Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the busiest in the world and Delta's hub. Proponents for a commercial airport in Paulding County want some of that money.
With the Falcon's newest stadium breaking ground, it seems as if Atlanta's growing into a bigger metropolis.
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However, Forbes reports not all growth is welcome and Delta's at the center core preventing a second commercial airport from being pushed through an insistent county board.
Delta argues that the board are overstepping boundaries. “It’s also an attempt to subvert the will of the electorate in Paulding County, who overwhelmingly voted out proponents of commercializing this general aviation airport in recent county elections."
Hartsfield-Jackson is Atlanta's only airport, and more crucially, is Delta's hub with over 1,000 daily departures and connections. 2012 saw 95 million passengers passing through the airport, along with over 950,000 flights. In fact, Hartsfield frequently competes with Chicago's O'Hare on the busiest airport in the world.
So an additional airport would touch every regional and local business dependent on airport traffic; as well as splitting the benefits would be hazardous to a slowly recovering economy. Hartsfield’s located in Clayton County, which is to the south of Atlanta and Paulding County.
In a released statement, Delta said:
Delta’s longstanding position is that metro Atlanta is best served by a single, strong airport at Hartsfield-Jackson, which is one of the region’s primary economic engines, pumping more than $30 billion annually into the regional economy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
Developer Propeller Investments and the Paulding County commission want to create the second airport. And the heated exchanges between the airline and county board are increasing. In fact, both sides of the argument have now involved the Department of Transportation.
DOT spokesman Brian Farber announced that "a number of entities have raised questions and concerns about the possible commercialization of Paulding, and we are looking into those questions and concerns." In an effort to prevent controversy, he also added, "We are not focusing on any particular entity. We are simply trying to assess the facts."
But Delta disagrees with continual push of the airport proposal. As the main airline at Hartsfield-Jackson, the company's words hold weight in the community and business sector.
"The proposal is a waste of taxpayer dollars, violates the city’s restrictions on the land, and would siphon off increasingly scarce federal funding that’s more needed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport."
WSB Radio, a radio affiliate of the television station, notes Delta's opposition may force the DOT to investigate deeper in the airline company, which may not end well for one of Atlanta’s anchor businesses.
"Critics continue to claim that Delta has funded lawsuits, billboards and even politicians opposed to the advent of discount airline service at the single-strip airport ever since."
And DOT is taking the allegations by Paulding County Chairman David Austin and others seriously. The agency "is investigating whether Delta may have had an undue role in the ongoing effort to keep low-cost flights from operating at Silver Comet Field near Dallas" as well. While denying claims of a thorough investigation, the evidence indicates a closer look of Delta's practices.
While neither side looks innocent, the sprawling commercialization of Atlanta has local citizens worried. If ignoring all the backroom deals, the sheer amount of increased traffic may deter Paulding residents. Texas A&M's Texas Transportation Institute declared Atlanta one of the top ten traffic-ridden states in 2013.
Anyone who has been stuck on a highway around the perimeter knows the particular hell that comes with trying to move quickly. Getting to the Airport Loop efficiently isn't an easy task for the average driver, on top living locally.
Paulding residents would be well aware of the drawbacks as a metro Atlanta county. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reports that in September, six residents moved forward with a lawsuit filed last year stating that the creation of the Industrial Building Authority centered on “a specific and limited purpose — to acquire buildings for use as factories, mills, shops or plants.”
The plaintiffs also claim the IBA ignored purpose limitations and "loaned $1 million to the airport authority to help pay for a taxiway project, and has funded other airport projects."
However, the AJC notes the building authority's attorney, Tom Cable, insists that "loan fulfilled the authority’s mission of promoting and expanding industry and trade in Paulding and reducing unemployment."
Atlantans and Paulding County residents can expect the situation to worsen as the lawsuit and corporations intercede on the divisive topic.
And this isn't the first time questions about Hartsfield have come up in conversation in recent years. WSB TV reports that in 2012, the FBI investigated a "concessions contract scandal" between bidding vendors and known associations with Mayor Kasim Reed. Anonymously, vendors began complaining of preferential treatment of the winning bidders based on campaign contributions.
Jodie Fliesher reported that "Reed brought in nearly $300,000 on March 17, 2011." And after "pouring through the concessions bids and campaign records" she "tied at least $57,000 of it to would-be airport vendors." Reed returned the $25,000 received in the initial bidding period; but he did not return the money received in the days leading up to the bidding. Reed's feet were held to the fire in the case when businessman Mack Wilbourn's winning bid of over $350 million exposed a substantial donation in Reed's campaign funding.
The City of Atlanta did not prosecute the major. Spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs claimed that after three different judicial proceedings with no indictment or convention, the losing bidders were suffering from sour grapes.
"It appears the losing bidders who have been making false allegations about the airport concessions procurement process for months have continued their smear campaign by contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the same baseless accusations."
Atlanta's also faced recent scrutiny over losing the Braves to northern metro Cobb County and the building of the Falcons' new stadium, costing the city millions in lost revenue or debt to pay for a new venue when the last one still isn't paid off.
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Money management is a serious concern for citizens and the idea of wasting more money may not sit well with residents facing higher taxes on the Nov. 4 ballot.