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Time to defend local control

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

While gerrymandering and redistricting have dominated headlines in North Carolina, another tactic is quietly taking power from the people: preemption.

Preemption uses state law to wrest local control from cities, towns, and counties — and it’s happening all over the country. In Texas, cities were prevented from protecting residents from discriminatory laws. In Missouri, higher wages were stripped away by state lawmakers. In Florida, lawmakers loosened gun rules at universities and public parks.

When this happens, the people lose.

North Carolina is ground zero for state preemption. Consider the universally despised House Bill 2 — the so-called “Bathroom Bill” — and its replacement, which eliminated local nondiscrimination protections. We’ve also seen the General Assembly try to take control of Asheville’s water system and Charlotte’s airport. They have stopped communities from collecting impact fees and utility inspection costs, making taxpayers foot the bill. They have restricted local governments’ ability to require affordable housing set-asides that would help prevent gentrification. They have preempted local ordinances that support living wages and fair benefits, and have weakened local environmental protections. The list goes on.

State lawmakers don’t campaign on preemption. They know it’s not a winning issue. It’s their dirty little secret in the Capitol. Extremist representatives and special interest lobbies railroad through legislation to bypass local laws, regulations, and ordinances that make our communities safe and prosperous. Why? It’s simply easier to do whatever they want in Raleigh than to convince you, the voter.

This means costs get diverted to taxpayers, because preemption forces local governments to spend more time and effort addressing local challenges. This often means higher local taxes, cutting services, or both. It makes it harder to ensure that all our residents can have a high quality of life.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Many states are fighting preemption — and winning. Cities in Ohio and Florida — states with home rule protections — have won in state courts, overturning preemption laws. Unfortunately, here in North Carolina, our state constitution doesn't protect us from preemption. If the state doesn't like what your community is doing, that’s just too bad for you.

We can still fight back. That’s why we’ve joined the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions. By joining this nonpartisan national coalition, we’re raising awareness about the consequences of taking away local control, and standing up to stop special interests from stripping you of your local rights and local voice.

But, it doesn’t always take a national campaign. Contact your state lawmakers. Every email, phone call, or meeting makes a difference. We learned that during the fight against House Bill 2. Sometimes, the right message from the right local constituent is enough to wake up our friends in the General Assembly.

And the right person is you.

We will continue to fight for you and for local solutions, because we don’t believe that special interests should be able to bypass you by lobbying a few lawmakers in Raleigh.

We believe in local solutions. We believe in you. Join us at DefendLocal.com.

Mark Dorosin, commissioner, Orange County

Jillian Johnson, council member, City of Durham

Damon Seils, alderman, Town of Carrboro

Jennifer Weaver, commissioner, Town of Hillsborough

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