Discussion Of New Kansas City Airport Terminal More Manipulation Than Debate
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:
- For example, they claim that “Keeping the status quo at Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is unacceptable.” While narrowly true (all facilities require incremental improvement), this does not mean major overhaul is required now or in the near future. MCI ranks well as a convenient airport. The structure has, if the Aviation Director is to be believed, at least seven more years of useful life in the status quo form. Instead of addressing individual deficiencies to expand the exact useful life of the entire facility, we are expected to swallow the statement that the airport is unacceptable now.
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.