The Hartsfield-Jackson blackout raises doubts about the city of Atlanta's control of the "world's busiest airport."
Outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed, who waited hours after the blackout began to deliver one of his vintage displays of defensiveness, arrogance and incoherence in a Sunday news conference, has made the airport his personal fiefdom. Reed ran off one airport president over murky circumstances and installed the present political appointee, awarded contracts and oversaw an expansion that brings planes ominously descending over the traffic-clogged nest of interstates near the airport.
With a population of 450,000, the city of Atlanta runs the major economic driver for a metro area of 6 million. A total of 90,000 voted in the recent Atlanta's mayor's election. Like Atlanta mayors dating back to William Hartsfield, new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms with her small share of votes will rule a major air hub for the Southeast, nation and world.
Airport contracts have been a constant source of political corruption, the focus of a current federal investigation. Apparently, all of those vendors given sweetheart deals were unable to provide any basic food services to stranded passengers after the blackout occurred. Nearly 12 hours later, Reed had to call on Chick Fil A to bring sandwiches to people stuck at a dreary convention center near the airport. Others went hungry and thirsty.
The blackout highlights the shortcomings of Atlanta's longstanding insular economic dealings among "our partners," as Reed kept saying.
Georgia Power and Reed kept repeating the unfortunate term "redundant" to refer to the power system that quickly failed when a mysterious fire broke out. The electrical system was all too redundant in the sense that both systems crashed. Ga. Power says it's been providing power to the airport for "100 years," according to the AJC. That looks to be too long. A company somewhere might have better expertise in running a sophisticated airport power system, such as Dallas Fort Worth seems to have, as cited by the AJC, which roused itself to quite comprehensive coverage.
Now, the "partnership" is fraying over the blackout, with Delta CEO Ed Bastain telling the AJC that he'll seek reimbursement from the city and or Ga. Power for the millions the hometown airline lost from canceled flights. Strange coming from Delta, which has had its own technical breakdowns, and has steadfastly stopped the construction of a second commercial airport in the metro area.
Whether an alternative to city control of the airport would bring more public accountability and efficiency would be worth discussing. A state or regional airport commission might make sense, or even some federal/multistate body.
The airport has long since grown too important to be controlled by Atlanta's small-town politicians.