KC Council Makes 2 Big Decisions: Keeping Edgemoor for KCI, Shutting Westport Sidewalks
Updated 7 p.m. Dec. 21 to include additional reaction to the decisions: The Kansas City Council ended the year with two major decisions Thursday, deciding to stick with a Maryland-based developer for the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport and to allow for gun screenings in the Westport entertainment district late on the weekends.
Both votes came after rounds of contentious debates in prior weeks. Here’s a breakdown of Thursday’s action:
A new resolution sets up specific timelines for negotiations with Edgemoor on a deal to build the new terminal, including scheduled updates to the full council and opportunities for their feedback.
This comes after a week of uncertainty, which started when the full council voted 9-4 last week not to proceed with negotiations for a memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor. Several council members said the agreement was vague on financial details, didn't guarantee enough community benefits and left the city on the hook for millions of dollars should the project be terminated early.
After that vote, Councilman Lee Barnes introduced a measure to drop Edgemoor entirely and proceed with KCI Partnership, the runner-up to Edgemoor during the bidding process.
But city officials did not support Barnes' resolution and voted 12-1 Thursday for the substitute measure sponsored by Mayor Sly James. Councilwoman Alissia Canady says she appreciates that the new resolution clearly lays out a process for collective input from the full council.
"I think that's critical, I think it will yield the highest and best outcome for the city," Canady says.
Barnes says although he disagrees with the decision to proceed with Edgemoor, he respects his colleagues' decision.
"If collectively, as a group they decide they want to move forward, I'm good with that," Barnes says.
Under the timeline, a final memorandum of understanding to lay out basic terms for the project could be approved by Jan. 30.
Gun checks to come
Westport businesses scored a victory when the council voted 8-5 to approve a sidewalk vacation so they can ban guns from the entertainment district on busy nights.
The move allows businesses to barricade certain sidewalks between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends and for special festivals. To get in, people will have to pass through a metal detector.
Opponents had argued that checking for guns on busy nights opens the door for racial profiling, and that setting up metal detectors at the entrance would make the district look unwelcoming.
But Westport business owners insist they’re only trying to keep patrons safe due to an uptick in shootings in the area.
Kyle Kelly, co-owner of Kelly's Westport Inn, says he thinks people will adjust to the changes, offering an example from 20 years ago, when Westport significantly increased the number of police officers in the area.
"People used to think, 'Do you think people are going to be intimidated by all the badges?" And the bottom line is, people understand that that's part of the security features in today's society," Kelly says.
Alissia Canady voted for the sidewalk closures, but says she wasn't sold on it initially. She added several safeguards to the ordinance to protect people's civil liberties, including civil rights observers at each entry point to document when and why people are turned away.
The city will also monitor any arrests that occur at the screening sites.
"They're not allowed to do body searches or warrant searches, so if any arrests occur, we want to know about it... and know why that's happening," Canady says.
Kelly says he hopes to begin screening for guns by April.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.