Charlotte’s airport became the latest flashpoint Wednesday between Republican mayoral candidates Scott Stone and Edwin Peacock.
At a WTVI debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the candidates were asked whether the city should continue to fight for control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
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The General Assembly in 2013 transferred control first to an authority and then to a commission. After a legal battle, the issue remains in limbo while the Federal Aviation Administration decides ultimate control.
“We need a leader to broker a deal with the legislature,” Stone said. “There was a lot of politics being played that never happened when Pat McCrory was mayor. And once Pat McCrory left office, a lot of politics was being played.”
Peacock strongly defended city control.
“The airport should remain the city of Charlotte’s asset,” he said. “We built it with our tax dollars.”
He pointed to surveys that said an overwhelming majority of Charlotte voters agreed.
Republicans who sponsored the move to transfer control said the idea came from unnamed business leaders. They said there was concern about airport management after the expected retirement of then Airport Director Jerry Orr.
Asked later what “politics” he was referring to, Stone said it involved contracts for projects in and around the airport. He was not specific.
During the campaign ahead of Tuesday’s GOP primary, Stone and Peacock have frequently sparred over the streetcar, the city budget and other issues. On Wednesday, they also disagreed about their qualifications.
Introducing themselves, Stone, president of a civil engineering firm, touted his business experience and proposed to bring a business perspective to the job.
Peacock, an insurance broker, interjected. He said he has not only business experience but years in government as a city council member.
“You can’t compare a small company to mine,” said Stone, adding that his has around 50 employees.
The two generally agreed about the need to revitalize the east and west sides, the need for efficient spending and the value of jobs and apprenticeship programs to spur economic mobility.
Asked about race relations, Stone said the recent trial of a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man – a case that resulted in a mistrial – showed that “the African-American community is integrated well with the rest of the community.”
Peacock said a Republican mayor would have to be “cognizant of the fact that this is a majority-minority city.”
“People want to see a safe, clean and affordable city,” he said. “And that works (for) all races.”