A group of Kansas City residents turned in thousands of petition signatures Tuesday to try to force a public vote on the future of Kansas City International Airport.
The committee of five petitioners, calling themselves Friends of KCI, question the city’s plan to possibly replace the three-terminal configuration at KCI with a single new terminal. That plan has a preliminary cost estimate of $1.2 billion, although city officials have said they hope it would cost less.
The petitioners want to place their initiative on the April ballot, asking voters to prohibit the city from furthering any plan to demolish or replace any passenger terminal at KCI without voter approval.
The group turned in 415 pages of signatures to the Kansas City clerk’s office. Each page has space for 10 signatures, but not all were filled. Kansas City’s election boards will now verify whether the group gathered the 3,573 valid signatures of registered city voters required for an initiative petition.
City Attorney Bill Geary declined to comment about the legality of the group’s petition language. Group spokesman Dan Coffey said the ballot language was drafted by an attorney and his group is confident it is legal.
If the group has enough signatures, the City Council will have 60 days to decide whether to place the measure on a citywide ballot. Councilman Russ Johnson, who chairs the council committee that has been reviewing airport plans, declined to comment Tuesday on the initiative petition effort.
Friends of KCI was galvanized by the City Council’s 9-3 vote on April 11 to authorize continued study of a new single-terminal design for KCI. Friends of KCI and many other Kansas City area residents were highly skeptical of that plan and its cost.
After the depth of public opposition became obvious, Mayor Sly James announced in May that he was appointing a citizens task force to explore the best ideas for the future of KCI. That group has been meeting every other week since June and expects to issue recommendations in April.
Some City Council members have said any new construction at KCI probably would require financing through revenue bonds, which under Missouri law must be approved by a public vote anyway. But Coffey said his group isn’t positive revenue bonds would be the financing method, so this initiative would make sure the public isn’t left out of the decision.