Kansas governor makes random bid to move KCI across state lines

Political news comes fast and furious at all levels right now.

I feel like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback tried to slip through the typical cycle this past week when he made an unsolicited bid for a new KCI Airport across the state line in Johnson County. Wait a minute. Slow down there.

Yes, Brownback decided to make another pitch to try and steal a Missouri asset. He’s done this before, most notably in the metro area in recent years by luring businesses to Kansas with promises of tax breaks.

Based on his past track record in Kansas, maybe he expects to build a new international airport using tax cuts. That’s a little joke.

Brownback wants to take advantage of the political stalling in talks to remodel the existing KCI Airport, as you know located right here in Platte County, or build a new one. Kansas City mayor Sly James famously “pushed the pause button” on a recommend proposal of a new one-terminal facility last year, citing public disagreement on whether or not that was the best option.

Instead, James suggested turning the city’s focus to reducing crime and improving schools.
While the City of Kansas City shifted its priorities, Brownback apparently decided to start dreaming big. He’s even cited some seemingly nonsensical stats in his out-of-the-blue idea, making claims that 50 percent of KCI users come from the state of Kansas.

Haven’t seen any data to back that up, but whatever.

In addition, one of his potential “metro locations” is apparently DeSoto, Kan., which is damn near to Lawrence if you ask me. You might as well drive to St. Louis if that’s the best option Kansas can come up with.

Brownback has no commitment from any airlines, and any airport comparable to KCI would require years of planning and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. But James has acknowledged in reports that this might change the airport conversation in Kansas City, Mo.

After all, more than 60,000 jobs by some estimates are tied to the airport.

In late April, airline operators at KCI presented a recommendation to the Kansas City City Council, suggesting a new single terminal on the current site in Platte County. James believes the city needs a complete transportation overhaul, including the airport and bus and rail systems, but declined to move forward with 40 percent of citizens in opposition to the proposal, according to polling.

“I’m not willing to do this if we can’t grow together as a city,” James wrote on his blog explaining his decision. “We’ve been conducting outreach to the residents, business and civic community. And it’s clear that our city isn’t ready to move forward with the KCI conversation right now.”

The ongoing conversation from the past five years has continued but in an unofficial capacity.

Many want to upgrade the 43-year-old KCI facility with a new structure that conforms to modern changes in travel, while others want to maintain the convenience of the current setup. In December of 2015, a study showed that building a single terminal would actually be cheaper than massive renovations.

No city tax dollars would be used in either scenario, only contributions from the airlines along with passenger ticket fees, parking revenues, grants and other special revenues. Missouri seems to suddenly have competition from Kansas so this conversation could start back up in the Show-Me State soon to ward off Kansas’ advances.

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