Controversy continues over control of Charlotte airport

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For several months through late winter and spring the controversy over who will control Charlotte's airport seemed to have simmered down.
 
The uneasy truce didn't last long.  The Republican lead legislature gave final approval Tuesday to a new bill that once again seeks to take control of airport operations away from the city and give it to a separate Airport Commission. 

The proposal was vigorously opposed by Charlotte leaders and Democrats in the Mecklenburg County delegation.
 
Political watchers said it signals an increase in tensions, again, between city and state leaders.
 
"Incidents like this, people don't forget about them. So it's going to come up repeatedly that, 'Oh, you did this to us back and then and that's a reason we can't trust you going forward,'" said Eric Heberlig. 
 
Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said acrimony between the city and state is likely to grow because of the airport control vote. 
 
"When you don't trust the people that you're working with it makes negotiation almost impossible,” he said.
 
The bill was pushed by Mecklenburg Republicans Rep. Ruth Samuelson and Sen. Bob Rucho, who said they want to encourage a final decision on airport control. 
 
The issue sits in a legal limbo while both the FAA and a judge try to decide who should run the airport.  The Airport Commission was created amidst major controversy last year after Republican legislators pushed for the change.
 
Because of the legal stalemate, the Commission has yet to have any actual authority.
 
Some said the fallout from Tuesday’s airport vote could be long-lasting. 
 
"Again, this puts the state of North Carolina against its largest city, the city of Charlotte.  It makes the relationship further and further strained," said Sen. Malcom Graham, D-Mecklenburg, who chairs the Mecklenburg legislative delegation. 
 
City leaders said they will continue to working on improving the relationship with the state. 
 
Mayor Dan Clodfelter said it's easier said than done. 
 
"It's a fraught relationship. It always has been. It always will be. I don’t think it'll ever change," he said.

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