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New Branch of ALEC Seeks to Further Erode Local Authority

Residents protest for local control

Asheville and Buncombe County residents stand up for local decisions about the drinking water system

During the last two legislative sessions, North Carolina lawmakers showed an unusual interest in interfering with local government affairs. Among other things, they tried to take away Charlotte’s authority over their own airport, Asheville’s authority over their own water system, and forced Durham to extend water and sewer lines to a private development that was outside of the city’s master plan for growth.

Legislation has also been introduced – and some of it passed – that further limits the ability for local governments to raise revenue, and attempts to prevent municipalities from placing restrictions on what developments look like and which trees a local government could require developers to preserve. The drivers of these legislative moves were Representatives who typically stress the need for local control, so this sudden shift of the state legislature undermining local authority has been surprising. Needless to say, these forays into municipal affairs by the state have made local government elected officials and professionals very wary, wondering “When will it be our turn?” Well, it looks like Greensboro need wonder no longer. State Senator Trudy Wade has introduced legislation that would dramatically alter the composition of Greensboro’s city council – reducing the number of total members, eliminating three at-large members, and severely restricting the mayor’s right to vote.

Why should we be worried about this trend? We know that some of these efforts are being pushed by a new offshoot of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC pushed much of the state-level legislation that has proven to be so harmful to North Carolina’s environment, health, education and voting rights since 2010. In 2014, ALEC formed a new group that will focus on city and county policy. According to Bloomberg News, “The American City County Exchange…will push policies such as contracting with companies to provide services such as garbage pick-up and eliminating collective bargaining, a municipal echo of the parent group’s state strategies.”

ALEC moneyIf the results of ALEC’s work at the state level are any indication, we can expect that policies favored by the American City County Exchange will increase corporate power, make it more difficult for towns and counties to keep utility rates affordable for everyone, and weaken the ability of people at the local level to have a say in the type of community they wish to live in. For more info on the ACCE, click here.

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