Following contentious Oct. 1 deliberations over who will head a powerful new government entity that will manage Buncombe County's libraries, parks and recreation facilities, Commissioner Holly Jones expressed "deep concerns about the absence of a District 1 taxpayer voice at the table."
District 1, which Jones represents on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, encompasses most of the city of Asheville. It has the largest population of any of the three commission districts and is projected to bring in roughly $132,000 more in tax revenue to the new Culture and Recreation Authority than the next-highest district, District 3, according Jones.
However, none of the new citizen leaders or commissioners on the authority's board live in District 1, Jones reports.
On Oct. 1, Jones' colleagues voted to appoint Commissioner Joe Belcher, a resident of District 3. "Direct representation from a large portion of our community will not be among you," she cautions appointees in an email to them the next day. "I trust you each will work all the harder to take this additional responsibility very seriously. It's up to you to be fair. Equally important, you must build trust with those not represented."
In addition, a map attached to the message showed that District 1 contains only one county-operated park facility (Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa), compared with seven in District 2 and nine in District 3.
"I think you will agree that the disparity is striking," Jones asserts in her letter. "While I am not interested in how we got to this place, I am concerned about where we may be going with future investments. Particularly given that all county residents will be paying directly into this CRA authority."
On July 18, as part of the county’s overall budget, commissioners approved a special 3.5 cent property tax to fund CRA operations.
The CRA's original purpose was to consolidate county parks and recreation facilities with those of Asheville and other local municipalities. Although state legislators later revised the law to ban cities from joining, Jones argued Oct. 1 that it would be good to have someone from Asheville on the board to help represent the city's interests and bring the governments together.
Jones says she plans to meet in the days ahead with the new board members to discuss the matter further.
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