Asheville Council sends legislative wish list to Raleigh

Asheville City Seal

Opposing priorities between Asheville and state government took center stage Aug. 26, as Asheville City Council heard an update on recent moves by the General Assembly and approved a list of actions it would like lawmakers to take next year.

The city is represented in Raleigh by lobbyist Jack Cozort, who warned Council that he anticipates state legislators will continue “reevaluating the authority cities have enjoyed for a long amount of time.” He added that his job as a lobbyist, “is to protect what you have done and help you continue your role.”

A recent mandate from Raleigh lowering how much Asheville and other municipalities can charge businesses for operating licenses will cost the city more than $1 million per year in revenue, said Cozort. The sunsetting of historic rehabilitation tax credits and changes to the state’s film incentive program are also likely to hurt city coffers, he said.

Amid ongoing tension with state legislators over control of the city’s water system, Cozort recommended that the city focus its efforts to find common ground on strengthening graffiti penalties and increasing education funding.

Council subsequently voted unanimously to submit a priority list that included those items and more to the North Carolina League of Municipalities, an association that advocates for city interests at the state level.

Another hot topic on the wish list is a request for state lawmakers to allow cities to regulate new “digital dispatching services” like Uber, a ride-sharing business that began operating in Asheville just last week. Current law allows the city to regulate traditional taxi services but not those like Uber, which are based on online applications.

In addition, Council asked the North Carolina League of Municipalities to push for:

• “Clarifying laws related to public toplessness including, but not limited to, clarification of indecent exposure law.”

•  “Continuing to seek legislation that strengthens the requirements for the appropriate clean up and disposal of coal ash in coal ash ponds that is equitable to rate payers.”

• “Preserving municipal authority to regulate environmental standards such as erosion control or stormwater quality.”

• “Preserving municipal ability to regulate design and aesthetic controls in historic districts.”

• “Restoring programs such as film tax credits and historic building tax credits.”

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Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

15 thoughts on “Asheville Council sends legislative wish list to Raleigh

  1. bsummers

    Gosh, we’ve been hearing that Brian Turner’s opponent, Rep. Moffitt, is such an effective legislator. Why is that he’s been unable to get something done that local residents and officials actually want – an indecent exposure law? Is it that seizing public water systems and writing surveillance-friendly drone legislation takes up all his time, or is it something else? Perhaps Turner’s opponent is cheerfully ignoring the requests of local officials, because it’s more fun to let the topless rallies go ahead.

  2. Hey, how about this? Whenever a incumbent member of the local delegation generously tries to help the city with its little municipal problems, you and your noisome little peanut gallery slander him and then sue him in court and then hire a taxpayer-funded lobbyist to tell you how to get along better. Sounds like the progressive solution.

    • bsummers

      That’s an excellent explanation as to why Rep. Moffitt has been unable or unwilling to pass indecent exposure legislation to put an end to the topless rally embarrassment. Thanks. Very generous of you both.

    • bsummers

      And I’m not sure that I’ve heard of Rep. Moffitt having been sued in court recently. Is he in some as-yet-unreported legal difficulties, or are you referring to the City’s lawsuit over the legislative attempt to seize their water system? Because that lawsuit was filed against “The State of North Carolina”.

      If he’s described that to you, his unofficial spokesman, as him being sued personally, that would not surprise me.

        • bsummers

          Actually, in court, the Attorney General represents the State. But thanks for confirming that you believe that Rep. Moffitt feels that the City challenging his legislative acts in court, is some sort of undeserved attack on him personally.

          I agree; my impression of him since day one is that he sees the world this way – he is right, he does not have to consider other points of view, he cannot be questioned or challenged. And people who challenge him deserve the bullying retribution that he has become famous for.

          It’s just a shame he couldn’t put that aside & pass the damn indecent exposure bill. But oh well, I guess making the citizens of Asheville suffer is what we deserve for electing people that Rep. Moffitt doesn’t like.

          • You’re not following. When someone sues the legislature, it’s the same as suing the state. That’s why a complaint against a law emanating from the General Assembly names the state and the defendant.

            I realize you didn’t have time to consult Esther.

          • bsummers

            Actually, I follow just fine – you simply have it backwards. The City of Asheville didn’t sue “the legislature”, and they certainly didn’t sue Rep. Moffitt personally, as you first stated.

            When someone is challenging legislation, they sue “the State”. It isn’t the Legislative Branch that implements legislation – it’s the Executive Branch. That’s why they call it the “executive” – it “executes” the laws that the legislature passes. When you want to block something that the legislature does, you sue “the State”.

            I know, it’s complicated. Here’s a link to the State Constitution:
            http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/legislation/constitution/ncconstitution.html

          • The matter is plain: The city brought a suit in response to legislation they didn’t like because it shuts down their control and their ratepayer-funded cash-cow. Hey, they might even have to be honest about the true cost of progressive government in the future.

            They are stubbornly dragging this matter through court once again, like petulant little children. And they will lose, once again (thanks, taxpayers). This is not how you ask for favors.

            It’s difficult to keep up, I know. You can read the evidence and the rulings here:
            http://nchouse116.com/water/

          • bsummers

            Again, neither Rep. Moffitt or the legislature are “the defendant”, the defendant is the State government as a whole. Once the laws are on the books, they are defended by the Attorney General, a member of the Executive Branch, elected in his own right – not appointed or controlled by the Legislature. When the laws are ratified and sent out of the General Assembly, their role in the enactment or legal challenge to those laws is over.

            That’s why, at the last hearing in Judge Manning’s courtroom, Rep. Moffitt sat silently on the last bench, in the back, against the wall, with me and the rest of the “peanut gallery.”

            But, obviously the actual structure of State government isn’t the point here, is it? It’s portraying Rep. Moffitt as both the eternal victim of persecution from radical communist America-haters (Asheville), but at the same time the omnipotent statesman who is never wrong and whose motives are never questioned by upright citizens.

            That’s getting harder and harder to sell, though – isn’t it? He’s getting attacked from his right flank over drones and corporate welfare and destroying local rule. Principled conservatives were always leery of him, and his antics over the past year are alienating the few solid allies he had. When he tells whoppers like “I was just joking when I got caught on tape bullying the City”, everyone takes the message that he can’t really be trusted to tell the truth. All he really has left is tons of corporate cash. His most recent campaign filings is a who’s-who of PACs with their checkbooks out, hoping for a place at the trough that he is the gatekeeper of, both in Raleigh and at ALEC.

            I actually feel bad for Tim Moffitt. The times we’ve spoken, he’s always jovial and cordial with me, even while our jokes barely disguise the political animosity between us. I say I feel bad, because I think he honestly doesn’t understand why people don’t defer to his wisdom on this issue or that, or see him as the victim when he’s determined to see himself that way.

            I like Tim, but I really really want him to seek his fortune elsewhere.

          • That’s simply not true. It is well established that, at the latest estimation, the city diverted at least $114 million to its general fund. And then there’s Azalea Park. That’s illegal (you shoulda read the report).

            Sullivan III has been taken away and I’m sure that the rest can be managed as well. After all, this is a Dillon Rule state and the city exists at the pleasure of the legislature (you still have that link to the constitution?). But I’m willing to let the higher court rule.

            There is an interesting email exchange that Kaliner read on air between various council members and Representative Moffitt that epitomizes the city poor attitude and childish behavior. Give it a listen. It’s a real hoot.

            http://www.iheart.com/talk/show/139-The-Pete-Kaliner-Show/?episode_id=26996721
            (last segment at time mark 78:00)

          • bsummers

            How many times can you repeat the same old canard?

            “Diverted”? For one thing, for much of the period that this “diversion” of funds happened (over a span of 50 years), Buncombe County was also “diverting” money out of the water revenues in exactly the same proportion as was going to the City. This “diversion” was going on with the full knowledge and participation of the County. Second, much of that money (on the City’s end, at least. Don’t know what the County was doing with theirs) simply went to cover the administrative costs of running the Water Dept. (accountants, lawyers, HR staff, IT staff, building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, contract managers, purchasing staff, etc. etc.) The Water Dept. doesn’t have any of those personnel in house – like all departments, they use the City’s. I know, you’d prefer that the City provide all those services for free (solely at City taxpayer expense). But fairness, common sense, common practice, and the law all dictate that the City is allowed to charge the full cost of operating the Water Dept.

            Lastly, as for any amount that was “diverted” that didn’t go towards running the water system, it was essentially going towards retiring the City’s depression-era debt, which finally happened in 1976. That debt was incurred during the development boom of the 20’s, as the City invested millions in infrastructure to accommodate and attract all those new residents, a large percentage of whom were buying land outside the City limits. The debt was incurred to help the entire County share in the prosperity, but when the Crash came, County residents wanted no part in helping to retire that debt. More here: http://bit.ly/1tGtRN3

            In any case, the years where money was “diverted” out of the water revenues is long in the past. Every dime is accounted for, as Rep. McGrady says in that clip. Stop spreading lies, or we’ll never get past this dark period, and City and County will be fighting over water for another couple of generations.

            Unless that’s what you & Rep. Moffitt are counting on. Can’t win elections without pitting people against each other, can you?

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