Lawmaker Rejects City Airport Offer

Jul 16, 2013

US Airways jets are parked at the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport Tuesday, May 7, 2013.
Credit Todd Sumlin / Charlotte Observer aboard NBC Charlotte's AirStar

RALEIGH A leading Republican lawmaker on Tuesday dismissed the city of Charlotte’s latest proposal on the airport, as she and other House members appear poised to give final approval to a bill creating a new authority.

In an impromptu meeting in a legislative hallway, a clearly frustrated Rep. Ruth Samuelson told city lobbyist Dana Fenton the city’s Monday night proposal falls short.

“That’s not an offer, that’s not a good faith offer,” Samuelson said. “You don’t trust us. You want us to trust you.”

Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican, is a lead sponsor of the bill that would transfer control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city to an independent authority. The bill is up for a final House vote in a session that starts at 10 a.m.

But on Monday evening, the city made a counter offer. It would create an 11-member airport commission that would be accountable to the mayor and council. In a memo to council, shared with delegation members, City Manager Ron Carlee said it would incorporate a consultant’s recommendations while avoiding “untended consequences” of an authority.

“Acceptance of proposal would demonstrate that General Assembly is serious about improving airport operations and not merely making a power grab to take the airport from Charlotte,” Carlee wrote in the memo.

Samuelson said the proposal would leave the legislature out entirely. She said lawmakers offered to sit down with the city in a legislative study commission that would review airport governance and make recommend ions next spring.

“I’m pretty shocked that, after all we did, they still said ‘No’,” Samuelson said.

Democratic Rep. Becky Carney blamed growing bad blood between city and state officials for the apparent stalemate.

“Personality conflicts and trust issues between the city and the state are getting in the way of a reasonable compromise,” she said Tuesday morning. “Perhaps the sponsors could keep the bill alive by holding the bill until (next year’s) short session. Let the city move forward with their proposal and re-assess next year.”

Fenton, the city lobbyist, defended the city proposal as “a good faith effort on our part to get this issue put to bed right now, put it behind us and go about rebuilding relationships.”

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