Bellamy defends domestic-partnership vote, says issue politically motivated

Mayor Terry Bellamy, along with City Manager Gary Jackson, appeared on the Conversations radio show on WCQS last night. Bellamy defended her controversial vote against same-sex domestic-partnership benefits and said that the issue was a way for Council member Gordon Smith to boost his own chances at a future mayoral run.

Listen to the full show here.

Bellamy said that she felt that Smith’s way of bringing the issue up — by asking Council to support partnerships in concept before later voting on a specific plan and timeline — was wrong.

“This issue was put forward in a way that was very divisive,” Bellamy said. “I don’t believe that the information that was put forward to City Council last week was put forward in a good manner. I think it was put out there as a political issue, not to help the employees.”

When asked by host David Hurand if she would have voted for the benefits even if the process had been to her liking, Bellamy replied, “I think when the city of Asheville starts going down this road without a clear understanding of the costs, how it would impact our finances, how it impacts heterosexual couples who live in the same situation, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Bellamy also said that the way the issue was brought forward was intended to “create a political dynamic for four years later for a person to potentially run for mayor.”

“For me to listen to [880 AM] the Revolution and hear the person who helped put this legislation together say, ‘We’ve watched the mayor for 10 years; she’s been silent on this issue, and so we knew if we painted her in a corner she’d have to come out on a position’ — that’s not good policy,” Bellamy said.

Asked by Hurand to clarify if she was believed Smith was using the issue to run for mayor in the future, Bellamy said, “I think so. I think if it was meant pure and sincerely, he would have followed the process that was outlined.”

“I hadn’t really thought about my mayoral prospects before, maybe I should,” Smith told Xpress today with a laugh. “I had no such plans or intentions. I must admit, I’m flattered that Mayor Bellamy thinks that I’m such an excellent strategic thinker that I’d have this all planned four years out.”

Smith also defended his method of bringing the issue forward, noting he got signatures from Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and fellow Council member Cecil Bothwell to bring the issue onto the agenda quickly, and that Bellamy placed it on the agenda, as is the regular process.

Jackson said that after the Feb. 9 vote, staff is working to meet a timeline to implement the benefits by Jan. 1 of next year.

“We’ll share with Council what we believe the complexities are in putting the program together and our recommendation on whether or not we can meet that timeline,” Jackson said, adding that “other cities have been down this path,” some for more than a decade, and that staff would be examining those cities’ experiences.

Jackson and Bellamy also talked about the city’s deficit.

“We have a very lofty vision and high expectations in this community. We have to forge partnerships,” Jackson said, adding that those partners could include Buncombe County and the local state-legislative delegation.

“When we stepped away from the water system, the city took a hit. Financially, we made a commitment to put all our revenues from the system back into our system, to be transparent as possible,” Bellamy said.

She added that “the relationships that are strained, are gone. … I feel a different vibe.”

Jackson said that the city had racked up $500,000 in costs dealing with the winter storms, and expected to still be out $200,000 after state reimbursements.

Bellamy said that city’s expectations have risen far beyond the ability of its revenue to keep pace.

“We want more sidewalks, street cleaning, repaving, resurfacing. We want more parks, more greenways, more affordable housing. We want the city of Asheville to fix the Civic Center, support momentum, support the Grove Arcade, make sure there’s a new parking deck downtown,” she said. “The demands are growing. … Where’s the money coming from?”

— David Forbes, staff writer

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45 thoughts on “Bellamy defends domestic-partnership vote, says issue politically motivated

  1. johncopeland

    I personally would like to see every homosexual and lesbian stop paying any taxes to the City of Asheville and the US Treasury until we can attain equal rights as citizens. Those inclined to agree please post your comments here and let’s start a campaign to elect homosexuals to council and state office all the while working towards a national campaign to stop paying taxes until we reach our goal of equal rights and justice for all. The government can not put us all in jail; they can’t afford it. A national recognition of this issue will do us all good. For starters just claim 10 exemptions on your W2. No taxes will then be witheld. Put the extra money in a savings account to be held to pay the tax when we get justice! Homosexual or lesbian attorneys please advise.

  2. Kelley

    I’ve never seen Mayor Bellamy so rattled by an issue. Either she should take a clear position on the issue or find another line of work.

    Any individual, business, or government agency finds at times that the only way to finance future growth and development is to borrow money. Sorry, it’s the way our capitalist/socialist form of government and economics works right now.

  3. Roger

    I find the mayor’s rationale for voting against extention of benefits to be untrustworthy and frankly unpersuasive. I would trust her more if she had said that she disagreed with extending benefits than this highly politically motivated “reach” of an argument at best.

    I could disagree with her with civility if she had simply said no and a real why. Instead this smacks of the same thing she accuses Gordon of. I am left wondering if she is thinking four years from now as well and that she just wants to act like she is on both sides of the issue to satisfy everyone. Well it stinks and satisfies no one as a result.

  4. bad elf

    If all of the heterosexual single city employees who receive benefits were to get married tomorrow and receive spousal benefits, would the discussion of the financial impact still take place? Sounds like a weak excuse for discrimination.

  5. GENE MCMINN

    would this hold true for a unwed man and woman also?if so whos to say there partners anyway?lets all get on the bandwagon and asheville can give us all benefits!!!come on people get real!!

  6. Sage

    Fact is heteros can get married. We can’t. Until this injustice is corrected on the federal level this our only recourse. And straight people get married just for benefits too. I don’t see anyone attacking them.

    Greensboro has offered DP’s to gay couples only for years with zero problems.

    Mecklenburg County,the largest public entity in the state recently did the same.

  7. tatuaje

    Wow.

    Is Bellamy taking political strategy advice from Chad Nesbitt and the Carolina Stompers now?

    Way to guarantee yourself an opponent to run against who you have single-handedly given the edge to.

  8. Piffy!

    ‘politically motivated’

    Such Horse$hit. Of course! Its politics. Like her choice to vote the way she did wansn’t politics.

    Such Horse$hit. She is a lying, fearful, manipulative little twerp, and i look forward to her being voted out on her ear next time around. Too bad for those “political” aspirations of yours bellemy. i guess your career is just too “Political”.

  9. Piffy!

    Bellemy the bigot does have a nice ring to it. Too bad she doesnt have the common decency or respect for her constituency to just admit it. Bye-bye bellemy!

  10. Let me see if I have this right. The mayor did not like being asked first to vote on whether city employees on city time at tax payer expense should work on a DPB plan to present to the council to vote on. She would have preferred that city employees on city time at tax payer expense do a study and work on a plan for DPB to present to the council to vote on that may never have had a chance of passing. That is the proper way to do business.

  11. shadmarsh

    well she is fond of studies. Perhaps we could fund one to find out if she is or is not in fact a bigot hiding behind her religion and ignorance.
    I like that she used a variant of the “I have many gay friends” line in her little pitch.

    As far as challengers to her four years from now I would expect a few serious ones, or at least one, and not just for this reason. But, while she is a capable political mind, she is not as good at it as she thinks she is.

  12. Jake

    Please, won’t someone take the shovel away from our mayor? That hole she’s digging is becoming impossibly deep!

  13. It’s safe to say that anyone who has run for office has “political motivations.” Terry gets the award for the most “state the obvious”, quote I’ve heard lately.

    How long did she ponder this sage observation?

  14. Sage

    I guess the Mayor is still sad that Council no longer has the mumps. She is trying to reel in that vote to solidify her base. But I don’t think she can coast to another victory running further to the right.

    Bellamy has never claimed to be a liberal Democrat and I never expected a big endorsement of DP’s. But completely dismissing it out of hand before seeing the results of the study just comes across as callous and anti-intellectual.

    And trying to deflect her own hangups about us gays by attacking Gordon with no basis in fact is about stupidly and nakedly “political” as it gets.

  15. Politics Watcher

    Why is it that Gordon and Cecil (and Brownie) didn’t want to wait until the staff made its report? Not clear why they wanted the council to vote on something before the facts were in? Would it have helped if the other members, including Esther and Terry, had simply abstained, rather than voting no? They could have made their point, that they thought Gordon was rushing/pressuring them, without having to take a “no” stand. Or, in Esther’s case, she could have made the point that she stands for moderation/consideration and that waiting for information may always be better than rushing to judgment.

  16. Jason Ross Martin

    Until there is a LEGAL designation for same-sex couples, then it is political showmanship for Gordon and Bothwell and others to champion the rights of legally recognized same-sex couples! Mayor Bellamy is right to dismiss the extension of benefits to a group based on their own claims of “partnership” rather than some kind of legal standard.

    And so again, I say, Bothwell, Gordon, whomever… if you want to be the champions of extending Domestic Partner rights to homosexuals who cannot legally marry–then pursue a legal process and designation for them FIRST–rather than trying to give them the benefits they might qualify for first. The obviousness of this needed sequence of events validates Mayor Bellamy’s reticence to follow this agenda.

    I personally would support a law that grants same-sex couples the access to a Civil Union, which has the exact same advantages as a marriage in terms of taxes, benefits, insurance, etc. But in the absence of such a legal definition of two people living a life together in this way, I am against extending benefits on the basis of someone just deciding they are “partners”. And I suspect that Mayor Bellamy is actually representing the majority of people like me who have this view.

  17. Dionysis

    ““For me to listen to [880 AM] the Revolution and hear the person who helped put this legislation together say, ‘We’ve watched the mayor for 10 years; she’s been silent on this issue, and so we knew if we painted her in a corner she’d have to come out on a position’ — that’s not good policy,” Bellamy said.”

    Not only is it not “good policy” it’s not “policy” at at all; if what she described is true, then it was a strategy, not policy.

    Regardless of which position one takes on the issue, Bellamy’s comments are lame and weasely. She’s been a singularly unimpressive Mayor.

  18. Pilot

    If there were single payer universal health care in this country DPB would not be an issue. Maybe it’s not the benefits that proponents are after as much as the sanctioning of gay marriage/civil partnerships. Are the two issues being confused?

  19. Piffy!

    It’s like she’s mad that she had to, after years of coasting along, that she finally has to have an opinion on an issue.

    And of course its “politics”. You’re a politician, mayor!

  20. PW, there wasn’t going to be a report if we didn’t ask for it. The whole point of the vote was to tell Staff that we wanted the normal process attached to any policy decision to move forward.

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, Gordon, Esther and I all advanced the idea of domestic partner benefits during our recent campaigns. We were, in part, elected to do this. Brownie is long on record as supporting them. This is what democracy looks like.

  21. Stewart David

    Hey Cecil,

    And democracy is looking a little better, thanks to the four of you. I wish the mayor would just be honest about her views rather than creating this whole smokescreen about “process.” It’s downright silly.

  22. Unaffiliated Voter

    But Cecil, we are NOT a democracy! STOP perpetuating that LIE!

    Asheville is UNsustaining now. We CANNOT AFFORD to pay for ANY MORE BENEFITS for ANY city employees! How about rescinding ALL benefits
    from ALL employees! Nobody pays mine!

  23. 1. The Mayor’s position is based on her religious views. She just won’t say so. Why not? Attacking strategy or political ambition is dishonest.

    2. Instead of creating a new expense in a budget with a $5M deficit, the city should eliminate all spousal benefits and offer a standardized compensation package that allows staff to negotiate with private insurers for their benefits.

  24. LOKEL

    Perhaps Ms Bellamy should read up on her Black History (it is Black History Month after all) … it wasn’t so long ago that African-Americans were not afforded EQUAL RIGHTS as provided by the US Constitution.

    The CONSTITUTION guarantees EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL AMERICANS why is this so hard to understand and apply?

  25. Politics Watcher

    Could Mr. Bothwell post the text of the resolution or give us a Web site reference? Not clear if he was instructing staff to bring back a report favorable to offering benefits, if he was asking staff to report on the financial implications of offering the benefits, the legal implications., etc., etc. It’s hard to know what the Mayor and Mr. Davis were voting against. In another story, Mr. Davis at least seems to objecting on procedural grounds:
    “Smith’s motion included an outright affirmation of support for the general concept of domestic-partner benefits — a step David [sic] said he was uncomfortable taking without seeing some details.

    “I’m asked to support something that I don’t have the background on,” noted Davis. “How are we going to pay for it? I just feel like this got here in an unusual way.”

    Reserving her comments till the end of the discussion, Bellamy seconded Davis’ objection to a premature vote of support.”

  26. Sage

    It really boggles my mind that people believe they have the right to evaluate my life because I am attracted to the same gender.

    Well turn around is fair play, we should be able to judge heterosexuals and how much you really love your husband or wife or if it’s just fraudulent.

    That some cannot seem how disgustingly hateful and horrible this is strikes me as truly sad.

    DP benefits are not radical new policy. They are in place across NC and in cities large and small nationwide.

    Brownie Newman,Gordon Smith, Esther Manheimer and Cecil Bothwell are doing Asheville proud.

    THANK YOU

  27. I don’t have the specific language at hand (check Council minutes on the Web), but what I voted for is basically this:

    We hereby choose to move toward implementation of a plan that permits same sex domestic partners of City employees to enjoy the same City benefits as married partners of City employees. To that end, we want Staff to report back to Council with detailed information about how that can be achieved, pursuant to NC state law, and presumably drawing on the experience of other NC municipalities.

    So, what I understood is that there were four votes in favor of such a plan, but they were cast in favor of creating a plan which would later require an up or down vote on specifics.

  28. jimmytwotimes

    Tim, this is not a new expense, unless you classify every city employee’s marriage a new expense. This is a matter of equal rights. Tim and JRM, as to the question of definitions and legal framework for recognizing domestic partnerships, Chapel Hill already has this in place, check on the town’s website at:
    http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/index.aspx?page=375
    and check the date on that, almost fifteen years ago and the town didn’t get swallowed up by deficits or brimstone.

    Here is how they defined it in the town code

    “When used in this article, references to the terms “family or families,” “spouse” or “dependent” also include the domestic partners of town employees and the dependents of domestic partners, as defined in Chapter 1 of the Town Code. For purpose of this section, domestic partners must provide documents demonstrating established financial and legal ties, such as a joint mortgage, health care power of attorney, beneficiary of will or insurance policies, or other similar financial and/or legal relationships.”

    you can find that here:

    http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/records/minutes/2006/0626/2006-06-26_o4.htm

    Tell me if I’m wrong Cecil, but I gather this is the sort of legal definition that the town would need to put in place prior to enacting the benefits policies, and researching the feasability of doing this was what was being voted on.

  29. Piffy!

    In the interest of sound fiscal planning, i think all city employees should be required to work for free.

  30. GoodGrief

    It is truly a pity that we have strayed so far from traditional christian family values.
    It honestly would not be fair to offer these benefits unless a couple was married.
    With a strapped budget, why bankrupt the city further when there are more important issues?

  31. Who

    Cecil, will unmarried heterosexual couples get this same benefit? If not, that may be a sticking point. Can the city of Asheville, in any way, by creating its own policy, legally recognize a same sex union? And if so, shouldn’t that be the first step? If an unmarried hetero couple cannot presently get these benefits then it seems that civil union and/or gay marriage is the real issue and the elephant in the living room.

  32. Roger

    Who,

    I applaud your interest (and those of others above) in extending full marriage rights to same sex couples. That IS a major and important step, but it takes major changes in state law first. I think we should move ahead with that change now also.

    HOWEVER, I also believe in putting your values into practice right at home as well. Extend those benefits now. Do it. It is the right thing to do, it is about equal rights.

    And without offending anyone, it is also good for the city and its economic development. Discrimination (as many economists have written) is inefficient…it is also bad for business.

    This simple change in law will attract more employees to work for the City…and likely more talent. It makes us uncompetitive for other other cities to extend these benefits and for us to not. It will likely make those who are employees now, more likely to stay as well.

    Might it cost some extra money, sure. But besides demonstrating the kind of equality this city claims to the world, it is likely to benefit the city 10fold.

  33. roger

    Goodgrief,

    What traditional Christian values do you speak of? The same kind of traditional Christian values that did not allow inter-racial marriage either?

    Maybe I am being fair, but the fact that religion is the backdrop of this issue is what is wrong with it in the first place. There are a multitude of different religions represented in this city and this country. Some recognize Same sex marriage and perform them. The Framer’s of our Constitution recognized both a freedom to practice religion and also for us to be free from govt. establishing religion.

    It seems pretty clear to me, and it is my position, that recognizing and extending govt benefits to those that practice one form of “traditional” Christian religion and not those with different beliefs on marriage is both discrimination, an establishment of one religion over another, and also favors that so called “traditional” over the so called “non.”.

    Extend benefits now and implement it! Then for goodness sake recognize same sex marriage in our law.

  34. Jimmy2, yes that’s what we voted on. In essence we said that we are in favor of DPB and want Staff to research and report on how DP would be defined.

    From friends who enjoy DPB through their jobs around Asheville I’ve heard that often there are perhaps a dozen qualifying requirements from which the couple must demonstrate a few: bank accounts, property ownership, wills, life insurance, etc.

    Who: sure, that’s the elephant, but municipalities cannot enact civil union or marriage laws.

    GoodGrief: I’m not clear why it is fair to offer partner benefits to married people and not to others with partners. Person A does job X and is married, so gets the opportunity to purchase a benefits package for the spouse. Person B does job X and is not married, so is denied the opportunity to purchase a benefits package for the partner. Both do the same job, for the same pay, but A gets additional pay in the form of a reduced cost health plan for the spouse. So, what that does is accord a pay benefit for marriage. But the City has no stake in whether an employee is married, only in whether the employee does a good job and likes the job enough to continue doing it (versus jumping to another job with better pay/benefit options).

    It costs the city a significant amount to recruit a replacement for someone who jumps ship for a better deal, so there is some financial incentive to keep good employees. There is no evidence that married employees are better at their jobs than unmarried employees. So, I really can’t see any financial argument why the city should treat married people preferentially.

    As for the gender orientation of unmarried partners, I am on record in support of according the same benefit options to all employees regardless of gender or gender orientation.

  35. Jeff Fobes

    This week’s Blue Banner, the UNCA campus newspaper, editorializes against Mayor Terry Bellamy’s recent City Council vote against supporting same-sex domestic-partner benefits for city employees.

    Excerpts:
    “… Bellamy’s refusal to even consider the idea is unacceptable, particularly for Asheville.”

    “Bellamy easily won re-election last year, most likely with the votes of several homosexual individuals. With her “no” vote, she betrayed them, regardless of whether they are city employees or not.

    “To suggest the families of those in homosexual relationships do not deserve the same benefits as other city employees is both an affront to the way that person lives and an affront to them as human beings.”

    Link to the editorial: http://www.thebluebanner.net/mayor-s-vote-clashes-with-community-standards-1.1162671

  36. Jason Ross Martin

    Cecil your logic makes me understand your point-of-view much better. It makes me think you have much more of a point.

  37. Alan Ditmore

    Obviously the politically advantageous time to bring up big issues like DPB would be during a city election year and that is not now.
    Also we proved that same sex domestic partner benefits will save money and therefore cost money and Bellamy knows this, and could also counterpropose the elimination of spusal benefits, which would save tax money immediately. So the “cost” issue is a dishonest cover for pure bigotry.
    Bellamy has been keeping this off the agenda for years and is just miffed that she finally failed to do so.

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