Taking the Field: Complex Problems Require Strong Cities and Local Responses

Paul Meyer, NCLM Executive Director

As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit our towns, cities, state and nation, I have been quoted in recent weeks in both state and national publications stating that these days have brought the most daunting challenges seen by local government in decades.

Unfortunately, we are at best in the middle phases of the pandemic and in finding solutions to the health and economic effects created by it.

We face these challenges while also coming to terms with needed calls for social justice and changes in policing practices.

For local elected and appointed officials, I know that all of this must seem overwhelming at times, as these challenges present you not only with difficult and weighty decisions, but logistical problems that can make simple daily tasks complicated.

I hope that you can take some comfort in knowing that our League staff does understand how difficult these times are, and that we are doing what we can to help.

NCLM’s Risk Management Services have, for several years, offered training for police in use of force policy and procedure and in how to balance duties and citizen rights in traffic stops. With COVID-19, those trainings are now moving online to make them more accessible.

When it comes to revenue losses, our issue campaign of letter writing, direct outreach to North Carolina’s congressional delegation, work through the media including newspaper op-ed placements, and social media outreach has resulted in a clear and loud message ringing across the state that cities and towns need revenue replacement to remain strong.

Financially strong and vibrant cities and towns are key to our collective economic future. They are key to equitable solutions addressing residents’ concerns.

That last point cannot be emphasized enough. If this crisis has proven nothing else, it is that our country and our state require financially strong and principled cities and towns to solve the day’s complex problems in ways that best meet the unique needs of individual communities.

In these pages, I have spoken many times before about how local authority can best address needs that can vary greatly among the diverse mix of cities and towns across North Carolina. We have seen stark examples of that during these tumultuous times – whether determining how to most effectively enforce rules designed to keep residents’ safe from the virus, or how best to balance conflicting opinions about statutes erected in the community square.

These are issues that arise in the moment, on the ground. No set of circumstances is ever exactly the same. No single solution can work.

This crisis will eventually fade, but the need for effective, flexible and local responses to the problems of the day will not.

Financially strong and vibrant cities and towns are key to our collective economic future. They are key to equitable solutions addressing residents’ concerns.

As we all work as one to advance all regarding these immediate revenue needs today, we do so to ensure that we will be able to respond to unforeseen tests of tomorrow, and by doing that, continue making life better for the people who live and work in the diverse cities and towns of North Carolinians.