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Taking the Field: Big and Small, League Activities Touch on a Lot 

By Paul Meyer, NCLM Executive Director

It is difficult to believe that it has been almost two years since the League, led by our then-new head of Governmental Affairs, Rose Vaughn Williams, played such a prominent role in helping to put together a high-profile legislative deal to stabilize state transportation revenue and preserve Powell Bill dollars. At the time, the League’s role and support of that legislation was noted both by legislators on the chamber floors and cited in the media.

That bill, and the League’s work on it, marked something of a turning point in the League’s relationship with the North Carolina General Assembly, even if tension continues between municipalities and the state over responsibilities, roles and authority – as it always has to one degree or another. It is still far from a perfect relationship, but that legislation and the League’s role was a big deal. And it was noted as such by League members, legislators and the media.

It was also something that took a lot of work by League staff and members, reflecting how the organization and our lobbying, grassroots and communications efforts were becoming more efficient and effective.

As I look back on that obvious success, I am reminded that a lot of blood, sweat and tears are expended by League staff and members on work that receives far less attention. Sometimes it involves highly-publicized issues, while the League’s work takes place largely in the background. Other times, that work takes place on issues that are hugely important, but do not receive a whole lot of public attention.

Just recently, we saw where the state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Town of Emerald Isle that threatened both municipal and public access to the state’s beaches. As the town’s insurer, the League’s Risk Management Services Department, as well as the Legal Department, played key roles – but ones that played out largely behind the scenes – in a court case that was hugely important in preserving North Carolina’s traditional public access to beaches.

Another momentous court case recently decided involved the state law that would have taken the City of Asheville’s water system and handed it over to a regional water authority. Again, the state Supreme Court sided with the city in decision that garnered headlines around the state. What did not grab headlines was the work by League General Counsel Kim Hibbard and Associate General Counsel Gregg Schwitzgebel on an amicus brief that helped spell out the importance of municipal control of assets created with the investment of municipal tax dollars.

Outside of the courtroom, League staff is involved in variety of efforts designed to create agreement among stakeholders on policy issues that affect people’s lives, even if those affected are not always aware of those efforts. Sometimes the League initiates those meetings; sometimes we act as participants. Just in the last several months, the League has been involved in meetings about police training, developing recommendations for hurricane recovery, the use of drones, small cell wireless technology, and the local government pension system, to name a few.

The League’s involvement in all of these issues reflects just how diverse the interests of North Carolina cities and towns are. It’s also another reflection of how cities and towns – whether individually or working through an organization like the League -- do an awful lot that affects people’s lives in a positive way.