For years, there has been a cloud of corruption hanging over Atlanta’s city hall, including ongoing investigations into how it has handled contracts and bids at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Now, a state Senate study committee is looking into the idea of creating a state-run airport authority to manage the airport instead.
The committee convened for the first time in late August. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, over the course of the coming months, they are looking to answer three questions:
- Would an airport authority benefit the state?
- Will the Federal Aviation Administration approve a Georgia-run airport authority?
- How much would it cost to restructure the airport’s bonds?
The committee is also exploring how an airport authority may be able to add a second commercial airport in the area.
State Sen. Burt Jones, the study committee chairman, told the AJC that creating an airport authority would be similar to the creation of the Georgia Ports Authority and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. He said: “Hartsfield-Jackson has been a huge economic boon…. However, we’re also very aware of the challenges that have seemingly hampered this facility for decades, and it all seems to center around a cloud of corruption and a pay-to-play system.”
Unsurprisingly, Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms is against a state takeover, and Delta Airlines is also opposed. This could present a problem, however, as the latest committee meeting in September discovered an obstacle.
According to Atlanta officials, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, there is a provision in the bond and airline lease agreements with Delta and Southwest Airlines that would restrict a change of control at the airport. These agreements are in force until 2036, and the city does not intend to cede control. As a result, Sen. Jones is in discussions with Mayor Bottoms and Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore about a collaboration.