Editorial: Maybe legislators should follow their hearts? Abolish city government and local school boards

Posted June 27, 2016 5:38 a.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2016 3:11 p.m. EDT

-- Legislators appear intent on trying to meddle in the minute details of local government.
-- From bathrooms to classrooms, there is a dictate or mandate from Raleigh.
-- Why wouldn't it be better to give local officials, who are closest to those they govern, more authority and accountability?

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A CBC Editorial: Monday, June 27, 2016; Editorial# 8023
​The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

It is about time for the General Assembly to stop nibbling around the edges. We know they want to do it, so just chomp down and take a big bite of the huge government enchilada. Abolish city government and local school boards and let the legislature run things.

So there. The words have finally been uttered. The evidence that they really want to run their cities, counties and schools is overwhelming, so why pretend?

The latest bit of proof comes courtesy of state Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico. Fearful that some communities might be too lenient on the state’s efforts to restrict and regulate refugees and immigrants, Sanderson and the Senate Judiciary II Committee concocted legislation that threatens cities with loss of road repair aid and school district funding cuts if they don’t strictly adhere to state immigration laws.

Sanderson says that some communities – most notably Greensboro – are ignoring legislation passed in 2015 that banned state and local agencies from recognizing consular documents and prevents police and other government agencies from accepting IDs issued by foreign governments.

Over the last two legislative sessions, unprompted, legislators have imposed redistricting and other changes on city councils, county commissions and school boards in Wake, Guilford, Buncombe and Randolph counties.

If they aren’t looking to change the forms of government and representations locally, they want to require local landfills to accept hazardous waste, override the ability of local governments to limit mineral exploration, further restrict municipal annexation authority, tamper with local building codes, impose specific courses and teaching methods in schools and overturn local ordinances, most recently Charlotte’s attempt to make their city more accommodating to the LGBT community. That effort was met with the notorious HB2, a sweeping law that has legalized discrimination against people based on sexual preference or identity.

So, why not just drop the charade? The legislature should simply make all city charters void, abolish local school boards and have the General Assembly run things. Got a problem or concern? From Main Street to Jones Street, the legislature will handle it. Law enforcement – just add a few more officers to the Highway Patrol. You get the idea.

Think of the savings. Abolishing those councils and school boards alone would provide millions that could be put to other uses – say adding funds go pet projects like the “Opportunity” school vouchers program or more “solar bees” to clean up polluted lakes and ponds.

Did your house get bypassed in the week’s trash collection? Call the legislature – we’re sure they can handle it. Is a neighbor’s dog howling late at night? There’s a House or Senate member who surely is as accessible as that city council member who gets those 2 a.m. calls, who knows just how to handle mindless yammering.

State House Majority Leader Mike Hager, a Republican from small-town Rutherfordton who has never served as a locally elected official, says legislators have the authority and responsibility to impose uniformity on local governments. He doesn’t want North Carolina to become a patchwork of rules, depending on the city. "By law we have that responsibility to make sure that the cities and counties do what they're supposed to be doing."

What better way to fulfill that responsibility than by taking over those cities and school boards, having direct responsibility for the day-to-day needs of constituents, and running things from Raleigh? Then again, a better way might be to recognize that not all knowledge and understanding resides under the glass pyramids of the state Legislative Building. While local agencies are far from perfect, a little less recreational meddling from the state capital would enable local communities to address and resolve their challenges even more effectively.

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