Joseph Miller
Anyone who participated in debates in high school or college knows that controlling the framework of the argument is the key to winning. If you can get your opponents to accept your assumptions, reduce the available alternatives to your position, and control the discourse, then victory is almost assured. It appears that the Kansas City Aviation Department officials are using these tactics to push through their preferred terminal option while feigning an open discussion. Below is an analysis of how they have controlled the argument with these tactics.

They have stated assumptions as facts:

They have reduced available alternatives:

  • Alternatives to the terminal plans do not appear to be made in good faith. During the planning phase, the plan alternatives were the more expensive South Terminal option and a mirrored single terminal plan. It doesn’t take much skepticism to recognize either a severe lack of imagination or an attempt to make the current plan the only plan. During the so-called “debate” in recent months, there has been no alternative plan to the single terminal option. In Columbia, Mo., aviation officials presented the city with several alternatives and comparisons of each.

They have controlled the discourse:

  • The majority of the information about financing a new terminal, alternative plans for MCI modernization, and repair estimates has come from the Aviation Department.

  • The Airport Advisory Committee has broken down debate into a choice between (a) repairing all of MCI (with shoddy estimates) or (b) building a $1.2 billion new terminal. This is a false choice.

  • The Aviation Department, not independent sources, essentially taught the Airport Advisory Committee’s “airport school.” As such, it is unlikely that the “Advisory Committee” could come to a conclusion that is different from the Aviation Department's conclusion.

While this is textbook debating technique, as a matter of public policy, it seems manipulative. No one in Kansas City should be under the illusion that there is an open discussion regarding the future of the airport. Perhaps that discussion can occur, but only when the city government seeks out independent advice and presents a true slate of alternatives.


About the Author

Joseph Miller
Policy Analyst
Joseph Miller was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute. He focused on infrastructure, transportation, and municipal issues. He grew up in Itasca, Ill., and earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree from the University of California-San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.