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N.C. Opinions: Raleigh

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The folly of towns vs. cities

From an editorial Tuesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

One wants to stand up, there in that area between the House and Senate chambers on the second floor of the Legislative Building, and shout, “Guys, we’re all on the same side!” What in the world are legislators thinking with several bills that would weaken cities, including some costing them sizable sums of money?

Consider some measures now in the hopper in the legislature: One would take control of the world’s sixth-busiest airport, Charlotte Douglas International, from the city and put it in the hands of an independent, regional authority.

And, of course, there’s the move from Republicans to tear up the City of Raleigh’s lease for the Dorothea Dix property for use as a park. Legislators from outside the region were mad because former Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, made the deal in the last days of her administration. So does anybody think this might be about, say, partisanship?

Other bills would take away Asheville’s control of its water system and stop the city from using water utility revenues for street repairs that are needed because of installing underground water lines. Gee, is it any coincidence that Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Democratic leader in the upper chamber, is from ... Asheville?

And there are others: easier rules on homebuilders that would limit cities’ ability to oversee and control development; the end to franchise and business privilege license taxes at a huge cost to cities. It appears that some suburban legislators think the cities have gotten too big for their britches, which is a mighty narrow-minded and curious way to look at the urban growth that’s happened along the state’s east-west Interstate highways in the last 20 years. Much of the population growth in North Carolina has been, quite naturally, around the cities.

And without that, the suburbs would be smaller or nonexistent.

Why Speaker Thom Tillis, who’s from a Charlotte suburb, would buy into the idea that diminishing the cities’ assets will somehow be “putting more power in the hands of the individual property owner” is mystifying. If the cities are strong, the suburbs are stronger. The financial success of cities builds the areas around them. It drives road-building and mass transit. It means more services such as hospitals for everyone within a reasonable radius of the city.

Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican senator, says he senses a feeling “that cities have too much power and want to control everything.” Considering the leadership in the House and Senate, it’s hard to see how cities could in fact control everything even if they wanted to do so. But to declare war on cities, while it might provide convenient political targets, just isn’t smart for the state.

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