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Voters Preserve Municipal Experience in Legislature

A number of likely incoming state legislators will bring local government experience with them in the new biennium, according to a League analysis of election results. They include Beverly Boswell, a former Kill Devil Hills Planning Board member and current Dare County Commissioner, set for House District 6, and Cynthia Ball, who has served on Raleigh's Civil Service Commission, headed to House District 49. Larry Strickland, who won House District 28, has served on the Pine Level Board of Commissioners and currently chairs the Johnston County Board of Education, while Linda Hunt Williams is a member of the Holly Springs Town Council coming aboard in House District 37.

In Sanford, a former House member, John Sauls, is set to return following a nod from House District 51 voters on Tuesday. His local government experience includes time on the Lee County Board of Commissioners and with the county's economic development agency. Voters are also sending two current Charlotte City Council members to the legislature -- Andy Dulin, in House District 104, and John Autry, in House District 100.

They're among others from Tuesday’s unofficial ballot tallies, some of which are still being assessed by candidates in close races as vote certifications pend. The League is pleased to see North Carolina's voters valuing municipal experience in their state legislative candidates and looks forward to working with all legislators in the 2017-18 biennium on goals to improve local quality of life and economics. The League also extends its best wishes to retiring or departing lawmakers this year and thanks them for their teamwork and service.

While Tuesday's polls gave the people their pick, 43 percent of state legislative seats -- 15 in the Senate; 57 in the House -- were already decided with the March primary elections, as many candidates or incumbents ran without opposition. Despite too-close-to-call elections that may result in recounts, North Carolina can expect similar dynamics as before in terms of legislative party balance and municipal experience. Republicans are keeping a veto-proof presence in the General Assembly.

But, with the retirement of certain lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, there will be some new committee-level leadership. That's notable, as committee chairpersons control the flow of legislation and can determine which city priorities are heard. In the Senate, expect new chairpersons in the Rules, Finance and Judiciary committees. It's also important to note that League staffers have been in regular conversation with legislators throughout the fall on topics of importance to municipalities. That work has included drafting bills. This work will accelerate in the weeks leading up to Jan. 11, 2017, when the General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene. Click here for full, unofficial election results from the N.C. State Board of Elections.


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Big Approvals in Municipal Referenda

While this year's ballots were mostly reserved for races county to federal, and although most municipal races are in odd-number years, several North Carolina towns had important local decisions to make at the polls on Tuesday. Malt beverage elections, infrastructure and housing bond options, and other economic development or financial choices were among municipal referenda across the state. In Wilmington, voters overwhelmingly approved a parks and recreation bond, which officials called a win for quality of life, and for the city's future. "We are grateful to all the citizens who took the time to vote and have a say in their local government," Mayor Bill Saffo said in a statement. "The Parks Bond will provide funding for some of our key needs and also help better position our community for the growth we know is coming."

Asheville's electorate also passed bonds by wide margins, for transportation, parks and affordable housing in seperate referenda. The Citizen-Times newspaper has details. "I think what we heard tonight from the voters is their overwhelming support that the city get to work and use these funds to invest in the infrastructure in our community," the paper quoted of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. Neighborhood improvement bonds were among three bond approvals in Charlotte on Tuesday, as detailed in the Charlotte Observer. And in Goldsboro, voters gave a roaring "yes" to seperate bond measures for parks and recreation and infrastructure -- by 81 percent and 85 percent margins, respectively. "I believed it would pass, but I didn't think it would pass like this," Mayor Chuck Allen told the Golsboro News-Argus. "I hope that it means our citizens believe in what we're doing and they believe in the projects, and now we have to make it happen." Greensboro voters too passed a strong bond package.

At least nine alcohol-related elections went before municipal voters. All passed, though only by a hair in at least one case, where less than 51 percent of Waco voters approved off-premises malt beverage sales. Clayton saw separate malt-beverage and unfortified wine referenda pass easily with 72 and 73 percent margins. The impetus for alcohol policy changes might vary town to town, and they don't always pass -- local voters decide what's best for them -- but such referenda have served economic development purposes, expert Mac McCarley noted during a discussion at CityVision 2016, the League's recent annual conference in Raleigh. McCarley said the small village of Misenheimer, where he's served as municipal counsel, has totally lacked commercial activity. Educational institutions, like Pfeiffer University, dominate the Stanly County town. So, in 2015, the village decided to place on the ballot an initiative for liquor by the drink, specifically with hopes of attracting a restaurant. "That's an economic development approach," McCarley said. "Preparing yourself, to make yourself ready, for the partner you want." (That 2015 referendum passed 39 votes to 12.)

As for other local referenda this year, one town, Tobaccoville, voted "for" in a recall election. Voters also decided numerous other countywide ballot questions, like for transit financing in Wake County that will benefit cities like Raleigh. The November referenda follow similar ones approved earlier this year, in the primaries. Fayetteville, for one, passed a parks and recreation bond to serve the community and future growth.


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Elections: What's Next?

We've made it past Election Day, but that doesn't mean we're done. Photo-finish races with vote tallies inside recount margins assured that we'll see more headlines about candidates and ballot counts -- with the governor's race among those yet to be decided. So, where are we? What's next? According to the N.C. State Board of Elections:

  • There might still be mail-in absentee ballots to count. They'll be honored if postmarked on or before Election Day and will be accepted until close-of-business Nov. 14. Overseas and military ballots have until Nov. 17 to come in.
  • After county elections boards have all ballots in hand and judge which provisionals to count, they will certify results at meetings scheduled for 11 a.m., Nov. 18.
  • Recounts might settle those too-close-to-call contests. But they have to be within a certain margin for a candidate to demand one. In the statewide races, the difference between vote tallies must be 10,000 or less. Eligible candidates have until noon on Nov. 22 to demand recounts, which counties would conduct. For non-statewide races, the difference in candidates' votes must be within 1 percent of the total votes cast in the contest.
  • Finally, the State Board of Elections will certify results for federal, statewide, multi-district and judicial races at 11 a.m., Nov. 29.

More information is available at ncsbe.gov.


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Cities: Incoming President Should Focus on Infrastructure, Economy

When President-elect Donald Trump enters office, his first 100 days should include substantial focus on infrastructure and the economy, according to a pre-election National League of Cities (NLC) poll on the priorities of U.S. mayors and council members. "The president must understand that core city priorities — from infrastructure investment to public safety to strengthening the economy — will make our nation strong," NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony stated just prior to the election. Polling of locally elected officials indicated that they believed neither candidate was adequately focused on cities' top issues, though Trump has emphasized the potential for public-private partnerships in the infrastructure solution. Upon Trump's election victory, Anthony issued congratulations and said he looked forward to working with the new president on programs and initiatives essential for the support of local leaders and their communities. "Now we can begin the hard work of addressing the pressing challenges facing communities across the nation," Anthony said. "We look forward to meeting with the president-elect and his transition team and forming productive partnerships his administration."

While the political majority has a long reach over governmental structure in Washington, D.C., congressional policymaking won't necessarily be a one-party affair. In the U.S. Senate, for instance, Republicans will need cooperation from Democrats to overcome vetoes. For the cities' shared policy goals, NLC says the best thing that local officials can do during the new administration's first 100 days (and beyond) is to travel to Capitol Hill and meet personally with their members of Congress for productive discussion. NLC on Thursday also issued a post on what a Trump presidency could mean for the U.S. Supreme Court and why it would matter to state and local governments.


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NEW LOCATION for League's Drone Education Forum

The League has set a new location for its Nov. 16 educational forum on unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, a growing technology that has plenty of use and regulatory ramifications for local government. The event, set for 9:30 a.m. to noon (register here for in-person or webinar participation), will now be held at the Albert Coates Local Government Center, 215 N. Dawson St., in Raleigh. On-site parking will be available. The forum will feature speakers and panelists from the Next Gen Aviation Consortium at N.C. State University, the Brooks & Pierce law firm, N.C. Department of Transportation Aviation Division, Olaeris, and Clarion Associates. State Rep. John Torbett of Stanley will also be among speakers familar with the evolution and application of drones, which recently became the subject of Federal Aviation Adminstration regulations. Those regulations create a spectrum of opportunity for redesigned traditional service offerings. Nevertheless, a proliferation in the use of drone technology will subsequently present uncharted territory for city governments. How will local policies address privacy, nuisances, trespassing, visual pollution and other public safety challenges? Don't miss this forum/webinar. Contact the League's Will Brooks at (919) 715-8154 or wbrooks@nclm.org with any questions.

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Attend Hurricane Matthew Legislative Input Sessions

Gov. Pat McCrory established a Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee, focused on rebuilding communities impacted by the hurricane. The N.C. Association of County Commissioners and N.C. League of Municipalities serve on the committee and are partnering to hold legislative input sessions to collect thoughts from local government leaders on what it is going to take to recover from the hurricane. Please click here to register, and we encourage you to share this invitation with local government leaders you think are in a position to provide valuable feedback. In preparation for the input sessions, we ask you to complete a brief survey by clicking here.

Below are input session times and locations:

Monday, Nov. 14, 3-5 p.m.
Pasquotank County Courthouse, Courtroom A
206 East Main Street
Elizabeth City, NC 27909

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 3-5 p.m.
Martin Community College - Building 2 Auditorium
1161 Kehukee Park Road
Williamston, NC 27892

Thursday, Nov. 17
9-11 a.m.

New Bern Waterfront Convention Center
203 S. Front Street
New Bern, NC 28560

3-5 p.m.
Lois G. Britt Agriculture Center
165 Agriculture Drive
Kenansville, NC 28349

Friday, Nov. 18, 9-11 a.m.
Robeson County Emergency Operations Center
38 Legend Drive
Lumberton, NC 28358

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Quorum Center
323 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27603


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Aid Continues in Hurricane Recovery; State of Emergency in Wildfires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved more financial aid for communities in certain counties badly impacted by Hurricane Matthew, according to a press release from the governor's office on Thursday. "Municipalities can repair or replace damaged facilities and infrastructure and provide necessary services," Gov. McCrory said. Communities in the 13 designated counties can apply for federal funds to repair and/or replace roads, bridges, water control facilities, public building and equipment, public utilities, parks, and recreation facilities, according to the release.

The governor's office explains: "Federal Public Assistance funding is now available for 48 counties. (Thursday's) amendment makes additional funds available in 13 of those counties to offset the costs of critical infrastructure repairs for local governments, state agencies, certain non-profit agencies and federally recognized Indian Tribal governments that are located in designated disaster areas. Eligible counties include Anson, Bladen, Chatham, Cumberland, Franklin, Halifax, Hoke, Johnson, Lee, Nash, Richmond, Scotland and Wake. (Thursday's) declaration also enables Franklin County to seek funds to cover the costs of emergency response measures and debris removal."

Gov. McCrory has also declared a state of emergency in light of the wildfires in western North Carolina. "As eastern North Carolina was underwater due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the western part of the state has been suffering from a severe drought and now hundreds of acres are burning,” the governor said, adding that the declaration will give structure to evacuations and other assistance to combat and recover from the fires. Click here for news coverage. The state of emergency is in effect for the following counties: Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey. Click here to see the related executive order. The League will keep everyone affected in its thoughts and prayers.


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Five Reasons to Get on the Map with 'Here We Grow'

Your involvement in the recently launched Here We Grow campaign is already visible -- just look at the map on herewegrownc.org. Those blue markers -- each representing a real accomplishment in economic development -- are, collectively, telling the story of how local-level efforts bear success across the state. But we know there are so many more stories to add.

Here are five reasons to add your city or town's story:

1. It shows how you've leveraged existing resources and partnerships to improve quality of life and business.

2. It will resonate in concert with what fellow municipalities have done to improve North Carolina as a whole.

3. It inspires thinking of what municipalities could do with new job-recruiting resources.

4. It shows the outside world that municipalities are open for business.

5. When each of us does better, we all do better.

Send us a story today. Need inspiration? Browse what's already at herewegrownc.org and send an email to about@herewegrownc.org to obtain a login. If you're with one of our municipalities, we'll send you a username and password so you can access the site and submit your story. And don't forget, you can also access a site toolkit that will allow you to:

  • Download a customizable PowerPoint presentation that both promotes the campaign and highlights your city or town’s efforts
  • Download a flyer that can be tailored around your investment story

There will be more to come as Here We Grow grows, and we're excited to have you on board with it. For more information, feel free to email Scott Mooneyham or Ben Brown on the League staff.


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New Episode: Insiders' Guide to Local Economic Development

Here's the crash-course in local economic development you've been waiting for -- with high-value tools, tips and insider knowledge -- in this special, extended episode of the Municipal Equation podcast featuring a couple of pros who know both sides of the business -- public and private -- and where they can pair up to make a difference for cities and towns of any size. Did you know that economic development isn't just one thing? It can take one of many directions, each with its own challenges and set of tools for positive outcomes. We get in-depth with experts Ron Kimble and Mac McCarley, who were among spotlight speakers at the League's recent CityVision 2016 conference, where the bulk of this episode was recorded. Kimble, Charlotte's interim city manager, and McCarley, an attorney who advises local governments and businesses, break it down for us and offer hugely important lessons. Anyone who listens -- whether an elected official, a town staffer or a resident curious about what all goes into business recruitment or downtown development -- will walk away enlightened. Don't miss this one.

You can find all past episodes of Municipal Equation on our SoundCloud page or at nclm.org. The podcast is also available for free subscription on iTunes. It's all about municipalities and the dynamics they face today. To date, it's covered infrastructure funding, local government's role in the startup world, government tech integration, the economics of urban forestry, challenges on local police, and plenty more. Listen in and tell your colleagues about it. Have an idea for a show? Contact host/producer Ben Brown at bbrown@nclm.org.


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Grassroots Tip of the Week

With elections season (mostly) behind us, our concentrations are shifting to the new legislative biennium. It's hard to believe that, in just a little more than eight weeks, the N.C. General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene. As the League continues its work with legislators toward positive outcomes for municipalities across the state, here's a grassroots tip that can make a difference for your community. It's simple:

Call your elected state officials and congratulate them.

Let them know you'll be happy to serve as a support and a sounding board as they migrate into what will be a busy calendar that, for the legislature as a whole, is scheduled to begin Jan. 11 -- here before you know it.