Big Government is the problem. Unless it serves our purposes. An unprecedented expansion of central government.
Since January, Republicans in the General Assembly have introduced a series of bills that would curtail the ability of Democratic-led cities and urban counties to govern themselves. GOP legislators say Charlotte’s City Council can no longer be trusted to manage Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a major hub. They want an appointed regional authority to run it. “The Charlotte Airport has become a multibillion-dollar effort,” says State Senator Bob Rucho, the bill’s main sponsor. “We’re concerned and want to be sure you have the best minds and most experienced individuals in place to move that forward to get the most economic value derived from it.”
Rucho has cited a variety of reasons for the takeover. He accused Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, now President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Transportation secretary, of planning to divert airport revenue to fund pet projects (not true, Foxx says). He said security costs are up and the airport needs new leadership when its longtime director retires.
State lawmakers also nullified a lease that let Raleigh use state property for a park and enacted changes limiting cities’ ability to annex land. Another bill would take away control of school buildings and construction from the Wake County Board of Education, which oversees schools in Raleigh and surrounding areas, and give it to county commissioners. “No one has come out to say specifically ‘this is political revenge against Democratic strongholds,’ ” says David Swindell, who teaches public policy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “But these changes amount to an unprecedented attack on the state’s cities, which happen to be home to many of the state’s Democrats."
There’s not much cities can do to stop the lawmakers. The state constitution grants the legislators broad powers to intervene in city affairs without the approval of the governor, as long as the changes don’t affect more than 15 percent of the counties in the state. Historically the legislature gave local governments wide latitude in controlling their own affairs. That’s changed since 2010, when Republicans took control of the state legislature for the first time in a century.