We’re almost at the halfway point of the municipal election season. While most folks are looking these days for ways to beat a retreat to the beach or mountains, a few of the more civic-minded have stayed behind to register for fall’s local elections.
The big ballots in even-numbered years — times we fill the higher county, state and federal seats — generate the lion’s share of attention. But it is your local elected leaders who possess the greatest sway over your quality of life.
That’s what Pinehurst resident Kathy Spangler found out recently when she stood before her Village Council to complain about the poor quality of some of the local roads.
“I am not here to debate the community center or some of the things I have seen done, some things I consider ‘wants,’ not needs,” she told the council. “My husband and I totally support a community center, but I want my street repaved. If that can happen and we can still have a community center and things like that, I’m in favor of that.
“I am here today to ask for some long-range planning for infrastructure. That is not going to go away.”
We’re all a little like Kathy Spangler. We have basic expectations of our local elected leaders: good roads, regular trash collection, safe neighborhoods, smart growth policies. To that end, it is imperative in this election season that we, as residents and registered voters, set an agenda for a successful future and demand that our candidates express how they will measure up to it.
Address Growth First
The first item on that agenda is growth. As we’ve said many times in this space, Moore County is at risk of falling victim to its success if its local leaders do not start accounting for the changing nature of our towns and villages.
Central and eastern Moore’s communities are poised for even more growth once sewer expands in Vass. That prospect, combined with those two towns’ proximity to Fort Bragg, makes them attractive to homebuilders looking to serve military-connected families.
New home construction is everywhere, whether you live in southern, central or northern Moore. Those homes are being filled not by low-need retirees but by young families who are significant users of municipal services.
Some leaders crow about “growing the tax base,” but any municipal professional will tell you that residential growth does not generate the revenue to match its demand for services. And so you have situations like the one this past spring in Southern Pines, where the Town Council raised property taxes by 2 cents to hire four new police officers and begin work on its second fire station to serve the town’s growing north side.
Local Business is Key
And that brings us to a second key agenda item: retaining and growing local business.
A healthy business climate is what truly grows a community’s tax base. A business with a significant number of employees will generate far more in taxes annually than it will take out on the service end. A strong core of commercial, professional and manufacturing businesses ultimately supports the needs of all those single-family homes that get built in town.
Again, retaining and growing local business is imperative for all our local leaders.
Aberdeen’s Board of Commissioners has shown the way with its efforts over the last couple of years to help local businesses like Reliance Packaging grow. Reliance has expanded its operations, invested in building renovations, and hired new workers. That’s new jobs and more tax revenue for Aberdeen — and a lesson for every other municipal leader.
So as candidates file for office and begin campaigning this fall, you can expect that we will be asking them all for their positions on these and other key municipal issues.
And as Kathy Spangler did in Pinehurst, it’s important that you add your voice to the discussion. Become engaged. And, most important, register to vote your interest.