Airport question a big one for upcoming special election

The calendar hit October, and so it wouldn’t be too early to start thinking about the upcoming November election.

This will be a special election, so if you reside outside of Kansas City, Mo. and Northmoor, Mo., this won’t necessarily apply to you. Well, the one big item pretty much applies to everyone in the region.

No, it’s not the question on whether Northmoor should collect titling taxes on vehicles, boats and trailers purchased outside the state.

Of course, the KCI Airport question for Kansas City voters will and should be grabbing all of the attention. In fact, the long-simmering issue has been a part of the news for a long time.

A very long time.

Whether or not November offers an ending will be up to Kansas City voters. Will they give the majority needed to pass the $1 billion proposal to build a new single terminal KCI Airport?

There will be so many potential sticking points that the campaign hopes clear up, but there won’t be much time for the proponents.

Just last month, the Kansas City City Council awarded the contract bid to Edgemoor with a 10-2 vote. This was a decision based on price and experience with airport projects.

However, the Maryland-based firm won out over the “hometown” bid from Burns & McDonnell which ran advertisements looking for support. This means the city must sell an “outsider” as the best option.

Kansas City mayor Sly James has said that it shouldn’t matter since no public tax dollars will go toward the project. However, it’s hard to imagine that at least some won’t be miffed with the selection of Edgemoor.

And let’s not forget the confusion in general about who pays for a new airport.

Traditionally, municipal revenue bonds are issued with the airport users paying off the debt. However, many remain unconvinced with how the system works and fear that local taxpayers could end up footing the bill, no matter how many times public officials state otherwise.

And that’s what makes this election truly unusual.

Generally, airport updates don’t require a vote. However, the city council accepted a petition in 2013 guaranteeing a vote on any proposed major improvements, thinking an election would be necessary due to the municipal bonds.

However, when the original plan stalled and the private financing option became available that changed the requirement. Now, the vote must take place with public polling showing a slight majority of support.

Activists looking to get away from the convenient but dated three-terminal setup likely can’t fail. Airlines have indicated a frustration with the lengthening process and don’t want to see more delays.

A no vote in November could lead to other options being considered, like a new international airport built elsewhere in the Kansas City metro area. This is big in terms of economics for the area, and it could be now or never for the future of KCI Airport.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.