At the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center Monday night, a Kansas City Council committee held the first public hearing on a new airport since opening the bidding process to additional firms.
Kansas City firm Burns and McDonnell quietly presented the city with a proposal last month to build a new, privately-financed, single terminal airport. The proposal allegedly protects the city from financial risk while allowing ownership and operation of the airport to remain in city hands.
But last week, Mayor James responded to appeals from other firms and announced the city would open the bidding for the next three weeks.
Jolie Justus, co-chair of the airport committee, says whatever is going on at City Hall does not alter what she wants to learn from public hearings.
“Which is, what do people want to see out of KCI, what do they like, what do they dislike and how can we move forward,” Justus says.
Councilwoman Justus, Councilmen Jermaine Reed, Kevin McManus and Dan Fowler got an earful on what people want - and don't want.
Salesman Jim Rebman told the committee he doesn’t buy the idea we need a new $1 billion airport. He distrusts the promise that taxpayers won't bear any of the cost.
“Yeah, and I’m the smartest man in the room,” Rebman says sarcastically.
He says Kansas City is never going to be a major airline hub that can sustain big city expenses.
“We’re not gonna compete with Chicago, Denver, or Dallas. We're basically a large regional airport.”
Terry Asplund drives a taxi cab and says Uber has already dealt an almost fatal blow to his business. He told the committee that building a single terminal will only make things worse.
“We’re going to just have more problems getting in and out with one gigantic terminal,” he says.
But Ernestine Davis and William Tunley are looking forward to a cleaner airport with more amenities.
“Kansas City is trying to grow,” Davis says.”We won’t grow if we’re stuck in the past. We need to move forward and now’s the time.”
All proposals for the Kansas City airport are due by June 20th.
Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.