Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said the city’s full delegation is united against Rankin legislator’s effort to take control of the Jackson airport.
Photo by Imani Khayyam/File Photo
JACKSON Editor's note: The Senate Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee meets Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. in Room 407 at the Capitol, and is expected to discuss the airport bill.
Concerned over potential lengthy litigation and conflicts of interest, the Mississippi Airports Association, or MAA, sent a letter to state senators on the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee outlining its opposition to the bill to allow state takeover of the Jackson airport.
Republican lawmakers from outside the capital city announced in January a plan to take control of the Jackson airport.
After a meeting late Monday during which the bill did not come up, committee member Sen. David Blount told the Jackson Free Press that the city’s legislative representatives are standing together against the proposed legislation.
“The Jackson delegation is united in opposition to a bill that seeks to take our property,” Blount said. “This letter clearly shows that the goals we want to reach—a low-cost carrier, economic development—all those goals are lessened by this bill.”
The answer to these issues, the letter states, should first be addressed through communication between the interested parties.
“We have concerns with SB 2162 that we believe could be addressed through a more deliberate process, to include discussions with the City of Jackson and the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, JMAA,” the MAA letter states. It is addressed to the primary sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood.
The association’s first major objection to the bill revolved around the potential difficulties that would inevitably result from lengthy or protracted litigation between the state and the combined interest of the City and the JMAA. In the letter, the Airport Association points out a similar situation in North Carolina, over whether the state or Charlotte should govern the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, CLT, that did not turn out favorably for either side.
“The dispute over CLT has resulted in several years of litigation with well over a million dollars in legal costs to the parties. There is no resolution in sight for the CLT dispute, and the City of Charlotte continues to operate CLT,” the letter states.
In the shadow of such long and difficult litigation, the outcome of which would be unpredictable, the MAA says it is unlikely that any new service carrier or economic development would join into agreement with the airport until all such legal issues are resolved.
“Ideally,” the letter states, “local and state government should work in harmony to promote a favorable business environment at and around the airports in the state.”
Their second issue is that this action by the Legislature may mean that the proposed “dissolution of JMAA may result in the required Federal Aviation Adminiatration-issued operating permit for (the airport) being put in limbo or, worse, in jeopardy.”
This would mean, in essence, that during pending legal wrangling between the State and the City, the FAA could choose to permanently revoke the airport’s operating permit. This would mean closing the airport.
“Loss of operating certificate for JAN would be harmful not only to the metropolitan Jackson area,” letter states, “but to the entire state.” JAN is the abbreviation for Jackson’s airport.
The MAA also warned against potential conflicts of interest by certain appointees proposed by the bill, especially the adjutant general of Mississippi and the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.
“By appointing the Adjutant General and the Executive Director of MDA (or his designee) to the board of an authority that governs a specific airport, the statute may create a natural prejudice in favor of that airport for future economic or air service development projects, and a prejudice against the other airports in the state.”
“Likewise, these appointments may create problematic relationships under Mississippi’s ethics laws.”
The committee did not discuss or take action on the bill. Earlier in the afternoon, in the City's Planning Committee in City Hall, two councilmen called for annexing land around the airport and for the City to start collecting rent on the property, rather than JMAA, presumably to prepare for the possibility of a state takeover.
Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at [email protected] See more local news at jfp.ms/localnews and read more about the airport "takeover" controversy at jfp.ms/airport.