The Airport’s Self-Dealing
Imagine you have applied to the city for a building permit. The project is complicated and the city wants outside advice before giving you permission. What are the chances that they would ask you to recommend someone to give them that advice? What are the chances they would have applicants apply to you directly? If you’re thinking the chances are zero, then you haven’t worked in Kansas City, Mo. And you haven’t spent much time dealing with the mayor’s so-called advisory group on the proposed new terminal at Kansas City International Airport (MCI).
Members of the advisory group are studying the airport to decide if the Aviation Department should build the new $1.2 billion terminal they want. Those lessons have been presented by, well, the Aviation Department. But the advisory group wants to get an independent point of view, so it is seeking a consultant. Those interested are to apply through, who else, the Aviation Department.
This might be excusable were it not just the latest in a series of events demonstrating that the advisory group is not really expected to tell Mayor Sly James anything he doesn’t want to hear. Consider the following:
- The appointed head of the advisory group built airports for a living, including the current MCI.
- The mayor has said, while flanked by the group’s leaders, that anyone who opposes a new terminal is uninformed [July 9 Kansas City Star, story taken down].
- The City Council told the Aviation Department to go ahead with its plans while the advisory group meets.
- Proponents of the new airport spent at least $117,000 on public relations consulting and yet refuse to speak in public about their plans.
- One member of the advisory committee works for an economic development council headed by the Aviation Department’s administrator.
- The advisory group began its series of meetings by removing opponents at the very moment its leaders were saying the meetings were to be open.
- City Councilman Ed Ford said that Kansas City is going to get a new terminal regardless of what voters think.
The advisory group will continue its meetings well into 2014 with no end in sight. No one knows what their decision will be, but it’s clear that any information they receive will either be gathered by the Aviation Department or those it approves, such as the so-called independent consultant.