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The airport commission’s hollow complaints

Richard Vinroot, attorney for the new but not-quite-official Charlotte Airport Commission, is unhappy. He thinks the Federal Aviation Administration should give the commission more say about whether it will get to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but the FAA is giving him the cold shoulder. That’s “astounding,” said Vinroot in a letter to the agency.

This, of course, is the same commission that was formed when N.C. Republicans rammed a law through the General Assembly earlier this year, ignoring protests from the City of Charlotte that the legislature was stealing an airport without giving the city a real voice in the process.

Vinroot also seems concerned that the FAA’s decision on the commission might be somewhat, shall we say, predetermined. Vinroot told the Observer’s Steve Harrison this week that former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, who now oversees the FAA in his role as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, might not be recusing himself from discussion about the airport.

That, of course, is a discussion that never really got off the ground in Raleigh, as Republicans initially stomped out attempts at meaningful study over the bill, then proposed a “study” commission that was stacked in its favor. When the city declined that, Republicans passed a flawed law taking over the airport, only to backpedal in the face of a lawsuit before finally passing a newly flawed law.

Astounding? We boarded that flight long ago.

Outside of an impressive display of gall, we’re not sure what Vinroot was going for here. If it’s a play for public sympathy, well, Vinroot surely understands that even if Charlotteans have some honest disagreement over the best way to govern our airport, both Democrats and Republicans aren’t happy with the way lawmakers went about changing things. Sure, Vinroot is just doing his job advocating for his client, but the commission is coming off about as well as a burglar complaining about the raw deal he’s getting at the pawn shop.

As for the squeaky wheel approach with the FAA, let’s consider the agency’s perspective. The FAA received an Aug. 14 letter from the commission’s executive director, Jerry Orr, who outlined the reasons the commission should be running the airport. The FAA also is in touch with the N.C. attorney general’s office, which by the way issued a commission-friendly opinion last month saying that the proposed change in airport governance would not result in the city losing control.

So for now, the FAA apparently has what it needs from the commission. In other words, commission advocates, keep your seatbelts fastened until you hear otherwise.

Patience, however, hasn’t been a strength of those who want to wrest the airport from Charlotte. The result has been a bumbling display of governing that even now is resulting in unnecessary silliness. To wit: City Manager Ron Carlee told the editorial board Tuesday that City Council members are discussing whether they need to appoint members to a commission that might not ever exist by an Oct. 1 deadline that might not be valid.

Instead, the city and state – and the commission – should wait. Let the FAA work through at least some of the issues that should have been thoughtfully considered long ago. We’ve already rushed enough.

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