The Transylvania Times -

Localities Lose More Power

 


Several actions in recent weeks have resulted in the transfer of more power from local governments to the state of North Carolina and the General Assembly.

One of the more troubling transfers for local leaders and residents concerned the Asheville water system. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals overturned an earlier judicial ruling and said the state legislature had the right to take control of the Asheville city water system and transfer the control of that system to another authority – in this case the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County.

This ruling undermines the concept of a democratic republic in several ways. First, the people of Asheville and Buncombe County were not clamoring for control of the water system to be transferred to another entity. That decision was foisted upon the people by the General Assembly. In fact, in the last election, the people of Buncombe County ousted their two incumbent Republicans legislators who had supported the transfer of control to a Metropolitan Sewerage District. Quite clearly the General Assembly was interfering in local matters and taking actions that local residents opposed.

The other anti-democratic aspect of this transfer is that the General Assembly took control of the system without compensating the city of Asheville.

“What this means is the legislature can come in and take a city’s assets – the people’s assets – and give them to someone else, “ said Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer.

Since such a taking by the General Assembly already has occurred, it’s not unreasonable to assume then that the residents of Brevard or the town of Rosman could spend millions of dollars to construct, maintain and operate their own water systems only to have the state come in and transfer control to some other entity without compensating our municipalities.

This could very well have a chilling effect on future development. What community would be willing to invest its own money through bonds or taxes to construct what it believes is necessary infrastructure to meet its present needs and to expand its economic base when that system could be taken over by the state and transferred to another entity.

We also should be concerned too as private individuals because this taking without compensation runs counter to previous “eminent domain” procedures. Whenever government entities have taken private property to use for government roads or schools, individuals were supposed to have been paid market value for that lost property. (Whether they were compensated fairly is another question.) Does such a ruling set the early stages for undermining this long-held standard?

Since local governments are closest to the people, they are the best ones to provide everyday local services – water and sewer, police protection etc. They know the condition of their water lines and what their communities need in the present and may need in the future. People in Raleigh, particularly uninformed legislators, do not.

The continuing power grab in Raleigh diminishes the ability of local governments to best meet the needs of their citizens. Over time this inability to serve the people will hurt not only cities and towns but also the entire state.

 
 

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