Under the Dome

McFarlane will chair urban mayors group

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane will chair the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, a bipartisan group representing the mayors of the state’s 28 largest cities, The N&O's Matt Garfield reports.

The panel was founded by Gov.-elect Pat McCrory during his tenure as mayor of Charlotte.

The post gives McFarlane a visible statewide role on issues facing North Carolina's urban centers, particularly economic development, taxes, transportation and public safety.

McFarlane, an independent, is midway through her first term as Raleigh mayor. She handily defeated two Republican opponents in the race to succeed Charles Meeker, a Democrat who did not seek a record sixth consecutive term. City elections are nonpartisan, but McFarlane enjoyed support from the city's Democratic establishment. She endorsed President Barack Obama shortly before the Novemeber presidential election.

McFarlane was part of a new slate of officers elected during the group's annual meeting last week.

Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain was elected vice chair. Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs will serve as treasurer. Durham Mayor Bill Bell, the past chair, rounds out the officers.

The leadership group, comprised of four Republicans and four Democrats, will advocate in the General Assembly for policies that promote the interests 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. While McCrory led the state's largest city for seven terms, McFarlane is now the top elected official in the second-largest N.C. municipality.

Municipal leaders are paying close attention to how the legislature's Republican leadership will tackle issues such as deregulation and tax reform.

Here are some examples of what the coalition is asking state lawmakers to do:

- 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/or 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.

- Create tighter nuisance regulations to help police deal with street gangs.

Founded in 2001, the coalition is part of the N.C. League of Municipalities, which represents all North Carolina municipalities.

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