Making Changes

A couple of years ago, I finally made the decision to try to get more active and healthy. I figured walking would be a good place to start.  I convinced my wife, Licia, to join me one morning at 6am.  I laced up my old red Converse high tops and was ready to go. Licia looked at my feet and frowned.

“Are you really going to wear those?” she asked.

“Sure. Why not?” I asked.

“Because they aren’t good walking shoes,” she said.

“Sure they are,” I said. “They’re broken in. They’re pretty comfortable and they’re also pretty snazzy don’t you think?”

Shaking her head in the way I had come to know after 30 years meant that she thought I was full of it, she said, “If you are serious about getting something done, you need shoes for walking, not ‘snaz’!  When you used to wear those shoes all the time, you weren’t this heavy and they aren’t going to support your feet well but you can try it if you want.”

“These are comfortable. I’ve had them for a long time.  I’ll be fine.” I said and out the backdoor we went on that first walk.

After our walk, as I unlaced the Converse and rubbed my feet, Licia looked over and laughed, “I was right wasn’t I?”  She could barely hold back the “I told you so” that I knew she was dying to say.  “It was fine.  I’m just out of shape.”  “Yeah, right!” she said, and grabbed a cup of coffee that brewed while we were out and laughed her way to the shower.

After several more walks in the Converse and more of Licia’s taunts, we were about to head out on another Sunday morning walk.  She tossed a bag on the bed. “What’s in there?” I asked. “Open it and see,” she said with a smirk.  I opened the bag, pulled out a shoebox containing a brand new pair of New Balance walking shoes in my size.  “I got them for  you yesterday.  Try them on,” she said.  I was reluctant to give in and admit defeat.  I knew the consequences of defiance – again, 30 years experience – so I took my time lacing them up and putting them on.   I had that annoyed look on my face that I saved for moments just like this.  I slid my big wide feet into the New Balances and stood.  They felt different. Okay! They felt better – but I wasn’t going to admit that to her!  We set the coffee pot timer and out the backdoor we went.  Why was she smiling?

Later, over coffee, she couldn’t wait. “So, what do you think?”  “I’m still out of shape,” I said dodging the real question.  “No you butthead, about the shoes,” she said.  Still reluctant to concede defeat, I answered, “They’re okay.”  “Yeah, right,” she said.  “You just don’t want to change and you don’t want to admit that I was right-again!”

I gave up.

“Yeah, okay!  You were right – AGAIN!” I said.  “They are better but I still like my old Converse.”

I never wore the Converse on another walk.  I didn’t want to change from my old, but comfortable, Converse high tops to something arguably better until I was forced to – even though it was in my best interest to do so.
I’m not so different from most I suspect, but I’ve learned that change can be beneficial.  I changed what I had become comfortable doing and the results are superior.

We have a lot of “change” to talk about in KC.  We have already experienced some very good changes: taking taxes off the rolls in exchange for a better system; introducing more innovation into city government with KC Stat performance measures, and the appointment of a Chief Innovation Officer and Challenge Cabinet.  We are now using GPS technology to plow snow and implementing a new economic development strategic plan.  All of these changes have positively impacted the way we do things and how we interact with our citizens.  In addition, the Citizens Commission on Municipal Revenue and the Small Business Committee suggested sweeping changes in our tax and business practices.  Two recommended changes are currently being implemented or are already complete.

If we are serious about making our City better; on our way to being the best, we are going to have to get comfortable with the concept of change.  We can’t possibly be the best unless we are at least willing to consider changing systems, strategies or policies that hold us back.  Sure, things are working well enough, but if we want to be the best we can never settle for “good enough.”

We are now confronted with possibilities of change in a couple of significant areas: police governance and replacing KCI.  Both of these issues evoke strong and immediate emotional responses.  People have dug in with the 75-year-old state control of our police department.  Despite the fact that the factors that precipitated this unique governance system are long dead.  After St. Louis assumes local control this summer, we will be the only city in the country that does not control its own police department.  Proponents believe the current system is “ good enough.”  Maybe it is, but after 75 years, isn’t it time to at least have an adult discussion about the issue and make a decision based on current facts and circumstances?

Similarly, KCI is now over 40-years-old . It is perhaps the most convenient airport around but convenience can’t be the only factor considered in a billion dollar issue. There are serious and significant issues with how the airport functions, in terms of profitability, efficiency, utilization, airline usage and safety.  The practical business, development and financial aspects of operating a safe and efficient major metropolitan airport must be considered in the overall discussion of major systems in this City.  Again, it’s time we had an adult discussion about the facts and make a reasoned decision.

In the coming months, these and other issues will arise and command our attention.  If we are going to make the right decisions – ones based on facts, data and emotion rather than simply emotion alone – we will need to be able to open our minds and hearts to the prospects of change.  Change is not always scary.  Change does not always mean something negative.  Often, when you finally accept change, it slips on like a good pair of walking shoes and takes you farther down the trail.

10 thoughts on “Making Changes

  1. Mr. Mayor, regarding KCI you are absolutely right. It IS the most convenient airport around and yes, it’s time we had an adult discussion about the facts and make a reasoned decision.

    I did not launch the SaveKCI.com website out of some sort of sentimental attachment to the current KCI. I launched it as a community forum because there did not appear to be a desire from those in authority to have such a discussion.

    The arguments for the new terminal as presented in the media have not and do not appear to be well founded. I have tried to ask questions on the site that are not being asked and to point out observations and concerns that are not being addressed.

    My family moved to the area in 1905 and I’ve lived here my entire life. I bought my current business in 2005 and moved it from Parkville to Kansas City in 2006. Not only were there no “incentives” I’ve paid thousands more in license fees and taxes than I would have in Parkville. I did not move for incentives. I did it because I love Kansas City.

    I appreciate your desire for adult discussion and reason and look forward to seeing a sensible solution emerge.

    • I agree that the roll out of this issue has not been optimal but I guarantee that there will be community discussion of this issue and the thoughts of the community will be heard. Thank you for what you have done. I look forward to the discussion.

  2. Mr. Mayor,

    I have lived in Kansas City for most of my adult life. After graduating from college, I returned to Kansas City for work and did not hesitate moving back because Kansas City is such a great place to live/work/play. My job eventually took me out of Kansas City, but I am on a plane or in a hotel more than at my home. My travel takes me through MCI at least once or twice per month so I feel like I have a pretty good “business travelers perspective” on MCI. One of the reasons I love KC is because whether I’m traveling for business or pleasure it is always easy to get “home” to KC and in terms of affordability- you can’t beat it (airfare, car rental, etc.).

    In regards to MCI/KCI- if we are going to have a “reasoned conversation” about building a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport then it is only fair to point out some “facts,” that those in favor of the new terminal are failing to recognize. So I would like to highlight some of those facts that I feel are being neglected so Kansas Citians have full disclosure on the issue:

    1). The real cost: Building a new terminal costs a lot of money- the proposal on the table says $1.2 Billion dollars. While the proposal says that cost will be paid by federal dollars it fails to “admit” the hidden fees that travelers will see.

    -A comparison to Indy or Sacramento (who both built terminals in the last decade) shows that after their new airports were constructed, the airport began charging a $10/enplanement charge to help pay for the terminals. What does that probably mean for MCI? Airfare will most likely increase because the airlines will have to pass the buck along to the traveling public because they are concerned #1 with making money. That means a family of 5 who travels two times per year for the next 10 years will end up paying ($10 fee * 2 depart/landing * 5 ppl * 2/yrs * 10/yrs) an additional $2,000 in airfare.

    Even more of an impact is the impact on small/large businesses that operate in/out of Kansas City. Say there is a business with 30 Salesmen/analysts/accountants who send their employees on 3 trips per month to X destination to see clients. Their additional cost on an annual basis would be ($10/fee * 2 depart/landing * 30 ppl * 3/trips/mo * 12 mo)= $21,600 in added cost of doing business.

    So in addition to costing a family of leisure travelers thousands of dollars in higher airfares, it will cost those business in Kansas City added cost of sending employees on trips which might cause them to reduce headcounts or potential find alternative ways to not fly their employees out of town.

    The notion that this airport won’t cost residents of KC money is bogus and furthermore this only deters potential travelers from visiting KC. MCI as it stands now is one of the cheapest places in the country to fly in and out of. (source: http://www.businessinsider.com/cheapest-places-to-fly-in-the-us-2012-5)

    2). The notion that if we build some new terminal we will see increased air service/bring an airline hub- FALSE. Airlines to not operate more flights in cities where they have new airports, they operate service where they can make money. MCI has been tried by countless airlines (pre 9/11 and post 9/11) to use as a hub and all failed because the business economics didn’t work. So the tag line to build a new terminal on the false pretense of gaining air service is misleading and untrue. Again if you look at Sacramento and Indy they saw the # of flights reduced at their airports after the construction. Why did airlines do that? #1 because they don’t care about how new the terminal is….they care about $$$. As talked about above- new airports mean higher costs charged to the airline to land a plane at that airport. Airlines already operate on razor thin margins so increased costs lead them to shutter flights.

    INDY pre terminal had 27 Delta Flights departing daily (Jan 1 of 2007)
    INDY post terminal now has 25 Delta flights departing daily (Apr 8 2013)
    So INDY builds a new terminal and has a reduction in service by 2 flights. In addition they saw passenger traffic drop by 2.2% . (Source: http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=90838 and http://www.delta.com)

    3) The comparison I keep hearing about STL vs. MCI and Southwest flights. Correct me if I’m wrong but STL metro is 2.8 Million people and KC metro is 2.0 million people. That means STL is roughly 40% larger than KC. So I would expect STL to have roughly 40% more flights than MCI. According the KSHB MCI has 60 STL has 100. That means STL has hmmm…40% more flights? I think that actually makes sense.

    What if we compare another airline, Delta, at both:
    MCI: 31 flights
    STL: 34 flights

    Looks like MCI is competitive as STL only has 8% more flights with 40% more people.

    4). Bringing up Southwest is a valid point- it is MCI’s largest airline. With the Wright Amendment dissolving in 2014 Southwest is going to change the way it runs Dallas Love Field. It will no longer need to stop in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, or a few other states to fly into Love. This means it will probably look to reduce some regional flying to expand its Love service. If MCI’s cost of business to SWA goes up- do you think they will choose to stay with MCI or move flights around to OKC, TUL, STL, MSY, SAT, AUS??? My educated guess is they won’t move them because of the terminal offerings- they will move them based on cost. Right now MCI has a cost advantage to SWA because landing fees are low and the airport is easier to turn a revenue out of.

    In conclusion- I don’t have an “emotional” tie to the current airport. For me it comes down to the cost of flying and like 99.9999% of the flying public, all we look at is the cost of our airline tickets. So from a business standpoint if keeping the current MCI means cheaper airfare and more flights, then I’ll keep the current airport.

    Let’s ensure we get all the facts on the table and look at what has happened to air service in SMF and IND- higher airfares and fewer flights are not good for business and not good for the people in those cities.

    -Mike “a frequent flyer of MCI”

    • Good and thoughtful analysis. Thank you. We have considered the impact and will continue to do so as we try to address the issue.

  3. Mr Mayor -

    Why do you think that the city of Kansas City can run the police board better than the state can? The City Council / Mayor’s history says it will not. This includes your history as Mayor. It took a federal law suit for the city to maintain its LOCALLY CONTROLLED Water and Sewer. Our water and sewer rates are not near being competitive and YOU failed for a year to put a department head in charge of that operation. Only after a bit of criticism did you just promote the intern holder of that role to the full time position. You and the council LOCALLY CONTROL the fire department. Apparently you guys have never had a review of KCFD rules and compared them to national standards. Had you, we might not have had the death and injuries at JJ’s earlier this year. To make that matter worse, you stood up in front of the city in a red fire shirt and said you supported the KCFD. Why did you not ask for answers? The take over of MAST to be a LOCALLY CONTROLLED Ambulance service now costs the city more and provides a worse service putting people’s lives at risk. The failure of our schools here in KC is the cause of our high murder rate. You and the council do not run the school board or make its decisions directly but during a hiring freeze you did hire the wife of a KCPS Board member to be the Chief Innovation Officer you bragged about in your article. You brag too about plowing the snow with a GPS. BIG WHOOP. All you do is tell me what has been plowed. You continually do not have a master plan on how to remove the snow. Snow removal in KC is always reactionary, never proactive.

    Managing basic city services is not a strength of the KC City Council or Mayor. The job you do is sub par. Its disturbing too to hear the comments of the council resting on positive outcomes of citizen surveys. I have never received one of these to take and neither has anyone I know (except my friends who work for you – they probably did). I would suspect these surveys which are the only thing that can keep your head up are distributed in a similar matter as the ballots for the KC Streetcar.

    For years now the priority of the KC Mayor and Council has been to attract new places to eat and new places to party. Even those are not doing well. The P&L district, to be profitable, requires way more in tax dollars than it will ever collect. It loses money and to make matters worse, you guys let the Cordish group load the area up with non-KC restaurants. I’d be way happier going there if there was a KC steak house instead of one from Des Moines. And, in a city that calls itself the BBQ capital of the world we with our tax dollars support a Minneapolis BBQ joint in P&L and not one of the many famous ones here in KC. The 18th and Vine district is also not bringing in the dollars promised. Don’t get me started on Citadel Plaza. That was a ‘no duh – it wont work’ from the start (it failed for different reasons though).

    This is a downer view of our good city. There are many great things here in KC despite your leadership. We keep moving to be like the management of Detroit. Until you can really reverse that history and make a new one you should not be trusted with the safety of our city. GPS snow plows (assisted by third party contractors that businesses and home owners associations had to pay for) and a Chief Innovation Officer whose husband is on the school board is not a new history.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. They contain some inaccuracies, however. There was no federal lawsuit about local control of the water dept. the federal action had to do with waste water and overflow control issue that had plagued this city for at least 20 years before I ever took office. We are under an unfounded federal mandate to fix the problem just like dozens of cities across the country. That is why rates are rising- to pay for the mandated changes. As for hiring the Department head, that authority lies with the city manager, not the council or me. We don’t hire, the Manager does. By the way, our Manager does a pretty darn good job managing city services despite what you may think.

      As for local control of the PD, the circumstances that led to state control 75 years, ago have long ceased to exist. It is time to look at the situation in light of today’s circumstances.

      You are certainly entitled to your ” downer view of the city” . I would encourage you, however, to look a bit closer at real facts and understand the governmental system a bit for a different perspective. Perhaps then, you could offer some constructive ideas. It’s pretty easy to complain about the problems that this city and others have but much more difficult to solve them. Your help in finding solution would be much more valuable in the long run.

      Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Mr. Mayor. I agree with all of the above comments but I also understand the desire to update a 40 year old facility. $1.2 billion is outrageous and will be financed by parking and fees collected from airlines. Neither of which is a good thing for the people you are trying to please.

    You can accomplish all of your goals by following or at least researching the following plan.

    1. Lease terminal C for private use

    2. Add a 2nd deck to terminals A and B to be used for ticketing and one centrally located security checkpoint. A drive-up ramp would allow passenger drop-off and curbside check-in.

    3. The now completely secure gate level can be used for revenue producing shops, restaurants, bars, lounges and restrooms. Luggage carousels could be located under the TSA security checkpoint and on the extreme ends of the terminal. Passenger pickup would still happen at the gate level.

    4. The terminal parking garages are greatly expanded to 12 levels in order to accommodate affordable long term parking. Three sky-bridges are added at the 2nd level where the tunnels and elevators are currently located for easy access to security and ticket counters.

    Imagine driving to KCI and parking in a covered parking spot and walking to a nearby elevator down to the 2nd level where a short sky-bridge delivers you to a single TSA checkpoint. You could literally go from your car to the security line in 3 minutes.

    Now imagine having a layover in Kansas City and having the option of shopping in some very fine stores, getting a haircut, eating in a nice restaurant or watching the football game in the sports-bar. All without ever leaving security.

    Finally, imagine you are an executive with a major airline. You are looking to expand service but all of the new airports have such high landing fees and station rent that being profitable is a challenge, except Kansas City. By saving $1 billion dollars on our airport renovation, we are able to offer the airlines and public money-saving rent, parking, and airline tickets.

    Let’s be bold and practical. Resist the shiny new toy in the window and make the most of the assets we already have in place. The public will appreciate it, the airlines will appreciate it and the voters will appreciate it.

    • Thanks for your suggestions. Many have already been considered but some are new. We will consider all as our discussion goes forward.

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