In meetings with two Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners Wednesday, League Executive Director Paul Meyer highlighted the lack of broadband access in North Carolina communities and pressed for assistance. Specifically, Meyer shared stories of the challenges faced by local officials in many parts of North Carolina in attracting broadband providers, who often cannot make the math work for investing private dollars to build the necessary infrastructure. He asked FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel — two of the five FCC commissioners — to take these challenges into account when making decisions regarding broadband deployment. He stressed the importance of not having the FCC preempt local decision-making, and urged the commissioners to allow public-private partnerships between local governments and the private sector as the best way to build out broadband infrastructure across the country. Meyer’s visits took place as part of an infrastructure push by the National League of Cities to encourage partnerships between local and federal policy-makers, including members of Congress and agencies such as the FCC. League President and Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lazzara carried those messages as part of a contingent that visited eight congressional offices from North Carolina and Maryland.
The N.C. Senate gave its approval Friday to a measure that addressed certain aspects of the GenX water contamination concern in the Lower Cape Fear River. Since June, the legislature has returned to Raleigh intermittently for full legislative sessions. During a series of “full session” days this week, the Senate picked up where the House left off on the GenX issue in January. (Read the League’s report on House debates here). The House proposal passed that chamber in January with unanimous approval, while many Senate Democrats objected this week to how chamber leaders rewrote the bill.
GenX is a chemical substance used in the manufacture of Teflon, and it has been found in water wells both downstream and upstream from the Chemours plant in Cumberland County, including public water supplies in the Wilmington area. Responding to the concerns about contamination has resulted in hours of legislative committee debates, numerous public meetings in the Lower Cape Fear region, and plentiful media coverage. The Senate proposal approved Friday differed from the House’s take, though it still directed further study of the potential contamination effects of GenX by state agencies. And, like the House bill, the Senate proposal appropriated additional sums to support this study, though the Senate added restrictions on those expenditures that the House did not. Due to changes with the bill, it now moves back to the House for further consideration. Contact: Erin Wynia
N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Secretary Jim Trogdon outlined a proposal Monday for a new borrowing tool to pay for local transportation projects. In testimony before an interim House transportation committee, Secretary Trogdon presented a legislative proposal named “Build NC.” Modeled after the federal GARVEE bond program, Build NC bonds would allow the state to borrow money for local transportation priorities and repay those bonds using future state transportation dollars. Build NC bond proceeds would fund transportation projects prioritized at the regional and division levels of the state’s transportation funding system. These projects are suggested by local officials, who also have the most input in deciding which of these projects to prioritize. Members of the House committee appeared open to the Build NC bonds concept. If recommended by the committee and then authorized by the General Assembly during the short session scheduled to begin in May, Build NC bonds would augment steps already taken over the past year by the legislature and NCDOT to increase the number of local projects funded. Those steps include accelerating project delivery, which Secretary Trogdon said had increased the number of locally requested projects that were funded from 17 percent to 22 percent, as well as additional local transportation funds appropriated by the legislature last year. Contact: Erin Wynia
The growing, global talk about "smart cities" has generated an enormous industry ready to work with municipalities and offer tech solutions to make government, planning, services and growth more efficient and on target via advanced data gathering and analysis. It's a huge inspiration for big public-sector dreams, and we're already seeing great things. But the rise of smart-cities is also giving rise to conversations about ethics, inclusion, consent, and how "smart" these solutions really are in their effects on everyday people. If we go about it a wise way, however, maybe we can stem some of these concerns, suggests our guest this week on Municipal Equation, the League's biweekly podcast about cities and towns in the face of change. Daniel Latorre, a placemaking expert who has studied the intersection of civics and technology for many years, wants to shift the focus from smart cities to "wise cities" -- a different approach to public innovation and problem solving that decentralizes technology in favor of human beings, neighborhoods and personal interaction. He identifies the shortcomings he sees in tech-centric planning, and then gives us a takeaway checkbox of questions to ask when embarking on such projects to ensure that the affected people are kept at the center of focus. There's a lot to consider on this episode. Listen now. You can find it, and past episodes, at nclm.org/municipalequation. If you want Municipal Equation to come to you, simply subscribe on iTunes or Google Play. You can also stream this and all past episodes of Municipal Equation on most or all podcast smartphone apps, like TuneIn, Stitcher or Overcast. Have an idea for an episode? Contact host/producer Ben Brown.