DENVER — Before Phil Washington can accept his new job in Colorado, he will need the approval of Denver City Council.
Washington is Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's pick to be the next CEO of Denver International Airport, following the retirement of current CEO Kim Day.
In November, Denver voters passed ballot measure 2E, which requires city council approval of most mayoral appointees, including airport CEO.
Washington most recently ran the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. An organization that has received a search warrant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which included Washington's name.
The Sheriff's Department was seeking email and communications between Washington and others, regarding a contract with a non-profit to establish and run a sexual assault hotline for the transit agency.
"I am not under investigation at all. There is a review that's going on, but not under investigation," Washington said in an interview with Next with Kyle Clark. "I have been told the organization, LA Metro, is under review for a contractor case."
He said there is no question he will not answer when he has his hearing in front of city council next week.
"I don't think there's any validity at all to this case," said Washington of the situation in Los Angeles. "I'm not here to pass judgement on (L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva), but what I can tell you is we procured the contract legally and within the procedures within Los Angeles Metro."
As head of the Regional Transportation District, he oversaw FasTracks, the voter approved sales tax that has led to light rail and commuter rail throughout the Denver Metro Area, though not a promised rail line to Longmont because there is not enough money.
That sounds similar to The Great Hall project at DIA. To stay within the $770 million budget, DIA's outgoing leader, Kim Day, had to modify the proposal. Now, instead of moving both security checkpoints away from an area that can be overlooked from above to the sixth floor where ticketing counters are no longer needed, there is only enough money to move the south security checkpoint.
Can Washington fulfil a promise for DIA, when the RTD promise of a rail line to Longmont still has not come true?
"I'm going to sure try. I believe in getting in with both hands, both feet," said Washington. "I think it has to be the top priority, not just for the region, but for the airlines and aviation in this country, that DEN be very, very functional and the Great Hall Project be completed."
DEN is the official name of the airport that just about everyone else in the area knows as DIA.
Washington said that airlines, the federal government or "someplace else" would need to help fund the project to be completed as originally promised.
"This is not insurmountable and it's not impossible," said Washington.
Washington's goal is to see DIA become an aerotropolis, where people choose to visit even if not catching a flight.
"I would love to make the airport a destination. We did the same thing with Union Station. It is a destination," said Washington. "When I was a kid, it was a day out when my mother used to take all of us to the airport to watch the planes take off. We want to do that again. We want to get young people, especially young people of color, involved in the aviation industry and get them engaged, and the way to do that, I think, is to bring them to the airport as a destination, talk to them about aviation, talk to them about airplanes, talk to them about how to run an airport."
As for people who will brisk at additional casual traffic slowing a travelers trip to the airport, Washington did not hesitate with a response.
"Yeah, that's alright. Take the train," said Washington.
His appointed, if approved, is only guaranteed through the middle of 2023. Hancock is term-limited and a new mayor will be elected in two years. A new mayor that might choose their own DIA CEO.
"There is an enormous amount of work that can be done in two years. We can accelerate The Great Hall Project. We can push forward the gate expansion. We can push forward the Peña roadway construction. We can push forward professional development for employees," said Washington. "There is so many things we can do in two years, I am not worried about being in the job only two years."
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