Citizens might wonder how towns as small as Elkin and smaller can have any voice in the legislation that is enacted by our State House and Senate representatives.
Elkin and most other towns and cities are represented by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Counties are represented by a similar group called the NC Association of County Commissioners and in fact they are housed in the same building in Raleigh.
But how, other than paying our dues to our lobbying groups, do we influence how our groups operate?
You may remember that Tom Gwyn was an active member of the League when he was Mayor of Elkin and served as the President in 2001-2002.
This membership and service to the league keeps our opinions heard. Lloyd Payne, Town Manager and I serve on Legislative Planning and Advisory Committees. The group I serve on is the Planning and Environmental Legislative Action Committee. I have been on this Committee for four years. Lloyd serves on the Tax and Finance Legislative Action Committee. The Committees meet to consider proposed legislation or positions to take on proposed legislation.
The last of my Committee meetings was held today. The purpose of the meeting was to finalize the list of goals and changes to the Core Municipal Principles that the League will work with the General Assembly for this year. This Committee proposed a list of 22 goals to be submitted to the League’s Board of Directors. The Committee Lloyd serves on meets tomorrow with the same objective. There is another Committee on Administrative Issues. These Committees’ submitted lists will be paired from about 80 to a workable 25. These will be presented to the full membership of the League for consideration. One town, one vote. Size in this case does not matter. We have the same power in this vote and on these Committees as the bigger cities do.
The networking we do in these groups, the alliances we make, help Elkin pursue grants, legislation and help from other towns who may have already solved a problem we are having.
Over the past several years, various town revenues from the state have been reduced several times to help balance the state budget. There are new concerns including changes in funding of roads and who is responsible for paving state and town roads. We now receive through the Powell Bill (part of the gasoline tax) approximately $125,000 to maintain all the town streets of Elkin.
If we could pave all the streets in Elkin that are graded as poor by the Public Works Department, it would cost about $2 million. So if the state-maintained roads are switched to the Towns with no additional funding , “the good roads State” will be a motto we can no longer claim in North Carolina.
The costs of petroleum and paving materials is such that it would take almost all the Powell Bill money to pave the town parking lot, which I think all would agree, certainly needs it. In an effort to fight this trend, the Committee I serve on has listed Transportation funding as a Core Municipal Principle because it is a major economic development tool, a safety and health issue for the people of North Carolina, and the support of our Tourism revenue. Toll roads may surely be in our future.
There are many other topics such as infrastructure funding, water issues, housing and zoning that are important to the quality of life in our town. The Town Board and staff are working to keep on top of the emerging issues and have a voice in the legislation that is enacted.