Tuesday was Election Day for many municipalities across North Carolina, with League member cities and towns electing mayors and board members to lead their respective governments. Congratulations to all of Tuesday's winners, and thank you to all who ran and demonstrated their desire to make their communities better. Full results from all of Tuesday's elections can be found on the State Board of Elections website. Various news accounts on races from around the state follow in the links below.
Voters in five North Carolina municipalities overwhelmingly approved bond issues that will allow local investments in utility infrastructure, transportation and parks. Chapel Hill, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Greenville and Bald Head Island approved bond proposals during Tuesday's election. In each case, more than 70 percent of voters backed the bond plans, demonstrating residents' faith in municipal government and the investments these communities see as key to keeping their communities economically vital.
In Chapel Hill, voters backed $40.3 million in bonds in five separate ballot questions. Greenville voters approved $16 million in bonds, with much of that money targeted at street improvements. The bond proposals approved in Apex and Fuquay-Varina were also focused on transportation, with a portion in Fuquay-Varina designated for water and sewer line extensions. Bald Head Island residents agreed to back a bond proposal to build a broadband network. Read media coverage about the bond referendums here.
Former 6th District Congressman Howard Coble died on Tuesday after battling skin cancer for more than a decade. He was 84. Congressman Coble served in the U.S. House for more than 30 years and was known for his down-to-earth demeanor, emphasis on constituent services, and practicing what he preached when it came to fiscal conservatism. He refused to take a congressional pension.
The League sends its condolences to the congressman's family. Read more about Congressman Coble's life and death here and here.
Longtime Sen. Bob Rucho of the Charlotte suburb of Matthews, who has been a key author of recent tax changes adopted by the General Assembly, is the latest North Carolina legislator to announce that he will not seek another term. Senator Rucho joined state Rep. Rick Caitlin this week among the growing list of state lawmakers who have announced that they will be leaving the legislature after 2016. In making the announcement, Sen. Rucho said that he had achieved or put into motion everything that he had wanted to achieve at the General Assembly. He added that he also plans to move to a smaller town and has put his Matthews home on the market. Rep. Caitlin cited work demands at his Wilmington engineer firm as his reason for deciding to step away from the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, longtime Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham says that he will seek re-election despite undergoing treatment for lymphoma. Representative Luebke said that his prognosis is good and that doctors expect him to be fully recovered by the spring. The League thanks Senator Rucho and Representative Caitlin for their service and wishes them well in future endeavors, and also wishes Representative Luebke a speedy recovery.
A federal judge has ruled that a group of Greensboro residents will be allowed to defend a law approved earlier this year that shifts Greensboro City Council districts and makes other changes to that city's governance structure. The city and another group of residents sued to stop the law, and U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles has issued an injunction to stop it from taking effect. The lawsuit is expected to go to trial early next year.
Judge Eagles most recently ruled that a group of residents that includes former state Rep. Earl Jones, former Guilford County Commissioner Melvin "Skip" Alston, and former Greensboro City Councilman Jim Kee can intervene in the case to defend the law. Alston, who once headed the state NAACP, contends the new districts will result in better representation for African-Americans, but state and local NAACP branches oppose the plan. Read media coverage here.
Congress is moving closer to passage of a long-term highway funding bill after the U.S. House on Thursday passed a measure that calls for $325 billion in spending through 2021. With the Senate passing a similar plan in July, the two chambers are expected to work out their differences and pass a final bill in coming weeks.
The prospect of a long-term federal transportation funding bill should prove beneficial to state and local governments after Congress had spent the last decade passing short-term funding extensions for highways. Those short-term extensions caused difficulties for state and local governments when it came to transportation planning. Critics of the latest plan say that it still keeps transportation funding flat, that Congress only provides enough money for the first three years and that some of the money is based on funding gimmicks that will not work. Read media coverage about House passage of the plan here and here.