SUMMARY MINUTES OF A LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST
MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2006, 7:30 A.M.
Mayor Kevin Foy called the meeting to order at 7:45 a.m.
Council members present were Laurin Easthom, Sally Greene, Ed Harrison, Cam Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt, and Jim Ward.
Mayor pro tem Bill Strom and Council Member Bill Thorpe were absent, excused.
Staff members present were Town Manager Cal Horton, Deputy Town Manager Florentine Miller, Assistant Town Manager Bruce Heflin, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, Acting Town Clerk Sandy Cook, and Mayoral Aide Adam Schaefer.
Special Guests attending were Senator Ellie Kinnaird, Representative Joe Hackney, Representative Verla Insko, and Ellis Hankins, executive director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
Mr. Horton gave a quick report on Apple Chill and informed the Council that a full report would be coming from the Police Department later in the day and forwarded to the Council.
Mayor Foy expressed the Council’s concern over maintaining the rights of local governments to administer cable franchise and public access fees. The Council opposes the national franchising of cable services proposed in the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006, Mayor Foy said.
Mr. Horton pointed out that the public access fees collected support public television. He said all citizens should be treated equally and that the Town requires that service be made available in every home of the community based on its density. Mr. Horton explained that the cable franchise provides support for the public access channel through a supplemental rate charge to cover the management and operation of public access television. A statewide franchise would not have build-out stipulations and providers would be able to pick and choose which neighborhoods to service, avoiding low-income areas, he added. Mr. Horton said federal legislation could also allow telephone companies to avoid funding local public access stations.
Mr. Hankins stated that the Legislative Study Committee had discussed this issue for some time and had recommended the bill. He said this was not acceptable. Phone companies do not want to be required to obtain a local franchise, Mr. Hankins added.
The Council’s major concern is that citizens’ rights would not be preserved without municipal control and authority protecting those interests, said Mayor Foy.
Mayor Foy said that federal legislation could allow telephone companies to avoid funding local public access television.
Mr. Horton said telephone companies may bring down all rates by providing competition in some of the areas. He said telephone companies will make their own rules and will do it in the least expensive way and make the most profit they can. A cable television franchise agreement preserves local control and protects citizens’ interests, said Mr. Horton.
Mr. Hankins stated that county government has a tougher time negotiating the build-out request based on density. He said that counties have the same provision as municipalities do, but the areas are more difficult to cover.
Mr. Horton stated that the Town of Chapel Hill’s cable franchise had been negotiated more than 10 years ago before the Federal Communications Commission changed the rules.
Mayor Foy requested that the Legislative Delegation help to slow the process down, or to stop it, and that they vote against the COPE Act.
Council Member Hill asked the Legislative Delegation to consider changes to the method of distributing the sales tax. He said he believed the sales tax should be distributed on a per capita basis, possibly deleting county lines, with a more equitable distribution being devised.
Mayor Foy asked the Legislative Delegation to authorize a General Obligation Bond referendum to increase conservation spending in North Carolina by $200 million per year for five years.
The Council also requested legislation on: raising the minimum wage; funding for additional substance-abuse treatment facilities and more Alcohol Law Enforcement officers; funding of the Voice Interoperability Project for Emergency Responders (VIPER) that would allow law enforcement across the region to better collaborate in the case of a major disaster; and support for additional revenue options for local governments.
Mayor Foy requested a local bill to clarify the Town’s authority to require contributions to support public transportation, in addition to just physical improvements to streets and sidewalks, as a condition of approval of new development, based on the relative impact of that development. He said another local bill was needed that would seek annexation of a small portion of the public right-of-way along the Durham-Chapel Hill annexation boundary. This had been overlooked when other parcels in the area were legislatively annexed a few years ago, Mayor Foy said.
Mayor Foy thanked the Legislative Delegation for the fire protection money used to add firefighters. Six new firefighters had been hired this year and six more would be added next year, he said.
The meeting adjourned at 9 a.m.