You Can’t Take The Public Out Of Public Airports
In an Oct. 14 Kansas City Star article, Kansas City Aviation Department Director Mark Van Loh railed against government policy and local politics that are hampering his efforts to build a new $1.2 billion airport terminal. However, the legal and regulatory framework of Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is part and parcel of what it means to be a public airport, and the director cannot simply pick and choose the sections he likes.
The Aviation Department director appears to believe that Kansas City residents should not have to vote on whether MCI can issue revenue bonds, because they will not be responsible for those bonds. But those bonds he wants to issue are tax-exempt, special facility bonds, which MCI can issue because it is a public airport. Without that advantage, the capital costs of building a $1.2 billion new terminal might be too much for the airport to handle. But the Aviation Director only wants to forgo the government-mandated vote, not the government-mandated access to cheap capital.
And that’s only one of the many trade-offs the airport makes for being publicly owned. The truth is, Kansas City and the federal government provided the property and money to build the airport and constructed the framework for how the airport is run and how it is funded. Kansas City residents own the airport. They are going to have to pay most, if not all, of the cost of a new terminal, either directly or indirectly. It’s perfectly reasonable to allow the citizens to block a project that might be both wasteful and unnecessary.