Charlotte Observer
4:39 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

Sen. Rucho Pushing Regional Airport Authority

  RALEIGH A state senator from Mecklenburg County acknowledged Wednesday that he’s one of the lawmakers pushing a bill to transfer control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city of Charlotte to a regional authority.

Sen. Bob Rucho said he’ll push the change along with Rep. Bill Brawley. Both are Matthews Republicans.

“It is a huge economic driver for our state,” Rucho told the Observer. “And in this circumstance we believe that it would be better for a group of dedicated authority people — business people, elected officials (and) the like — from the entire region to help provide direction for the long term success of the regional airport.”

“We’re looking at the future and the potential growth because we want everybody engaged in what will be continued strength for the Charlotte region.”

In his state of the city speech this week, Mayor Anthony Foxx alluded to an effort “in the backrooms of Raleigh” to remove control of the airport from the city.

Under an authority, aviation director Jerry Orr would report to an independent board.

Lawmakers appear to be looking to the time Orr retires.

An authority, Rucho said, would help ensure that “people that are competent and prepared to focus their all attention on this, and choosing the next leadership for the airport, will be in place with that one goal, of making sure that the Charlotte Douglas International Airport will serve the entire needs of the region and the state of North Carolina.”

Legislation in the last session created a similar authority for the Asheville airport. Circumstances there were different, according to GOP Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican who sponsored the bill.

He said Asheville-area Democrats had sponsored a similar bill in 2009.

“I know Asheville felt bruised,” he said Wednesday, “but the critical thing to recognize is that this original proposal was put forward by Democratic legislators and two years later by Republican legislators.”