Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week in Review 2/7/11 - 2/13/11

Our council meeting agenda this past Thursday was relatively light, with the notable discussion item being Cary’s state legislative Agenda.

Cary’s legislative agenda is a list of goals or legislation that we as a town want to see our state leaders address while in session.

Recommended items on this year’s state legislative agenda include:

1) A request by Cary and the Wake County Mayor’s Association to grant Cary and other Wake County Municipalities the authority to enter into long-term leases (up to 20 years) without treating those leases as sales. This will enable municipalities to enter into public-private partnerships for the generation of renewable energy on municipal property.
2) Support of the Wake County Mayor’s Association Legislative Agenda.
3) Support of the North Carolina League of Municipalities Core Municipal Principles and Advocacy Goals.

The council unanimously supported agenda items 1 and 2 minus one item on the Wake County Mayor’s Association agenda that council requested more information on before making a final decision.

After a lengthy discussion the council did NOT vote to support the NCLM Advocacy Goals or Core Municipal Principles. Needless to say, I am thrilled!

Why? Because the NCLM’s Advocacy Goals included the following:

· Seek legislation to revise the local land transfer tax so that it can be adopted without a referendum.

The land transfer tax has already appeared on the ballot 23 times in 21 counties in North Carolina since 2007. Each and every time voters rejected the proposed tax hike. That apparently doesn’t matter to the NCLM who believes that local governments should have the authority to implement this tax regardless of what the voters say. Ridiculous.

· Support legislation providing municipalities with the authority to impose a fee to recover the costs of vehicle accident and fire response from at-fault drivers and parties responsible for fires, up to a statutory maximum amount.

Yes, you read that correctly. The NCLM wants to give local governments the authority to charge you a fee for fire and accident response – on top of the tax dollars you already pay for this service. Never mind that you may have just lost your home and all your worldly possessions to a fire, now they want to send you a bill for fire response…assuming there is still a mailbox left to put it in. Absurd.

· Seek legislation reforming annexation laws that ensures the ability of a city to grow in a reasonable manner, while providing quality municipal services on a timely basis.

This statement is too vague. If you are going to request annexation reform I believe we should say what kind of reform we hope to achieve. Examples could include requiring a vote of county commissioners, or more importantly, those targeted for annexation. It could better define meaningful services or perhaps even require that the annexing municipality cover the cost of water and sewer hook-up. The above statement says nothing to that effect.

The reality is that the NCLM has consistently opposed any real annexation reform and have opposed any efforts to give those most greatly impacted a voice in the process. The above statement from the League is political pandering and rings hollow to those of us who have experience with the League’s position on annexation.

· Seek legislation to allow municipal creation or extension of extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) without county approval.

I find this request problematic as it could result in a land grab competition between municipalities. While obtaining county approval for ETJ extension can be difficult at times, it also ensures that municipalities grow in a reasonable and fair manner.

· Support legislation to expand the sales tax base to include services.

Here a tax, there a tax, everywhere a tax tax. The NCLM has never met a tax they didn’t like. While I understand there is an effort to reform North Carolina’s tax code – to possibly include a reduced sales tax rate combined with a tax on services (this COULD reduce the overall cost to taxpayers IF done correctly) – the above statement says nothing to that effect. It simply states a request to tax services. North Carolina already has the highest combined tax rate in the Southeast and the NCLM wants us to pay more???

· Seek legislation to increase the existing municipal vehicle fee for public transportation from $5 to a maximum of $20, and allow it to also be used for pedestrian and bicycle projects.

Here we go again – we need more money!!! A 300% increase in vehicle fees is outrageous – especially in this economy – and to pay for non-vehicle related expenditures???

Now in all fairness to the NCLM, some of their agenda requests were reasonable. That being the case the council first attempted to approve those items which we could support, and deny those which we did not. Halfway through our debate however, the council ultimately decided not to support any of the League’s agenda, and directed town staff to acknowledge receipt of their agenda, but not endorse it.

I opposed this proposal as I believe we need to send a message to the NCLM and make clear our concerns regarding these specific agenda items.

Afterwards council held a lengthy closed session to discuss a number of legal matters ….that I cannot discuss. Sorry. ;-)

That's all for this week's blog. As always, thanks for reading!