Public policy professor weighs in on airport control issue - | WBTV Charlotte

Public policy professor weighs in on airport control issue

The battle over who gets to run Charlotte Douglas International airport in the future is taking center stage in both The Queen City and in Raleigh.

Many question why state legislators want to make a change after nearly eight decades. And why so soon?

"It did seem to kind of come out of the blue," UNCC Professor David Swindell said.

Swindell says the fear of some is if the state takes over, citizen concerns like airport noise and airport growth may fall on deaf ears. That's because the voters have no direct say over who's appointed to the authority board.

Swindell says there's several political reasons for a state takeover - One being the perception there would be improvements to the efficiencies and effectiveness of the airport system.

Thing is, there's no data specific to Charlotte to back that up.

"Some places you see improvements, some you didn't."

The results of either a state or independently controlled airport in other US cities are mixed.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx went to Raleigh to ask for a study on the issue but was shut down.

"I think that the first question is what problem are we trying to solve? And I have yet to get a satisfactory answer to that question," Foxx told WBTV earlier this month.

Sources tell us one reason for picking Ron Carlee as the new city manager is in hopes he can convince state leaders the takeover is a bad idea.

"What this is, is the consolidation of power to the state taking away from local government when in fact conservatives are typically encouraging local control and this seems to run counter to the philosophy of conservatism," Swindell said.

Bill sponsor Bob Rucho and other Republican state leaders say they're concerned the city is meddling in airport business.

Rucho calls the airport an economic engine and says it needs the focus and expertise of an authority board, which would be made up of 13 members including Governor Pat McCrory.

Swindell points out some feel local officials may be more inclined to cater to the airport's major customer - that being US Airways for Charlotte - and it may sway decision making.

On the flip side, Swindell says, just as many people argue that the state authority, which is not elected by voters and doesn't have the same oversight as local government, would be more likely influenced.

Senate Bill 81 passed in a Senate committee last week.

Sen. Bob Rucho says with Jerry Orr's impending retirement, it's critical for a smooth transition and for the city to take credit for the airport's success is false. "Jerry Orr and his people are the reason for its success...politics and patronage have no place in the operation of the airport," Rucho said. Rucho also noted the state doesn't get "one penny from this bill" and the move is "not a power grab by the state - not one iota."

Lawmakers say the bill is scheduled to go before the Senate finance committee Tuesday. The bill could be heard on the Senate floor as early as Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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