A lot of irony is at play as voters gear up to pass judgment on a new single terminal for Kansas City International Airport.
All those months of fussing and fighting over whether the developer selection process was rigged in favor of the “hometown team” may wind up helping the cause at the ballot box.
Same thing with all those charges of secrecy and chaos and the repeated demands from this editorial board and others that the city open up the process to other companies. That may help, too.
In other words, a process marred by misstep after misstep just might result in a come-from-behind Nov. 7 election win for a new terminal.
Insiders would view that as something of a miracle.
A June poll put support for a new single terminal at a measly 38 percent. A September survey conducted when the City Council picked out-of-town developer Edgemoor for the billion-dollar project put backing at 51 percent.
One big factor in that shift was all the controversy. The dialogue went from “Does the city really need a new terminal?” to “How should we go about getting this done?” and “Who should build it?”
Those Burns & McDonnell ads that focused on continuing Kansas City’s momentum helped, too. So did the business community’s months-long series of community meetings explaining the need.
No question a shift occurred, and it’s ironic because, again, the path the city took was ugly, bumbling and just the opposite of open, transparent government.
Mayor Sly James had a point the other day when he said voters aren’t focused on all the infighting.
“I don’t think regular voters give a damn,” he said.
Now, the question is: Will voters actually turn out and pass this thing? There are reasons to think they will, and just as many to suggest it will fall short.
If it passes, it will be in part because the pro-terminal forces spent north of $100,000 on an outfit called Global Strategy Group, which provided new-age metrics about which Kansas City voters might be persuaded to back a new terminal. To do that, the company relies on how often voters go to the polls, buying patterns and other predictors.
Paid canvassers then visited those households bearing iPads loaded with a fancy campaign video and laminated renderings of the new terminal. Some 20 to 25 are on the streets each day. The group running the canvassers, Powerful Performance Solutions of Lee’s Summit, is the same outfit that crisscrossed Kansas City neighborhoods in the run-up to that bond election in April.
You may recall that those three bond issues all passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.
This week, a TV ad campaign featuring the ever-popular James launched, and fliers were mailed. The campaign is at full-throttle.
But there’s so little time. Because of the elongated developer selection fight, the campaign shrank to a 45-day sprint. The pro-terminal crowd would have preferred to have three or four times as long. Campaign dollars have been slow to roll in, even though the $1 million mark has been crossed.
Terminal backers fret that an eleventh-hour anti-airport campaign could sink the initiative.
But with two and a half weeks to go, the push for a new terminal has a shot. The pro-new-terminal crowd can thank all the controversy for that.