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This time, Greensboro; who’s next?

You probably don’t care about the Greensboro City Council. But this one time, you should.

Greensboro’s local government doesn’t affect you, you say? That’s OK, it doesn’t affect 170 legislators from across the state either, but that’s not dulling their interest.

North Carolina’s cities and counties are like the counselors in the Friday the 13th movies: You know one of them is the next victim, but you’re not sure which. And in this case, Jason is the legislature.

A couple of years ago, it was Asheville’s water system that was the target of lawmakers’ lust. Then they made a move for Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Now they are going after Greensboro’s City Council, and we should all take note.

North Carolina’s legislature, led by Republicans resentful of federal overreach and enamored with small government, is nevertheless bullying its way into the most local of issues. From sales tax referendums to housing design standards to tree-cutting to billboards to the business privilege license tax, the House and Senate are filled with city council wannabes.

The latest incursion: Sen. Trudy Wade’s Senate Bill 36 overhauling the Greensboro City Council. Wade, a veterinarian who represents the more rural parts of Guilford County, wants to overhaul the council from nine members, with five from districts, to seven members all from districts.

She has even done Greensboro the service of drawing seven new districts, down to specific city blocks, while abolishing three at-large seats. Her bill doubles council member terms to four years and strips the mayor of the right to vote in most cases. Wade’s bill abolishes 2,600 words of state law – but for Greensboro only. That part of state law gives Greensboro (and all cities) the right to determine its own form of government.

Wade has not done much to spell out her reasons for such a huge change, or explained why she thinks 170 legislators from Manteo to Murphy should be involved in drawing Greensboro’s City Council districts. It seems to be driven by unnamed businesspeople with unspecified motives. Does this remind anyone of Sen. Bob Rucho’s takeover of the Charlotte airport?

Earlier forays into Asheville’s water system and Charlotte Douglas didn’t work out too well for the legislature: Courts blocked both pieces of legislation. It would not be surprising if Wade’s bill ran into similar trouble should it become law.

The pattern from the legislature is clear: Republicans using their new-found power to punish Democratic urban areas in any way they can think of, even if it violates their own mantra about small government and government being best when it’s closest to the people. Who’s next on their list is anyone’s guess.

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