Dwight Butner

Dwight Butner

Age: 53
Residence: Beverly Hills
Occupation: restaurateur
Years in Asheville: 30
Education: B.A. in history (Eckerd College), plus some courses in political science and business (UNCA)
Political party: Democrat
Political experience: First run for elective office; worked on Gary Hart’s 1980 and 1984 campaigns

1. Should the city or a regional authority own the water system?

“Asheville should own … and … be responsible for maintaining it. … Virtually 100 percent of Asheville’s citizens rely on this system versus 20-30 percent of the county; it will be political and economic suicide for Council to fail to repair the system.”

2. Do you agree with the decision to hold closed meetings concerning the Water Agreement, such as last April’s city/county mediation session?

“I was not as concerned about the process as the aftermath. As a practical matter, people sometimes need to explore ideas outside the glare of public scrutiny in order to fashion compromises. … If the parties agreed to close the doors, then they needed to exercise the same discretion afterward.”

3. Is the Asheville Police Department’s current citizen-complaint process adequate?

“I have not had any problems personally, and I am unfamiliar with this as an issue. Obviously, I have some things to learn about.”

4. Would you ever support using eminent domain other than for public-works projects? Under what circumstances?

“I would never use eminent domain to simply improve the tax base, as was the case in New Hampshire. Private-property rights are sacred to me, and it is not the government’s role to be picking and choosing between its citizens based on government’s own interests.”

5. City staff have documented several recent cases of developers violating the Unified Development Ordinance or conditions of their permits, but no fines have been issued. Should these rules be more strictly enforced?

“Builders … will simply decide whether or not it’s financially beneficial to pay the fine. A better option is to require a performance bond to be posted [when] conditional-use permits are issued. If the plans are not kept, the money will be available to complete or restore the project.”

6. What, specifically, would you recommend doing with the Asheville Civic Center?

“You eat an elephant one bite at a time. … Repair and modernize the arena immediately; it will cost us the least to repair and has the most profit potential after modernization. We can do it now by ourselves and address the performing-arts center as funds come available.”

7. Name one thing the current City Council should be proud of, and one thing it should be ashamed of.

Proudest: “The unity they showed supporting their decision to cancel the water/tax-equity agreement.” Most ashamed of: “Not bringing the decision to the people before they actually canceled the agreement. We needed to be trusted more and involved more.”

8. An N.C. DOT study indicates that six lanes can accommodate the projected traffic on the I-26 connector. What, if anything, would you do to prevent the DOT from building an eight-lane connector?

“Between a six-lane road and an eight-lane road, I choose [six lanes]. Between a road and no road, I choose an improved road. The specter of 20,000 more cars … being caught in traffic jams, polluting our air and destroying our quality of life is the bigger issue.”

9. Name one positive trend downtown, and one negative trend.

“The rejuvenation and inclusion of Lexington Avenue into the general vitality that has characterized downtown is the positive trend. The arts festival over Labor Day was great. We continue to have a better reputation in Tucson … than we do in Beaver Lake [and] in Houston than in Arden.”

10. What can Asheville do to cope with high energy prices and projected energy shortages in the coming years?

“Improved public transportation is the obvious answer. … We start … by serving our current customers better: buses at least on the half hour vs. the hour and … extend the hours to at least midnight [to serve people who] work a second or third shift job.”

11. Would you support increasing the local hotel/motel room tax? Why or why not?

“It depends on what it’s for. … [Instead of] saying this needs to be done, this needs to be done, you do it … the city needs to remember that there [must] be a convincing relationship between the purpose of the tax and the person or entity paying the tax.”

12. What political figure from the past or present do you most wish to emulate?

“Two really. In my lifetime the two most important men were Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. In concert, they did more to re-establish the credibility of this democracy than any two people I know. They did it with class and caring. I can only hope to be so big.”

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