Click here for video of the League's recent forum on drones and local government. Image source: NCDOT
The League this week went in-depth and sky-high on the wide slate of legal and practical questions hovering around unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, as they pick up in popularity. How are drones being regulated? How can municipal government apply this technology? What are the safety or privacy concerns? Where's it all going? With state Rep. John Torbett of Stanley moderating, a panel of fellow UAS experts laid out essentially everything we know to date about drones in a local government context. Click here for a video of the talk in full. And click here for a PDF of panelists' presentations. As with other League education forums, this one saw healthy participation from in-person and webinar participants who floated sharp questions about the stakes -- for one, as they relate to recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules on commercial versus hobbyist UAS use.
Davidson Mayor John Woods addresses a large crowd in Pittsburgh for the NLC City Summit. Photo credit: Rose Vaughn Williams
The League and many of its municipal leaders are among 3,000-plus local elected and staff officials from around the U.S. who've traveled to Pittsburgh for the National League of Cities' 2016 City Summit, where they're learning valuable information they can apply in their hometowns. Zebulon Mayor and League President Bob Matheny, Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem and League Vice President Michael Lazzara and Cary Council Member Jennifer Robinson are among a large North Carolina contingent attending the four-day event that concludes tomorrow. The myriad points of discussion have focused on drone regulations; ways that cities can use technology to drive inclusion and growth; using data to map and address local poverty and hunger; next-generation traffic solutions; the importance of local broadband to business growth and community improvement; big ideas for small cities; and numerous other matters that local officials are absorbing as technology and other factors change the world we live in.
This national event also recognized North Carolina cities for their work in the 21st century digital context. The Center for Digital Government (CDG), a widely respected technology best-practices and research organization, awarded Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Winston-Salem for innovative use of tech and data. "This is an exciting time for Greensboro as we are recognized for our transparency efforts such as creating an open data portal and policy, maintaining an online public records request system, and being the first city in the south to implement the participatory budgeting process," said Jane Nickles, director of Greensboro’s Information Technology Department, in a press release. "As we look to the future, Greensboro is also taking part in a multi-jurisdictional partnership called ‘Tri-Gig’ to begin a dialogue on how to build on existing dark fiber to create a gigabit network to foster economic development, job growth and connect underserved areas.” In Durham -- which placed in the national top-10 among winners -- a strategic planning leadership team works to make city government an "innovative and high performing organization," according to CDG. "For example, the city implemented an innovative enterprise-wide IT Governance model to provide effective IT portfolio management; and the city’s new website received a Best of the Web award for excellence." Said CDG Executive Director Todd Sander, "This year’s top digital cities are using technology to ensure citizens can meaningfully interact with city government more easily than any other time in history."
The League and North Carolina overall are fortunate to have such a strong showing at the summit. Click here to learn more about the event.
Looking great for its age, the N.C. League of Municipalities this week marked its 108th year of work for North Carolina's cities and towns. Founded as the Carolina Municipal Association during a Nov. 17, 1908 meeting of mayors in Charlotte, the group set out core goals that remain intact today -- as journalist and author Jack Aulis put it in his in-depth book about the group, "to exchange information on municipal matters of all kinds, and to present a unified municipal position to the legislature." But the texture around that core phrase is far reaching as the League has grown into a full-service organization that lobbies, insures, trains, informs, unites and advances. The League continues to seek new collaborations and ways to innovate service in the more than 540 municipalities it represents. What then-executive director Leigh Wilson said back in 1972 remains true as ever: "To stand still, is to go backward." Click here to look back at some of the history and milestones of the League as it continues to diligently serve and represent the interests of municipalities and North Carolina as a whole.
From left: Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis, Governor's Chief of Staff Thomas Stith and Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann at Tuesday's meeting in Lumberton of the Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee. Photo credit: Vickie Miller
Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts continue, and the League is with partners on the front line. The League is among members of the governor's Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee, which held an input meeting on Tuesday in Lumberton. This committee heard from state and federal emergency management officials and from the public and then broke out into small groups to discuss best practices and next steps. The League serves on the Planning and Building Sustainable Communities subcommittee. This group will provide feedback to Gov. Pat McCrory about ways to rebuild communities and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the League and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners have partnered on a series of legislative input sessions to get damage assessments and information on outstanding needs from local officials. This information will be used to develop recommendations for the recovery package that would be presented to the General Assembly when it reconvenes, either in a special session or as part of the 2017 session in January.
From Wednesday's committee meeting, held in Williamston. Photo credit: William Pitt
The legislative input sessions began Monday and have continued in locations around the state. A final session is scheduled for Nov. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Quorum Center, 323 W. Jones St., Raleigh. During Monday's meeting, in Elizabeth City, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said 70,000 residents had applied for assistance, and that 5,500 National Flood Insurance Program claims totaling $15 million had been made. State officials confirmed that the federal share of disaster response and recovery will be 75 percent, to the state's 25 percent share, and that 1,300 affected households are currently occupying hotels at a cost $1.2 million per week. Funding for temporary hotel stays has been extended to Jan. 12. The state also said it will conduct hazard mitigation -- buying homes or buildings, or elevating structures to minimize future flood damage. Through these meetings, officials at the different levels of government -- local to federal -- are working to align their communications and understanding of respective roles for consistency and timeliness.
The Discovery Place KIDS museum landed in Rockingham after intentional efforts on part of the city and partners. It's one of the latest economic development stories at herewegrownc.org. Photo contributed.
The map at herewegrownc.org continues to fill with homegrown stories of economic development success -- like Rockingham's recruitment of a Discovery Place KIDS museum, a big project made possible by partnerships. The City of Rockingham accessed Here We Grow -- a totally free resource -- to tell how it all happened, uploading a story and picture for the website's visitors. Readers learn how the city purchased and upfitted an old, local building to house the business as community parties worked in tandem to secure needed resources. "We know this new museum will change the face of Rockingham with a reach far beyond the Sandhills region and we anticipate a long, successful partnership," Mayor Steve Morris said.
The best part is that we know these stories of business-luring local investment and cooperation are found in municipalities across the state. That's why we're gathering them at herewegrownc.org, for a powerful collective picture. Cities and towns are actively participating with Here We Grow to be a part of it -- and yours should, too.
Send us a story today. Need inspiration? Browse what's already at herewegrownc.org and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a login. If you're with one of our municipalities, we'll send you a username and password so you can access the site and submit your story and photo. And don't forget, you can also access a site toolkit that will allow you to:
For more information, feel free to email Scott Mooneyham or Ben Brown on the League staff.
Click here for a preview of the next episode of Municipal Equation, the League's biweekly podcast all about municipalities. On this outing, we look at a novel way that food trucks have influenced city government -- and no, we're not talking about zoning or regulation. Let's just say that some city governments are putting their city halls on wheels and serving up convenience -- explained on the next Municipal Equation.
What did you think of the last episode? It laid out all kinds of golden knowledge on locally driven economic development and what municipalities need to know when it comes to working with recruitment prospects. Has your town employed the methods discussed? What's your economic development story? Let us know. We'd love to mention your feedback on a future episode. You can find all episodes at soundcloud.com/municipalequation or on the League's website. It's also available for free subscription on iTunes and on popular podcast streaming apps like Stitcher and TuneIn.
Want an easy way to access the podcast from your smartphone? Point your phone's web browser to soundcloud.com/municipalequation, and then link it to your home screen for one-tap access to the show.
How to do that on an Android phone: When at soundcloud.com/municipalequation, click "Add to homescreen" from the Chrome browser menu.
How to do that on an iPhone: When at soundcloud.com/municipalequation, tap the icon at the bottom that looks like a box with an arrow sticking up from it; then tap "Add to Home Screen." Direct any questions to email@example.com.
The League is pleased to announce that David Welker has joined the League staff as the Director of Finance. Welker's extensive experiences in both the for profit and non-profit worlds make him a perfect fit for the organization. But he's not entirely new -- Welker has already served in an interim capacity here and has proven to be a creative problem solver, proactive gap filler, and hard worker. We are fortunate to have him on our staff as we push to be more efficient and entrepreneurial by our business partners and member cities and towns.
Welker received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Akron and is a licensed certified public accountant in North Carolina. Prior to joining the League, he served as finance and operations consultant for several clients and with the NC Health Information Exchange as chief operating and chief finance officer. At the Health Information Exchange, Welker was involved in company operations including finance, accounting, operations, business development, marketing and risk management. He served as a member of the Executive team responsible for creation and deployment of corporate strategy and also as member of the Board of Directors Finance Committee.
Prior to working for the NC Health Information Exchange, Welker served as vice president, finance and pperations, senior director of finance and controller for RPath, Inc. At RPath, he had responsibility for accounting, finance, investor/board relations, business affairs, treasury, risk management, account management and inside sales. He also partnered with the chief executive officer, corporate secretary, treasurer and board of directors to oversee all financials, cash flow forecasts, growth plan strategies and reporting metrics. These actions also included filing and management of patents, technology license negotiations and acquisition of equity financing.
Further, Welker has many years experience in start-up (venture backed) operations serving in numerous financial officer capacities that included development and deployment of new business strategies, management of vendor relationships and strategic business plan development. Early in his career, Welker also worked for several major accounting firms as senior consultant, manager and senior Manager. David brings more than 25 years of experience in financial initiatives, strategic planning, financial planning and a wealth of business and professional knowledge in accounting, finance and management. Welker and his family live in Raleigh.
Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin is among recent appointees to a statewide board meant to set rules for a pilot program of industrial hemp production. The Bladen Journal reported this week that the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, which is focused on the commercial farming potential for industrial hemp (a plant not to be confused with marijuana), looks forward to a 2017 crop -- though only after careful establishment of regulations and licensing. Click here for the full story, which highlights Godwin as a Senate appointee to the body. The Insider State Government News Service separately reported that the City of Asheboro, earlier this month, had approved a zoning permit for what is believed would be the state's first hemp food processing plant.
The state is offering $10,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for setting the western North Carolina wildfires that have burned more than 46,000 acres so far. Officials believe they're man-made. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Macon County Crimestoppers at (828) 349-2600 or Jackson County Crimestoppers at (828) 631-1125, according to a press release from the office of Gov. Pat McCrory, who said the more than 2,100 active personnel battling the blazes have a long and tough challenge ahead. "We are committed to doing all we can to support our firefighters, protect people and property, and find those who may be responsible for any wildfires in North Carolina," Gov. McCrory said. "Firefighters are making progress but the job is not over. I especially want to thank the volunteers serving as firefighters and those helping to feed, house and support firefighters in communities throughout our state."
The Asheville Citizen-Times is reporting that this wildfire season for western North Carolina is "unprecedented." "I’ve been in the fire service 39 years and it’s the largest wildland fire that I’ve ever worked," Mills River Fire Chief Rick Livingston told the newspaper. According to the state, at least 1,800 structures are threatened as dryness remains in the forecast. If municipalities wish to help with equipment and/or personnel, they should communicate this to their county emergency management directors so they can be communicated with the State Emergency Operations Center and deployed when and where needed. The governor's office said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a request for financial assistance in the form of grants that will cover 75 percent of emergency protective measures. Firefighting costs that the grants may cover include field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.
You've called to congratulate your local legislators on their election wins, but have you invited them to see what your city government operations are all about? Now is the time to show off what you do best! Before the legislature returns to Raleigh in January, invite your legislator to take a tour with you and hit all the highlights. Introduce them to key staff members, show them your newest utility project or recreation facility, or give them a peek at plans for a road widening in town. The City of Fayetteville recently did this very thing, inviting a local legislator into city hall for a preview of a new transparency in government platform that the city launched this week. While you're at it, let your legislators know that if they can assist with any of your town's projects, you'll be sure to recognize their efforts.