Mayor focuses on federal, state legislative agenda

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

High Point leaders often point out that decisions made at the state and federal level can be of more consequence than anything that is done in City Council chambers.
Federal and state funds help the city run its buses, clean up deteriorating neighborhoods and buy new equipment for the police department, among many other uses.
Preserving those revenue streams is a key point of emphasis for first-term Mayor Bernita Sims as she settles into the job.
Sims serves on the boards of the National League of Cities and the North Carolina League of Muncipalities, both of which seek to influence policy on behalf of cities.
The National League of Cities board met recently to discuss its legislative agenda. The League of Municipalities will hold its 2013 Advocacy Goals Conference this week to set its agenda for the upcoming North Carolina General Assemby session.
“We do have pretty aggressive agendas,” said Sims. “To keep those funds in place is critical, and that’s part of what we lobby for. The citizens may not realize that all of this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You’ve got to be more than just one body operating in a cocoon.”
Both organizations have their work cut out for them this year, given that cutting spending and shrinking government seem to be top priorities among federal and state lawmakers.
When it comes to the federal priorities of cities, big-ticket items like immigration reform and proposals to reduce gun violence are on the list.
Sims said preserving federal funding initiatives like the Community Development Block Grant and Neighborhood Stabilization Program is very high on the list of priorities specific to High Point. The city uses these funds for a variety of affordable housing programs, such as the acquisition and redevelopment of vacant and blighted property.
“There is a lot of talk in Congress on revising and revamping these programs to focus on the greatest needs,” said Sims.
In addition, the mayor mentioned regional transportation priorities — such as the Yadkin River bridge replacement project on Interstate 85 and completion of Interstate 74 through Randolph County — as significant to High Point.
One state issue Sims is pushing for is the proposed vacant housing receivership bill that is being targeted for introduction during this year’s legislative session. The measure would enable to city to seek court action to have a receiver appointed to rehabilitate substandard housing and commercial buildings.
“We’ve got buildings that are sitting there for years, and we’ve got to create an environment that supports progressive thinking about how to address this situation so that we can effectively revitalize our core,” said Sims.