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League Bulletin

January 26, 2018

​Finally stepping into a long-running dispute over one of the Obama administration’s capstone environmental regulations, the U.S. Supreme Court this week issued a ruling that sets in motion legal proceedings that will ultimately allow it to rule on a case challenging the limits of federal water quality regulation. The regulation at issue, known as the “Waters of the United States” rule, defined the types of water bodies that are subject to federal water quality controls. After the rule went into effect, many interest groups argued that it expanded the areas subject to those regulations. Under the rule, any time an entity -- including a city -- undertakes construction that disturbs these areas, it must pay to mitigate the environmental damage caused by the construction.

In what was characterized as a loss for the federal government, a unanimous court ruled that any challenges to this regulation must start in federal district courts. The most immediate effect of this ruling was to invalidate a stay that had been in place for over two years, allowing the water quality regulation to go into effect. Complicating that result, however, was an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to undo the regulation. Secondarily, the court’s ruling meant that litigation must start over and bubble up from the district court level, rather than federal appellate courts, as the federal government preferred. If the expected district court litigation results in conflicting opinions -- a likely outcome -- the court could be called on to referee the dispute again in the future.

​City leaders from across the U.S. met with President Trump at the White House on Thursday to discuss the road ahead on matters including infrastructure, just ahead of the president's scheduled State of the Union speech next week. He's expected to detail a specific infrastructure proposal shortly after. "As local leaders, we call on President Trump to use his State of the Union speech to outline a bold vision for rebuilding America's infrastructure in partnership with local governments," National League of Cities (NLC) President Mark Stodola, the mayor of Little Rock, Ark., said in a press release after Thursday's meeting. "That means a plan that works collaboratively with cities — and invests in our vision to not just repair, but to prepare for the future." Nationally, many city leaders are looking for modernized infrastructure built through federal-local partnership, NLC notes. The N.C. League's Municipal Equation podcast in 2016 discussed with NLC the infrastructure deficit and the growing burden on local government.

Route Fifty, in a story citing a White House official, said the president's infrastructure plan isn't expected to identify new revenues to fund spending. It also won't press for cuts to staple programs that help pay for public works projects, the report said. "The major delivery mechanisms for funding for infrastructure will remain in place," Trump advisor DJ Gribbin told the publication. Some city officials, including Denver, Colo., Mayor Michael Hancock, expressed skepticism, citing "concern about the where the dollars are coming from." Gribbon is quoted as saying the White House is "sensitive" to cities' resource concerns. "At the end of the day, this isn't supposed to be a net loss for cities," Gribbin said. A number of mayors opted out of the White House meeting due to objections with remarks the president made about cities and illegal immigration.

​Is government wrong in the way it attempts to reach out to young people? Does it work against its own interest when it tries to "have a talk" or come to terms with millennials (or, further, "Generation Z")? Is "millennials" maybe a bad or condescending word? Increasingly, people are saying yes to all three, and that it's high time we overhaul the conversation and beware the standard trade advice regarding "engaging with millenials." On the latest episode of Municipal Equation, the League's biweekly podcast about cities and towns in the face of change, we talk with observers including a generations expert, a national-level local government group and a "millennial mayor" to explore what we can do differently than make wholesale assumptions about the interests and behavior of people in their 20s and 30s today. This episode is loaded with useful advice and practices for local government workplaces. Don't miss it. Municipal Equation comes out every other Tuesday at You can also subscribe on iTunes or Google Play or follow the podcast on your favorite listening app. Contact: Ben Brown

The Town of Fuquay-Varina and the City of Kannapolis are the latest to share their stories of economic improvement on Here We Grow, adding to an interactive map that shows the spread of investments and spirit of partnership on part of cities and towns across North Carolina. For Fuquay-Varina, which has charted fast-pace growth in recent years, town leaders are prepping for industrial development with the purchase of property that may lure new, advanced manufacturing firms. The town had identified advanced manufacturing as one of its top priorities for recruitment and is seizing opportunity with its investment in what will be a shovel-ready business park. "Fuquay-Varina is primed for the recruitment of the next greatest advanced manufacturing firm," Mayor John W. Byrne says in the Here We Grow article.

Here We Grow, at, is a statewide hub for municipal economic development stories like this, and it offers resources to help cities and towns spread the word. The City of Kannapolis submitted two stories to Here We Grow this week -- one about a new advanced technology center coming to town; the other about the city's movement on a major downtown revitalization spurring $300 million in potential investment. The city council just unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding to that end. Read all about it on Here We Grow, and add your own stories to the map. It's the best way to get your story out there, and it shows what cities and towns collectively do for the state. When each of us does better, we all do better. League members may email to obtain login credentials. Need inspiration? There's plenty already on the site.

​The General Assembly's gears continue to revolve in what is otherwise an off-season with brief sessions and interim committee meetings. But the Insider State Government News Service reported on Friday that potential votes aren't expected until Feb. 7 at the earliest as lawmakers wait on action from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case over the drawing of legislative districts and whether they can be used in this year's elections. Meanwhile, however, lawmakers are working on bills that may affect things like school class size and judicial districts. They could spend part of February finalizing these and other matters, the Insider reports, before resting ahead of the short session that is scheduled to begin in May, according to House leadership.

​The Census Bureau is conducting Boundary and Annexation Survey workshops in three locations across North Carolina in February: Wilmington, Feb. 12; Durham, Feb. 13; and Charlotte, Feb. 14. The workshops will provide an overview of the 2020 Census Geographic Partnership Programs, the 2018 BAS, and demonstrations for creating a digital and paper response for completing the BAS. To register, please RSVP by emailing your name, phone number, workshop location and BAS participation method type to ​with a generic subject of: RSVP to [Insert City, State] BAS Workshop, by Feb 5.