In airport debate, McCrory finally comes out in support of Charlotte

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So now Pat McCrory thinks the city of Charlotte should run the airport, and former airport honcho Jerry "I am the greatest airport executive of all time" Orr should take a hike because he's old and ostensibly used up. That's the gist of what the governor told Mike Collins yesterday on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" show. Interpretations of what McCrory meant, why he finally took sides in the airport battle after months of farting around on the issue, and whether he even knows what he's doing are being blogged about and debated online.

Some city supporters, particularly those in the Uptown Chamber Zone, are feeling celebratory, while others are reacting along the lines of, "It's about damned time" or "WTF?" Jerry Orr supporters, naturally, are apoplectic in their defense of the guy they variously call "America's best airport director" and even "the man most responsible for Charlotte's growth and success."

The airport/Orr situation is such a serious one, it's a shame the coalition of rightwing Republicans and Orr supporters spearheading the idea of an independent airport authority have been so reckless and misleading. Reckless in the way they acted so abruptly, without prior notice or negotiation, to take away city control of the airport, which led to a big fat legal mess that is still unresolved, which in turn doesn't do a whole lot to promote Charlotte as an idyllic place to do business. Misleading in their never-ending spiel about Orr's supposed status as the King-Hell Daddy, the Capo di tutti direttori dell'aeroporto, yay, the very model of a modern major airport director.

It pays to remember the lead-up to Orr's troubles. For years, Orr did what he was expected to do, i.e., efficiently ran an airport in a city on the way up. Then in 2010, the airport made national news after a teenager climbed into the wheel well of a jet, and later fell out of the plane to his death near Boston. Orr reacted two ways: by trying on an Alfred E. Newmanish "What, me worry?" persona, and by getting all pissy and saying he didn't plan any special review of security. To put it mildly, the case didn't leave a good impression of Orr's suitability for dealing with internal errors. Not that long afterward, reports got back to City Hall that too many passengers were losing valuables from their luggage at the airport, so the city brought in Charlotte cops to fix the situation. From all indications, that's when Orr freaked out; in any case, that's when he started making noises about the city intruding into his rightful domain. It was also about the time he started talking about his problems with his powerful GOP buddies in the General Assembly. Those buddies saw a chance to stick it to the Democrats running the city council and mayor's office.

Orr's tenure as airport honcho presents other problems, too, such as the fact that the only things "low cost" about our airport are US Airways' expenses, but let's get back to McCrory's sudden decision to jettison Orr and screw his GOP lawmaker pals. For months, McCrory used the excuse of "It's a city-related bill, which I don't have to sign" as a way to stay out of the airport fray, as if the bill's status made it illegal for him to have an opinion on the matter. If you've followed McCrory's career, it's not hard to figure out his new approach to the issue. McCrory, like many politicians, likes to seem completely in charge, no matter how peripheral he has been regarding an issue. It was that way when he was mayor, when he would hop and pant all around the edges of big economic developments, and would turn into the affected business interests' mouthpiece after important decisions were made. Since McCrory is now coming out against both a new airport commission and keeping Jerry Orr, you can bet that the prevailing view in Raleigh is that the commission is on its last legs (at least as GOP lawmakers envisioned it), and that Orr will be fired at the commission's next meeting. McCrory would love for everyone to believe that the commission is coming around to his way of thinking - yes, even though he had never expressed any particular way of thinking about the airport until yesterday. He's really not that complicated a guy.

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