Greenville Mayor Kandie Smith welcomes CityVision 2017's crowd.
CityVision 2017 is in full swing in Greenville, with hundreds of municipal officials gathered at the Greenville Convention Center for an array of valuable programming on technology, connectivity and the general sharing of important, timely ideas for cities and towns.
Speakers thus far have included Angelina Panettieri of the National League of Cities, whose talk on "Smart at Any Size" highlighted how smart-city technology and efficiency can be applied successfully in towns small or large. Sean Lilly Wilson of Durham's Fullsteam Brewery explained how beer can be a catalyst for economic development, as breweries like his have driven revitalization in towns across the state.
Outgoing League President Bob Matheny, mayor of Zebulon.
Regionalism also came into focus, with speakers who discussed how urban cores can be strengthened by collaboration across city lines. Christopher Gergen of Forward Cities and Forward Impact impressed the importance of inclusive innovation and the ingredients that are often missed when it comes to spurring local economic development and entrepreneurialism.
The Greenville Daily Reflector newspaper was on hand to cover CityVision and explained how the conference itself brought a positive for the local economy. "Showing what Greenville has to offer gives us an opportunity for spinoff conferences where more restaurants, retail and other businesses and cultural centers can be visited, and they fill their tanks with gas here as well," the newspaper quoted of convention center CEO Rhesa Tucker. "The economic impact is great for our community."
The program continues through Friday with a gala, awards, leadership oaths, entertainment and other League business. The League would like to thank all the participants, speakers, vendors and partners for making CityVision 2017 an unforgettable conference. Special thanks to the City of Greenville and Mayor Kandie Smith for hosting the event and making everyone feel welcomed.
Governor Cooper talks with local government representatives including (from left) League Vice President Michael Lazzara and Executive Director Paul Meyer. Photo credits: Ben Brown
Around a large table at the Executive Mansion with Gov. Roy Cooper and staff on Monday, the executive committees of the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) put a focus on local government's common priorities, challenges and values and the importance of teamwork with the state. For the League -- represented by President and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny; Vice President and Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Mike Lazzara; Winston-Salem Council Member Denise Adams; Morrisville Council Member Liz Johnson; and Southern Pines Mayor David McNeill -- issues included infrastructure needs and revenue flexibility. For NCACC, efforts like school construction took precedence. Overlapping both groups' lists were issues like broadband access, which they called a resource crucial not only for education but job opportunities and economic development as well. Mayor Matheny found agreement from partners when he emphasized that one-size-fits-all suggestions for any of these issues might not be adequate solutions, and that the varying contexts of localities across the state ought to be taken into account, even as they share many of the same issues.
League President Bob Matheny addresses the governor.
Mental health issues including the opioid-abuse epidemic also got a spotlight. "How can we do it better?" posed Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lazzara, who labeled mental health a central focus for him and said current, nationwide efforts haven't shown enough success. Governor Cooper agreed, particularly on the opioid piece. "There is no way we can arrest our way out of this problem," he said. Mayor Pro Tem Lazzara said local governments are ready to partner with the state to get ahead on such issues.
Revenue flexibility for local governments also entered discussion as officials nodded to increasing financial burdens on cities and counties and their desire to reduce pressure on the property tax base. The joint League-NCACC meeting with the governor is now an annual occurrence, having begun last year as League and NCACC leaders expressed a renewed desire to identify and work together on common issues with the state. "We all work for the same people, and it's so important that we all work together," Mayor Pro Tem Lazzara said. The League would like to thank its friends at NCACC along with Governor Cooper and partners in the General Assembly for working together on solutions that make the state a better place.
The executive committees of the League and NCACC together with Governor Cooper at the Executive Mansion.
News outlets are reporting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has notified emergency managers in North Carolina and other states of a temporary hold on relief funds marked for cities and counties still in recovery after 2016's Hurricane Matthew. The change, which LINC'ed IN noted as a possibility earlier this month, is due to the destruction in other states from more recent storms: Harvey and Irma. "The federal government needs that funding right now to be focused on protecting lives down in Florida and Texas," WRAL quoted of N.C. Division of Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. "Basically, FEMA is spending many millions of dollars a day on these two major disasters." The affected funds were marked for local infrastructure rehabilitations and upgrades.
In related news, the governor's office last week announced two new recovery programs for small businesses and workers impacted by Matthew. A press release said that $7.5 million was awarded to support small businesses, and that the funds will be matched by private lenders to extend at least $15 million in loans for small businesses in areas Matthew badly harmed, like Robeson, Cumberland, Edgecomb and Wayne counties. Another $4.9 million is available to help workers who lost their jobs because of the storm.
Meteorologists on Friday projected Hurricane Maria, at the time a Category 3 storm, would keep a comfortable distance offshore of North Carolina. Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a new executive order on Monday ending the Hurricane Irma-related state of emergency for North Carolina. (That storm is blamed for at least one death in the state.) But it continued a separate state-of-emergency declaration for the purposes of delivering relief to Irma-impacted areas outside of the state. While the new order also ended price-gouging restrictions specific to Irma, those restrictions related to Harvey remain in effect, according to the state.