Shining light on the Aviation Authority
For years, business developers in the Lowcountry were hampered by limited air service to Charleston. In a global economy, convenient access by air is a must.
Now there are six airlines serving Charleston, the most recent additions being lower-cost carriers Southwest and JetBlue. Air traffic has grown even as other airports in the region are experiencing slumps.
All that is good for businesses, tourism and the economy. And one reason it happened was enthusiastic community involvement.
So it is encouraging to learn that Charleston County Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage has made it his mission to do the authority’s business in the open so that the community can be aware and involved.
But it is disappointing that he lacked the support from his fellow authority members to stop a recent meeting in executive session without an adequate explanation.
At that meeting, the authority voted 5-4 to go behind closed doors to discuss “personnel” matters.
It is a pity that board members don’t know the law — and that the authority’s lawyer failed to advise them of it.
Mr. Savage vowed to communicate better with board members to avoid a recurrence. It is important that he do so. The CCAA has some major issues on its plate — issues that could have a significant impact on Charleston County taxpayers.
For one, it is planning a $200 million makeover of the terminal, adding six new gates, a baggage carousel, a new rental car pavilion and other improvements.
Already, the public has reason to be leery. An employee of one contractor that bid on the job said authority members had made recommendations for subcontractors that influenced the company’s choices. That contractor subsequently withdrew its bid.
Then there is Boeing, the giant next door that is expanding. In March, the CCAA agreed to sell Boeing 320 acres across from Boeing’s 787 campus for $12.5 million. The board received some criticism for agreeing to too low a price.
The CCAA needs to be a cooperative partner with Boeing, but must be careful to protect the airport’s interests, and public scrutiny of its decisions can hold the body accountable in that regard.
And the very composition of the Airport Authority has been in question. At present, the chairman and vice chairman of the local Legislative Delegation serve on the authority. State Sen. Chip Campsen, as chairman, says the protocol is wrong in that it constitutes dual office holding. Indeed, it places a lot of power in the hands of two people. State Rep. Chip Limehouse, however, as vice-chairman of the delegation, has defended the committee’s structure.
While Sen. Campsen would like to fix the problem right away, Rep. Limehouse thinks it should be decided in a court of law.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority has a significant impact on the continued growth of the local economy, and the area’s quality of life. It is essential that it do its job efficiently and honestly, and that it is accountable to the public.
One important way to do that is to listen to Mr. Savage when he touts transparency.
The public has a right to know what the authority is doing and why.