Kansas City officials have offered to take airport design teams on a tour of Terminal A on Tuesday. Engineers can get a close-up look at the challenges in building a new facility on the site.
The tour may help us know how many companies are interested in the $1 billion project. It’s also a strong signal that the pace of the airport debate, which has been quiet for weeks, is about to accelerate dramatically.
The City Council faces an extraordinarily tight deadline for putting a new terminal plan on the November ballot. Council members are up to the task, but there is virtually no margin for error.
Kansas Citians will need to be patient.
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And elected officials should take time to study their options carefully. Heed basketball coach John Wooden’s advice: Be quick, but don’t hurry.
The city’s deadline for submitting ballot language is Aug. 24. The City Council will need to decide by that date if it prefers public borrowing through airport revenue bonds or if it wants private borrowing for the terminal.
Public borrowing requires a public vote. Private borrowing does not.
But the council doesn’t have to pick a terminal developer by that Aug. 24 deadline. The name of the winning company doesn’t have to be in the ballot language itself.
If council members think they need a few more weeks in September to sort out competing bids, they should take the time to do so.
As a practical and political matter, of course, the winning bidder must be picked long before the November election. Voters will not support a new terminal if they don’t know what it will look like or who will build it.
Picking the successful bidder (the city prefers “proposer”) will also make it easier to raise money for an airport campaign and to come up with a winning message. Explaining the need for a new terminal will be critical.
So far, early efforts are not encouraging.
The message — to the extent the commercial has one — is that Kansas City should support a privately financed terminal at KCI. The target audience appears to be the City Council, not voters.
And the commercial is full of potentially misleading claims. It says the terminal would be the first “privately built” airport in the nation.
In fact, the terminal would be built the same way almost all terminals are built: by private contractors, under contract to a public body. And it will remain under city control once the project is completed.
The ad claims the terminal can be built without touching a “nickel” of taxpayer money. That’s true under any scenario at the airport.
A new TV ad is better, but we wish all proposers would step away from over-the-air politics while the council does its work.
The airport campaign must be clear, concise and accurate — everything the radio commercial isn’t.
The City Council has to get this right and has only a little more than a month to figure out how to put the terminal before voters. Mistakes will be costly.
Supporters of a new terminal can’t afford any more unforced errors, either.