2015 advocacy initiatives for cities and towns

Through an all-inclusive process involving hundreds of municipal officials last fall, the Municipal Association of SC identified five major challenges facing cities and towns. In addition to hearing from more than 350 local officials and 25 legislators at the ten Regional Advocacy Meetings, Association staff also met individually with 25 legislators and 13 partner organizations that share many of the same concerns as municipal officials.

It became clear through this process that meeting the identified challenges requires a comprehensive approach, including passing new laws and providing training related to these issues. In some cases, long-term research and collaboration with outside partners will help identify a solution. In some cases, all four approaches can be part of the solution to meet the five challenges: clear blight, open government, fund services, increase efficiency and fix roads.  

Clear blight
Dilapidated structures pose a public safety threat in municipalities of all sizes. Cities and towns need additional tools to clear blight to ensure the safety of residents and visitors and to spur economic development opportunities for business owners.

Legislative initiative - Support the passage of the Dilapidated Buildings Act, S194, that gives cities and towns a tool to partner with the private sector to clear blighted structures.

Training - Hold a series of training sessions for elected officials and city staff on effective code enforcement practices. This will help ensure all municipal officials are using the current available code enforcement tools correctly and effectively and following all health and environmental regulations when rehabilitating or removing dilapidated structures.

Research and collaboration - Investigate all federal and state environmental regulations involving the demolition or rehabilitation of buildings. Clarify and identify opportunities for cities and towns to collaborate with public and private partners to clear blight. 

Open government
Meeting agendas are essential tools for the orderly, efficient and effective handling of the public's business.

Legislative initiative " Support the passage of a bill that requires agendas for every council meeting and allows amending the agenda according to the local government's rules of procedure.

Training " Provide additional training on updating and establishing local rules of procedure to ensure city and town councils have processes in place to govern openly and efficiently. 

Fund services
Cities and towns need dependable and consistent revenue sources to support the efficient and effective delivery of municipal services that residents and businesses demand for a positive quality of life and economic prosperity.

Legislative initiative - Support consistent and fair funding of the Local Government Fund as the stable revenue source it was originally intended to be for cities and towns. Support flexibility for city and town councils to use existing revenue sources in the most beneficial way for their residents and local businesses.

Research " Identify and propose ways to increase flexibility allowed by state law for cities and towns to use existing revenues to provide services. 

Increase efficiency
Saving taxpayer dollars by providing effective and efficient services to residents and businesses is every municipality's goal.

Legislative initiative - Support a bill that allows city and town councils to provide more efficient services through the annexation of small areas completely surrounded by the city.

Training " Increase training for business license officials, permitting officials and other city staff to encourage additional streamlining of business license and permitting processes to make doing business in cities and towns easier. 

Fix roads
Repairing and maintaining existing roads and infrastructure are about more than fixing potholes. The issue is about encouraging and supporting statewide economic development with infrastructure that can accommodate new industry and support existing industry. It's also about developing a stable revenue source to consistently fund these infrastructure improvements.

Legislative initiative " Support legislation that provides stable, long-term funding for the repair and maintenance of existing roads and that ensures these funds are used efficiently and effectively.

Training - Ensure municipal officials are aware of and understand available local, state and federal road funding opportunities. Train local officials on how to secure and use those funds.

Research " Review local road funding strategies used around the country and how they might work in South Carolina.