A PUBLICAT ION OF THE NORTH CAROLINA LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES Together Again: CityVision 2022 18 Q&A WITH SENATOR MICHAEL LEE 22 MORRISVILLE'S SATISH GARIMELLA IS ON CALL 25 CITYVISION RECAP 38 TELLING THE STORY OF ARPA VOLUME 72 / NUMBER 2 / 2ND QUARTER 2022
Southern City is a publication for and about North Carolina municipalities, published quarterly by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Volume 72 Number 2 2nd Quarter 2022 Executive Director & Publisher: Rose Vaughn Williams Editor: Jack Cassidy Writer: Ben Brown Writer: Scott Mooneyham www.nclm.org Southern City (USPS 827-280) is published quarterly for $25 per year ($2 per year to member municipalities, $1 for single copies) by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Phone: 919-715-4000 Postmaster: Send address changes to: Southern City 434 Fayetteville Street, Suite 1900 Raleigh, NC 27601 Advertising & Design: Advertising Sales: Ronnie Jacko Design & Layout: Jon Cannon For advertising opportunities and deadlines, contact LLM Publications at 503-445-2234 or email@example.com. ©2022 NC League of Municipalities All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher. PUBLISHED SUMMER 2022 22 MORRISVILLE COUNCILMAN SATISH GARIMELLA IS ON CALL SC OITUYTHERN
5 INSIDE THIS ISSUE 9 12 14 18 22 25 36 38 6 8 40 42 25 14 WRITERS THIS ISSUE BEN BROWN NCLM Communications & Multimedia Specialist JACK CASSIDY NCLM Communications Associate SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination For Policymakers, Short-Term Rental Focus Continues Looking at a pressing issue this legislative session. NCLM Members Select New Officers, Board Members Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler to lead NCLM over next year. The American Rescue Plan in Action The American Rescue Plan offers a generational opportunity to our municipalities. Here’s how communities across NC are making the most of it. Q&A with Senator Michael Lee The League’s quarterly legislator Q&A. Morrisville Councilman Satish Garimella is On Call Dedicating many hours of every day to the community and at-the-ready to help even the smallest of issues, Satish Garimella is the right person at the right time for Morrisville. Together Again: CityVision 2022 a Major Success in Wilmington A recap (and photo spread!) of this year’s conference. Sen. Lazzara, Rep. Bell are NCLM’s 2022 Community Champions Honor recognizes legislators’ work representing the needs of cities and towns. Telling the Story of ARPA You’re making transformational investments in your hometown. Let’s hear about it. Board of Directors Speaking Out Coming Through Adversity and Moving Ahead Taking the Field An Expansive ARP Service Line Board of Trustees
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 6 MANAGER Tasha Logan-Ford, City Manager High Point IMMEDIATE PAST-PRESIDENT Karen Alexander Mayor, Salisbury SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT Mark-Anthony Middleton Mayor Pro Tem, Durham FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT William Harris Commissioner, Fuquay-Varina PRESIDENT Scott Neisler Mayor, Kings Mountain Board of Directors 2022–2023 WORKING AS ONE. ADVANCING ALL. UNDESIGNATED AFFILIATE REP. Chief Chris Beddingfield, NC Association of Police Chiefs Biltmore Forest DISTRICT 1 Mayor Elizabeth Morey Southern Shores UNDESIGNATED AFFILIATE REP. Commissioner John Ellen, Resort Towns & Convention Cities Kure Beach DISTRICT 12 Mayor Lynda Sossamon Sylva DISTRICT 11 Council Member Phyllis Harris Mount Holly DISTRICT 2 Council Member Brian Jackson Jacksonville CHARLOTTE Council Member Larken Egleston DISTRICT 3 Mayor Terry Mann Whiteville DURHAM Council Member Leonardo Williams AT LARGE Mayor Don Hardy Kinston DISTRICT 4 Mayor Jody McLeod Clayton FAYETTEVILLE Council Member Johnny Dawkins DISTRICT 5 Council Member TJ Walker Rocky Mount GREENSBORO Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson DISTRICT 6 Council Member Satish Garimella Morrisville RALEIGH Council Member Nicole Stewart CLERK Brenda Blanco, Municipal Clerk New Bern MANAGER Bob Boyette, City Manager Marion DISTRICT 7 Alderman Sona Cooper Spring Lake WINSTON-SALEM Council Member Jeff MacIntosh MANAGER Andrew Havens, Town Manager Duck DISTRICT 8 Mayor Melinda Bales Huntersville PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Neville Hall Eden DISTRICT 9 Mayor Michael Horn Lewisville PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Walter Eccard Shallotte ATTORNEY Karen McDonald, City Attorney Fayetteville DISTRICT 10 Mayor Pro Tem William Morgan Statesville PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Dwight Lake Mayodan AT LARGE Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall Albemarle AT LARGE Council Member Owen Thomas Lumberton
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 8 As the new President of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, it is truly an honor to work with and represent you. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. The smiles and the comradery were so evident during CityVision 2022 in Wilmington. After two years of having to meet remotely, it was great to be back together, in person, and see everyone engaged and truly enjoying the programming and networking opportunities of the conference. I want to thank staff and our host city for making our conference one to remember! In my inaugural speech, I stated that Kings Mountain was the greatest city in North Carolina, and I believe that wholeheartedly. I am positive that you feel the same way about your city or town, as you wouldn’t have taken the time to attend the conference and be involved with NCLM if you thought differently. This was a great opportunity to learn from one another and bring back the education and shared experiences to our homes in the form of ideas that can make our cities and towns even better. If we have learned anything over the past two years, it is that we are resilient, as despite the many challenges, it has been a fruitful time for us. It’s due to the leadership shown by you, the elected representatives and staff members of the towns and cities of North Carolina. It is amazing to see how we’ve endured and worked together. The N.C. League of Municipalities has also faced adversity during the past two years. The staff and leadership of the League were forced to work and meet remotely while dealing with the same health and communication challenges as the larger society. Additionally, they have been faced with assisting cities and towns with revenue and policy challenges created by COVID-19 and its economic fallout. The League staff have been a great foundation for us, and they have proven to be successful even as we have struggled through these unprecedented times. The organization worked with members of Congress and the state legislature to receive direct and indirect appropriations from American Rescue Plan funding to address the economic needs created by the pandemic and to make transformational infrastructure and other investments that will improve services and the quality of life for our residents for years to come. I am excited to see the results of those investments as those relationships come to fruition in the next year and in the future. This past year and in previous years, tremendous progress has been made in helping state leaders understand the importance of local flexibility and local decision-making. That was evident in 2021 as we beat back harmful land-use proposals at the General Assembly. SCOTT NEISLER NCLM President I am thankful for everyone’s support as I begin this term as NCLM President and know that your help will allow us to keep up the great momentum that was started at CityVision! Coming Through Adversity and Moving Ahead SPEAKING OUT As President of the League this year, I am committed to strengthening our relationship with the General Assembly and working together for our common good. Always protecting local decision-making that fits each individual community. This is especially important as many areas continue to grow and develop, and local officials act to balance the different interests—from existing homeowners to new homeowners, to businesses that require affordable housing for their workforces, and to everyone affected by local economies. I will also be a champion for local broadband solutions. We must ensure that all towns can eventually have access to world-class broadband. I believe we will make progress over the coming year so that cities and towns can have a larger role in building this vital infrastructure. Lastly, I am also confident that we will continue making progress on a new NCLM building. Our building campus is in vibrant downtown Raleigh, and that offers opportunity and can project us forward for decades. Just like no one could foresee the COVID19 pandemic, I know that there will be unforeseen challenges that arise in the year ahead. I have confidence in our abilities and resiliency to work together to address them. I am thankful for everyone’s support as I begin this term as NCLM President and know that your help will allow us to keep up the great momentum that was started at CityVision! It’s going to be a great year as we have fun making our cities and towns even better and in turn making our state the very best it can be for years to come!
n April, two people were killed and 14 others injured when a party being held in a rented home through the Airbnb platform in Philadelphia turned violent. The two people killed, along with many of the others there, were minors, even as the Airbnb rules prohibited minors from renting homes. The rental agreement also prohibited the renter from using the home for a party. It didn’t matter. Neighbors in what was normally a peaceful, residential neighborhood were shocked, as police swarmed on the home after multiple shooters fired as many as 50 shots. The story garnered national headlines and was featured heavily on cable TV news stations. (As of this writing, no arrests had been made.) Many other less violent but still problematic conflicts occurring every week at shortterm rental properties never receive that kind of press attention. Nonetheless, they pose similar challenges for nearby homeowners, who have to worry about safety, noise, and the general disruption of their lives, as well as the local governments called on to address the problems. And these issues continue to arise even as companies like Airbnb lobby state legislatures to restrict or pre-empt local regulation designed to curb public safety violations while balancing the rights of existing homeowners. In 2019, the N.C. League of Municipalities beat back an effort to restrict local regulation of short-term rentals in the final days of the legislative session. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be further efforts to do so. I LEGISLATIVE UPDATE For Policymakers, Short-Term Rental Focus Continues: LOOKING AT A PRESSING ISSUE THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination At that time, proponents of legislative pre-emption argued that they were trying to protect the property rights of the homeowners who just wanted to rent their homes. “They’re just normal people, and they have one or two properties as a way that they either can afford to stay in a house that they normally couldn’t stay in, or they’re saving for retirement, or it’s a house they use part time and not other times,” Mark Zimmerman, senior vice president of the NC Realtors, told WRAL-TV then. What has become clear since then is that homes in many North Carolina markets are being bought up by investor groups, and rented on both a short-term and long-term basis, and that these homes are typically in the price range of those bought by firsttime homebuyers. By buying homes with cash, they are able to outbid traditional homebuyers, with the result driving up home costs. continues on page 10 NCLM.ORG 9
A recent series of articles by The News & Observer of Raleigh, focused primarily on investment firms buying up homes for longterm rental, concluded that 20 companies have bought up 40,000 homes in the state, most of them in major metropolitan areas. The effect of short-term rentals on housing affordability also has been cited as a major concern in several North Carolina cities. And those arguments regarding the rights of the renters of these homes fail to take into account the rights of nearby homeowners who are not renting, particular on a full-time basis as part of an investment strategy. Against that backdrop, the state Court of Appeals recently struck down portions of a Wilmington ordinance placing restrictions on short-term rentals. The court essentially found that North Carolina law prohibits cities from requiring registration of those rentals, and that any permitting or other continued from page 9 requirements associated with registration is banned under that existing law. The ruling will not affect land-use based restrictions, but how it plays otherwise is complex. As Adam Lovelady with the UNC School of Government wrote in an analysis of the case, “As always, the devil is in the details.” While land-use law would allow for zoning- based restrictions, the court found that other Wilmington limitations—such as a cap on short-term rental, distance requirements, and proof of shared parking—were so tied to the registration requirements that they were struck down as well. But what happens when they are not tied to a registration requirement? Loveland noted that restrictions such as a distance requirement could, perhaps, stand if not tied to a registration requirement. “There is a good argument that a basic separation requirement enforced through a standard zoning could stand even though the Wilmington separation requirement (being For Policymakers, Short-term Rental Focus Continues dependent on the unauthorized registration program) was pre-empted,” Lovelady wrote. Even less clear is what any of this means for the possibility of any new legislation affecting Airbnb and other short-term rentals in the ongoing legislative session and future legislative session. Airbnb and its lobbyists have certainly been active at statehouses around the country. At the same time, shootings like that in Philadelphia and other high-profile incidents at short-term rental homes have captured the attention of local and state policymakers. Publicity regarding investment firm purchases of homes, and their effects on housing affordability, have only brought more policy focus on the issues created by non-resident home buying. One result is certain: the push and pull for public policy solutions—at the state and local level—will not be going away anytime soon. Homes in many North Carolina markets are being bought up by investor groups, and rented on both a short-term and long-term basis. By buying homes with cash, they are able to outbid traditional homebuyers, with the result driving up home costs. SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 10
NCLM Members Select New Officers, Board Members KINGS MOUNTAIN MAYOR SCOTT NEISLER TO LEAD NCLM OVER NEXT YEAR SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination LEAGUE UPDATE trong organizations require strong leadership, and the most recent elections of officers and board members for the N.C. League of Municipalities shows that the organization should have strong leaders for years to come. Announced at CityVision 2022, League members from across North Carolina chose Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler to lead NCLM as president for the next year. Joining Neisler as elected officers are Fuquay-Varina Town Commissioner William Harris as first vice president and Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton as second vice president. The elections took place by electronic ballot from April 15–20, after the League’s 13-member Nominating Committee had met three times this spring to interview candidates and select a slate of nominees. The membership vote was unanimous. In addition to the officers, which also includes immediate past-president Karen Alexander, the following members of the Board of Directors were elected to new terms: Mayor Elizabeth Morey, Southern Shores; Mayor Terry Mann, Whiteville; Council Member TJ Walker, Rocky Mount; Alderwoman Sona Cooper, Spring Lake; Mayor Mike Horn, Lewisville; Mayor Pro Tem Phyllis Harris, Mount Holly; Council Member Leonardo Williams, Durham; Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson, Greensboro; Council Member Larken Egleston, Charlotte; Council Member Owen Thomas, Lumberton; Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall, Albemarle; Council Member John Ellen, Kure Beach; Tasha Logan Ford, Manager, High Point; Brenda Blanco, Clerk, New Bern; and Karen McDonald, Attorney, Fayetteville. League Executive Director Rose Vaughn Williams praised the experience, thoughtfulness, and commitment to public service of the officers and board members. “It is due to local leaders like Mayor Neisler that our state is as strong as it is, and that our organization is as robust as it is. I could not be more proud to have Mayor Neisler, Commissioner Harris and Mayor Pro Tem Middleton, along with the entire Board of Directors, lead the NC League this coming year,” said Williams. S SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 12
NCLM.ORG 13 NCLM Members Select New Officers, Board Members Neisler’s selection as president follows a long tenure of public service. Neisler served one term on the Kings Mountain city council beginning in 1989, and three terms as mayor beginning in 1991. He was then re-elected mayor in 2015. In addition to his elected positions, Neisler worked 37 years in his family’s textile business, Dicey Fabrics, and he is presently the general manager of radio station AM 1450 WGNC in Gastonia. In his remarks at CityVision, Neisler lauded the accomplishments of his peers, and spoke of his vision for the future of the organization. “The successes of our state and our cities and towns did not happen by accident. This next year will be no different as we tackle our biggest issues, move our state forward, and continue to serve our communities,” Neisler said. Harris has more than three decades of experience as an elected official, has served two terms as mayor pro tem, and has been an adjunct professor at Shaw University teaching the Public Administration Department. Middleton is pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church in Durham and is serving his second four-year term on the Durham City Council. The officers and board members, in addition to their oversight and policy-setting roles at NCLM, also play key roles in using their voice to advocate for state policies that benefit all cities and towns. Alexander, in her departing remarks as NCLM president, pointed out how elected leaders, including those active with NCLM, can act in concert with one another to bring about positive change. “We have to adapt and change with the change that occurs around us. And it is only by leaning upon one another, by coming together through organizations like this one, that we can do that, and meet the challenges of a changing world,” Alexander said.
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 14 ARP CORNER The American Rescue Plan in Action The American Rescue Plan offers a generational opportunity for our municipalities, not just to recover from the pandemic, but to thrive well into the future. It is this forward-looking aspect of the ARP that is most consequential. How best can we utilize this money to create a lasting impact? All across North Carolina, cities and towns are developing plans and programs specifically geared towards this question, and history shows us that these projects will be successful. When our municipalities receive financial support, they achieve substantial successes. Cities get the job done. This ongoing series will showcase those projects, plans, and transformational investments, both to highlight the end-to-end impressive work of our municipalities and to share best practices with other cities and towns. WILSON MAKES FAR-REACHING INVESTMENTS TOWARDS LONG-TERM TRANSFORMATION Wilson, NC Population: 47,851 Funds Received: $15.7 million Plan •Kenan & Jackson Street water, sewer, and storm drain improvements •Sewer outfall repair •RIDE transit expansion •Housing redevelopment •Commercial redevelopment •Gig East programs •Demolition of substandard structures •Splash pad at Reid Street Community Center •Wiggins Mill Reservoir Park renovation •Public Safety Video Analytics software •Employee vaccine incentive reimbursement Strategy •Touch every corner of the city by funding numerous categories of investment: community development, economic development and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, housing, transit, and public spaces. •Utilize recently completed strategic plans to receive input and understand community need. •Be consistent with existing priorities, but with now expedited timelines and greater levels of investment. •Use money to create stability in innovative programs, such as Gig East. •Focus on underserved communities. Wilson is experienced in pursuing new ideas to serve the community. That mission has been on clear display over the past decades, seen through both their thoughtful investments and innovative offerings of public amenities. By way of a public park, they sparked a downtown renaissance; by leveraging investments and partnerships, they developed a burgeoning innovation economy. It’s not by accident, but rather through the work of local leaders that some have called Wilson “the next innovation hub in North Carolina.” With that foundation firmly established, the American Rescue Plan’s influx of support offers an unprecedented opportunity to Wilson. They’re taking full advantage. “This accelerates our ability to meet the demand and requests of both the people living here and the people coming here,” said Wilson’s Communications and Marketing Rebecca Agner. “I see it really helping us focus and make sure that we are on track to have the quality-of-life amenities and stay ahead of the demands that we’re seeing here.” Wilson’s investments touch every corner of town, and they begin with the focus intended by the American Rescue Plan (ARP): to support the economic recovery of communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The housing programs will address substandard structures in many low-income neighborhoods, the transit expansion aims to reduce transportation barriers for the city’s residents, and the commercial redevelopment project—while not in a designated census tract—sits across the street from one, so it will have a runoff positive effect for those neighborhoods as well as the city as a whole.
NCLM.ORG 15 They designed that support using previous citizen input, acquired through the city’s recently established Capital Improvement Plans and other strategy plans, and ongoing citizen input, acquired by surveys primarily for transit purposes. That input created a de-facto map of need, especially concerning transit. “We’ve been surveying, on a fairly regular basis, our users,” said Wilson’s Chief Planning and Development Officer Rodger Lentz. “What we’ve found with RIDE transit is that about half the trips are getting people to work, 70 to 80 percent of people that use the service don’t have access to a car… When we talk to employers, we find that transportation is one of the top barriers to being able to keep people employed.” Wilson also is making sizeable infrastructure investments. The sewer and stormwater projects are needed improvements in key areas: one providing the necessary infrastructure for a commercial district and growing residential area; and one in their flourishing downtown. The park investments—Wiggins Mill and River Street Community Center—get at the city’s quality-of-life goals, while also meeting some pandemic-related needs. During the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the city’s public spaces were at capacity. This investment will fix that issue. Like with the community development projects, these infrastructure investments were also a part of previous strategic discussions and plans. Through ARP, however, they can be addressed now, rather than over the course of many budget cycles. “We knew many of these projects needed to be addressed in the next few years, and the ARP funding gave us a great opportunity to speed that up and get it done more quickly,” said Agner. Lastly, Wilson is addressing its forward-looking innovation strategy with a $1 million investment towards Gig East, the local entrepreneurial hub. Gig East programs typically rely on outside grant funding, according to Agner. By leveraging ARP money, those programs—and Gig East as a whole—will benefit from a sustained level of stability, all while freeing staff up to focus not on pursuing funding, but on the core of Gig East’s work. “This gets directly at our commitment to entrepreneurship and to encouraging innovation,” said Agner. “This is going to preserve those partnerships we have in place, free up our staff from having to constantly be in the mode of securing funding, and across the board, it keeps us stable and positions us very well for the future growth we expect to see in Wilson.” “People have choices where to live, with remote working, cost of housing, and so on,” said Lentz. “Can Wilson be a community of choice? That’s something we’ve talked about for years here. We’re accomplishing that through amenities and quality of life.” Administration Preparation. Wilson did not need to think up new programs when ARP funding was received. Rather, by thoughtfully balancing the new level of investment, they were able to take existing priorities and shorten the timelines. Citizen engagement. Also speaking to the town’s preparation and ongoing administrative successes, Wilson had a great deal of citizen input to use when crafting their ARP plan. Ongoing transit surveys and engagement efforts surrounding their recently completed strategic plans provided a roadmap for local officials to follow when determining how best to meet community needs. Consistent strategy across spending categories. Wilson needed to balance several priorities when developing their plan. Primarily, they needed to directly address development needs among lower-income communities, to build needed infrastructure, and to sustain the city’s momentum in building an innovation economy. Their plan accomplishes each while detracting from none. “Hurry up and wait.” The League advised this ARP strategy during 2021, and Wilson executed it. The “hurry up” urged cities to develop plans and begin critical discussions; the “wait” was needed as Treasury had not yet issued final guidance, so eligible spending was not entirely clear. Under this approach, Wilson put together a list of potential projects shortly after the passage of the program, well before Treasury’s issuance of the final rule, and determined each plan’s effectiveness toward overall goals. Then, when final guidance was ultimately published, Wilson was able to return to their list of proposals, judge each project’s eligibility, and quickly proceed. BREVARD STRATEGIZES THROUGH STORMWATER Brevard, NC Population: 7,744 Funds Received: $2.52 million Plan •Stormwater improvements •Bridge repairs •Residential waterlines The City of Brevard is a top tourist destination in western North Carolina, but having under 8,000 fulltime residents, the city’s American Rescue Plan distribution is relatively small. Their plan, then, was to make each dollar go as far as possible. They’ll accomplish that through infrastructure. “For a small municipality, investing $2.5 million into infrastructure is a very big deal,” said Mayor Maureen Copelof. “These investments will last for decades.” Strategy •Invest in infrastructure to achieve long-lasting impact. •Select projects strategically to let ARP funds work in conjunction with general funds. Brevard’s foremost investment will be into stormwater. Setting aside $700,000 of ARP funds towards that category, the city is addressing areas with known stormwater issues, including some key commercial and recreational locations. Each of those areas was selected strategically, not only due to their importance to the community, but also because the city can coordinate its ARP projects with additional city-led initiatives. For example, one area receiving stormwater improvement will be Times Arcade Alley, a street that hosts restaurants, shops, and various businesses, and that is regularly stricken with stormwater problems. It is also an area that needs certain aesthetic improvements. Brevard’s plan is to use ARP funds to fix the stormwater and, once the area is dug into, then use general funds to improve paving, add green space, and bury utility lines. The city is using the same approach towards stormwater improvements on Railroad Avenue. With ARP funds, Brevard will be installing catch basis; and once dug into, Brevard will be installing a pedestrian greenway with general funds. “We’re using a combination of funds to do several things at the same time,” said Mayor Copelof. The American Rescue Plan in Action continues on page 16
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 16 Brevard’s other two ARP expenses will also go towards critical infrastructure: the repairing of the 55-year-old Railroad Avenue Bridge, and the expansion of residential waterlines to serve the town’s growth. “[ARP] is going to allow us to do projects that would be otherwise beyond the scope of our being able to do,” said Mayor Copelof. “It’s really going to allow us to leverage our funds.” Administration Focus on need. Stormwater repairs are not a peripheral agenda item for Brevard. Rather, it’s an absolute necessity, both for the city’s residents and businesses. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, and as reported by Blue Ridge Public Radio, roughly 413 inches of rain fell in Transylvania County from January 2017 to December 2021, making it the wettest county in the state for that period. “If it there’s a heavy rain, you’re walking through a couple of inches of water in Times Arcade Alley,” said Mayor Copelof. Through ARP, that problem will be put to rest. Two birds, one stone. To get the most our of their funding, Brevard tied in ARP uses with other long-term strategic plans. While digging to complete its stormwater repairs, the city will provide to residents new greenspaces, new greenways and other amenities. HAVELOCK INVESTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE, SETS UP ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Havelock, NC Population: 16,621 Funds Received: $3.32 million Plan •Highway 70 sewer outfall project •Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, upgrading the city’s water meter system •Sewer plant well project •Sewer SCADA System installation •Emergency management employee shelter upgrades •Improve building ventilation systems •Personal protective equipment Strategy •Align projects with city’s strategic economic development goals. •Focus on water and sewer upgrades and repairs—the city’s biggest area of need. •Meet the needs of the city’s biggest stakeholder: the military base. •Use one-time money to upgrade technology, thus reducing future resource strain. The City of Havelock is using its ARP distribution primarily to meet its water and sewer needs. This is not a priority that arose overnight. Rather, it’s been a long-term goal of the City’s leadership, and using ARP funds towards the Highway 70 sewer outfall makes strategic sense for a number of reasons. It resolves a much-needed infrastructure problem, it allows Havelock to exit a sewer SOC (which is the mechanism of the NC Department of Environmental Quality to identify and mandate specific system repairs, fines, and a timeline schedule for repairs), and, being a one-time expense, it fits nicely within the recommendations surrounding the one-time ARP dollars. Perhaps most notably, it will provide a significant economic development boost. This project resides along U.S. 70, one of primary east-west corridors across eastern North Carolina and a major connection from the Triangle to the coast. Between Raleigh and Morehead City, U.S. 70 is undergoing upgrades and will soon become Interstate 42. Havelock is included in that stretch. Local leaders expect that highway upgrade to increase both passenger and freight movement in the area. At the moment, due to the lack of sewer infrastructure, Havelock could be unable to provide adequate services to new or expanding businesses that hope to take advantage of that growing market. The ARP investment will change that. Through the Highway 70 project, Havelock will lay the foundation needed to serve the anticipated growth. Havelock’s two other main investments—AMI and sewer SCADA projects—represent large upfront costs that will yield long-term dividends. The former introduces smart metering technology, and the latter allows Havelock both electronic controlling of its sewer plant and the ability to collect data, which furthers its ability to target efficient investments in the future. Both provide significant forward-looking benefits, especially as it pertains to the prudent use of resources. The city’s final three projects are geared towards critical operational needs: emergency management and ongoing pandemic preparedness. continued from page 15 The American Rescue Plan in Action
NCLM.ORG 17 Administration Stakeholder engagement. Considering both the need and the expected impact, the projects selected by Havelock seem obvious. That perception, however, overlooks the extensive citizen engagement efforts undertaken by Havelock, specifically as it relates to its largest stakeholder group: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. As noted by city leaders, the world’s largest Marine Corps air station is always a top consideration, outweighing other concerns even as critical as economic development. Through close relationships with leaders at the base, the city is able to both meet its obligations to the base and proceed with its forward- looking strategic goals. For Havelock, and because of its outstanding outreach efforts, those aims can go hand in hand. Make use of existing work. The main projects being funding by ARP dollars in Havelock are not new, and in at least one case, the city was able to take advantage of work already underway. That was with the AMI project. Though upfront costs pre-ARP were prohibitive to Havelock, the need still existed. To understand the benefits, the city had begun a pilot program to evaluate both expected impacts and vendor quality. Once ARP money became available, and the review work essentially done, Havelock was able to move forward on that critical project. Patience, prudence. Following guidance from organizations like the NC League, the UNC School of Government, the Local Government Commission and others, Havelock was quick to prepare to spend ARP dollars, and then prudent in making final decisions. The projects ultimately selected met priorities that far preceded the passage of ARP in March 2021. Waiting for final Treasury guidance and additional support from the state budget, Havelock passed its first project ordinance in November 2021 and its next project ordinance in January 2022. Keep up to date on all of our ARP case studies on Here We Grow, at herewegrownc.org/case-studies. The American Rescue Plan in Action
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 18 Q&A with Senator Michael Lee BEN BROWN NCLM Communications and Multimedia Strategist Senator Michael Lee represents the Wilmington area and nearby beach towns, giving him a mix of mainland and coastal issues to discuss in the North Carolina Senate. To learn their common denominators, and to break out the factors uniquely affecting individual communities, Senator Lee relies on healthy communication with the local leaders in his district. Those distinctions register. While his New Hanover County district includes one of the more populous parts of the state—Wilmington—Senator Lee has direct appreciation for the qualities of communities of different sizes, having grown up in Dunn in the 1970s—a place his family moved to simply on a positive review his father heard about the community. Senator Lee today lives in Wilmington with his wife, Heidi; together they have four children: Miles, Sydney, Sam, and Sawyer. Southern City spent some time with the senator in late April, just ahead of the 2022 short session of the General Assembly. ˘˘˘ With the short session starting in May, what do you think is important right now for the General Assembly? ML: I’m always focused on education issues. Education, mental health, healthcare, and economic development. Jobs, essentially. How do you prepare for a session? ML: It depends if you’re talking about a long session or a short session. Typically, those things that come up during an existing session, you need more time to do the research and talk to folks about it. A lot of times in the interim, that’s when you’ll do that. Because, as you know, you have deadlines for filing and crossover, and sometimes the issues don’t really come up until later, so you end up using the interim to do more research and of course you’ve got your oversight committees that you’re on. And meeting folks from around the state, and honestly around the country, about what other states are doing. If it’s an issue that we’re looking at here, sometimes we will survey other states and then I will call legislators in some of those other states and talk to them about what they looked at, what were some of the issues they had, and if they could do it differently, what would they do. That kind of thing. What are you seeing ahead for yourself? ML: When I first got into this … everything revolved around education. While leadership did not have me involved in education in my very first session, I was able to work my way into it in my first term, and then in my second term I was a co-chair for the Senate Education Committee. And so, I was just getting my legs under me because, as you know, it’s a significant piece of policy and budget. So, I’ve picked that back up and really moving forward with what I think are some significant reforms on the education front. That’s where my passion is. They bring me into a lot of other areas, especially in the context of land-use and zoning, because I know a lot about it. So, I block and tackle and help on issues that I know about. There’s a lot of healthcare stuff that I work on, but my passion lies in education. What got you into education as a focus? ML: Being father to four kids. Are you native to North Carolina? ML: I grew up in Dunn. I was born in New York. My father ended up in the Air Force. My father’s from Taiwan, my mom’s from New York. So, we moved from New York to Florida, back to New York, then to Dunn…. You know, it was different. My dad was from Taiwan moved to the states with a heavy Asian accent. My mom’s from New York, she had an accent. We moved to Dunn. And because he’s a physician, it’s a small town, the family picture is on the front page of the newspaper, “New Doctor Comes to Town.” I don’t think I appreciated how different it was in the mid-1970s when we moved there. What brought the family to Dunn specifically and what was different about it? ML: My father was a physician and a surgeon. He immigrated from Taiwan and was doing his residency here in the United States, up in New York. He ended up meeting my mom and never went back to Taiwan to live. I was born in New York and my dad at some point … was in the Air Force, for just one tour. We were stationed THE LEAGUE’S QUARTERLY LEGISLATOR Q&A continues on page 20
Q&A with Senator Michael Lee in Rome, New York. And then down in Florida. And back up to New York. And when he was looking to leave the Air Force, he was at a conference, a physician talked to him about raising his four children in a small, southern town and how that was conducive to a good family environment. And so this physician was from Dunn, North Carolina. Funny thing is, when we moved from New York to Florida, when we went back and forth, we always stopped in Dunn, off I-95, because it was kind of a halfway point, at a Howard Johnson’s. It’s kind of funny. We had been there quite a bit, even though we hadn’t really been there, as we were going back and forth. And so, my dad ended up moving his four kids to Dunn. That’s pretty amazing, that the family could move on a recommendation like that. ML: Yeah. When did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer? ML: I had always thought about it. I was interested in it before college, actually. And then started to look at all kinds of things in college and always thought I wanted to be in law school. And so, when I graduated, as an undergraduate, I came to Wilmington and worked for my family in a couple different small businesses, because I was really interested in business. And after being here for three years or so, I realized that if I didn’t go ahead and go, I might never go. So, I went to law school, at Wake Forest (University). Did you know what kind of law you wanted to practice? ML: I didn’t. I wanted to be a litigator in the courtroom. But my school loans were so high I could only go to a large firm type of practice. And so, I looked at going into the JAG (Judge Advocate General’s) Corps, but I couldn’t afford to pay my law school loans back. I looked at the prosecutor’s office, the public defender. I just had a couple hundred thousand dollars in law school loans. I couldn’t do any of that. So, I went to a large firm. You don’t get to go to the courtroom at a large firm as a young lawyer, so found myself doing some litigation in real estate and started doing real estate, and I‘ve been doing that now for a long time. The land-use stuff was something I got into early on. [My wife and I] were living in Dunn and we were trying to get back to Wilmington. And so, I got a call from an in-house counsel here and accepted the job. And you still work as a lawyer. So where along the way does public office enter your mind? ML: I’d always kind of been involved in my community, in the nonprofit community, when my wife and I were here and started having a family. And then that kind of gravitated toward working with folks on campaigns. I worked as a campaign manager for a county commissioner and helped him. And then when my son, my oldest, who’s now graduated from college, when he was going into kindergarten, my wife and I noticed that education hadn’t really changed since not only we were in school but since my parents were in school, in the way things operated. We were concerned about some things that were going on in our community. And so, I ran for the Board of Education. And that’s kind of how it all started. I lost that election, by the way. How does that progress into your service in the Senate? ML: Well, after I lost that election, I’d learned a lot. From filing to run for the school board to ultimately losing in a pretty close race. I learned that a lot of the decisions were made in Raleigh. So, I decided to run for North Carolina Senate, against (former New Hanover County senator) Julia Boseman. No one was going to run continued from page 18 SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 20
NCLM.ORG 21 Q&A with Senator Michael Lee against her, and I felt pretty strong about what was going on in our state, and ran against her in 2008, and lost that election. And then Julia decided she was going to retire from the North Carolina Senate. It was actually a pretty close race in 2008 … and so I said, ‘Hey, open seat, I’m going to run again.’ And then I ran against—I had a primary—ran against Thom Goolsby (who served in the Senate from 2011–2014). And lost that election also. So, when Thom beat me in the primary, I ended up kind of coming around and then helping him in the general election…. And when he was getting ready to step down, retire, that’s when he and I talked, and I ran again. In your discussions with local officials, what kinds of things do they bring you in terms of requests? And how do you figure through them so you can get things done together? ML: It depends. We have a number of municipalities here. I usually just meet with the elected officials. Sometimes it’s a chair, sometimes it’s an individual member. Sometimes it’s a couple folks from one of the governing boards. Sometimes I’m meeting with a fire chief or a police chief… Usually, they’re through discussions with both elected and nonelected individuals in the different municipalities and counties. And then departments and organizations within those counties and municipalities. Good point about different jurisdictions. Yours includes some beach towns. What’s unique about that in terms of your role as a senator? ML: It adds a whole other scope to it. It’s related and not. It’s related because the tourism communities, our beaches, are a vital part of the whole county, the whole community, and state for that matter. But it’s unique in that the beach towns are generally responsible for maintaining those state resources. So, beach renourishment is obviously a big deal. Our marshes are a big deal. And those are typically only within the beach communities… So, the environmental component is significant, and the economic development component is significant. It’s very different in a beach community versus another part of New Hanover County. Is there anything you’d like Southern City readers to know? ML: I think the most important thing is good communication and conversations. Sometimes when you’re working with organizations, that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes there are individuals within a larger organization and there’s inconsistent conversations that are happening. Sometimes that’s challenging for legislators. Y’all have a team, and a good team, of government relations folks who communicate with me and other legislators. But sometimes there are individual needs of municipalities or concerns … and sometimes it’s better to have those personal communications rather than it having to percolate through a large association. So, it’s a good practice for leaders in your area to reach out, call your cell phone… ML: Yeah, they usually just call my office, email my office, or call my cell phone if they have it. And even if the (League) is advocating for a particular policy, I always like to hear from individual communities, to the extent that there’s one or two that have a significant kind of issue or impact. The League is pretty good about that, identifying that community and then tying them into that conversation. But if there’s something in my community, most of the folks here know they can reach out to me, give me a call. Sometimes the issues are time sensitive, so, rather than let the issue come and go, I would prefer a phone call. Sometimes I just can’t do anything. Sometimes we can impact a larger audience. Sometimes it ends up being something that multiple municipalities are dealing with.
SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 2 2022 22 Morrisville Councilman Satish Garimella is On Call JACK CASSIDY NCLM Communications Associate DEDICATING MANY HOURS OF EVERY DAY TO THE COMMUNITY AND AT-THEREADY TO HELP EVEN THE SMALLEST OF ISSUES, SATISH GARIMELLA IS THE RIGHT PERSON AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR MORRISVILLE. Satish Garimella occupies a unique position in Morrisville—one that goes well beyond the typical scope of a locally elected councilperson. It’s not something bestowed on him by election at all. Rather, it’s built on a burgeoning reputation for effectiveness and representation, both towards the town as a whole and the individuals that reside in it. Garimella was born and raised in Mumbai, and nearly 47 percent of Morrisville is of Asian descent—the vast majority being Indian. “Morrisville has a lot of immigrants, and they want someone they can relate and talk to about shared experiences and opportunities to be a part of this community,” said Garimella. “They want someone to help provide them a voice for awareness and understanding.” Garimella fills this need admirably and relentlessly. The impact is seen clearly in a few numbers: Eight. The number of one-on-one engagements, both over the phone and in person, Garimella estimates he has with citizens on any given day, some of which take hours and nearly all of which come from people he does not previously know. “I have an open-door policy, and people come,” he said. “I’ll take it. They’re coming to me not because they’re my best friend—they’re coming because they have no one else whom they feel they can go to.” Nineteen. The number of hours Garimella fits into his working day, from 5am until at least midnight, much of which is spent dealing with the aforementioned pleas for assistance. With the support of his wife, Bhanu, their son, Vaibhav, and his mother and father, he is more than just an elected representative. He is a resource, and a confidant, and a lifeline for help, often for people who are facing serious uncertainty. Three hundred. The number of Morrisville families Garimella helped with expedited travel to India during the pandemic, allowing them to be with sick or dying loved ones. He facilitated arrangements through long-maintained relationships with the Indian embassy in Washington DC, and ensured that Morrisville community members were prioritized under India’s rules at the time. “I didn’t know 80 percent of them, but the word went out that this guy can help you,” Garimella said. “And when someone comes to my door, I’ll never tell them no.” One hundred thousand. The number of free or reduced fee lunches that Morrisville and its partners provided throughout the pandemic to schools, homeless shelters, and other organizations, through the coordinating leadership of Garimella. Four hundred. The amount of people that helped Garimella’s first campaign. “I had great support from all segments of the community, not just Asian Indians, and they made it easy for me to focus on the issues and sharing my message,” he said. The win, according to Garimella, marked the first time an Indian-born American had won election in the state of North Carolina. And, about 2,000. If any number tells the story of what Garimella means to Morrisville, it is this one because this is the amount of people that came to see Garimella when he had no assistance to give. It took place during a months-long, near-death hospital stay. This count includes family and friends of course, but also people he had helped and otherwise didn’t know—or simply people he didn’t know at all, but would likely help in the future. Even when defined by figures, much of Garimella’s impact is incalculable. For a growing city comprised of a growing international population, Garimella’s commitment and work, as he notes, more closely resembles the role of public officials in India. “People there fall back on the politicians to move the needle. They don’t have anyone else to fall back on. Here, it is not like that.” Garimella’s local political career began without political aspirations at all. The child of two university professors, Garimella’s first goal was to simply match the education level of his parents. His father served as vice chancellor to a dean of a university in Mumbai, and was a professor with an expertise in mathematics, statistics and demographics. He would report to the Government of India in a job similar to a demographer, researching policies dealing with issues such as overpopulation and public health. Garimella’s mother was a PhD professor of sociology and a postdoc in psychology. Both also serving as counselors, Garimella remembers viewing their work through the lens of public service. Already a degree-holding electrical engineer, Garimella and his parents decided that he too should pursue post-graduate education, and that he should do it in the United States. In 1997, he made the move to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he earned a master’s in computer science. Next, Garimella moved to Kansas for one year, then finally to North Carolina, residing near his cousin, a chief resident at Duke University Hospital in Durham. From there, he embarked on a 20-year career at AT&T as an architect on thenclm.org