KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Santa arrived early in downtown Kansas City Tuesday. A group of opponents of a new Kansas City airport, called Friends of KCI, dressed as Santa with a gift in hand.
When they gave it to the city clerk, they promised the delivery would be a gift to the citizens of the city. They wrapped 3,500 petition signatures in a bow and had the city clerk unwrap it.
They said they hoped the signatures, if approved, will unwrap any city plans to build a new airport in the future.
"In the 16 years I've been here, I've never seen anything like this," City Clerk Marilyn Simmons said, shaking her head.
The signatures could force a vote of the people in April or November of next year before Kansas City council members can make a final decision on any future plans for KCI.
For months, the city has been exploring either renovations or possibly replacing the three terminal, 40-year- old airport with a new single terminal.
Dan Coffey, who dressed up like Santa for Friends of KCI, 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. What they want to focus on is rebuild an airport that works. It's fine the way it is," John Murphy of Friends of KCI said."
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.