Today, the N.C. Senate is supposed to vote on taking Charlotte Douglas International Airport out of the jurisdiction of Charlotte city government and placing it in the hands of a new airport authority. So says N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, who has spearheaded, not to say ram-rodded, the controversial measure through the Senate.
The move to the floor was delayed last week when everyone involved agreed on the need for a study to examine concerns over the future of more than $800 million in airport bonds. Charlotte City Council began its own study of the matter, while State Treasurer Janet Cowell also began a study of the bond issue; her study is expected to be finished by mid-March. God only knows when the city's study will be ready.
None of that was quick enough for Rucho & Co., however. Yesterday the results of a quickly produced study by Jones Walker, a Louisiana-based law firm with its fingers in various state governments' pies, was released, in the form of a memo to a local business group, the Alliance for a Better Charlotte, led by former city councilman and all-around conservative warhorse Stan Campbell. The study says investors have no worries about the bonds in case a new airport authority takes over. In the unintentionally funny way that politicians and their cohorts evade the truth, Campbell refused to say who had paid for the study. Well, let's see. The results were sent directly to Campbell, so. . . .what do you think?
Studies show advantages and disadvantages for both the municipal and the independent authority models of management, differences which can be summed as "It's a wash either way." So, does it make any sense to go to the trouble or expense, and create bruised feelings and grudges, if there is no reason to believe an authority could do the job better? No, of course not. But that doesn't matter to Rucho, Campbell, and the rest of the Reagan-era privatization crew now in control of our state government. They are in a rush to switch to an airport authority for a couple of reasons, neither of which has anything to do with the public good. Those reasons are politics and personal grudges - the most common reason for disrupting a successfully run public operation. City and county government here is run by Democrats; the new legislature is fiercely Republican; you figure it out. In addition, current (and apparently forever) airport director Jerry Orr is seriously pissed at Mayor Foxx and city government over a variety of issues, including law enforcement at the airport and the city's perceived lack of support for Orr during investigations of the incident when a Charlotte teenager climbed into the wheel well of a plane and was killed when he fell out as the plane approached landing in Boston.
The transfer of our airport to an authority is a terrible idea, if only on principle. Taking a publicly run entity out of the hands of taxpayers' representatives and handing it over to a board with enormous powers, responsible only to those who appointed them, is the very definition of an undemocratic move. The fact that the transfer would take a huge effort for very little, if any, increase in service quality to the public should make rejecting the authority idea a no-brainer. But then, that doesn't take into account the power of old grudges, nor the unquenchable rancor felt toward government-run anything by the wolves of the current GOP regime in Raleigh.