Patrick Tuohey
Avoiding public scrutiny is no way to conduct the people's business.

We have been critical of the Kansas City mayor's airport terminal advisory group, including when leadership met with the Kansas City Aviation Department's PR firm. We also have been critical of its conflicted make-up and its treatment of opponents. Prior to that, we were critical of the Aviation Department and of the Kansas City City Council for refusing to answer questions. We're not alone; some have called for the airport director to go.

But this is something new. In a recent email sent from the advisory group's leader, Bob Berkebile, including to several city employees, he seeks to circumvent Missouri's open meetings law (emphasis added):
On another note we have offered to meet with members of the city council who may want to offer input or to hear from us about how we are doing with our deliberations.  Cindy Circo has extended an invitation to members of the council to meet with us between 9:30 and 11 either this Thursday or on April 3rd.  Our assumption is that these will be informal and that only a few will schedule interviews (to date John Sharp is the only one to request time).  We have also assumed that they will be small (one to one sessions or two of us and two of them in a session).  Cindy and Travis will help us manage the times and any potential conflicts with committee structures to avoid creating a public meeting. Please let us know if you are interested in representing us with your council representative or any of them, and if you are interested please identify what dates/times you are available.

In other words, city council members want to offer input, but they don't want to do so publicly. This is not new or unique to Kansas City government — all levels of government seek to work around the open record or sunshine or freedom of information laws that apply to them. However, it is disheartening to learn that the group supposedly appointed to bring the public into the discussion about a $1.2 billion new terminal is complicit in keeping things from them.

At every 'town hall'-style meeting the advisory group hosted that I attended, people said they were frustrated with the process and that they felt locked out of meaningful discussion. Unfortunately, the advisory group's actions seem to confirm the worst of these fears.


About the Author

Patrick Tuohey
Patrick Tuohey
Director of Municipal Policy

Patrick Tuohey is the Director of Municipal Policy at the Show-Me Institute.