Editorial: Partisan attacks on metro areas put entire N.C. economy at risk
Posted November 23, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Nov.23, 2016; Editorial# 8085
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Too often, for partisan convenience and ideological expediency, there are those who seek to divide our state along urban and rural lines. While there are real and important distinctions, the differences should be complementary, not competitive.
Our urban centers are the economic engines of North Carolina. The economic well-being of rural areas of our state is directly connected and dependent upon the success of our urban areas.
In our illegally gerrymandered General Assembly, legislators from rural areas disproportionately outnumber legislators from more urbanized counties. In recent years, legislative leaders largely from rural areas of the state, have shifted tax policy, redistributed state tax dollars and meddled in strictly local matters, in ways that weakened our metropolitan centers.
Consider these basic facts:
- Eight counties – Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Wake – generate better than 50 percent of the state’s taxable sales.
- Forty-four percent of the state’s workforce live in these eight counties. The businesses and industries in these counties pull in even more workers from neighboring communities.
- This past year, the state’s total property valuation hit $1.028 trillion – the first time it passed that “trillion” mark. More than 43 percent of that value resides in those eight urban counties.
Unwarranted, unilateral legislative imposition of changes in the composition of city councils, school boards, airport authorities and other local agencies, as well as limiting the ways local governments can raise money to pay for local priorities, has put the economic health of our major cities in jeopardy. House Bill 2's impact hit urban counties especially hard, with entertainment, sports and special event venues suffering from canceled shows and expanding businesses taking jobs to other states.
While rural area legislators may command the General Assembly, they are doing little with that power to help improve the lives of the people that elected them.
Their opposition to expanding Medicaid hasn’t simply meant many of their constituents are being denied proper health care, but threatens the economic viability of many rural hospitals.
The money from income tax cuts stays in the pockets of those who benefit the most or is invested in personal enrichment – not in jobs or economic expansion.
Inadequate funding for public schools and leaner local property tax bases mean teacher and in-school administrator pay lags because there aren’t the local resources to supplement pay – as well as support other critical education needs.
Failure to support commerce initiatives, like the tax credits for renewable energy development, are keeping revenue growth and economic development opportunities away from these areas.
The reality is that gerrymandering has left most voters with little or no choice over whom they can vote for. Nearly half of the General Assembly was elected without any opposition and for most of the rest, opposition was token, at best.
The federal courts, having ruled that the current gerrymandered districts are illegal, ordered new districts be developed and new elections be held – perhaps as soon as next year.
The first step in that process is to adopt a non-partisan system to drawing those districts. This will give voters more of a choice about who represents them—and force politicians to discuss issues and hear form voters about their needs and concerns.
It is not rocket science. Earlier this year, Duke University, Common Cause North Carolina eight outstanding jurists provided a workable outline toward fair redistricting. We urge, again, legislators to embrace this example for a plan of representative government that doesn’t guarantee partisan dominance but rather makes equal representation and voter participation the top priority.
Doing that will be an important first step toward assuring the interests of the entire state – urban and rural areas and citizens – have a voice and get a shot at more responsive and responsible representation.
|CATEGORY||STATE TOTAL||8 METRO COUNTIES* TOTAL|
|Taxable Sales||$128.157 Billion||$64.632 Billion (51%)|
|Sales Tax Collections||$7.562 Billion||$3.080 Billion (41%)|
|Property Tax Value||$1.028.1 Trillion||$445.793 Billion (43.3%)|
|Total Voters||6,920,747||2,851,912 (41%)|
|Votes for McCrory||2,276,921||706,446 (31%)|
|Votes for Cooper||2,281,901||1,184,034 (52%)|
|McCrory-Cooper Combined||4,558,822||1,890,478 (42%)|
|Total Employed||4,623,326||2,014,227 (44%)|
|State Senators||50||19 (38%)|
|State House Members||120||46 (38%)|
*Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Wake counties