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Council Approves Airport Contracts

Audio version of this story here.

Opponents wanted the vote delayed by at least two weeks. Desire for a delay first came in mid-December after the Reed administration delivered the proposed contracts to the transportation committee the night before it voted on the proposals. Despite concerns from council members, and later from Common Cause Georgia, about the Mayor’s office rushing the process, the committee passed the proposed contracts by a vote of 4-to-2.

Reed admitted his relationship with the council is a work in progress. However, the Mayor argued that relationship has improved over time. He also said his administration worked hard during the holiday recess to provide council members with all the information they requested about the contracts.

During the recess, news broke that some companies recommended for the contracts gave campaign contributions to Mayor Reed and members of the transportation committee. That prompted the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation to file an open records request. The Foundation is one of many groups likely to sue the city over the process.

The Mayor returned the contributions. He also boldly rejected the notion the contributions influenced the process saying the money in question was only a fraction of the more than $3 million raised during his Mayoral campaign. Feeling his reputation was attacked, Reed responded in kind to Common Cause Georgia. He accused its Executive Director, William Perry, and its board of taking the kinds of contributions the organization has campaigned against. Perry said he did take contributions in two failed bids for city council and the Atlanta School Board. However, he said Reed and some council members were “attacking the messenger but not the message”.

In the end, most council members felt there was little to no evidence proving the evaluation process was unfair. Supporters also said a delay would inconvenience airlines and stifle the airport from collect the airline and concessionaire rent needed to pay off about $1.4 billion in debt incurred to build Hartsfield-Jackson’s new international terminal. It’s scheduled to open in May.

The contracts need the Mayor’s signature before they become official. Reed is also expected to release the names of those who evaluated the airport contracts.