‘Friends of KCI' take action to keep renovated KCI from taking off

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A local group took action on Monday to stop airport renovation plans from taking off.

The group, Friends of KCI, turned in 1,500 petitions to the city clerk around 11:15 A.M., but they really had to scramble to make it happen.

At issue is a $1.2 billion plan to turn the Kansas City International Airport into one big terminal.

Friends of KCI want voters to have a say on the project.

Group leader Dan Coffey turned in thousands of signatures to city hall earlier this month, but 30 percent were invalid, according to city clerk Marilyn Simmons. That meant the group needed 500 additional petitions at a moment's notice.

Within days, Friends of KCI member John Murphy says citizens from all around the city offered to help them.

"I felt kind of like George Bailey did in ‘It's a Wonderful Life,' Murphy exclaimed.  "People came out of the woodwork by knocking on doors, sending emails and reaching out on social media to get things done. It was a great feeling. People obviously are very concerned about our city."

If the signatures add up, the group could have enough backing to force the airport decision onto a city ballot by April.

For months, the city has been exploring either renovations or possibly replacing the three-terminal, 40-year- old airport with a new single terminal.

Coffey said a vote would give citizens more participation in the decision.

"It gets under the skin of the voters, of people, when city council tries to do something without their input. They work for us, we're the taxpayers," he said.

But Mayor Sly James has appointed a citizens task force, a KCI airport advisory group, to get input from the public on whether a new $1.2 billion airport would be a good idea for the city.

Some city council members have already made up their minds.

"If we want to stay with the 21st century and want to have the convenience of planes land and take off, then we need to do something significant," Councilman Ed Ford said.

Even though airlines and travelers would pay for a new airport, opponents said the city should worry about how to afford its bigger problems.

"Broken roads, broken sewers, broken parks, high crime, and horrible schools" Murphy said. "What they want to focus on is rebuild an airport that works; it's fine the way it is."

The city said the issue would eventually go to the people anyway, but Friends of KCI wants to speed up the vote because the group believes a majority of citizens do not want a new airport.

The Mayor's advisory committee plans to make a recommendation to the city council in April -- the same month Friends of KCI want the public to cast a vote on the issue.

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