Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Battle Continues

After the last several years of controversy regarding forced annexation and another "study" of the issue by the legislature, the official Legislative Study Commission produced an annexation reform bill that was horrible. House Bill 524 was truly a case where the "cure" was worse than the disease itself. Far too many legislators got behind this horrible bill (H524) and pushed it hard in spite of the fact that a MUCH better piece of legislation (S494/H645) that reflected the requests from the citizens was available to them.

The differences between S494 and H524 and how these bills evolved speaks volumes about a serious problem that the people are confronted with in the State Legislature; specifically;’ Who do the majority of Legislators feel they owe their loyalty to?’ Is it the people of this State or is it the special interests that have honed their "pay to play" skills over the decades?

Senate Bill 494 came about because one legislator, Senator Larry Shaw, (Dem, now retired), reached out to a grassroots organization, StopNCAnnexation, (formed nearly eight years ago to bring the voice of the people across the State together in the single goal of being heard in Raleigh), and asked for assistance in creating legislation that would truly address what the people have been trying for decades to have changed in the fifty year old version of annexation law. That often repeated request is for a restoration of the rights and voice of the people being affected by a local government body that they did not elect.
S494 was the result of that request for assistance in changes to the law. 

In contrast, H524 was created within a process that the legislature has used whenever they have a controversial issue that the people pressure them to address, a process which they have used to "handle" the forced annexation outcry several times in the past. The Legislative Leadership forms a committee to "study" the issue. By now, and at least three studies later, the results are predictable; the same arguments and requests are presented by both sides of the controversy and the entrenched special interests (the NC League of Municipalities) exerts its backroom influence. Very little of what the people have asked for over and over survives the study to become part of the resulting legislation that is voted on. The people are left with the appearance of action while their voice and wishes are ignored.
The discussion in the Legislature about forced annexation is shut down for years to come.

Yet our Legislators declared H524 a "compromise" victory. How could it be a compromise or a victory for the people when everything the people asked for once again was discarded and everything that the NCLM suggested was adopted? The only thing that qualifies H524 as a compromise was that it was clearly produced by a compromise of principle and representative government. The inclusion of an unwinnable sham of a referendum in H524 may have been unprecedented, but does not qualify the bill as acceptable to the people or to the principles of good representative government.

After all your trips to Raleigh to attend the Study Commission meetings and legislative sessions, all the letters, emails and phone calls to the legislators, with no resulting legislation being passed into law last session, you might be feeling like the people have once again failed in the effort to change the annexation laws, but that is not the case.

The people scored a major victory in this battle, although not the final victory of having the voice of the people restored. With the decades of cultivated influence and army of lobbyists wielded by the NCLM and affiliates, it was a victory for the people that H524 did NOT become law! The discussion on changing the annexation laws has not been shut down by bad legislation and if the people have the will to continue it, we have a good chance to finally prevail. Defeating the passage of H524 was a win for the people!

Going forward, there is so much opportunity now in place to make real change happen and I hope that you recognize it.
We have an upcoming election that can have a major impact on changing the annexation laws and it is up to each of us to continue to increase the pressure on those running for State office to take a stand on this issue. All the calls, letters and emails from everyone in the effort to restore the voice of the people have had an effect on election campaigns across NC. Candidates are declaring their position against forced annexation from the coast to the mountains, but more need to take a stand. Only you can make that happen with the candidates running to represent you. Don't let this opportunity pass.

The NCLM has had decades to groom former city officials to become "friendly" legislators to their ongoing agenda of increasing the power and subsidies to city governments. It's time to 'clean house' in the General Assembly and County Commissions and remove as many of those officials who feel that the wishes of the city lobbyists are more important than the voices of the people of this State they were elected to represent.

Ask those running to take a stand against forced annexation. Don't let them wiggle out of taking a real stand by saying they "support reform" of the annexation laws. Even the Director of the NCLM has said he "supports reform" of the laws. Pin your candidate down to take a stand against forced annexation and committing to put an end to the practice once and for all.

Once the people of NC have replaced the “Lackey's of the League” with those who will commit to representing their constituents faithfully in the State Legislature, the people should look forward to going back to the General Assembly with our request for legislation that will end forced annexation once and for all next year.

   Catherine Heath
StopNCAnnexation Coalition

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The NCLM fake grassroots network

The citizens of NC who have come together over the last eight years to raise their voices to the State Legislature about ending forced annexation have had the city lobbyists, the NC League of Municipalities (NCLM) on the run and this continues.

In response to the success of the grassroots citizens, the NCLM  has created what they are calling the LINC network; which stands for Legislative Information Network of Communities.

The NCLM has been using this tool to fight the citizens efforts to change the annexation laws to end forced annexation. They have recruited city residents go along with city officials to visit legislators in Raleigh for the purpose of having these citizens tell legislators that being annexed into the city was the greatest thing to ever happen to them.

Well, anyone who pays attention to city politics knows that there are always people, who I would describe as city council "groupies", who would do anything to gain brownie points with elected officials, so I'm sure the NCLM has been able to find some of these types who would fall all over themselves to do this. I doubt they can find very many people who have been FORCIBLY annexed that are happy about it who would go. 

The NCLM is in gear for the 2010 Short Legislative Session and have sent out their first "LINC" email announcing a weekly conference call to brief municipal LINC members on legislative activity that they need to respond to. Opposing the citizens calling for an end to forced annexation is a priority item on their agenda.

The NCLM has also pulled a new tactic this year in their ongoing attempts to run away from the citizens coming to Raleigh to ask for an end to forced annexation. They changed the date that they had set for their yearly 'Town Hall Day' to June 16th after months of advertising it for June 2nd. 
StopNCAnnexation obtained permits for the Bicentennial Mall and the Halifax Mall for June 2nd and started advertising this year's rally early in the year.

StopNCAnnexation began holding a Citizens Rally in Raleigh on the NCLM's Town Hall Day starting in 2005, and the NCLM has been trying to avoid the citizens on that day ever since.  The Bicentennial Mall is the location that the citizen rally has usually been held. This year the NCLM has also blocked anyone from using the Bicentennial Mall on June 16th.

I don't think this latest move by the NCLM should stop the citizens from showing up at the Legislature on June 16th. No one has ever needed a permit to visit the legislative buildings and walk the halls to meet with legislators. Let's not let the NCLM have June 16th all to themselves in Raleigh this year.

If you were planning to attend the Rally on June 2nd, change that date on your calender to June 16th, and I'll see you there!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Second Chance to hear Conference Speaker Daren Bakst

The Annexation Reform 2010 Conference continues to get positive feedback.
Attendees were particularly happy with the line up of speakers at the event and the knowledge that they gained from them.

All the speakers brought valuable information to share, and Daren Bakst's presentation was one of the most appreciated. 
His presentation looked at current proposals for reforming the law as well as what changes would be good reform.
If you missed the conference, you now have a second chance to hear Mr. Bakst presentation in Raleigh at the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Lunch series. 

On March 22, Daren Bakst will be making a lunch presentation on annexation reform legislation. The lunch will take place at the John Locke Foundation.  You can learn more and register here:

Video recordings of all the presenters and speakers are in the works. The Conference on DVD will be available soon. More information on how to obtain one will be posted to the StopNCAnnexation website soon.

I will be attending the lunch this coming Monday and hope to see you there!

Catherine Heath
StopNCAnnexation Coalition

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Annexation and Reform 2010 Conference

A big THANK YOU! to all who attended the conference and helped make both Friday and Saturday a successful event.
Watch the NEWS 14 report on the
'Annexation Reform 2010' Conference
Feedback from those who attended was overwhelmingly positive.

Video and cd's of the excellent presentations will be available soon.
Catherine Heath
Director, StopNCAnnexation

Friday, February 12, 2010

What the NCLM is up to lately:

First of all, the NCLM has created a program to encourage municipal officials to quickly counter the efforts of citizen groups opposed to legislation that the city lobbyists are supporting or defending. This effort has been named; “LINC”; or “Legislative Information Network of Communities”.

This appears to be a direct response to the impressive and affective communication that citizens across NC have been directing at the Legislators demanding "no more forced annexations" and no new taxes.
You can view the details of this NCLM program here:

The “QuickConnect” ‘rapid response team’ that the NCLM is recruiting will require citizens to fight back harder against The League's "astroturf" effort:
You can view this as proof that your efforts have been effective, but realize that this is also a challenge to every individual to keep communicating with legislators and recruit others to do the same.
The latest NCLM Bulletin has announced the formation of an “NCLM Annexation Experts Team”. The NCLM has declared war!
The input against this from thousands of citizens matters!
The NCLM has always put protection of forced annexation as a priority legislative issue.
See the NCLM Legislative “Advocacy Agenda 2009-10”

#1 on the list after their commitment to their general ‘core principles’, (which always includes protecting forced annexation), is their commitment to protecting the power to use forced annexation:
Annexation for Fair, Managed Growth:
The League continues to support careful change to the long-standing municipal annexation laws in a way that provides for fair and equitable consideration of all citizens’ needs and concerns and allows cities and towns to grow in an orderly manner.”
A read between the lines in this statement indicates that the NCLM is still supporting House Bill 524 and is still actively working to make H524 the ONLY bill that the Legislature considers so the League can shepherd this very bad legislation to passage.  They know if H524 passes into law, that will be all the change the citizens will get for many years to come, and the well funded machine of the League will begin immediately to soften any changes made to favor the cities more once again.
Don’t let anyone tell you we have to accept H524 or nothing. Not true!
Learn more about the NCLM agenda here:

The NCLM is always working hard to grow a base of loyalty to their agenda of power. Among those efforts is the Foundation they’ve set up to collect donations to be distributed to local government projects and give local officials a financial incentive to be loyal: 

Through this foundation the NCLM is financing ammunition to use in future conversations about increasing the State financial handouts to the cities and most likely to argue FOR the continuation of forced annexation. This is what I see them doing here in funding a “study” to prove that cities are the center of the universe:
“Currently underway is a research project, ‘Economic Role of N.C. Cities and Towns’ funded by the Foundation to document the direct and indirect economic impact of municipalities on North Carolina's economy. The results of this research will be an aid as cities and towns seek to strengthen their local economies and enhance the future for all municipal citizens.”
The NCLM is also using this Foundation to continue to tie themselves, the NCACC, and the School of Government together in lock step to achieve a common agenda that resists any efforts by citizens to “throw the bums out” when the taxing and spending keeps spiraling out of control on less than necessary pet projects and the ‘visions’ of grandeur that cities seem determined to pursue against the likelihood of success.
“The UNC School Government, NC Association of County Commissioners and the NC League of Municipalities have partnered together to create an educational program- Local Elected Leaders Academy (LELA).”

One final word to the wise citizen advocate:

The NCLM has plans in place to hold a series of “Regional Legislative Meetings” all over the State of NC in small and large cities alike:

The stated goal of these regional meetings is to prepare city officials for the legislative session ahead and to promote participation in the NCLM “grassroots” network; the “LINC” program previously explained above.
“The meetings will be an essential step in getting ready for the session and an opportunity to learn about League LINC – Legislative Information Network of Communities. League LINC is our grassroots network established for and powered by city and town municipal officials, leaders and professionals.”
I hope you see that it is important for the citizens of North Carolina who are fighting to protect the property rights of all North Carolinians to stand strong against the efforts of the NCLM to erode any protections we do have and their efforts to stop any attempts to strengthen property rights in NC.

We need to be very concerned about both of these issues making progress in favor of the citizens when we have legislators who are not shy about publicly stating which side of these issues they are on.
During the meetings of the Legislative Committee to Study Eminent Domain, Rep Lucy Allen, who was on the committee, made an impassioned plea to the committee to “First, do no harm!”
But Rep Allen was not expressing her concern for the citizens and businesses being protected against the power of the State using this “despotic power”. Lucy was crying out in a plea to protect the government’s ability to continue to use eminent domain as it sees fit. Allen seemed quite proud of herself about securing the approving nods of the NCLM official who was observing the meeting.

Rep. Allen is not the only legislator that we are up against in the General Assembly who feels this way or who feels more loyalty to the NCLM than to the individual constituents they are supposed to be representing.

This is why it is so very important that individual citizens stand up and push back to stop the violations of our property rights that we see year after year with forced annexation and with the overreaching use of eminent domain. And push our County Commissioners to stand up for EVERYONE they represent.

StopNCAnnexation is holding the Annexation Law & Reform 2010 Conference to help the citizens who want good annexation reform get ready for the upcoming legislative session. Our opposition is preparing.
We need to prepare as well!
Registrations for the conference started coming in right away, but there is still room for many more.
I hope those of you who were considering attending will make that commitment and register soon.

I hope to see you there,

Catherine A. Heath
StopNCAnnexation Coalition

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Position Statememt on Annexation Reform from the Grassroots

January 18, 2010                               DRAFT LETTER

Dear Senator,

North Carolina has one of the most extreme annexation laws in the country.  On behalf of North Carolina FreedomWorks and the # undersigned organizations, we urge you to fix this extreme law by supporting meaningful annexation reform in the upcoming short session.

The Senate can do what the House failed to do last year, and that is to pass a meaningful annexation reform bill.  The House-enacted bill, HB 524, “Annexation – Omnibus Changes,” addressed none of the reforms we sought, and even made matters worse than the status quo. 

For example, under existing law, municipalities are required to provide services that give annexed property owners a significant or meaningful benefit.  Municipalities often ignore this requirement by trying to get away with duplicating services or providing unnecessary services.  There is nothing meaningful or significant about providing unnecessary services.

Last year, we asked for a simple reform that would prohibit municipalities from meeting their legal obligations by duplicating existing services or providing unnecessary services.  Instead of doing this, HB 524 does the exact opposite.  The bill would clearly allow municipalities to forcibly annex property owners by duplicating services or providing unnecessary services.

At least under the existing statute, the North Carolina Supreme Court would have a chance to put an end to these games played by municipalities in regards to meaningful services.  HB 524, however, would take away that opportunity by legalizing these games.

Supporters say that HB524 is “a step in the right direction”.  While the bill includes some changes, the changes hardly constitute real reform or compromise.  For example, bill proponents tout its prohibition on shoestring annexation, but these types of annexations already are illegal according to the North Carolina Supreme Court in Hughes v. Town of Oak Island (The Court affirmed an Appeals court decision finding shoestring annexations to be illegal).  The legislature has tweaked the annexation law in the past and all it has done is lead to more opposition to the annexation law and more annexation abuse. 

We are extremely concerned about HB524 and the future of annexation reform.  The passage of meaningless reform will likely mean many years before we have a chance at meaningful reform.

In addition to requiring truly meaningful services, real annexation reform would include:

  • County Approval of Forced Annexations:  The county commissions should review and vote on forced annexations.  They represent both the municipalities and the annexation victims.  They also know the needs of the overall community and would provide annexation victims a voice.  Regarding a voice, municipalities oppose a vote and the citizens want a vote.  It is hard to imagine a more perfect compromise than having a representative voice through the county commissions.
  • Vote: A simple majority vote of the annexed property owners should be required.
  • Financial Obligation of Water and Sewer Infrastructure:  Forcing annexed property owners to pay for the infrastructure necessary for services they never even wanted or needed may be one of the most egregious and devastating aspects of the annexation law.  Costs imposed on property owners can exceed $20,000—for many property owners, these costs may be the difference between keeping their homes and losing them.
  • Municipalities initiate the annexations and therefore should be financially responsible for water and sewer infrastructure.  Citizens should pay for reasonable tap fees only if they choose to connect to the system.

There is an excellent bill in the Senate, SB 494, which addresses many of these reforms.  We ask that you work off of SB 494 in developing annexation reform.

Finally, we understand that there is a need for compromise.  The perfect is not the enemy of the good.  We are willing to work with you to craft legislation that will provide real reform yet take into account the legitimate concerns of municipalities. 

Thank you for your service to the citizens of our state.


Allen Page
State Director
North Carolina FreedomWorks
Kathy Hartkopf
Legislative Liaison
North Carolina FreedomWorks

John Locke Foundation
Stop NC Annexation Coalition