Columbia Airport Commission Update


Over the last few weeks, I have been sending emails to keep you up to date with the work I have been doing since I was sworn in as your State Senator.  As I promised when I was elected, I am working hard to rid government of dysfunction and shed light where we have otherwise been in the dark.  In keeping that promise, I wanted to send you an update on the recent coverage of the Richland-Lexington Airport Commission, which runs the Columbia Metro Airport, and what I am doing to ensure public money is appropriately spent. 


Last month, I attended the Airport Commission board meeting, in part because I was puzzled by the VIP airport parking pass I received in the mail that granted me free airport parking in a terminal adjacent lot. During the meeting, the board informed me that members of the legislative delegation receive the passes as “good will.” None of the Richland or Lexington legislators commute to the State House via airplane, making these so-called VIP passes purely personal in nature. 


I promptly returned my parking pass, and I hope the other members the Richland and Lexington legislative delegations will do the same. 


During the meeting, it was confirmed that the Airport Commission has paid $457,000 for a three-year contract to use a hospitality box at the Colonial Life Arena, purportedly as part of package that secures the airport’s right to advertise on the jumbotron during events at the arena. I am skeptical of the value of this expenditure as it seems the airport could better spend limited advertising dollars in forums where travelers actually go to look for flights—e.g., websites like Kayak or Orbitz. 


More troubling still, it has been reported to me that the hospitality box is primarily being used to entertain Airport Commission board members and their friends and family, not to pursue economic development for the airport. 


However, I am concerned that here and elsewhere, those offering for public service are enjoying too many personal perks and gratuities that flow from their public positions. It’s wrong and it undermines public confidence in the important work of government.


I am continuing to look into this matter and look forward to reporting back to you in the near future. In the meantime, please stay up to date by subscribing to my Facebook Page and encouraging your friends and family to follow my page or sign up for this email list.


I welcome the opportunity to hear from you and your calls, letters and emails have real impact on elected leaders.


Accordingly, if you would like to contact other members of the legislative delegation, but are not sure who represents you, email me at info@harpootlianforsenate.com and I would be happy to pass along contact information for your elected representatives in the General Assembly.



Picture by Avery Wilks

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