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Local Policy Digest

By John Lunde and Matt Crawley | Jan 19, 2018 5:07:13 PM
Topics: Local

MultiState's Local Policy Digest explores the top legislative developments from municipalities across the U.S.


Sussex County, Delaware, rejects controversial right-to-work ordinance, citing possible legal obstacles. Earlier this month, the Sussex County Council voted against a proposed ordinance (pg. 24) that would have made Sussex County the first county in Delaware to have a right-to-work ordinance. Council members feared that if the ordinance passed, it would result in legal action that would be an expensive burden on the county.

Councilman I.G. Burton echoed these dissenting voices, saying that taxpayers would rather not see money wasted on an “unavoidable lawsuit.” Rick Fridell, a representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 126, also opposed the ordinance, saying there was no guarantee that the ordinance would create more jobs. “Nobody ever said they were going to come here with their business or relocate here,” said Fridell.

Councilman Rob Arlett, who originally introduced the bill, stressed the ordinance’s importance for job creation in the county while downplaying the legislation's fate in court. “If it has the ability to attract jobs to this county, then we should consider it and let the courts make their decision as they see fit,” Arlett said.

While critics of the legislation celebrated its defeat in Sussex County, the City of Seaford, Delaware, passed a right-to-work ordinance (pg. 69) at its December 12 meeting. Seaford Mayor David Genshaw said he felt compelled to pass right-to-work legislation to restore jobs and attract businesses to the city. “We owe it to our people to go down this path,” said Genshaw. Seaford residents can expect the new ordinance to go into effect on January 20.


Fort Collins, Colorado, moves ahead with a municipal broadband initiative. Earlier this month, the Fort Collins City Council unanimously voted (link downloads PDF) to approve a pair of ordinances (link downloads PDF) appropriating $1.8 million for the initial phase of construction for a local, high-speed broadband internet system. The council's actions this week echoed the verdict of last November's referendum, where local voters elected to give the city council permission to move ahead with the project.

The plan that the ordinances set into motion involves implementing a reliable underground service network, which would offer universally reliable coverage at a competitive rate. The network will also function on a net-neutral platform, offering data whose speed won't be open to manipulation. The city plans to have the service ready for use in fewer than five years.

The council's vote is a huge success for the measure's proponents. "We're extremely pleased the entire city council voted to support the network after the voters' hard fought election victory late last year,” said Glen Akins, a resident who helped lead the pro-municipal broadband campaign. “The municipal broadband network will make Fort Collins an even more incredible place to live.”

But not everyone is pleased about the project. “It makes me sad that we are going to pit our government against private industry and have them compete,” said Bob Carnahan, a local businessman. “This to me is the tip of the iceberg when we have such a population in this country that believes bigger government is better government.”

With the initial appropriation guaranteed, the city can now begin the project's first official stage, which will include a bid request for construction and design contractors, as well as making necessary code amendments and starting the search for requisite staff. Additionally, local officials have invited community members to indicate where they'd like internet service to be available by dropping pins over a digital map of the city.


City Council in Tucson, Arizona, makes hands-free violations a primary offense. During a study session held last week, the Tucson City Council voted to reclassify the crime of using a mobile device without a hands-free device while driving, moving it from a secondary offense to a primary offense. Passed by a 4-2 margin, the ordinance change would allow police to pull over and cite drivers if they are seen violating the law. In contrast, the original ordinance, passed last May, allowed law enforcement to stop or issue a citation to a person only in the event that the officer had “reasonable cause to believe there is another alleged violation of a motor vehicle law.” According to city officials, this provision had made the law hard to enforce, which prompted the council to devise a solution.

The new ordinance lowers fines for violations from $100 to $50 dollars for the first offense, while second and third offenses will result in fines of $100 and $250, respectively. Additionally, as a check against racial profiling, the Tucson Police Department has promised to report its citation statistics to the city after the first nine months following the new ordinance's enactment.

Following the ordinance's passage in the study session, an amended ordinance will next be brought to the mayor and council for consideration.


Prominent Rhode Island manufacturer may relocate due to a detrimental city ordinance. This week, the insulation manufacturer Dryvit Inc. raised concerns about whether the company can afford to remain in Rhode Island due to city legislation that it argues is harmful to its business.

Dryvit, based in West Warwick, took issue with a city ordinance in Providence. The ordinance, which was passed in 2012, bans the use of exterior insulation finishing systems on the first floors of buildings in downtown Providence. Providence City Council President David Salvatore stated that the disputed ordinance was part of a set of rules for downtown Providence development at the time. He also expressed his willingness to work with Dryvit to find a solution. “We’ll do some research on our end and if this is a conversation starter, then I think that’s a direction we have to move in,” said Salvatore.

So far, no Providence official has voiced opposition to revising the 2012 ordinance. Similarly, local Providence groups such as the Providence Preservation Society, Providence Revolving Fund, and local chapter of the American Institute of Architects have yet to take a position on the ordinance. President and CEO of Dryvit Mike Murphy said the company will come to a final conclusion on whether to leave Rhode Island within the next 24 months.


MultiState currently tracks more than 3,700 cities, towns, and counties. Additional information about our Local Tracking Service is available here.

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