Editorial: Legislative meddling in local affairs threatens state's economic engines
Posted September 21, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Sept. 21. 2016; Editorial# 8058
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
North Carolina is a big state – the ninth largest by population. The major metropolitan areas of the state continue to be the engines of growth, particularly job growth.
So why, you might ask, is our state legislature preoccupied with micromanaging our successful cities and counties? It comes from a shameless push for partisan advantage, rural resentment, an outdated ideological approach to economic growth (low taxes, low wages, low skill) and just because they can.
It certainly hasn’t been effective and resentment is growing.
In most cases, actions in Raleigh have fomented, rather than quelled, local disputes. Legislative meddling has resulted in costly legal battles and accomplished nothing.
While HB2 may be the poster child for the terrible consequences of legislative meddling in local matters, it is far from isolated.
In recent years, there’s barely an area of local government that members of the General Assembly haven’t sought to dictate from Raleigh. How the water and sewer system in Asheville should operate; who should run the airport in Charlotte; dictating more details on how and when cities can annex urbanized area; how local governments should treat international refugees; decreeing the home design and building codes; and imposing, without any regard for local needs or desires, new representational districts for local governments and school systems.
Ironically, while legislative leaders are spending millions to fight what they call “Washington overreach” in North Carolina affairs the same legislators seem to be acting as defacto county commissioners, city councilors and school board members – manipulating local affairs in Oz-like fashion from Raleigh.
Why is it that out of the blue – with no request or concerns raised locally, that city commission districts in Greensboro need to be changed?
Why, at the whim of a legislator, did oversight of the Charlotte International Airport need to change– sparking an expensive and needless battle in the courts?
Why did legislators, unprompted, meddle in Wake County’s commissioner and school board districts after Democrats gained majorities, only to have the legislative interference in local affairs declared illegal? “The challenged redistricting here subverts political fairness and proportional representation and sublimates partisan gamesmanship,” said the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The needless meddling in local affairs needs to stop. Legislators should explore ways to give local government more autonomy and home rule, particularly if they sincerely believe that the government closest to the people is the best.
The General Assembly should focus on major issues that challenge our state -- adequate financing of public education, renewing and expanding the state’s roads and buildings, and assuring the public’s safety and a sustainable environmental future
Several Triangle area legislators had been way too busy in local affairs, like Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, who concocted the unconstitutional Wake redistricting plans – and was backed by his fellow Republicans in the county’s legislative delegation. The legislature isn’t a playground for petty political games.
Voters should give that significant attention as they head to the polls – with early voting starting in just a month. Register and vote.