Joe Reardon’s 82nd presentation of his pitch about why Kansas City needs, as the campaign is called, “A Better KCI” was aimed at the millennials the Chamber of Commerce hoped to attract with flights of wine — get it? — and a few thoughts about why they should vote yes on the Nov. 7 referendum on a new single-terminal airport.
Only, more boomers turned out than young professionals. (Yup, we like free wine, too.)
What those of all ages who did show up last week, at an iWerx in the Northland, had to say illustrates the challenges that advocates for a new terminal will have to overcome in only a few weeks.
But first, let’s talk about younger voters. Too many of even those who did come said they either weren’t registered to vote, or were registered but would probably sit this one out.
A big question, not just for this local referendum but for both major political parties and every candidate across the land, is how to get these newer voters as engaged and all-in as they were for Bernie Sanders last year.
One answer, at least according to those who turned out to hear Sanders speak in Missouri earlier this month, can be summed up in a single word, authenticity. (When you’ve been saying the same thing every day for 50 years, you’ve definitely got that going for you.)
Given the needless twists and turns of the airport referendum process so far, the time for some straight talk was yesterday.
But since that’s not an option, let’s touch on just a couple of the concerns city officials must address frankly and right now.
Overpromising and just not offering all the facts:
“They give you one side of the story and try to ram things through,” said Charles Cottitta, who runs a non-profit and describes himself as “not opposed” to a single terminal, but eager to hear more specifics.
Reardon, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and other proponents say that if we build a new terminal, the airlines will route many more flights through Kansas City. But is that a guarantee or a hope?
Is it a fact that we’d then get more direct flights and international flights? Or is it only a fact that we won’t if we don’t? And will airlines have carte blanche on ticket prices they’ll be raising to pay for the new terminal?
Then, of course, there’s the matter of convenience, convenience, convenience:
“It’s one of the most convenient airports I’ve ever experienced,” Jim Beezley, an independent contractor who is retired from Cerner said after Reardon’s presentation. “I’d vote to keep what we have right now and enhance it. What I’d like to hear is the argument on expansion — cost comparisons and highlighting the pros and cons.”
City officials skipped over that discussion because all the experts said it wouldn’t be worth it to spend almost as much on upgrades that would still leave KCI outdated. But if Kansas Citians still have questions about why that’s the case, then those questions still need to be answered.
The two parts of the presentation that seemed to resonate most were that Kansas City is losing out to rival St. Louis in adding new flights, and that this new terminal is not going to turn KCI into O’Hare or Dulles airport, but into a still easy-to-negotiate airport like Nashville has, or Indianapolis.
When Reardon said a new KCI wouldn’t be DFW but Dallas Love Field, heads nodded.
The city needs all the help it can get in delivering this message — door-to-door, neighbor to neighbor, and with the aid of every willing member of the City Council — after a wasted season of confusion.
We still need the airport, because what good is convenience at the curb if we can’t get a direct flight? But we also still need to explain why that is.