Opposing priorities between Asheville and state government took center stage Aug. 26, as Asheville City Council heard an update on recent moves by the General Assembly and approved a list of actions it would like lawmakers to take next year.
The city is represented in Raleigh by lobbyist Jack Cozort, who warned Council that he anticipates state legislators will continue “reevaluating the authority cities have enjoyed for a long amount of time.” He added that his job as a lobbyist, “is to protect what you have done and help you continue your role.”
A recent mandate from Raleigh lowering how much Asheville and other municipalities can charge businesses for operating licenses will cost the city more than $1 million per year in revenue, said Cozort. The sunsetting of historic rehabilitation tax credits and changes to the state’s film incentive program are also likely to hurt city coffers, he said.
Amid ongoing tension with state legislators over control of the city’s water system, Cozort recommended that the city focus its efforts to find common ground on strengthening graffiti penalties and increasing education funding.
Council subsequently voted unanimously to submit a priority list that included those items and more to the North Carolina League of Municipalities, an association that advocates for city interests at the state level.
Another hot topic on the wish list is a request for state lawmakers to allow cities to regulate new “digital dispatching services” like Uber, a ride-sharing business that began operating in Asheville just last week. Current law allows the city to regulate traditional taxi services but not those like Uber, which are based on online applications.
In addition, Council asked the North Carolina League of Municipalities to push for:
• “Clarifying laws related to public toplessness including, but not limited to, clarification of indecent exposure law.”
• “Continuing to seek legislation that strengthens the requirements for the appropriate clean up and disposal of coal ash in coal ash ponds that is equitable to rate payers.”
• “Preserving municipal authority to regulate environmental standards such as erosion control or stormwater quality.”
• “Preserving municipal ability to regulate design and aesthetic controls in historic districts.”
• “Restoring programs such as film tax credits and historic building tax credits.”