Guest Commentary

Guest commentary from Teresa Loar: Why the rush to build a new single terminal at KCI airport?

I want to be perfectly clear: As an elected council member, I stand with the residents of Kansas City. The voters speak through the ballot box. They are my employer. I work for them. I will support them 100 percent with whatever solution they choose for Kansas City International Airport.

Living in the Northland since 1968, I watched KCI being built and becoming a reality. In my previous service on the council in 1995, Mayor Emanuel Cleaver appointed me as vice chair of the Operations and Aviation Committee. In the following term, Mayor Kay Barnes separated the committee and appointed me chair of the Aviation Committee. Over the next four years, we spent $300 million renovating KCI’s three terminals, both public areas and infrastructure.

Prior to being elected, I worked for America West Airline for five years. I have a deep understanding and knowledge of our airport and how things operate.

“Putting the cart before the horse” is a phrase that I hear consistently from the public about our current debate over the airport. Why would we go to all of the trouble, time and money to solicit proposals for a new single terminal, with a price tag of over a billion dollars, before we have a vote of the people?

KCI is a Kansas City asset. Ownership belongs to the residents of this city. They should have a voice in its future.

This is the largest capital project the city has ever pursued. If there was ever a time for transparency and due diligence, this is it. We have lengthy debates as to what sidewalks should be fixed, yet the billion-dollar airport needs to be decided post haste?

There are lots of commonsense questions that I am asked almost daily by my constituents:

▪ Why do we need a new airport when KCI is the most convenient in the world?

▪ Why has renovation of the current terminals not been discussed more?

▪ Why has the airport not been maintained over the past few years?

▪ Why is Terminal A closed if the airlines need more room?

▪ If the airlines want room to expand, how will a single terminal with only 35 gates be better than the 90 gates we currently have available?

These are all issues that need to be addressed to the satisfaction of the public before moving forward.

I constantly hear from proponents of the new single terminal that the voters are confused and don’t understand how the airport is paid for. (Any new terminal or redevelopment of the airport would be financed by airport revenue only, including rent paid by the airlines.)

I believe the voters understand just fine. Recently they approved $800 million in general obligation bonds for roads, sidewalks and a new animal shelter. The financing for the bonds was much more complex and included a property tax increase. The voters understood and supported the ballot initiative overwhelmingly. Kansas City has commonsense voters.

We have spent an inordinate amount of time on this issue at City Hall. And while it is very important, we are neglecting areas that are critical. Two of those issues that greatly affect all citizens of Kansas City are the escalating homicide rate in our city — currently 30 percent higher than last year — and the impact on families of higher water and sewer bills.

When we prioritize issues for our city, let’s not get distracted from what truly makes a difference in our quality of life.

I am all in favor of progress, and Kansas City does have momentum on its side. Now is the time to carefully balance that momentum with smart decisions that will serve the flying public, retain our world-class convenience and protect the pocketbooks of Kansas Citians.

Teresa Loar represents the 2nd district at large on the Kansas City Council.