Star revealed he had exchanged sexually suggestive texts with a 19-year-old legislative intern. Former state Sen. Paul LeVota had resigned in July after information surfaced to suggest he had sexually harassed legislative interns.
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This breach of public trust is embarrassing for aviation officials, who need all the goodwill they can earn. In the next year or two, they likely will ask voters to approve a costly bond issue to renovate current KCI buildings or erect a brand new terminal.
The Star on Sept. 4 asked KCI officials about whether they offered free parking passes to politicians and others, after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport’s leaders had handed out about 150 free passes there. In reaction, St. Louis officials announced they would pull the plug on all but about 16 or so passes.
On Sept. 9, Kansas City’s Aviation Department provided to The Star a list showing 29 people had access to the garage passes. They included city politicians, a few city department leaders, two Missouri congressional representative, plus local and out-state Missouri General Assembly members.
On Sept. 11, we wrote that this perk for a select few — with no written policy on who receives it and no way to make sure it’s not used for personal travel — should be ended.
However, the report given to The Star was deliberately misleading because the aviation agency early on Sept. 8 had purged five names from the garage pass list — including those of Diehl and LeVota. The complete list — obtained by the Show-Me Institute in late September — also included John McGurk, who had left as chief of staff to Mayor Sly James in September 2014.
KCI officials on Monday released this statement: “When staffers pulled the list for you, they immediately recognized that it needed to be updated because some people were no longer in those official positions. Staffers trimmed the list so that it would be up-to-date with in-office people. In hindsight, we should have sent two lists: one that included the former office holders, and an updated list, along with an explanation of the changes.”
On Monday, Schulte said he planned to limit the free parking list to 12 City Council members, James and himself.
“We’ll just keep it very simple,” Schulte said, adding that the problem with the Aviation Department’s response to The Star showed the city wasn’t keeping close track of the garage passes.
Taking these passes away from state and congressional officials is no big deal — and it should help the city keep better track of who’s getting a perk the general public doesn’t.