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?
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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