A State Senate study committee has recommended the state consider creating an authority to oversee Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson has been scrutinized by state lawmakers during a federal bribery investigation into City Hall. The city’s former chief procurement officer Adam Smith was sentenced to 27 months in prison for the impropriety of his actions.

Moreover, ancillary lawsuits over airport contracting, and a Federal Aviation Administration probe into any possible misuse of Hartsfield-Jackson revenue have risen to prominence, and are of great concern to State lawmakers wary of corruption in the City of Atlanta.

The airport, “as an economic engine for the state, it dwarfs anything else we have,” said the study committee chair, Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) as the committee reviewed its final report Dec. 27. “You cannot continue to have indictments, investigations, and things that have taken place that’s really, quite frankly, kind of embarrassing for the state as a whole.”

“We’d rather have a partnership in this,” Jones said. “I think long-term, a business enterprise authority, much like our ports and (Georgia World Congress Center), is in the best interests of the state as a whole.”

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said in a Jan. 2 interview that she wasn’t shocked by the committee’s findings, but said, “I think this is an overreach. And changing to an authority does not necessarily absolve it of any of these influences that can go on.”

Moore added Hartsfield-Jackson is efficient and is the world’s busiest airport, and that changing leadership “could be disruptive.”

“I’m very mindful of the fact that the state has perennially been looking at the airport,” Moore said on Jan. 2. “I just think (an authority is) unnecessary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the council-mayoral form of government and local control of our asset.”

“I would hope that they would give the city an opportunity…. to institute some of these things and see how they work, and frankly I believe that they will,” Moore added. “Everybody is committed to doing what we can to gain and maintain the public trust, despite what’s going on.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has informed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, she does not want a state takeover of Hartsfield-Jackson.

“I felt like we had been heard,” Bottoms said about that discussion with Kemp.

Atlanta City Council will meet Monday, Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. The Georgia General Assembly will convene Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. Both meetings are expected to address the committee’s recommendation.


(Photo: Travel + Leisure)

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