So... this should help improve relations between Asheville city leaders and North Carolina lawmakers.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times account of the latest water forum last night:
"The city’s struggle to hold on to its water system is an example of a broader trend of the General Assembly overriding the concerns of municipal officials across the state, Mayor Esther Manheimer told a forum on the water issue Monday."
Nobody likes having their concerns overridden. Like county residents who found themselves forcibly annexed into city limits. I bet they were upset about that.
"In years past, state legislators were usually receptive to requests from officials in the cities they represent, Manheimer told about 120 people attending the event put on by five local environmental groups at Pack Library.“It was a pretty chummy relationship with the legislature. What we’ve seen with this legislature is a lot of hostility,” she said."
This is a charitable way of crafting the historical narrative.
After all, the Sullivan Acts were implemented and expanded by state lawmakers from Western NC - usually all of the same Democratic Party.
More broadly, relations between cities and the state have often seen tensions flare. For example, I recall pretty big fights over the state withholding locally-collected taxes about a decade ago.
This is not really new.
Rural vs. urban
The Mayor said some of the disagreements between state and city officials "are political, some reflect different ideas about issues and the value of cities." The article notes how "cities tend to vote more Democratic than the state as a whole and Republican candidates do better in rural areas."
Which is true.
But there is a deeper meaning behind this statement. The reason for the different voting habits is because there is a fundamental difference between the political philosophy of rural residents and urban residents.
This is often ignored by city elected officials and administrators who see municipal services as superior to those in unincorporated areas. There's almost a stunned disbelief among city folks that people would choose to live outside city limits.
There is also a sentiment among a lot of city leaders that people who live outside their jurisdiction reap benefits from being close to the city amenities without paying their "fair share." This helped fuel a lot of the forced annexations over the past few decades.
Councilman Cecil Bothwell frequently expresses this sentiment.
But, like most of these issues, Democrats think the reason people disagree with them is that they're just not educated.
Municipal officials “need to spend time to educate legislators about cities” and the role they play in the state’s economy, Manheimer said. “Cities may be perceived as being damaging, overregulating.”
If particular cities are perceived as over-regulating, it might be because they are, in fact, burdened by excessive regulations. It might have nothing to do with uneducated Republicans.
Mayor Manheimer went on to say, "Asheville is uniquely being singled out and marginalized as being radical, not representing the average citizen of our state."
This is similar to what the City Council's lobbyist told them a few weeks ago.
Among leaders in Raleigh, “There’s a lot of difference between the way you’re perceived and the way you really are,” lobbyist Jack Cozort told council. “The perception is you’re a bunch of liberal crazies who don’t know what you’re doing and that you’re not doing a very good job running your city.”
The Council and Mayor were advised to try to be friendlier with state lawmakers. To build relationships.
“The relations you have with individual (legislators) really will drive the train,” Meyer said.
If councilmen disagree with legislators on one issue, they might be able to agree on others and get something done, Meyer said.
“Even if you get rebuffed, you need to keep trying. Like my dating life in high school, keep trying,” he said.