That’s it…the headline, I mean.
That’s the slogan — christened here today on your favorite blog — for the bond-issue campaign (God willing) that will determine if Kansas City builds a new single terminal at KCI or sticks with the one we’ve had for more than 40 years.
I’m hereby giving Pat Gray, Steve Glorioso, Pat O’Neill and other political consultants carte blanche to appropriate the slogan, which, I think, says all voters need to know about why a new, single terminal is a good idea…
“Soar into the future.”
OK, so the campaign isn’t going to be the slam dunk I first thought it was going to be. A Save KCI group has formed, and it has a web site. Letters to the editor tilt toward maintaining the status quo, and Mayor Sly James now seems to be hedging his bets.
A front-page story in The Star yesterday said that James supports “moving forward with a study on the merits of a new terminal.” That’s a long way from being unequivocal.
Here’s what he should say…
“This is what we need, Kansas Citians; this an opportunity for us to keep pace — as did with the Power & Light District and Sprint Center — with other top-tier cities. This is an opportunity to build a 21st Century terminal that will be more efficient and will make travelers open their eyes when they arrive in our city.”
That’s what he should say, anyway, if he wants to be remembered like former Mayor Kay Barnes, who gave us Power & Light and the Sprint Center. Or like the late former Mayor Ilus W. Davis, who moved air travel out of Downtown Airport and gave us a major-league airport in Platte County.
(A quick digression: Remember how “convenient” Downtown Airport was?)
For the campaign to succeed, it’s going to need James’ strong backing. He has built up tremendous credibility with the public. I think that’s great; that’s what enables a mayor to lead. But if James equivocates on this, or if he throws in the towel, Kansas City is hosed. Another opportunity to modernize KCI probably wouldn’t come along for another decade…at least.
Earlier, when I put in the mayor’s mouth the words “make travelers open their eyes,” I meant it almost literally.
Look around the next time you go to KCI…Most people are trudging around soporifically, in the dungeon that is Terminal B, looking for someplace decent to get something to eat, other than a day-old croissant or a three-day-old sandwich.
Then, watch those who are “shopping” for items for friends and relatives back home. They flip through the KU, K-State and MU caps and shirts at the news stands, and they quickly move on.
Folks, this place is not far from being a dump!
The only difference between KCI and Kemper Arena is that Kemper Arena was always a dump. It held us back on the sports front for many years. Now, with Sprint Center, we’ve got one of the most successful arenas in the country, and when we have a big concert or basketball tournament down there, the streets, bars and restaurants are filled with happy people. A beautiful sight it is, if you love Kansas City and want it to rank up there with St. Louis, Denver, Indianapolis and Louisville.
The important thing to realize is that the “convenience” factor, which opponents of a new, single terminal continuously harp on, is an extremely narrow view. Yes, you can get to your airline fairly easily at KCI, but once you go through one of the security checkpoints, you are a prisoner in a smaller holding area where about all you can get are yogurt cups, crackers and bottled drinks.
I was in one of the holding areas recently, and to get to the restrooms I had to walk from one end of the enclosed area to the other and then down at least one long flight of steps. Convenient? Hell, no! A lot of people, like me, don’t have the knees they once did…You should never have to go down a flight of steps to go to a restroom at an airport.
Here’s the best thing about a bond election that would have to be held before the city could proceed: If voters approve (by a simple majority), the bonds would be retired solely with revenue generated by the Kansas City Aviation Department.
A lot of people don’t understand this, I fear. They hear that the new terminal is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and their knee-jerk reaction is, “We can’t afford it!”
Not so. Airport-construction bonds would not rely at all on the city’s General Fund, that is, on taxpayer dollars.
The Aviation Department is one of two city departments, along with the Water and Pollution Control, that do not tap the General Fund. They are called “enterprise departments’” because they pay for their operations, totally, with fees they charge.
In the case of the Water and Pollution Control Department, it’s the water and sewer bills we get in the mail every month. In the case of the Aviation Department, it’s fees charged to airlines and other businesses that rent space at the airport. The department’s largest source of income is airline “landing fees” — usually so much money for each 1,000 pounds.
I want to emphasize this point about how the bonds would be financed…Here it is again, straight from yesterday’s Kansas City Star:
“The bonds would be backed by aviation funds — paid by the airlines, passengers, tenants and other users — not general taxpayer dollars.”
No tax dollars…No, it’s not free, but the airlines and other users are paying, and they’re willing to pay because they know it will pay off for them in the long run.
Once again, I’m going to quote U.S. Rep. and former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, who, I’m convinced, got Kansas City focused on the future when he was mayor, after a long period of belly-button gazing.
Here’s what Cleaver used to say — always in an insistent tone of voice:
“This is not some podunk town along I-70. This is Kansas City!”
People, it’s time to cut bait on the existing KCI, with its sodden, antiquated terminals.
Don’t look back; don’t be nostalgic. The KCI of the 70s, with its gleaming, parquet floors and its fresh, clean look, is a thing of the past. Look ahead; let’s Soar into the Future…