N.C. Gov. McCrory: Airport dispute is between ‘factions within Charlotte’

Gov. Pat McCrory refused to say on Saturday whether he supports a move in the N.C. General Assembly to seize control of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and turn it over to a state-appointed authority.

But in his first weeks as governor, McCrory, a seven-term Charlotte mayor, has said the controversy isn’t a state issue, but a city matter and that “factions within Charlotte” need to resolve it.

“This is not between Raleigh and Charlotte,” he said. “This is between factions within Charlotte that are apparently having strong disagreements on the future management of the airport.”

As governor, McCrory said he has not been involved in the discussions.

The battle for the airport started a few weeks ago when Sen. Bob Rucho and Rep. Bill Brawley introduced bills that would create a Charlotte Regional Airport Authority. The airport is run by the city of Charlotte, as it has been since 1935.

Rucho and Brawley have cited “senior business leaders” who believe the airport will be more efficiently run under an appointed, self-regulating authority with no ties to the city.

Charlotte Douglas aviation director Jerry Orr, 71, who could retire soon, has suggested that he would welcome authority oversight. Relations between Orr and city staff have been strained over questions about supervision and airport security.

Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx and other city leaders are opposed to the authority plan.

Foxx attended a legislative delegation meeting in Raleigh last week to press the case for more study of the takeover. Rucho and Brawley didn’t attend the meeting of local state legislators.

McCrory said neither side has approached him. He would not clarify how he believes the warring factions break down.

“I haven’t heard from either one of the factions within Charlotte and this seems to be a dispute within the city on how to manage the airport and I’m going to let them deal with their factions,” McCrory said. “I’m (open) to hearing both sides, but I have not been asked about that issue by either side.”

McCrory is in Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting. He will join other governors in meetings on the economy, national security, and natural resources. They will also meet with President Barack Obama.

Approached between sessions at the conference, McCrory stopped to answer a couple questions.

But he refused to disclose how he would feel about an airport takeover by the state of North Carolina if he were still mayor.

“I have not been mayor for four years,” he said.