TODAY IS THE DEADLINE to register for CityVision 2016, the League's annual conference that unites North Carolina's municipalities like no other event can. Sign up by midnight! Hotel registrations must be completed by tomorrow as well. At the time of this writing, there were still a few rooms available at the Sheraton Raleigh and the Holiday Inn State Capital. Don't delay!
This year, CityVision 2016 -- Oct. 23-25 -- is joined with the Advocacy Goals Conference (Sunday the 23rd), where cities and towns will collectively determine legislative and regulatory priorities for the next biennium of the General Assembly. Attending the Advocacy Goals Conference is the absolute best way to help us better position municipal 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.
Similar to a 2015 effort, city and county planning and development laws would be reorganized and consolidated under a draft legislative proposal in circulation. It comes out of the N.C. Bar Association's Zoning, Planning & Land Use Section, which promoted similar legislation in the last biennium. Click here to view an annotated version. Lawmakers in 2015 had introduced HB548 Zoning/Modernize & Reorganize, which, as the League described in its 2015 End of Session Bulletin, began as an unprecedented rewrite of the state's entire land use and planning statutes and later softened into a study bill. League members had worked with the Bar Association to eliminate the measure's unintended consequences and ensure it remained policy-neutral, before concern from the bill's sponsors led to a shift in language. It ended up calling for a study by an 18-member task force, which would include a League representative, but the bill died in the 2016 short session. For the new proposal, the League asks members to direct any feedback or suggestions to Asheville City Attorney Robin Currin at firstname.lastname@example.org (and please also copy League Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia at email@example.com).
For the past 15 years, Americans have put more trust in their local government than their state goverment when it comes to handling problems, according to new Gallup research that aligns with several other recent polls. The national public opinion firm reports that roughly seven in 10 respondents expressed a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of trust in their local government, ahead of a six-in-10 response for state government. Gallup conducted the national poll Sept. 7-11 but said trust in local government has held steady since the firm first polled on the matter in 1972.
The Gallup analysis also examined party-based support or lack thereof for different levels of government. Republicans, for example, are more likely to favor state government. "Similar to their confidence in state government, Republicans have generally expressed more trust than Democrats in local government -- this was the case in all but three polls Gallup has taken since 1997," the firm reports. "Overall, however, solid majorities of all three party groups have expressed confidence in their local governments." Click here for more from the source and here for coverage from the National League of Cities.
Last year, the League released the results of a statewide poll that found 75 percent of North Carolina voters would support giving local government more decision-making authority. Click here for related media coverage.
Twenty-one states have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) over its recently released final overtime rule, which is set to extend overtime pay rights to millions of previously exempt workers -- bearing new financial constraints on public sector employers. The rule carries a Dec. 1 effective date, and the plaintiffs want an injunction. They argue in part that the increased costs on government are unjust and would have to be leveled out with cuts to public services. "The Federal Government cannot dictate the terms on which States hire employees," the lawsuit reads. "And it cannot force States to cut services and programs to pay for the Federal Government’s policy choices related to wages."
The League reported on the rule in May. Basically, it raises the threshold for exempting employees from time-and-a-half pay to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year, which is double the prior level. The clear potential impacts led League leadership to write to federal officials urging a second look at the rule. "We do not think DOL would have issued the final rule in its current form if it had seriously considered the impact on public sector operations and budgets," League Executive Director Paul Meyer and President Lestine Hutchens co-wrote. "As you are aware, public sector salaries are constrained by restricted sources of revenues, and cities and towns are required to have balanced budgets which limit their ability to mitigate additional costs."
The rule also sets the total annual pay requirement for highly compensated employees subject to a minimal "duties test" to $134,004 (previously $100,000). And it establishes automatic updates on the pay thresholds every three years, starting Jan. 1, 2020. The states' lawsuit itself sets out five arguments, which the National League of Cities (NLC) fleshes out in this blogpost. NLC also notes a legislative effort on the ground to nip the rule, via R5813 Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act, from Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. NLC is also considering filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. At the time of this writing, North Carolina was not among the plaintiffs. Click here and here for media coverage.
Despite word of a potential special legislative session to repeal or change House Bill 2, the week went by without a resolution that either side of the debate could accept. Gov. Pat McCrory signaled a repeal on the condition that Charlotte rescind its local anti-discrimination ordinance that HB2 came about to block. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said her city council would decline the rollback and that the General Assembly could repeal the state law all the same. The quest for a repeal deal, with some Republican lawmakers entering the call for the first time, thickened after last week's sporting event cancelations by the ACC and NCAA, which voiced objection to the law. HB2's provisions include gender-based restroom restrictions and a prohibition on local governments from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances, among other things. HB2 supporters have called the law important for restroom privacy and safety.
The News & Record of Greensboro (a city previously scheduled to host one of the NCAA events) reported on Thursday that the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association has come forward with a statement urging action on the law, as the controversy around it has led to financial harm in the industry. "...the N.C. hospitality industry and most importantly the nearly 500,000 North Carolinians who earn their living in restaurants and hotels are being hurt, and likely will continue to be, until we have resolution," the group wrote. The League voiced early opposition to HB2 for its limitations on local authority and the political power of local residents who elect their municipal decisionmakers. Click here for more of this week's news coverage, including response from Gov. Pat McCrory.
Charlotte remains on edge following an officer-involved shooting and subsequent protests that led Gov. Pat McCrory to call in the National Guard in a declared state of emergency. In a statement on Wednesday, the day after the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Mayor Jennifer Roberts tried to quell the tension and asked for patience as the city worked to gather facts. "This is a difficult situation for everyone involved and the city expresses condolences to the family of Mr. Scott," Mayor Roberts said. "I also want to express concern for the officers who have been injured. There’s a lot of information that is still to be sorted out, so I’d like to ask people to wait until all information is available."
Gov. McCrory provided an update on Thursday. "As we continue to monitor the situation here today, I have assured the mayor and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that the state will continue to offer any and all support necessary to protect property and most importantly our citizens," he said. "I want to reiterate that any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property will not be tolerated. By working together, I am confident in our ability to support local efforts to restore Charlotte to peace and prosperity."
Mayor Roberts said mutual respect remains vital as authorities work on conclusions and solutions. "We understand that with these events, everyone has different viewpoints and perspectives, and that makes it even more important to treat each other with dignity and respect," she said. "I ask that as you express your viewpoint or perspective, please keep in mind that our top priority is for Charlotte to remain a safe community for everyone who lives and visits here."
The incident is one of many across the country in recent years to receive national attention in a critical dialogue about police and training for difficult encounters with civilians. The League, at the request of the N.C. Black Legislative Caucus, recently held a forum with a panel of law enforcement officials and experts in an effort joined by legislators to restart that conversation in search of solutions and positivity. Click here to read about it and here to listen to a League podcast that highlighted the discussion.
States have a "critical stake" in ensuring local governments have the financial health for strong essential services and nurtured economies, notes a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts that profiles how individual states measure up and quotes League staff on where North Carolina stands. The Tar Heel State, in particular, has for decades operated with a robust monitoring system for the fiscal status of local governments, setting it apart from most other states, Pew found. Chris Nida, director of research and policy analysis at the League, is cited in the report as saying local governments here generally appreciate the state's efforts in helping North Carolina keep a glowing bond rating and maintain financial fitness.
The Pew report notes that the Department of State Treasurer's State and Local Government Finance Division annually gathers financial data, gives technical assistance and issues debt. If a local government enters a financial hardship, the state can increase its oversight to keep that locality in a good budgetary position. The state requires all local governments to have an independently conducted "generally accepted accounting principles audit" for the state to review and analyze. "If the examination reveals anything that warrants more attention, the state assigns a staff accountant who then seeks monthly or quarterly updates, depending on the issue," explains the Pew report. "From there, the accountant can request to see draft budgets if a locality is showing signs of distress."
In contrast, "many states historically have done little to track the budgetary well-being of local governments," says a report overview. "Most routinely collect documents such as audits, financial reports, and budgets from local governments, but less than half analyze this information to try to detect signs of fiscal distress or, more generally, take the fiscal pulse of localities." The report also highlights an interactive database online in North Carolina. As developed with UNC-Chapel Hill researchers, it allows municipal administrators, for instance, "to help elected officials consider fiscal matters when developing policy," the report explains. Click here to access that tool.
We hope you didn't miss the last episode of Municipal Equation, the League's podcast on the issues, challenges and solutions for today's municipalities. The good news is you can listen any time, by clicking here. On Episode Seven, the latest, we had a great conversation with Deloitte's William Eggers on what's at stake for local government as the private sector's use of technology (rapidly) evolves and as consumer expectations change along with it. You'll hear some important lessons from Eggers as well as his concern for agencies that are still running on systems of old. Hint: It may impact their ability to recruit good talent.
And how about a preview of Episode Eight? Click here. We'll chat with author Joel Kotkin, a man described by the New York Times as "America's uber-geographer" known for his differing views on urban planning and density. Kotkin, a presidential fellow at Chapman University in California and executive director for the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism, tells us where he sees city life going, why he thinks many of today's city planning conventions are flawed, and what it means to live in "The Human City," which is the title of his latest book. He also argues strongly for the autonomy of local government in local decision-making, the latter of which he discusses here, where he calls it an issue that even presidential candidates should be talking about.
You can access all episodes of Municipal Equation here. You can also subscribe to it via iTunes here, completely for free (and please leave us a nice review). The podcast additionally is available on all the popular podcast streaming apps, like Stitcher and Google Play.