MATTHEWS – In a busy legislative session with state representatives and senators deciding on everything from tree preservation to teacher pay, a group of Republican leaders from the Mecklenburg-Union border say they’re uniting as one voice for local towns in Raleigh.
Town leaders, for their part, just hope that voice says the things they want.
The Union-Mecklenburg Edge City Caucus, or UMECC, includes Reps. Bill Brawley, Mark Brody and Jacqueline Schaffer and Sens. Bob Rucho and Jeff Tarte from Mecklenburg County and Reps. Dean Arp and Craig Horn and Sen. Tommy Tucker from Union County. The group is named in part in honor of a former volunteer rescue service also called UMECC that protected the border towns.
The coalition plans to represent residents of Matthews and Mint Hill in addition to a portion of the Ballantyne area and Indian Trail, Stallings, Waxhaw and Weddington all as one effort, according to Brawley.
“There’s a lot of issues,” Brawley said. “Transportation, water, those affect both sides of the Mecklenburg/Union line the same way. … We will be able to react in a more unified manner on the legislative needs for the towns in Mecklenburg and Union along the county line whose priorities and issues are different than the larger cities.”
But one of the main issues for those towns right now is a perceived attempt by legislators to take power away from local governments, according to a number of area leaders that include commissioners in Matthews, Ballantyne’s Charlotte City Council representative and town managers in Union County.
“It’s one of a multi-faceted concern that I think we have … as local control continues to be … taken away piece by piece by the General Assembly,” Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said in May, speaking about a number of bills being considered in Raleigh that, among other things, would limit a municipality’s ability to regulate architectural standards on development or require developers to save trees on their property, as well as possible changes to the amount of privilege license fees towns receive, which in turn impacts a town’s
“The General Assembly has taken the position that local towns and cities shouldn’t have that control,” Taylor continued. “(But) that’s where the control should be, at the local level, not at the state level. Local bodies and boards are much more in tune with their local constituents.”
Ed Driggs, the Charlotte City Council District 7 representative, recently voiced the same concerns, especially regarding the privilege license fees Charlotte could lose. Any group looking to do business within a city’s limits must buy privilege licenses. Driggs, a delegation of Matthews leaders and others from the area will all be in Raleigh on Wednesday, June 4, to speak with local legislators, where they intend to discuss the issue of local control, among other concerns.
Brawley, who said he has discussed the coalition with Taylor and Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers, believes the group of legislators will give local townns more influence in Raleigh – partly because he and others in the group hold chairman or vice chairman positions on a number of important committees in the General Assembly.
“There hasn’t been a structure to support the edge cities like (what) uptown Charlotte has,” Brawley said, saying the combined populations of the towns in the coalition is around 300,000 residents – more than Greensboro and many other of the state’s largest towns. “Matthews, Mint Hill (and) south Charlotte having political power is relatively new. There are eight people representing the area we are talking about (compared to) 17 people in the Mecklenburg County delegation. We’re joining together to serve our constituents better by pooling our efforts.”
Brawley listed the Old Monroe Road project and improving U.S. 74 and South Trade Street as possible issues the group could address. He hopes to have more input from the towns after upcoming meetings.