Airport Privatization Working Group Questions New Lambert Documentary
Updated Oct. 28 with an update from First Rule
A representative from First Rule on Monday noted the media company has postponed a private screening of a new documentary about St. Louis Lambert International Airport. She did not provide a reason for the delayed event or a rescheduled date.
Original story from Oct. 25:
There’s a new documentary about St. Louis Lambert International Airport — and members of the working group considering whether to lease the airport aren’t happy about it.
The company that produced the documentary, First Rule, this week emailed invitations for a private viewing of the film, as well as a presentation about the airport privatization process so far. First Rule is a subsidiary of media advocacy organization Pelopidas, founded by Travis Brown, who also leads Grow Missouri.
Grow Missouri is one of several consultants for FLY314, the group hired by the city of St. Louis to consider whether to privatize the airport.
Paul Payne, head of the Airport Advisory Working Group, expressed frustration about that connection Thursday during a regular meeting of the working group.
“In our own consulting agreement, Travis is a principal, basically a project leader for FLY314,” Payne said. “So that’s an issue, and I think that needs to be resolved, or otherwise we’re going to have problems.”
Payne said no one has reached out to him about the film. His biggest concern is that the working group’s communications team wasn’t consulted and has not reviewed the content.
“It troubles me. I know when we are working on these presentations, all the members of the working group are contributing,” he said. “We’re not promoting privatization. What we are doing here is evaluating whether that is a good idea.”
He said he doesn’t know whether that’s the same message that will be communicated through the film or the presentation. Payne said he plans to speak with Brown directly to “coordinate our communications.” He said that will happen “sooner rather than later.”
Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge also expressed concern. She said she first heard about the film when a friend shared the invitation with her.
“At a time when we are looking at trying to be as transparent as we can be, an organization that’s affiliated with the advisory team shouldn’t be putting out additional information,” she said.
Hamm-Niebruegge said she has not seen the film but is concerned that there may be inaccuracies based on how it is described in the invitation.
“I don't understand why a documentary would be produced without anyone being involved to validate those facts,” she said during the meeting.
St. Louis Public Radio obtained a copy of an invitation addressed to “former chamber colleagues” for the event at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Vue 17.
“The documentary you will preview exposes how the decision of past St. Louis City officials to build a new runway and pay for it with massive debt was the true reason for the diminished performance of the airport rather than the commonly held belief it was the collapse of TWA and subsequent dismantling of the hub by American Airlines,” according to the email.
Brown did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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