A Delta jet pushes through last week’s snowfall at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Sigh. Another GOP attempt to take over Atlanta’s airport

The ongoing federal probe into bribery at Atlanta’s City Hall has some state lawmakers ready to contend that Georgia officials should have more oversight over Atlanta’s bustling airport. 

In one of the worst-kept secrets under the Gold Dome, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, is exploring the idea of putting a state board in charge of the airport, much like the Georgia World Congress Center operates.

And the main area he would change under the system is a shot across the bow at City Hall: Jones said his yet-to-be-filed measure would put the state in charge of selecting vendors at the airport. 

“We’re a state of about 10 million folks,” he told our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu. “I think we should at least have an operation that has folks from all over the state to have a say in how it is operated.”

The subtext, of course, is the growing cloud of the corruption investigation by federal prosecutors in Atlanta (and overseen by former Republican state Rep. B.J. Pak, who is now the office’s lead attorney).

Just last week, a federal judge sentenced Atlanta’s former top purchasing officer to 27 months in prison - a reduced sentence that was a reward for his cooperation in a probe that has also netted guilty pleas from two well-known city contractors.

The odds are slim to none Jones’ legislation gets approved. State lawmakers rumble every few years about a push to wrest more control over the airport. But they failed to gain much traction even when city-state relations were at a nadir. 

Gov. Nathan Deal enjoyed a famously close relationship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. And Reed’s preferred successor - Keisha Lance Bottoms - has worked to stoke those warm ties with the governor and legislative leaders. She was spotted the other day leaving House Speaker David Ralston’s office after a lengthy meeting. 

The Atlanta delegation isn’t taking anything for granted. Maggie Lee of the Saporta Report wrote that Bottoms is already trying to make the city’s case. “It’s interesting that there are conversations about the governing authority of the airport given that we are the best airport in the world,” said Bottoms, “So I’m not sure why we want to tamper with a good thing.” 

State Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, told legislators at a city delegation meeting they must be “ever-vigilant, armed to the teeth” to block the measure. From Lee’s report: 

“This is not new news, it’s old news. Twenty-five years they’ve had this dream of taking over the airport. And it fades more and more into the distance, but they keep getting it introduced,” Orrock said.

***

We closed the Sunday column with this note about a strain of centrism that has been preserved within the Georgia GOP, even with President Donald Trump in the White House: 

[Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle], too, may be absorbing the “campaign to govern” lesson. Last week, his gubernatorial campaign sent out a press release with this headline: “Any Medicaid waiver should include work requirement.”

“I have long believed that work requirements for benefits build good faith with the taxpayers who fund these programs,” the lieutenant governor quoted himself as saying.

One can argue whether work requirements are actually effective.

The subtler point was that a GOP candidate for governor had just endorsed the drawing down of more federal dollars so that more people can receive health care in Georgia.

Under Republican rules of combat, one is not allowed to call that “expansion,” because the waivers under consideration would not adhere to Obama-era plans to offer insurance coverage to all who fall under 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

But it is something different.

So we weren’t particularly surprised when this note arrived this morning from Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican rival to Cagle in this year’s race for governor:

With talks of expanding Medicaid swirling at the State Capitol, conservative businessman and Secretary of State Brian Kemp released the following statement:

"I oppose Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, and government-run healthcare," said Kemp. "I always have and I always will."

 

***

In a one-year-later piece from USA Today, we’ve found a nugget that could have both Democrats and Republicans shaking their heads in agreement, if for different reasons:

“God must have a sense of humor,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who considers himself a friend of Trump's. “Because for Donald Trump to have emerged as one of the great advocates for the agenda of evangelicals and social conservatives is something that very few would have predicted even a few years ago in American politics.”

Hardcore Republicans are quick to smile and think of God and King David.  Democrats. For Democrats, it’s more the wry thought of God and his much-abused servant, Job.

***

Last Friday, “The Final Year” opened at the Landmark Theater Midtown in Atlanta. The documentary film focuses on foreign policy in the last year of the Obama administration. In one scene, Samantha Powers, a former Atlanta resident and then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, hosts an election watch party with other female ambassadors to the U.N.

Of course, they anticipated a victory from Democrat Hillary Clinton. In an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM), Powers said this:

“I’ve had many ideas in my life and my career, but having that election night party proved the worst of them – or one of the worst of them. While many people disappointed by the election results have bad memories of election night, mine are now immortalized in a major motion picture.”

 

***

The Power to the Polls rally in Atlanta on Saturday was chock-full of Democratic candidates. Among the contenders we spotted were former congressman John Barrow, who is running for secretary of state; newly elected state Sen. Jen Jordan of Buckhead; Kevin Abel, a candidate in the next Sixth District congressional race; and a handful of challengers for state House seats.

One of the featured speakers was Democrat Stacey Abrams, the former House minority leader now running for governor. When the crowd started chanting “Stacey,” she urged them to chant her last name instead. Her prime opponent, Stacey Evans, was at a similar event in Savannah.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X