Leading from the Left

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stripping Your Local Government of Authority

I've been receiving many emails about the possible relocation of Horace Williams Airport. People are deeply concerned that their land may be condemned for a new airport and that they have little say in the matter. I know how they feel. Here's the background, as I know it.....

UNC is looking to move the airport so they can construct a satellite campus at Carolina North. The most likely locations are outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro in rural Orange County. And this past summer UNC got the legislature to pass a bill that sets up an airport authority with the power to site an airport and take land, if necessary, through eminent domain. The bottom line? UNC can locate an airport when and where it wants and the county government has no oversight. Our ability to ensure that development is done wisely and with the community's interest in mind, has been abrogated by legislative action. Unbelievable, right?

Now, many of the folks I've heard from have focused on UNC 'fat cats' who fly their private planes into Horace Williams for football games and the like. And condemning someone's land so a millionaire can get to game quicker is truly reprehensible.

It is important to remember however that UNC medical personnel also fly in and out of Horace Williams Airport as part of the AHEC program. Through the AHEC program they fly to other parts of North Carolina on a regular basis to bring much needed medical expertise to community's that otherwise would not have it. In my humble opinion, AHEC is one of the things we do best in NC, and we do need to make sure AHEC can function well.

HOWEVER, siting an airport in rural Orange County (or any where else for that matter) should be done with care and with sensitivity to the community. The County Commissioners, the folks elected to represent Orange County citizens and to balance broad community needs with individual rights, should be part of the decision-making process. Stripping us of our role in development matters is not transparent and not good for the process.