The effort to turn the Charlotte airport over to an independent authority has more momentum now that a city-funded study recommends that action. City leaders who commissioned the $150,000 report still urge caution - an idea that elicits laughter from the chief sponsor of legislation to change the airport’s management structure.
The study's recommendation is not what council member Andy Dulin or his colleagues wanted, but it's one he was prepared for.
"I'm not surprised," says Dulin. "I've said, and council's said, from the beginning if you want to study an airport authority, that's fine. But don't rush it and please don't rush the citizens of Charlotte."
The study says Charlotte has done an excellent job ensuring the airport's success, but that a "properly structured" authority is "likely to best position the Airport for the future."
About half of the nation's 20 busiest airports are run by an authority. They tend to operate more like a business and be less subject to political involvement, says consultant Bob Hazel. However, he also says the legislation North Carolina lawmakers are considering does not create a properly structured authority for the Charlotte airport: the proposed governing board is too large and does not give Charlotte and Mecklenburg County governments enough appointment power.
State lawmakers who were doubtful the city-funded study could be objective are now embracing its results.
"There are people that (said) the state was taking away a city asset," says State Senator Bob Rucho of Matthews. "(The legislation) has always been 'How do we make sure that (the airport) grows into the future?' And that's what it's all about and I have to think that's what the report says."
What Mayor Anthony Foxx thinks the report says – according to his spokesman – is that the issue "shouldn't be rushed" and "the current legislation won't be good" for the airport.
Senator Rucho says lawmakers will take a look at the report's recommendations for structuring an airport authority, but says further delay is not an option and chuckles at the suggestion.
"No, no," says Rucho. "We need to move it forward."
House sponsors of the bill have held off debating it until the city's consultant could finish his study. City Council will receive the final report on May 6th.