Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Councilman protests move to change airport board

GARY | Councilman Roy Pratt is vowing to fight what he calls the "state takeover" of Gary/Chicago International Airport by rallying the bi-state board that runs Gary, Midway and O'Hare airports.

"We spent years and years developing that airport," Pratt said Tuesday at a news conference at Gary City Council chambers. "It's about to become a major airport, and now they want to take it over."

In alleging a state move to take over Gary's airport, Pratt was referring to Senate Bill 585 as introduced by State Senator Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. That bill has as its centerpiece the establishment of a land-based casino in Gary, but it would also expand the Gary airport authority board and make other changes.

The bi-state airport compact was signed between the cities of Chicago and Gary in 1995, and provides for a bi-state board called the Chicago/Gary Regional Airport Authority. That authority provides Gary with a share of passenger facility charges collected at the Chicago airports.

The Gary airport is run by its own seven-member authority, which has four of its members appointed by the mayor of Gary. Under Charbonneau's bill, the board would be expanded to 11 members, with just four appointed by the Gary mayor. Two others would be county appointments and five others would be appointed by the governor.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has endorsed Charbonneau's bill, most recently in a statement she issued Thursday.

In that statement she said Senate Bill 585 provides a way forward for Gary to take advantage of its airport and other assets.

"As evidenced by Senate Bill 585, Indiana state leadership understands this and is open to assisting the city with a path forward to achieve this end," Freeman Wilson stated in part. "As to the concern that something is being taken away from the citizens of this city, our position is simple: no one can take something that you are unwilling to give away."

Gary airport authority would regionalize under proposed bill

Under Senate Bill 585 as introduced by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, the Gary Airport Authority board would be expanded to 11 members from its current seven.

The mayor of Gary would retain his or her right to appoint four members but the governor would get five appointments. County executive bodies in Lake County and Porter County would continue to appoint one member each, as they do now.

The governor would pick one of his appointees from a list of three nominees, one each submitted by the mayor of Hammond, the mayor of East Chicago and the mayor of Crown Point. The governor would select another from a list of two nominees, one submitted by the mayor of Portage and one by the mayor Valparaiso.

Two other gubernatorial appointments would essentially be at-large picks with experience in aviation, economic development or finance.

The governor also would have the right to select and appoint the authority's chairman, who would have effective veto power over any significant action by the authority.

Source:   http://www.nwitimes.com

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