Efforts by state and city officials to come to a compromise over how to effectively run Charlotte’s airport seem to have once again ground to a halt. Robert Stolz, who is the chairman of an independent commission which currently oversees operations at the airport. Recently Stolz requested that the federal government come to a decision concerning whether officials from the city should take over running the airport, or give all administrative power to the commission headed by Stolz himself.
However, the Mayor of Charlotte, Patrick Cannon, quickly went on record in rebuttal to Stolz’s assertions. In his view, the potential for compromise is far from exhausted. In a recent interview, Cannon had this to say: “Mr. Stolz stands alone in this conclusion, one with which I completely disagree. I do not believe that we have exhausted all options and remain hopeful that City and State leaders can find common ground.”
Over a year has now passed since rumors of a conflict between city and state authorities over who would or could claim dominion over the airport began to circulate. Since then, a number of key events have occurred. For one, Stolz and his commission have come into the picture.
Meanwhile, Jerry Orr, the long time Aviation Director at the airport, was dismissed from his position. Not long afterward, the city of Charlotte undertook a series of audits of the airport, with specific reference to its conduct under Orr’s supervision. However, a ruling by a local judge remains in force which blocks the commission from taking over day to day control of the airport, which leaves the city still firmly at the helm.
Since the ruling, city and state law makers have continued to hold regular meetings, which have proved fruitless so far. In the end, frustrated by the deadlock, Stolz sent an appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration in which he asked the agency to decide the matter. The FAA is now considering the pros and cons of the matter, and has yet to make a ruling.
Meanwhile, pending the final decision, Stolz remains at the helm of his specially appointed commission, which has yet to render any services to the airport it was created to run.
Indeed, after appointing the commission last year, the North Carolina General Assembly was immediately embroiled in controversy. North Carolina Republicans immediately opposed the move, claiming that the city had only created the commission to divert revenue from the airport.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte City Council made accusations of a “power grab” on the part of the legislature, and sued to block its formation. The council did succeed in convincing a judge to file an injunction which effectively forbids the group from exercising any real power at the airport, which remains the only area it was ever created to oversee.
At this point, Orr, who had been director at the airport, either resigned or was dismissed from his post (the city and Orr offer differing accounts). He was then named as the executive director of the new independent commission, but quickly retired from that post as well.
Since then, Brent Cagle, who is the city’s acting Aviation Director, has taken over the position. Unlike his predecessor Orr, Brent Cagle is an employee of the city of Charlotte who reports directly to Ron Carlee, the City Manager.
In other news, nearly 4,000 acres of prime land in and around the airport at Charlotte may soon be specially designated as a foreign trade zone. This is a move that officials hope will bring factories and warehouses to the airport, due to the lower taxes companies pay in such zones. This is only one example of the potential business that the airport could be getting on with once the dispute over sovereignty is finally resolved.
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