Lauren Kuby Fights for Local Control
Cities have made impressive strides on issues like paid leave, energy efficiency, and raising the minimum wage. But when local Democrats stand out for their success, there are some groups that will try to restore the status quo. This rogues gallery includes ALEC and Republican state legislatures, who are pulling out all the stops to halt progress. Tempe, Arizona Council Member Lauren Kuby stands up against these entities in her effort to maintain local control. Our first DMO of the Month for 2016 reminds us that it is not always enough to pass great legislation; you may also have to fight to keep that work in place when others would undo it.
Early last year Tempe was considering a ban on plastic bags. Like many cities currently holding the same debate, they were weighing the benefits of reducing waste with the potential cost to businesses and consumers. Intimidated by the prospect of cities across the state passing similar legislation, Arizona's government acted first. Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill prohibiting cities from enacting plastic bag bans, preempting municipalities' ability to decide the issue according to what local voters wanted.
Enter Lauren Kuby, who is now suing Arizona over the bill. She contends that the preemptive ban is unconstitutional on a number of levels. Her lawsuit claims the ban violates the constitution under the state's home rule provision, which forbids Arizona from passing legislation on issues within the purview of cities. Kuby defends her stance that banning plastic bags falls under a municipality's jurisdiction. “It’s one of those rare cases when you’re working on a local level where you can have such impact with one piece of legislation.” The bill also prohibits cities from passing energy benchmarking legislation, and contravenes both the state’s single-subject rule and the requirement that the topic of a law be expressed in the title. Regardless of whether Tempe’s elected government would ultimately pass a plastic bag ban, the ability to enact municipal change should remain in the hands of the local officials most responsible to town residents.
Those in favor of laws that limit local control are terrified of the power of cities to move progressive policy. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the recent American City County Exchange meeting in Scottsdale, which Kuby attended and penned an article on. (You might remember ACCE as the ALEC backed organization that DMO Alumni Nick Licata exposed earlier that year). Kuby's own article shows that the moneyed interests behind ACCE are scared of the effect cities can have on a statewide issue. One speaker cautioned against the fallout of a single Texas city banning fracking, warning that such a trend might spell the end of the oil and gas industry. Local officials working to enact the progressive ideas that got them elected now must contend with an additional roadblock: conservative state legislatures and the special interests that fear what cities can accomplish.
2016 is the year to showcase the power of cities. The influence cities wield over political geography has ALEC and Republican state legislatures scrambling to respond. But DMOs like Council Member Kuby refuse to let these groups dictate how municipal leaders are allowed to serve their constituents. In a year that is sure to be marked by strong attacks on progress, keep January's DMO of the Month in mind. Local officials have an incredible capacity to lead on the issues, and plenty of recourse against those who try to eliminate local control.
Council Member Lauren Kuby was first elected in 2014. She also serves Tempe as the Manager for Community Engagement at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Kuby sits on the board of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, and on the Board of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources at the National League of Cities. Her work on homelessness and the environment garnered her a spot as one of The Arizona Republic’s “Top 5 People Who Made a Difference in Tempe”.