Watch carefully. The next two weeks are critical in the effort to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
City officials and ultimately the City Council will have to make several crucial decisions:
▪ Finalize language to put on the November ballot.
▪ Pick a winner among the terminal design proposals or postpone that decision until the fall.
▪ And they must begin turning their attention to the campaign that will play out this fall, when a skeptical public will want answers about the project.
The City Council is up to the job. The city took an important and welcome step this week, when council members were told — at least for now — they will not have to sign nondisclosure agreements before examining details of the proposers’ plans.
That means Kansas Citians should learn at least some facts about those proposals. That kind of transparency is the only way to judge the council’s choices in the days ahead.
Here are some important dates.
Thursday: Proposers must submit detailed financing plans.
Burns & McDonnell originally proposed private borrowing for the airport, but there are signs other proposers will suggest a public bond issue instead.
Public bonds are probably cheaper, leaving more money for the terminal itself. On the other hand, some form of private borrowing might be easier — and more acceptable to voters.
Kansas Citians should insist on a detailed, side-by-side comparison of the two approaches.
Monday: A special committee will meet with proposers, a process that is expected to last the day. Members of the committee, which includes two council members, will review proposals, ask questions, examine options.
This group will make a recommendation to the full council, perhaps within hours or days of the presentations. This is where transparency is critical: Kansas Citians will want to know the winner was picked in a fair process that considered costs, design, community involvement and other factors.
Aug. 24: Ballot language must be submitted.
The last days of August could make or break the airport campaign. Voters will insist on clarity and openness before accepting the council’s decision.
Tuesday’s streetcar vote suggests Kansas Citians are skeptical about City Hall. If the terminal is to become a reality, the city must do everything in its power in August to show it deserves voters’ trust in November.