The Kansas City Council will hold another hearing on the new airport terminal plan next week. We’ll likely hear from members of the flying public, business and labor groups, as well as citizens who want to fully understand the $1 billion plan to upgrade Kansas City International Airport.
But several key players so far have remained strangely silent in this discussion. If the City Council hopes to win support for a single terminal, voters will need to hear from these stakeholders:
The airlines will play key roles in the terminal project. They’ll help determine design, provide a guarantee to cover any debt service shortfalls and may discuss additional air service in the community if the terminal is built.
We’re told the airlines are impatient for a new terminal. So it’s odd that the carriers have been so quiet about this project. We still don’t know if the airlines like the Burns & McDonnell plan to privately finance and build a single terminal or will withhold judgment until they see a final agreement after voters weigh in.
Voters will want a firm commitment from the airlines before going to the polls in November. Clarity from airline executives is needed.
Rep. Sam Graves
Longtime new-terminal critic U.S. Rep. Sam Graves apparently is re-thinking his views on the project. For years, Graves was adamant that a new single terminal wasn’t necessary. He based his opposition on concerns about convenience, access and cost.
He now says he likes the Burns & McDonnell proposal. But the plan only addresses financing, design and construction of a new terminal, not whether one is needed in the first place.
Perhaps the Republican can explain his sudden change of heart.
Americo Life, Inc.
Half of the special company created to construct the new terminal is a newly-formed subsidiary of Americo Life, an obscure Kansas City financial services holding company.
Most Kansas Citians have never heard of it — or Michael Merriman, who is connected to the company. Merriman’s exact role with Americo and the terminal project remains unclear. The office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But the financing piece of this puzzle is critical. The public needs to understand how Americo plans to borrow for the terminal, the security interests lenders will surely require and whether there will be a need for private lending insurance to hedge against risk.
Kit Bond Strategies
The lobbying firm of the former U.S. senator from Missouri is heavily involved in the airport project. Kit Bond Strategies just happens to be a registered lobbyist for the City of Kansas City, Southwest Airlines, Burns & McDonnell, and Broadway Square Partners, a development company connected to Merriman. In other words, the firm represents multiple heavy hitters working on this project.
It’s possible that those lobbyists will face conflicts: What the city wants may not be what Southwest wants or what Burns & McDonnell wants. We’d like to hear from Kit Bond Strategies about those potential conflicts.
Transparency and openness are keys to the airport project. Hearing from stakeholders who have remained relatively silent would be a good start.