[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Airport contracts send Atlanta city council into overtime"
Wednesday, January 3, 2012
Airport contracts send city council into overtime
By Jeremiah McWilliams and Kelly Yamanouchi
The Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta City Council approved a multi-billion dollar array of
concessions contracts at Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta airport
after nearly nine hours of discussions that at times grew contentious and
prompted a visibly upset Mayor Kasim Reed to join the debate.
The contracts cover operating rights for 150 restaurant, bar and retail
locations throughout Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Together,
they will remake the image Hartsfield-Jackson presents to more than 90
million travelers per year.
The list of contracts proposed by Reed's administration won City Council
approval over the objection of critics who wanted more documents to be
released to the public and for the council to spend more time combing
through the contracts.
The retail contracts and a separate slate of contracts for food and beverage
passed by 12-3 votes, with Natalyn Archibong, Felicia A. Moore and Michael
Julian Bond dissenting in protest, they said, of how the Reed administration
handled the process.
Five hours into the meeting, and after comments from several public
organizations, Reed took the microphone to call for swift approval of the
contracts, which are timed to coincide with the opening of a new
international terminal, which is planned for mid-May.
Reed also blasted Common Cause Georgia, which has accused him of not keeping
promises to make the procurement process transparent. And Reed said press
coverage, which has documented political contributions from vendors
recommended for contracts, had besmirched his character and that of council
Such contributions are legal, and Reed had returned some of them to, as he
put it, "avoid appearances."
"The level of hypocrisy is stunning," Reed said, adding that directors of
Common Cause Georgia who have been public officials have taken campaign
contributions from businesses. "I've been taking this for three weeks,
sitting around and listening to this stuff. It ain't right. It's not right."
Reed also said the city needed to move forward to start paying off $1.4
billion in bonds issued to fund the new international terminal.
The contracts now go to Reed's desk. He is expected to sign them quickly.
The contracts will be some of the largest ever doled out in Georgia, with
food and beverage gross sales estimated at $347.3 million per year for the
next decade. The city's aviation department, which runs Hartsfield-Jackson,
will reap more than $51 million per year from those sales, according to
Some of the new brands to be offered by contract winners include hometown
names such as The Varsity, Shane's Rib Shack, Willy's Mexicana Grill and
Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint.
Though Reed's administration heatedly defends its handling of the contracts,
some have urged the City Council to slow the process since the list of
winners was approved by the city council's transportation committee nearly
three weeks ago. The City Council was out of session Dec. 19-30.
The City Council effectively only had three business days to make what
amounts to a $3 billion decision, said William Perry, executive director of
Common Cause Georgia.
"There have been people who say it's been fair," Perry said at Tuesday's
meeting. "There have been those who say it's been unfair. I have to say, we
don't know. There has been nothing that's been transparent about it. I hope
you'll pause today."
Some representatives of losing bidders spoke against approval, but
Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. said he wanted to hear facts, not
allegations, from them.
"Let us not buy into the notion that something is wrong," Young said. "We
got good people to evaluate this. We have to depend on the people that we
have hired to represent us to do what is in the best interest of the
taxpayers of this city.
"For those of you who came up here with allegations, God bless you -- good
luck," he said.
Some of the winning businesspeople already operate at the airport, including
Daniel Halpern of Jackmont Hospitality and entrepreneur Mack Wilbourn, both
of whom helped Reed's mayoral campaign. A consortium including HMS Host was
one of the biggest winners.
The city says delaying ratification could also delay the opening of the
international terminal, causing the airport to lose $3.1 million per month
in terminal rents from the airlines and an additional $2 million per month
in lost concessions revenue.
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at email@example.com