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Speaking Out: Municipalities drive state growth 

by Ronnie Wall, League President and Burlington Mayor

In Paul’s editorial, he speaks on his experiences on the League’s Listening and Visioning Tour. It was the first time that I know of that a League Executive Director has visited that many members in a month - going to 15 cities across the state -
and I commend him and the League staff for undertaking that task.

Paul heard many things on the tour, but one thing remains clear, and it is a message that I shared in this space before. It is critical that we continue to act as a unified voice for the benefit of municipalities, and that we keep communicating the value of municipalities to our citizens, state leadership and potential strategic
partners.

That does not mean that we do not have different needs for our communities. There are 542 municipalities in the League, and each one is unique. But we all understand the value of municipalities, and, frankly, we can see that everyone does
not understand that value.

Municipalities are key to our state’s continued growth. Because of cuts to municipal revenue, the proposed budgets for many municipalities across the state
include tax increases or a reduction in services. Determining priorities as municipal leaders is never easy, but when municipalities are put in the position where they are forced to decide whether to raise taxes or cut services because of actions taken by the General Assembly, it undercuts the work that we have been doing to grow our communities.

In my “Up Front” message on May 6, I referenced projects where cities and
towns provided assistance to promote historic preservation, leading to economic development. I specifically mentioned West Jefferson’s downtown Streetscape project, Wilson’s Nash Street Lofts, Edenton’s Cotton Mill along with efforts in Hickory, Elkin and my hometown Burlington.

These efforts are happening across the state. We have to let everyone know just how impactful these and other initiatives are to both our local economies and the state’s economy. When legislators are home from Raleigh, we have to show them these projects and explain all the work and investments that led to these outcomes.

There continue to be matters before the General Assembly that affect our municipal control and our ability to provide and maintain the way of life in our communities. This is where we must unite. Negative outcomes for one or a few municipalities can lead to negative outcomes for cities and towns statewide.

By continuing to pound the drum of the importance of municipalities, we will hopefully show just how vital strong municipalities are to our great
state.