State, cities battle for power
Posted March 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Legislation to void Raleigh's lease of the Dorothea Dix property is the latest example of what some say is a war on North Carolina cities by the General Assembly.
Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill this week that would take authority for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport away from the Democratic Charlotte City Council and put it under an appointed regional board.
House leaders likewise want to shift control of Asheville's water system to an appointed board instead of that city's Democratic city council.
Paul Meyer, director of government affairs for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, said more than a dozen bills have been filed this session to restrict cities' power over inspections, infrastructure and zoning. Cities don't like what they're seeing, he said, and it will hurt the economy.
"Strong, good local government has brought economic development to the state," Meyer said. "As you weaken cities in these ways, it's going to hurt our ability to do that in the future."
Republican lawmakers vowed in December to undo Raleigh's 99-year lease of the 325-acre Dix site, which was brokered by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue. The city has tried for years to obtain the property, which once housed a mental hospital and still includes some state Department of Health and Human Services offices, for an urban park.
Still, Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said the moves are not partisan politics. Cities just have too much power, he said.
"I think the growth of our cities is pushing out all the other residents surrounding those cities, and they lose a voice," Apodaca said. "We're just trying to help them have a voice."
Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said the flurry of legislation is nothing but partisan politics.
"What they want to do is give everything to appointed boards, and I guess they figure that way they can control the appointments and thereby control the assets," said Nesbitt, D-Bumcombe, whose district includes the Asheville water system.
Republicans were in favor of local control, he said, until they took power in state government. Now, he said, they're out for payback.
"This is just an outright theft of property, of an asset that is a life," he said. "It's like taking your kidney this year and your heart next year and your arms the next year."