It was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts. Steve Glorioso, the political sage of Kansas City, and I were to appear together on KCPT’s “Ruckus” program for the first time in a while.
Glorioso never made it to the studio. When I arrived for the taping last week, I was told he could not make it due to ill health. He died that day.
So my friend, who was one of the original panelists on Ruckus when it started in 1995, was not there to voice his strong opinions on the prospects for a new Kansas City International Airport, which was one of the three topics that had been pre-selected for last week’s show.
As it happened, I had talked at length with Glorioso by phone just a couple of weeks before, specifically about the airport, and he let loose with his stream of unequivocal opinions. As others have noted in their tributes to Glorioso, he never failed to articulate his views with zeal.
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People who are involved in Kansas City politics cared a great deal about what Glorioso thought because he was usually right in sizing up the likelihood of passage of a particular measure, and he knew how to sell it to voters. His political instincts were uncanny. As a political consultant, he led more victories at the ballot box than almost anyone in recent memory (although the late Pat Gray, a local political consultant who was a cohort of Glorioso’s, also chalked up a long string of major victories).
So, I was very much looking forward to hearing what Glorioso would air in public on the construction of a new airport, certainly one of the most important issues ever to face the city. Glorioso was not a paid consultant on this ballot issue, so he had no reason to try to persuade me.
Glorioso told me some things that probably would not have made it on air. He thought the whole process, from the way the idea of a new airport was floated to the now-aborted no-bid contract for construction of a single terminal, was completely botched.
Although the 70-year-old Glorioso was a strong proponent of a new airport, he did not like its chances of winning. He reminded me that the only issue he could recall passing with poll numbers as low as those for KCI’s new terminal — about 38 percent approval — was the Sprint Center.
But passing that proposal was a fluke. Because a St. Louis car rental company bought lots of advertising opposing the Sprint Center and the tax on rental cars that would help fund it, Glorioso turned the tables, accusing an out-of-town company of trying to influence a local election. The public backlash Glorioso helped foster turned defeat into victory.
There is no such fluke in sight for KCI, so he said selling the idea would require a hugely effective campaign.
What Glorioso almost assuredly would have said emphatically to viewers, and to influential political leaders who may have been watching, is that it would be a horrible mistake to run the campaign for a November election, even though that is what the airlines prefer.
Glorioso privately told me and others that the election should be postponed to April to allow enough time to mount a viable campaign. He thought trying to throw together in a matter of weeks a major, citywide campaign for a controversial proposal would doom the airport project to failure. And, as he reminded me, there have been several successful Kansas City elections held in April.
Steve never got his chance to make his case on television in front of thousands of viewers. So, I have just said it for him, minus his pizzazz and passion.
Glorioso’s wisdom and judgment, even in death, should be heeded. The KCI election should be postponed. Steve Glorioso was rarely out of sync with Kansas City campaigns or Kansas City voters.