Speaking Out: The Importance of Common Purpose and Common Policy Goals

Jennifer Robinson, NCLM President

Over a century ago, the N.C. League of Municipalities was formed, first and foremost, as an advocacy organization, to promote policies that would keep North Carolina cities and towns financially strong, vital, and allow for them to reflect the visions of their local residents.

The League has changed a lot over the years, and continues to evolve. Those changes include offering more and more services—from insurance to legal advice to education.

Even so, our advocacy remains among our most important work, as it is critical to maintaining the authority of cities and towns to address the needs of their residents and balance the needs of everyone who lives within their municipal borders.

While the needs of each town and city are different, collectively we can aspire and work to advance the policies that can help all.

That common purpose is seen in the exercise that we engage in every two years—developing our Municipal Legislative Goals. With these goals in hand, staff and members are able to work together toward advancing an overall agenda that is directed toward helping cities and towns as broadly as possible, while also recognizing the political realities that we face.

You can find the full list of Municipal Legislative Goals in an accompanying article, NCLM Members Approve Municipal Legislative Goals, in this issue of Southern City (page 10).

Given the restraints created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of establishing these goals was not easy. Nonetheless, NCLM’s governmental affairs staff was able to hold a range of virtual meetings involving the League’s general membership, affiliate groups, and the NCLM Policy Committee, gathering input from all. Including those meetings and the final voting, 196 municipalities in the state had a role in creating this advocacy agenda for the next two years.

That is important not only because statewide participation establishes common purpose and vision, but because it sends a message to state policymakers that this represents the thoughts of all cities and towns, including those in their districts.

Encompassing areas addressing resilient infrastructure, healthy finances, racial equity, vibrant communities and neighborhoods, and adaptive municipal operations, we have a great platform with which to push ahead.

Obviously, finding assistance at the state or federal level to help fill municipal shortfalls associated with the pandemic will be a continuing area of concern moving forward. Finding ways to sustain and renew our local infrastructure is also a huge focus of our membership moving forward. Looking for ways to improve law enforcement training and direct funding in ways that improve interactions between police and residents, as well as addressing racial equity in broader ways, also will be a key focus in the next two years.

These are laudable goals, and I believe, ones that we can achieve.

Of course, it will take hard work. It will mean all of us contacting our legislators. It will mean working with staff, and listening to their counsel. It will mean working efficiently and effectively together.

So, let’s get going!