Airport Privatization at 'Natural Stopping Point,' Says St. Louis Mayor Krewson

Dec 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm
Huge news on St. Louis' push for airport privatization: During a surprise guest appearance on St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU)'s St. Louis On The Air, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that she's pulling support for the wildly convoluted and conflict-of-interest-enmeshed plan to privatize operations at Lambert airport.

During the interview, Krewson said she would direct Linda Martinez, her representative on the Airport Advisory Working Group, to vote against the next step in the process, which would involve seeking specific proposals from the private companies seeking to turn Lambert into the largest U.S. airport to embrace privatization.

Krewson called this part of the process a "fork in the road" moment and a "natural stopping point."

In a letter to the airport working group dated today, Krewson, who has long defended her support for continuing the "exploration" of privatization, wrote that she'd listened to the "serious concern" and "trepidation" from residents, business leaders and public officials.

Notably, while Krewson's letter thanks the working group members and airlines, it makes no mention of the billionaire whose resources set the entire privatization process moving. As Riverfront Times explored at length in a 2018 cover story, it was Rex Sinquefield, a libertarian financier-turned-political-donor, who agreed to fund the process' staggering cost for consultants and outside firms, which at one point was estimated to reach $800,000 per month.

The rub, though, was that Sinquefield stood to be reimbursed for those expenses, but only if the privatization option went through. And despite attempts by some city officials and activists to force the issue, there was to be no public vote on whether the operation of city's largest asset would be thrust into the hands of a private entity.

Krewson did mention the financier during her interview today during St. Louis On The Air, even thanking him by name. But she also noted that Sinquefield, along with the other companies which traveled to St. Louis to pitch their privatization plans, were aware of what they were getting into.

"These companies, they're big boys, they know there's risk involved in this," Krewson told show host Sarah Fenske. "I appreciate the investment they've made so far, and their time and effort. But if you can't get all the way home, you need to make a stop."

Krewson's turn effectively kills the chance for the privatization process to move forward, which would require approval from the four voting members on the group. We already know the position of St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green, who has blasted the process since it was first unveiled.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]
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