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Speakers want airport to stay in city’s hands

A dozen speakers blasted the idea of Charlotte Douglas International Airport being transferred to a 13-member authority, calling the proposed move a “rush to judgment” during a public hearing Tuesday.

The meeting was conducted by Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm hired by the city of Charlotte to study how the airport should be governed. The comments will be incorporated into a report scheduled to be released May 1 – about the time the N.C. House is expected to consider whether to shift the airport away from the city’s control.

The city adamantly opposes the proposed legislation, and said it has managed the airport successfully since the 1930s.

“I’m asking for this whole thing to come to an end,” said Allen Shaw of Charlotte, who spoke at the meeting. “The city of Charlotte has done an excellent job in managing this facility.”

Former City Council member David Erdman said the possibility of an airport authority is “an outcome in search of a rationale.”

“Unless there is a reason to change, there is no reason to change,” he added. Erdman also said the possibility that the city of Charlotte would have only two members of the 13-member board would be an “outrageous usurpation.”

Speaker Justin Stewart said he “smelled a rat” with all the talk about an authority.

Jeremy Johnson said he is “totally against” the authority and has been trying to contact legislators to lobby them.

But it’s unclear whether the speakers – or the final report – will change anyone’s mind. Though a number of City Council members attended Tuesday’s meeting, there were no state legislators there.

In December, and in the past, aviation director Jerry Orr has spoken favorably about Charlotte Douglas being run by an authority. As the controversy has grown, Orr – a city employee – has taken a step back and declined to comment on the controversy.

Orr attended Tuesday’s meeting. He was praised by some speakers for running a successful airport.

When asked after the meeting whether he believed the speakers understood what makes an airport successful, Orr replied simply: “No.”

Two US Airways executives – Chuck Allen and Mike Minerva – also attended the meeting. The airport’s largest airline has been concerned about who will succeed Orr as aviation director, and it has worried whether the city will continue to try and keep costs low at Charlotte Douglas. US Airways was concerned about the city’s decision last year to transfer airport security to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, which doubled annual security costs.

Allen declined to speak about the comments Tuesday because the airline is part of the city’s task force studying the issue.

The consultant’s work is being overseen by a committee that includes US Airways, the Charlotte Chamber, the City Council, the airport advisory committee, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

Harrison: 704 358-5160
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