Registration is now open for the CityVision 2016 Annual Conference in Raleigh, Oct. 23-25. This year, the League is doing things a bit differently -- the Advocacy Goals Conference will be on Sunday the 23rd with cities and towns determining legislative and regulatory priorities for the 2017-2018 NCGA biennium. Attending the Advocacy Goals Conference is the best way to help us better position cities' and towns' advocacy efforts in 2017 and beyond. Make sure your voice is heard and your vote is cast at the Advocacy Goals Conference!
Moving into the CityVision 2016 Annual Conference, you will learn ways to connect success stories to your citizens, community and beyond, adapt to demographic and cultural changes, and grow a strong economic foundation in your hometown. Make one trip, and check off two important conferences on your calendar! Click here to register for both the Advocacy Goals Conference and the CityVision 2016 Annual Conference.
A federal appeals court decision this week affirms state law over local authority when it comes to municipal broadband delivery, though the case could have a future before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday sided against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on that agency's power to preempt state laws limiting the expansion of broadband services offered by municipalities. The court case centered on such offerings from Wilson and from Chattanooga, Tenn., where municipally-run, superfast Internet has been credited as a boon to business growth and residents' access to the web. North Carolina and Tennessee have laws limiting how cities can offer that service, such as with territorial or city-border restrictions. The FCC in 2015, however, issued a ruling preempting portions of those state laws seen as barriers to broadband access and competition. The states fought back in court, leading to Wednesday's appellate decision. Overturning the FCC's ruling, the court found that federal law doesn't explicitly support such preemption of state laws. Click here to read the court's decision.
The National League of Cities in a statement called the court's decision a blow to local decision-making authority. "City leaders -- representing the most trusted level of government -- know that high-speed Internet is not a luxury, but a necessity to bring jobs, quality healthcare and education to their residents," said NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony. "The cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, N.C., have thoughtfully invested in the broadband infrastructure that their communities want and need, and the FCC has championed these and other municipal efforts." The ruling against the FCC comes at a time when the improvement of digital connectivity is most needed, Anthony added.
Despite the outcome, the appellate ruling notes the benefits of Wilson's Greenlight community broadband, the city-run gigabit Internet service. "Each of the top seven employers in Wilson is a customer of the fiber network," it states. "Local schools benefit from using Greenlight, as does the City's public library." The associated free WiFi the city offers downtown "in turn frees up money" for businesses there, the ruling adds. In a summary, it notes that Wilson and Chattanooga sought expansion "because the private cable providers in their areas were unsatisfactory to the local residents and businesses." As such, the ruling notes that the cities were "concerned with more than just the 'bottom line' -- they are also concerned with benefitting the communities they serve."
The League had praised the prior FCC ruling that supported municipalities' authority with broadband. At the time, League Executive Director Paul Meyer noted that high-speed Internet in North Carolina's communities is vital to "promote educational attainment and bolster economic opportunities for all North Carolinians, whether the Last Mile provider is a municipal government or a private company. It is appropriate that individual municipalities have the tools and decision-making authority available to them to combat the vastly different challenges facing them." The City of Wilson was an intervenor in the appellate case. The League filed an amicus brief in support of the city. As of the time of this writing, it was unclear whether the FCC would petition to the Supreme Court to preserve its ruling in favor of municipalities. Click here, here, here and here for media coverage. The court decision landed around the same time as reports that Google plans to test speedy fiber Internet and "experimental transmitters" in locations across the country, including the Triangle.
Twenty-eight state legislative districts were struck down as racial gerrymanders in federal court action on Thursday, a development that requires the General Assembly to redraw the boundaries in time for the 2018 election cycle. With the current election cycle essentially on the closing arc, the three-judge panel that rendered the decision decided to let it unfold as is, to avoid disruption. The development stems from a legal challenge put forth by plaintiffs who called the district maps illegal on the basis of race, with boundaries allegedly drawn to impact the voting power of black residents and minimize the number of Democrat-held seats in the legislature. "This state’s citizens have the right to vote in districts that accord with the Constitution," U.S. Circuit Judge James Wynn wrote in the decision. Click here to read it in full.
Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Dunn who helped draw the House map, tweeted that he was "disappointed" by the decision and that it "contradicts" a prior N.C. Supreme Court ruling in support of the districts as they are. "However, we are relieved for voters that the district court did not disrupt the current election that is already underway," Lewis said. Read media coverage here and here.
What did you think of the last episode of Municipal Equation? We got great feedback from listeners interested in the science of place attachment and what local governments should understand about the way people connect to their cities and towns. Missed it? No problem. Listen here. You'll hear a great discussion with Melody Warnick, author of the new book "This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live."
And be sure to check out Episode Five, coming out this Tuesday. Click here for a preview. We talk with guests including City of Raleigh Communications Director Damien Graham about how the city is using live music -- by way of a professionally produced government access television show -- to connect residents with their city's art scene and local government. Graham notes that it helps to humanize government and attract attention to Raleigh's vibrancy. That's Tuesday, Aug. 16, on Municipal Equation, a podcast created by the League to spread good ideas, discuss local-level challenges and celebrate success stories. You can subscribe for free on iTunes or find all past episodes here.