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League Bulletin

August 19, 2016

The governor's office has announced grant and loan awards totaling $127 million for 70 water and sewer infrastructure projects in North Carolina towns, helping local governments maintain or grow clean systems on which residents and businesses depend. "Reliable infrastructure is crucial to protecting public health, improving quality of life, and providing economic opportunities in all of our communities," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a Tuesday news release about the funds. According to the release, the state has distributed more than $695 million for such infrastructure projects since January 2014 and plans to award $300 million more for water and sewer per this year's passage of the League-supported Connect NC bond package. The next funding round, this fall, will include the first Connect NC distributions for water and sewer. For this round, click here to see the full list of awarded towns and agencies, with funding amounts.

Separately, on Thursday, McCrory's office announced $5.1 million in rural infrastructure awards, with several municipalities on the list. Click here to see. The money, meant for projects directly resulting in jobs, comes through the state's Rural Infrastructure Authority. "RIA programs move the needle for our smaller towns and counties when opportunities for economic development arise," the governor said.

N.C. Rep. Ed Hanes was among several legislators who attended the forum. Photo credit: Ben Brown

Law enforcement leaders, members of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus and representatives of the N.C. League of Municipalities met Tuesday to discuss best practices in law enforcement training and examine potential solutions that might strengthen trust between police and the communities they serve. More than 100 law enforcement officials from across North Carolina -- including police chiefs, sheriffs, leadership from the State Highway Patrol and state Department of Public Safety, and the state Department of Justice -- attended the forum. Speakers and audience members also included a number of officials involved in law enforcement training and policy standards. Rep. Ed Hanes of Winston-Salem told those attending that the idea that strained relations between law enforcement and their communities will not affect some people because of their race or social strata is a mistake. “This is an issue that affects all of us,” Rep. Hanes said. “We are all in this together.”

During a panel discussion, Davidson Police Chief Jeanne Miller said the event and others like it represent a dialogue that needs to be occurring, both at the state level and at the local level “across a table with a cup of coffee.” The topics addressed during the meeting included the training hours required to become a certified law enforcement officer and their sufficiency, declining enrollment in police training programs and a growing inability to attract people to the field, impediments for smaller police departments to conduct in-service training, and the need for law enforcement leaders to set standards and expectation regarding impartial policing. The event included a presentation on programs offered through League insurance pools intended to reduce potential high-risk liabilities while improving officer and public safety. These programs include driver safety training and a new Law Enforcement Risk Review Process designed to assess an agency’s adherence to best practices, including use-of-force policies.

The meeting was convened at the urging of the Legislative Black Caucus and organized by the League. Similar meetings on the local level, organized by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are occurring in cities across the country in the wake of tragic encounters that have led to the deaths of residents and police officers. Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny, who serves as the League’s 1st Vice President, said he believed that policymakers and law enforcement in North Carolina are working positively together to try to avoid situations like those that have led to the highly-publicized deaths. “But we always want to ask what each of us in each of our roles can do better, particularly when it comes to ensuring that officers can access training and that local law enforcement agencies have the ability to tap into best practices and standards,” Mayor Matheny said. Rep. Garland Pierce, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, said he hoped the dialogue would lead to tangible proposals that would result in better trained and prepared officers. “That is why the Legislative Black Caucus initiated this call for this type of meeting, and we are pleased that our law enforcement community and the North Carolina League of Municipalities has answered it,” Rep. Pierce said. Click here and here for media coverage of the event.

Register now 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 General Assembly's 2017-2018 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.

Tourists are spending cash in record amounts in North Carolina, with domestic visitor spending up in nearly all counties, state officials said Thursday. Spending hit nearly $22 billion statewide last year, representing a 3 percent increase over the previous year, according to a press release. It added that visitors' money directly supported 211,487 jobs and led to nearly $5.3 billion in payroll income in the state. Related state tax receipts exceeded $1.1 billion. Local tax revenues from visitorship totaled more than $660 million. "We can take pride in North Carolina’s position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with nearly 55 million visitors last year," said N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla. The numbers are from a state-commissioned annual study by the U.S. Travel Association. Click here for stats, and here for news coverage.

Two resignations landed in the General Assembly this week, including that of the House's majority leader. Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherfordton, who led the Republican caucus throughout the legislature's recent biennium and who was in the midst of a re-election campaign, explained he needed to focus on home and family and made his resignation effective Tuesday. Hager, a House member since 2011, told the Associated Press it was "probably the toughest decision I've ever made." According to the Insider, the News & Observer's state government news service, Reps. John Bell of Goldsboro and Michael Speciale of New Bern have expressed interest in the majority leader vacancy. According to the AP, party leaders in Hager's district have chosen Rutherfordton lawyer David Rogers to succeed Hager, who was facing a November ballot challenge from unaffiliated candidate Ben Edwards.

Rep. Rick Catlin of Wilmington also tendered his legislative resignation this week. Catlin, a former New Hanover County commissioner elected to the House in 2012, said he needed to restore attention to his engineering business and other, more local matters, according to the Wilmington StarNews. The newspaper added that GOP primary winner for the seat Holly Grange is the party's likely pick to fill the new vacancy. Catlin was not running for re-election.

Meanwhile, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party has put forward two people to fill spots left open by the recent resignation of Huntersville's Charles Jeter from the House, according to the Charlotte Observer. The newspaper reported that the party chose former Huntersville town commissioner Beth Danae Caulfield to take Jeter's place on the November ballot, where challenge will come from Democrat Chaz Beasley. For the meantime, attorney Justin Moore will serve out the remainder of Jeter's term.

The latest episode of Municipal Equation -- the League's own podcast on the challenges, solutions and new ideas orbiting municipalities and their residents -- is out! Click here to listen. Question: How does your town use its government access television channels? Creatively, we mean, and assuming your town has entered the realm of original broadcasting. In Raleigh, city government is putting the spotlight on the local music scene by capturing top-shelf live performances -- professionally produced, as good as anything you'll see on TV -- to in turn shine light on the city itself and humanize local government. Using city-owned or -operated venues to showcase public spaces or functions, Raleigh's government basically has its own Austin City Limits, with some extra, local flair to set it apart. The bands that perform even take the time to talk about their love for the city. Could this be something your town could duplicate? Have an in-depth listen on the latest Municipal Equation.

A new, bipartisan House-Senate caucus has formed to focus squarely on North Carolina's growing life-sciences sector. The Joint Legislative Life Science Caucus, according to a reports citing a press release, will be co-chaired by Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh; Rep. Graig Meyer of Hillsborough; Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary; and Sen. Angela Bryant of Rocky Mount. Members will seek to enhance the legislature's knowledge of life sciences like biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, which have sizeable or growing presences in parts of North Carolina, including the Triangle, the Triad and Wilmington. "The life science industry has saved countless lives thanks to new breakthroughs in biotechnologies, pharmaceuticals and more," Rep. Avila was quoted as saying in a news report. "As a former chemist and small business owner, I know that the best thing we can do to create more jobs, grow our state’s economy and advance science is to encourage more innovators to invest in North Carolina." The N.C. Biotechnology Center says jobs in the life sciences field in North Carolina are growing at more than three times the national average and have now passed the 70,000 mark.
The City of Raleigh learned this week that it was one of just three in the nation to receive an award meant to help municipal governments link high-speed Internet to civic engagement. Alongside Austin, Texas and Louisville, Ky., the City of Oaks will receive $28,100 and technical help for Invision Raleigh, "an interactive online tool that citizens can use to access their local government more easily," a news release from the city explained. The award, named for philanthropist Charles Benton, comes from Next Century Cities. "We are incredibly excited to receive the Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Award to build upon past successes and investments to provide our citizenry a tool that will allow greater engagement with and in city government as we look to improve services to the community that we serve.” Click here to listen to a podcast (scroll down to see the player) about the award's purpose and how leveraging broadband can pay off for municipalities. The City of Raleigh said InVision Raleigh will result in an interactive website that anyone can use to "visualize proposed changes in the city," providing modern, easy access to city government information as an alternative to traditional town hall meetings. Click here for media coverage of the awards.

The National League of Cities (NLC) has released a new report called "Cities and Drones" to help municipalities better understand new federal rules on drone regulation that favor state and local authority. "This report serves as a primer on drones for local officials," NLC CEO Clarence E. Anthony said in a release about the report. "Whether they are revolutionizing search and rescue capabilities or helping realtors show off their homes, drones are lowering the cost and increasing the reach of airborne services. As our skies are becoming more crowded, cities must be able to decide how and when they want to see drones used in their communities."

LINC'ed IN reported in July that the Federal Aviation Administration had released a long-anticipated final rule for unmanned aviation systems (UAS), or drones, following a determination that "certain legal aspects concerning small UAS use may be best addressed at the state or local level." Meanwhile, drone sales have skyrocketed and the crafts are being used in myriad ways -- including for municipal law enforcement, inspections and environmental monitoring, NLC points out. The organization emphasizes specific areas of focus for local governments that wish to regulate drones, including:

  • "Using land use and zoning powers to designate when and where drones may take off, land and operate, as well as any operational limitations or criteria."
  • "Creating an ordinance that punishes operators for operating an unmanned aircraft in a manner that recklessly endangers persons or property while considering appropriate enforcement infrastructure."

Click here to view the full report.