Cities under siege

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It’s happened in linear fashion: The Republican Party took over state government in the consequential year of 2010, when district lines needed to be redrawn to conform with new Census numbers.

In redrawing the districts, the GOP was able to solidify its voting base to ensure more victories, lumping Democrats into majority-minority districts in a move that all but eliminated white Democrats in state office.

Ensuing elections in 2012 and 2014 saw more Republicans take both houses of state, cementing a majority that has run roughshod over some of North Carolina’s most sacred institutions, including but not limited to the UNC System, the environment, our coastline in particular, and our sense of charity.

That they’re now coming for our cities shouldn’t surprise anyone.

People clustered in cities benefit from group living; they require more services than their counterparts in rural areas; and because people who live in cities are more dependent on each other, they tend to vote Democratic.

The easiest way to take power away from cities is to reduce cash flow, like the legislature did last year by eliminating city privilege licenses — a move that saved this particular business about $50 a year but took more than $60 million away from city coffers statewide. Greensboro took a $3.2 million hit. High Point got an $800,000 haircut. Winston-Salem will do without the $2.5 million it once collected from people who did business inside city limits.

And if Senate Bill 36 passes, the change to the state constitution will further deteriorate our cities’ ability to govern themselves.

It’s happening all over the country.

After Denton, Texas banned fracking within town limits, the GOP-led state legislature began making moves to limit the authority of Texas cities to pass such ordinances.

The Ohio Supreme Court decided last week that only the state has the authority to regulate fracking, a decision in response to ordinances from several cities in that state banning the practice.

State governments are preventing cities from offering paid sick leave, requiring restaurants to post nutritional information and enacting minimum-wage laws.

In that light, imposing a new set of stacked city council districts in Greensboro to further anonymous business interests seems almost timid on the part of the GOP.

Ironically, more people are moving to American cities than they have in the last 50 years, swelling urban populations around the country by 2.3 million in 2013 alone. But those numbers won’t be reconciled politically until the next Census.

By then, at this rate, people living in cities will be lucky if they’re still allowed to vote.

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