Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane will become chairwoman of the N.C. Metro Mayors Coalition, a post that will give her a visible role on statewide issues related to economic development, taxes, transportation and public safety.
The bipartisan group, which represents mayors of the state’s 28 largest cities, was founded by Gov.-elect Pat McCrory in 2001 during his tenure as mayor of Charlotte.
The panel advocates in the General Assembly for policies that reflect the needs of North Carolina’s urban centers. McFarlane has expressed hope that McCrory’s background as mayor of Charlotte will make him sensitive to the needs of cities.
Municipal leaders are paying close attention to how the legislature’s Republican leadership will tackle issues such as deregulation and tax reform.
Among the top requests from the mayors’ group, according to its legislative agenda:
• Transition the state’s reliance on shrinking gas tax revenues to other long-term sustainable revenue sources such as expanded use of toll roads, new regional and local revenue options, hybrid and electric vehicle user fees, and a comprehensive study of new approaches to pay for roads.
• Defend against attempts to shift state responsibilities to municipalities, including shifting state roads to local government.
• Preserve the remaining local control over new billboards and billboard conversions and support a requirement for outdoor advertising owners to replant trees around billboard sites where owners have been allowed to cut down intrusive trees.
• Impose tighter nuisance laws to help police deal with street gangs.
McFarlane, an independent, will lead a panel composed of four Republicans and four Democrats. She did not respond to a request for comment last week but gave a statement about her appointment.
“What is good for our cities is good for our state,” she said. “Urban areas are the job centers of the state that drive our economy.”
In a news conference Thursday, McCrory said he appointed former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz as secretary of cultural resources because he believes that mayors are problem-solvers.
Kluttz was a founding member of the mayoral coalition.
“Governor-Elect McCrory looks forward to working closely with mayors and local officials from around the state in a bipartisan way to make sure we’re doing everything we can to expand jobs and opportunity,” spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement Friday.
Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain was elected vice chairwoman of the group. Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs will serve as treasurer. Durham Mayor Bill Bell, the past chairman, rounds out the officers.
Now midway through her first term as Raleigh mayor, McFarlane defeated two Republican opponents to succeed Charles Meeker, a Democrat who did not seek a record sixth consecutive term.
All City Council members are up for re-election in October.