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Metro Mayors Legislative Update

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By: Julie White, Executive Director and Mia Guglielmi, Intern 

 

Budget Passes in the House, moves on to Senate 

After a very busy week, the House passed their version of the budget (H97) which will now move on to the Senate.  Some notable aspects of the House budget include increasing DMV fees by 30%, a film tax credit of $40m a year, and a renewable energy tax credit extension for two years. Since the Senate has already started work on their budget, they do not anticipate taking as much time as the House did.  However, it is unlikely that many of the House’s tax credits will be included in the Senate’s version.    

 

H552 Toughens Punishment for Graffiti

 

H552 Graffiti Vandalism, which increases the punishment for graffiti to a Class 1 misdemeanor or, in some cases, a felony, passed Senate Judiciary I Committee and has been placed on the calendar for Tuesday the 26th.

 

For more information on the graffiti bill, check out this story.

 

H232 Study/Update Bicycle Safety Laws Clears House & Senate

 

H232 Study/Update Bicycle Safety Laws will create a group to study current bicycle safety laws to evaluate and update the laws in order to create the safest possible environment for cyclists and motorists.  

 

S486 NC Trail Expansion/Economic Corridors Moves to Next Committee

 

S486 NC Trail Expansion/Economic Corridors creates a fund to be used for the completion of the Mountain-to-Sea trail, as well as give specific powers to the Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

S486 is waiting to be heard in Senate Rules.

 

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News Clips

State senators and House members could spend the coming weeks debating income taxes and spending levels after the House’s budget proposal – released Monday – highlighted divisions between Republicans in the two chambers. (News & Observer)
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article21291108.html

North Carolina would spend $1 billion more in state tax dollars over the next fiscal year under a budget bill and related money report posted online Monday morning, giving the public a first look at the overall spending plan. (WRAL)

 

http:/www.wral.com/proposed-house-budget-gives-raises-to-state-employees-retirees/14653590/#edmsUIZ8XjUAJ3kP.99]http://www.wral.com/proposed-house-budget-gives-raises-to-state-employees-retirees/14653590/#edmsUIZ8XjUAJ3kP.99

Economic development projects around the state are in jeopardy because of the uncertainty about the Job Development Investment Grants program, said Michael Smith, president of the North Carolina Economic Development Association. (News & Observer)

 

 www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article21401448.html

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, a major contributor to conservative causes, says he’s refusing to give $25,000 to N.C. House Republicans because their budget doesn’t include new tax cuts and extends tax credits for specific industries. (News & Observer)

 

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The North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, founded in 2001, is comprised of the mayors of the state’s larger cities, with more than three million citizens.  The Coalition is a non-partisan, mayor-driven organization that focuses on issues of special interest to our large cities in a fast-growing and urbanizing state. The Coalition has worked successfully with federal and state elected officials to promote job creation, protect local revenues, invest in public infrastructure, and keep our cities safe.

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For NC workers, pay stays stubbornly flat (WRAL)

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For NC workers, pay stays stubbornly flat (WRAL)

 

RALEIGH, N.C. – For almost two decades, North Carolina workers have opened their paychecks to find not much has changed.

 

Despite a huge drop in the unemployment rate as the state economy recovers from the recession, economists say take-home pay continues to stagnate, barely keeping pace with modestly rising inflation. That means less prosperity overall, even amid other rising signs of economic health.

 

In many ways, the problem is a national one. But data show North Carolina’s slow wage growth predates the most recent downturn and has shown a stubborn resistance to respond amid periods of both boom and bust.

 

It’s an important enough trend to draw the notice of state lawmakers as they continue to discuss ways to spur job growth in both rural and urban areas.

 

“If you look at income, this state is not divided into rural and urban in terms of our income performance – we’re doing bad everywhere,” Brent Lane, director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Competitive Economies at UNC-Chapel Hill, told a Senate committee in April. “It’s an economic challenge that’s a statewide issue rather than one that can be divided into rural vs. urban.”

 

A state lagging behind

 

Lane said income growth for North Carolina workers peaked in 1996 and 1997 amid an economic boom across most of the U.S. At that point, state workers almost matched the average income for the country at above 90 percent. In 1997, the annual average salary nationwide was $25,288; in North Carolina, it was $23,168, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

 

Since then, growth has stalled.

 

From 1996 to 2013, both cities and rural areas in the state recorded income growth of only 3.1 percent, Lane said. The rate barely keeps up with inflation and falls behind national income growth of 3.5 percent for cities and 3.9 percent for more rural areas.

 

The economic downturn certainly didn’t help.

 

For years, says Duke University finance professor John Graham, the overall workforce has seen a shift from human labor toward machinery. Before the recession though, brand new job sectors could for the most part absorb workers displaced by automation.

 

“We always worry in any given decade, ‘Oh my goodness, have we finally reached the point where you really don’t need people that much for labor?'” Graham said. “I don’t think we’re there, but what happened during the recession is that companies looked to cut costs in any way they could. That accelerated some of the movement away from labor and toward machines.”

 

Practically, Graham said, that meant low-income workers were the first casualties of layoffs, forced in many cases into lower paying jobs.

 

“In a cruel way, it’s hardest on people at the lower end of the wage scale because typically the jobs are more routine,” Graham said. “They could conceivably be replaced by a piece of machinery.”

 

An uneven recovery

 

Despite a rash of good economic news for North Carolina over the last few years – rising housing construction, more consumer spending and an unemployment rate of around 5 percent – state lawmakers have taken notice of an uneven distribution of economic prosperity. It’s a conversation made manifest in the debate over the state’s incentive programs, which reward companies for expanding or relocating to the state.

 

Rural legislators say they want to see more of that money flow to the rural counties that need it most – especially in light of figures that show the majority of the state’s incentive grants and jobs land in populous counties like Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg.

 

But Lane notes that North Carolina’s urban centers aren’t the “growth engines” they’re often thought to be.

 

When compared to the rest of the country post-recession through 2013, Lane said the state’s highest ranked metro area by per capita income growth was Charlotte.

 

The Queen City ranked 120th out of 382 big cities nationwide.

 

By contrast, Detroit came in at 104, meaning the city that just last year exited bankruptcy saw per capita income grow faster than anywhere in North Carolina.

 

“Such poor income growth performance challenges the assumption that NC’s cities should be depended on as engines to pull the entire state ahead,” Lane said in an email. “Instead, we must continue to emphasize economic and income policies that support businesses and citizens statewide.”

 

The goal, Lane said, would be to catch up with the rest of the country in terms of income growth.

 

Incentives are one tool, Graham said. But he said a longer-term option is an investment in education and training not just in the form of four-year colleges, but specialized and skilled labor that could easily take positions in hi-tech manufacturing.

 

“If we could have those types of employees, that would encourage companies to come here above and beyond any direct economic incentives,” Graham said.

 

Changing that demand – more companies competing for more qualified workers – could exert a long-needed upward pressure on pay.

 

A glimmer of hope, but not for everyone

 

There are some signs, however, that workers will see wages inch up in the future, Graham said.

 

His research includes the quarterly Global Business Outlook Survey, which since 1997 has asked company executives about projected hiring and pay. Results from the first quarter of 2015 showed about 70 percent of U.S. companies expected wages to outpace inflation over the next year.

 

“We finally starting detecting some evidence of labor market pressures,” Graham said. “Whether you want to call that a surprise, I’m not sure, but it’s a surprise in a sense that we’ve been waiting for this and it finally came.”

 

Graham cautioned, however, that the wage growth isn’t all uniform. Some industries, such as technology, manufacturing and health care, should see wages rise by at least 3 percent. Others, such as energy, media and retail, will see much slower growth.

 

And although his survey doesn’t examine North Carolina specifically, Graham said companies in the South Atlantic region indicated they expect much lower wage growth that won’t keep up with inflation – meaning more stagnation.

 

“There’s less labor market pressure in the South Atlantic,” he said. “I don’t want to say that’s pessimistic, but maybe the moderately good thing that looks like it’s starting to happen average across the nation hasn’t kicked in too much in North Carolina.”

 

A national issue

 

Even in the areas where expected growth is ticking up, Graham said it’s not as high as economists would like it to be.

 

And it remains a nationwide issue for officials like Jay Williams, assistant secretary of commerce for the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Like North Carolina leaders, who have been gunning hard for a major automotive plant, Williams said the Obama administration has long seen the expansion of manufacturing as a way forward for wage growth.

 

“Manufacturing is the most efficient way to increase and spread prosperity to folks in these communities, because on balance across every other segment of the economy, across every educational and skill level, manufacturing jobs pay more,” Williams said in an interview last week. “That is a very effective way to move the needle in terms of wage stagnation.”

 

Williams spoke last week at the N.C. Tomorrow Summit, a conference focusing on creating future jobs in the state. He also met with state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, to discuss how the commerce department might support some of the General Assembly’s job creation initiatives.

 

Williams said state and local governments – even the feds – have a few tools to confront the consistent flatline in pay. But actual solutions will require a multipronged approach.

 

“There’s no one silver bullet, no one single way to address wage stagnation,” Williams said. “Workforce development, expanded trade opportunities, increase in manufacturing – all those things, collectively, will help drive better opportunity for wage increases.”

 

(WRAL)

Posted 6:00 a.m. today

Read more at http://www.wral.com/for-nc-workers-pay-stays-stubbornly-flat/14630669/#XzpbMeDDUeedfcq4.99

 

 

 

 

 

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The North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, founded in 2001, is comprised of the mayors of the state’s larger cities, with more than three million citizens.  The Coalition is a non-partisan, mayor-driven organization that focuses on issues of special interest to our large cities in a fast-growing and urbanizing state. The Coalition has worked successfully with federal and state elected officials to promote job creation, protect local revenues, invest in public infrastructure, and keep our cities safe.

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Lassiter joins calls for N.C. legislature to pass incentives bill (Charlotte Observer)

John Lassiter is joining the chorus of officials calling for the N.C. General Assembly to pass a new incentives bill, which he said is essential to keep the state competitive in the race to lure companies.

Speaking at the Charlotte Rotary Club Tuesday, Lassiter, chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said the delay is hurting North Carolina’s chance to attract businesses.

“Politics aside, the market is now beginning to say North Carolina is not willing to compete,” said Lassiter, who is a former Charlotte City Council member and president of Carolina Legal Staffing. “You can’t bring an auto plant without (incentives). You can’t bring a corporate headquarters without it.”

Although the state House passed a version of the incentives bill supported by Gov. Pat McCrory that would extend tax reimbursements for companies that relocate to North Carolina, the Senate has its own version. The Senate version would put less money into the tax reimbursements while lowering corporate taxes sharply. The McCrory administration has opposed the Senate bill and urged leaders to pass something closer to the House version.

Lassiter said he’s optimistic the tax credits – considered essential by economic developers – will be passed in the coming weeks. That’s still behind the administration’s timetable: McCrory had hoped for passage in the opening weeks of the legislative session, three months ago.

The partnership Lassiter chairs is a nonprofit that opened last year to take over job recruiting duties from the state Commerce Department. Funded largely with tax dollars and a smaller amount of private donations, the partnership is in charge of marketing North Carolina to businesses around the world.

Lassiter said South Carolina remains a major competitor – and one that uses incentives more freely to attract big manufacturers, such as automakers.

“South Carolina has always been better at promoting and developing manufacturing than North Carolina,” said Lassiter. “They’re not particularly good in the service sector … We’re not going to get into the game where all we want to do is throw money at the manufacturing facilities, but we do need to get into the automobile space.”

(Charlotte Observer)

By Ely Portillo

[email protected]com

Portillo: 704-358-5041;

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/development/article20286933.html#storylink=cpy

Urban Economic Development Done Right: Charlotte Case Study

Join the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition on February 28th for an in depth look at the Charlotte region’s successful approach economic development. Tickets are now on sale for the luncheon from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte. Email Shenise Oakley at [email protected] to purchase a ticket to this can’t miss event. Tickets are $100 per person.

Interview with Ned Curran, chairman of the North Carolina Board of Transportation, on House Bill 817 Strategic Transportation Investments

After Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 817, also known as the Strategic Transportation Investments, into law about three weeks ago, the North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition sat down with Ned Curran, chairman of the North Carolina Board of Transportation, to discuss what the formulas for House Bill 817 should look like. This is what we learned:

NCMMC: What role will the Board play in the implementation of House Bill 817?

NC: Right now the board is very engaged in receiving and reacting to the preliminary recommendations coming forward from the work groups that have been assigned to that task. After evaluating whether any changes are warranted the Board will advance the final recommendations to the legislature for their reaction and eventual approval. We will then have the rules with which to operate under in making funding decisions going forward.

NCMMC: The bill saw overwhelming support in the General Assembly. Was there similar support from the Board?

NC: Absolutely, the bill clearly had overwhelming support within the board.

NCMMC: What are you looking for while approving the formulas? What are the important qualities the formulas should be measuring?

NC: We’re looking for balance. We’re looking to insure that all areas of the state are looked after in a fair and equitable manner. At the same time we’re looking for new ways to be strategic in how we spend money with a goal of helping with job creation and economic development. We still have very high unemployment rates in the state. We still have areas in great distress, and we’ve got to find better ways to use transportation infrastructure to help those areas.

NCMMC: When the governor has talked about economic development and connecting people in rural areas to jobs in urban areas, how do you see future transportation playing a role in these linkages?

NC: The governor is absolutely correct that what we’ve got to focus on are job centers. We have to provide greater options for mobility to those jobs centers and that could take any form of transportation that’s appropriate for linking a particular area to a job center. So that could be in the form of rail, bus or highway. All forms are open to evaluation in order to get to greater mobility and linkage to jobs.

NCMMC: What role do you think the board will play in transportation more generally?

NC: Generally, the board will continue one of its primary roles to insure that we are strategically and prudently investing our transportation dollars. We face a challenging environment where we forecast a revenue model that does not keep up with population growth. So we’ve got to look at ways to enhance that revenue formula and in doing so evaluate alternative approaches, while at the same time, continuing to be thoughtful about how we spend the precious dollars we have.

NCMMC: How do you see the board interacting with MPOs, RPOs and locally elected officials?

NC: I think that interaction is going to be greater than it ever has been. With the tiered levels of potential funding for select projects it will be critical for the MPO, RPOs and locally elected officials to work very closely with DOT staff and the board member assigned to their division to ensure project benefits are fully understood. With funding available for projects of regional and statewide significance regional cooperation is encouraged and will further facilitate the understanding and appreciation for the benefits a project can provide to a region. I think the new law provides a remarkable opportunity for enhancing regionalism across the state.

Interview with Rep. Torbett On New Transportation Strategy

After House Bill 817, or the Strategic Transportation Investments bill, passed both the House and Senate, North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition legislative intern Kathryn Trogdon sat down with Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston and a chair of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee (JLTOC). The formulas that underpin the bill will be developed by the Strategic Prioritization Workgroup, which the Metro Mayors participate in, and approved by the NC Board of Transportation and the JLTOC. Here is what Kathryn learned:

NCMMC: As chair of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, what criteria are you looking for in the formulas for House Bill 817?

JT: A mention of economic growth, commerce growth and job growth, and does transportation need to play a role in that or contribute somehow. That concept was extremely unique. I had also thought about that before, but it had never been implemented. You have to look at the economic vitality of the entire state and use that as one of the factors when you’re determining transportation needs. Is it the only factor? Of course not, but it’s one of many, such as safety, population, getting cars from point A to point B faster with less sitting still on the Interstates and major arteries. All those are very good points, but the formula never had that commerce growth, job growth and economic growth piece, and I thought that addition was a big plus. I liked that piece remaining in the state

[competition]. I’m a little bit dismayed they didn’t keep it in the regional [competition]. They, the Senate, opted to pull it out of regional and incorporate something like travel tourism and military bases. Although that’s good and that’s key, it doesn’t fit across all regional sectors of the state. From the regional aspect, I wish it would have maintained that economic component, and I will be discussing that during the interim in the joint transportation oversight committee. I support Military bases 110 percent like all of my colleagues do, but the military establishments in North Carolina are predominately in the east, so, is it the fairest for the piedmont and mountains as well? We will discuss it.

NCMMC: How do you see transportation playing into the economic development?

JT: It’s my opinion that over the years transportation revenues…have been on the decline. I feel like the department [of transportation] has done the best they can with what they had, however; I think, through… previous directions they were getting from past Administrations and General Assemblies, DOT wasn’t able to set the right criteria or priorities as each new session brought new priorities. Two years ago in the last session, we started looking at roads and bridges and rebuilding some of our dilapidated and antiquated bridges. I think that was key. I think that was great. I think we’re doing a super job on those projects. We continue that work into this cycle and this session. But what I’ve also seen during the past years is DOT being forced to look for short cut measures that, in my opinion, have degraded the overall road quality of the state as well as the aesthetic and safety properties of roads throughout our state by over applying a tar and gravel surfacing technique that is not asphalt surfacing. We are using way too much tar and gravel. It’s what we did when the model T’s came to fruition. We went from compressed clay to gravel roads to putting tar on the gravel then to tar and gravel. Then moved up to asphalt and concrete and now it seems that we have fallen too far back to Tar and Gravel. I saw the state going back to more tar and gravel and strongly feel our folks across all North Carolina deserve better. What I think you’ll find most key in our House budget this year is dollars put into resurfacing. Asphalt resurfacing [will be] over 8,500 miles which equates to 11 percent of total road capacity in the state of North Carolina. People that do our research tell me that’s the most we’ve ever put into resurfacing roads. What does our budget do? It brings back the focus to good roads that we were once known for, puts a bunch of folks to work on those roads, and resets the priorities to what we think our folks back home…expect and deserve in the quality of their roads and the expectations from their transportation department.

NCMMC: The House Transportation budget creates a pot for the economic development, what do you intend that to be used for?

JT: For example, if an entity decided “I need to come to North Carolina or expand in North Carolina to do business. We want to come or expand. We’re going to hire a number of individuals but to enable us to get there we have to have rail access” or “we have to have access to the Interstate and the plot of land we currently are looking at doesn’t provide that”. There needs to be a mechanism that provides, if it’s determined to positively benefit the taxpayers, that entity a path to receive the necessary transportation modifications to assist that entity in locating or expanding in North Carolina. We do a portion of it now. It’s not just widely noticed. This puts a focus, an emphasis, if you will on those needs. For the first time, this administration and this General Assembly have worked hard to dismantle those departmental silos that had over many, many, years have been built up around our state departments. Today we are making great inroads in getting those departments to work cohesively. For example, commerce and transportation -Secretary Decker, Secretary Tata often appear joined at the hip, because we’ve torn down those two department’s silos that had been built up and hardened over the years where each department worked independently from the other.

NCMMC: With the new formulas, what projects do you think will fare well and which do you think won’t fare so well?

JT: I’ve had this thought in my mind to get heavy handed politics out of the road building process. I think it’s just as wrong for a legislative individual to put a road into a process as it is for a legislative individual to take a road out of a process. I think that we as legislators should not have that part in the process. I think it should be a broad determination based on criteria that will be set. How they will fare in criteria that are not currently in place yet? Flip a coin. I intend to stand back and let the numbers and the data present what they present. Now, I will thoroughly examine the outcomes of the data. I will thoroughly examine the findings that are attributed to that data, because I also know that as humans we are known to err, I want to make sure that what we are seeking to get and what we get is the most independent and truly factual information as humanly possible. That is what I think North Carolinians insist on from their Department of Transportation. They pay for it and they deserve the best we can afford.

NCMMC: Basically, the criteria shouldn’t be created to get certain roads completed, but should be created independently of the roads?

JT: That’s correct. The criteria should be an umbrella across the state of North Carolina that when the different local back home transportation groups in North Carolina determine that a road needs to be built it goes through the data, it goes through the criteria, and if it comes out saying yes that’s a good road then it should be built. If it’s not a good road it should not be built. It shouldn’t be Rep. John or Rep. Joe or Rep. Kathy or Rep. Mary making those determinations.

Thanks Rep. Torbett for talking with us and sharing your perspective!

Interview with Sen. Bill Rabon on Senate tax reform

Metro Mayors sat with Sen.Bill Rabon (Brunswick-R) this week to discuss the Senate’s tax reform bill (H998). We appreciate the Senator’s time and candor on the bill. Here is what he shared:

Sen. Rabon: It’s my hope that we can reach a compromise with the House. I think tax reform is one of the big issues and one of the most important issues that is facing the state today.

We are moving forward with deliberations, trying to reach that compromise. I’m sure the Senate will come up with a plan that’s fair to everyone and that accomplishes true tax reform and not nibbling around the edges and that it insures every taxpayer in the state has more money in their pocket, pays less tax overall. That’s our primary goal and that businesses also receive their fair share of tax reform and tax cuts, that we proceed with doing away with corporate welfare.

Hopefully, this will be something that the public sees as beneficial or is something that is beneficial to the public and that it is viewed that way.

The second part is that we must be willing to control our spending and stand by our belief that less government not more government is the way we want to proceed and we must be willing to make tough decisions and control the growth of government and allow it to grow only in concert with the growth in population. Those revenues that we save by controlling growth will remain in the pockets of the people of the state and won’t be spent to Raleigh to be spent.

Metro Mayors Q&A with Rep. Tim Moffitt

NCMMC: What is your philosophy or experience that drives your interest in local government issues? Is your interest just in Asheville or in local governments all over?

TM: My interest is solely focused on good government, whether it’s at the local level or the state level or at the federal level. Good government really comes in one flavor for me, and that’s what’s in the fairest outcomes for all of our taxpayers.

NCMMC: So even though you’ve had some Asheville-focused bills, overall you want…

TM: I was born and raised in Asheville, so you know, my experience with local government is Asheville, and when I see local governments not representing what’s in the best interest of all the folks, that’s where I like to involve myself.

NCMMC: You’ve been really busy so far with local government bills, especially around Asheville, are there any other issues you want to tackle next session?

TM: Well if you look at — I guess if you look at my history, only a very small part of it is local. It just so happens that the local things — the folks who don’t like them are rather loud and noisy bunch, but they’re not significant in regards to numbers of people. It’s just a small group of people, and sadly, I would say that a majority of it is predominately political, because there is really no standard of reason to their objections, because the facts outweigh their arguments, and it just really seems to be, you know, petty politics than it does actually what’s in the best interest of the folks.

NCMMC: How do you want the major cities to support you and reach out to you and engage with you on issues that you have?

TM: Well, I think just call me first. You know there’s a lot of comments out there about me, but there’s been very few inquiries that have come from our mayors. Just because I disagree with my mayor on certain issues that seem to be substantive to our area doesn’t mean that I’m a disagreeable person. I’m a very fair person. I’m very open minded, very interested in learning more about every aspect of a particular issues, because I don’t think I have all the answers, but I feel very clear, very convinced in some of the things that I’ve done that I’m on the right side of the policy and the people opposing me are not, and I feel very comfortable with those outcomes.

NCMMC: And what do you think is the cause of your disagreements with the other mayors?

TM: Again, I just think it’s a — I think a lot of our mayors have lost sight of what their responsibilities are. I think a lot of our mayors quite frankly would be better off as presidents of homeowners associations than they would be mayors of our cities and towns. They have a very set a very narrow set of responsibilities in regards to what they should be doing at the local level, and when they step outside those boundaries than those of us in the General Assembly have got — we have the higher responsibility of interceding in those issues when they overstep their boundaries. Up until that point, they have a responsibility to run their cities.

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