Keeping our local control

Jan. 26, 2013 @ 05:11 AM

This past Monday evening, the Spindale Town Board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the State Assembly’s plans to force the City of Asheville to relinquish control of its water treatment and distribution system to an authority overseen by the state legislature.

Spindale joins numerous municipalities across North Carolina in its objection to the takeover – authored by Asheville’s own state house representative, Tim Moffitt – with the board noting that it sets a bad precedent of the state wielding authority over major local services.

I’d add that an attempt at such a precedent was made even before this one. Remember when the Town of Forest City was informed last year that legislation was in the works to forbid the town from selling water to Cleveland County?

That particular bill didn’t end up going through, but it was a harbinger of authoritarian state intervention to come - characterized by little to zero advance collaboration with local officials - on significant water issues.

Why is local control over water even important?

Control simply for the sake of control isn’t a good enough reason. Nor does authority resting in the hands of the towns and counties automatically protect it from corruption or incompetence.

But to willingly relinquish this control time and again, indeed, never to demand even more of it, is going to leave us unprepared for some quickly approaching realities.

First, there’s the matter of droughts. In North Carolina, they appear to be frequent, and in recent years, record-breaking. And then there’s fracking. Unless something changes, it’s coming to North Carolina and depends on astonishing amounts of water. It also carries a real risk of irreversible water contamination.

With these issues in mind, is it really wise to centralize oversight of our water supply to the extent there will be little opportunity for local authorities to test for problems – and to blow the whistle if the findings are a conclusive yes?

In an era of droughts, should citizens entrust the price of water to a remote authority we have no electoral power over?

Actually, is there ever a time where it would be smart of us to give up control over our water – as opposed to stunningly dumb?

That’s the precedent being set here. And if by any chance you think those tree-huggers in Asheville have it coming to them, consider Rep. Moffitt’s reported response to a citizen letter opposing his legislation: “All water issues are State issues, not local.”

Talk of government tyranny is usually in reference to conflict between the feds and the states. But constitutionally speaking, that’s a fight far more balanced in power than the one brewing between our towns and counties on one side, and the State Assembly on the other.

If you love a good David and Goliath story, you’ll want to pay attention to this one.

 

Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email sjanard@msn.com