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NEWSROOM BLOG — Jackson mayor finally speaks on airport issue

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber

JACKSON MAYOR TONY YARBER

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber has been the invisible man in the debate over control of Jackson Medgar Wiley-Evers International Airport, leaving it to others to argue against taking control of the airport away from Jackson City Hall.

Not wanting to steal the spotlight from Punxsutawney Phil, Yarber chose the day after Groundhog Day to surface long enough to issue an official statement about why it’s a bad idea for the airport to be governed by representatives of the counties the airport serves instead of Jackson residents hand-picked by the mayor.

A switch to tri-county governance is a bad idea because the airport is the “exclusive” investment of Jacksonians going back to the early 1960s, Yarber says of state Sen. Josh Harkins’ proposal to establish a seven-member airport governing board with two representatives from each county – Hinds, Rankin and Madison – and one at-large member.

So Jackson City Hall paid for the terminal, the runways and the roads leading to the airport?

Hardly.

But what about airport revenues being in the black?

Have you priced tickets out there lately or parked your car there? Airport bean counters have relied on steady increases in carrier landing fees and parking charges – not new business or belt tightening — to erase the red ink. Fitch Ratings Service noted this when it declined to restore the A- rating it took away from the airport after Southwest Airlines left Jackson. Fitch instead has maintained a rating of BBB+ on the airport’s $38 million in debt. It’s a rating of stable but at the low-end of investment-grade ratings.

That Yarber is speaking at all on the airport control proposal is encouraging, given the importance of the issue and his previous willingness to ignore it. Truth is, we thought the mayor had decided to do with this issue what he long ago decided to do with Jackson’s Farish Street redevelopment: park it out back.

The public heard not a peep from Yarber in the 45 days that followed the announcement of Sen. Harkins’ legislation. The guess is that it took some prodding from his handlers to get him to speak at all. Here’s what he said:

“The bill, as it stands currently, creates a regional governance with no true representation that considers population. It is highly unusual to see these kinds of governances established that take away the voice of the people in which it is supposed to represent, and it does not serve the best interests of these citizens. The airport is the result of the exclusive investment of Jacksonians, ranging from the early 1960s to date. Any attempt to legislate that investment away from those who made this exclusive investment is nothing short of an unsupported takeover. The Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport is a crucial economic driver for the City of Jackson, connecting Mississippi’s Capital City to the nation and world.

“There should be no question about the airport’s management as its revenues exceed expenditures annually. It would be detrimental to the citizens of the City of Jackson and the City’s future economic development plans to have the operation, management, and control of the airport stripped from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, created by the governing authorities of the City of Jackson in 1960 pursuant to state law.”

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6 comments

  1. Your headline is erroneous. The Mayor spoke on this issue at a City Council meeting in December. As a matter of fact, it was the Mayor who brought the issue to the City Council and what was going to be proposed. The various media outlets in Jackson covered it. So what does your headline and article really mean?

    WAPT Headline Dec 29 with Mayor’s comment –
    City fears airport takeover ‘conspiracy’
    UPDATED 6:20 PM CST Dec 29, 2015

  2. The city of Jackson is the capitol of this state and it isn’t going anywhere. It amazes me that the citizens of the surrounding counties will do everything they can possibly think of to rob the city of revenue, then sit back and whine about what a poor place Jackson is. What kind of neighbor do you want, Madison and Rankin counties? A poor, violent and angry one, that sends criminals to your door, or a prosperous and pleasant one that you enjoy visiting? Stop cutting off your nose to spite your face and try supporting Jackson for once.

    • You need to get your facts straight. There is no mention in the proposed legislation to take away from Jackson the revenue produced by the airport. And all of this noise about the citizens of Jackson paying for the airport is not true. The city of Jackson has never paid for anything at the airport.

  3. I fly out of this airport ALL THE TIME…
    And it is a shame how much it costs. I can take a taxi round trip vs parking my vehicle for just two nights. And POOF – there goes that revenue!
    What is the percentage of FREQUENT FLIERS from Jackson vs surrounding areas?
    Greedy b*stards.

  4. Any change in overall control of the airport and it’s administrative employees would be welcomed. I have met with only apathy and down-right ignorance when contacting them.

    There is a serious need at JAN for services relating to handicapped passengers. Despite huge parking fees, there is no shuttle bus service from the main parking lot or garage for those who are traveling alone. The only shuttle service is from the very distant long-term parking lot. I prefer to park my car in the garage but that is not possible since I cannot walk to the terminal. I hope that a new governing board will be more attentive to such needs for the handicapped. Those presently in control don’t seem to care

    There is also a great need for improvement in signage.

  5. Where is the proof that the state & surrounding counties are pouring money into the airport? The article seems a bit biased to me. Mayor Yarber did discuss the issue immediately. You are trying to create propaganda. Give supporting documents with claim!! How on Gods green Earth did FOX News end up on Mississppi Business Journal. Meaning the reporting isn’t reliable or accurate information.

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