On Tuesday, Aug. 28, Asheville City Council continued their regular meeting until today, Aug. 30, to consider a possible change in the wording of the November water referendum. However, after a closed session briefing from legal staff, Council opted to leave the referendum the way it is.
At the start of the Thursday session, Council reconvened and went straight into closed session for an update from City Attorney Bob Oast. After a half-hour, they emerged (sans Council member Cecil Bothwell, who was absent).
“After hearing advice from our legal counsel, is there a desire to make a motion to change anything or just proceed?” Mayor Terry Bellamy said. Council member Chris Pelly said he was in favor of proceeding, and none of the other Council members objected.
At regularly scheduled meetings, Council generally allows public comment on new or unfinished business. But in this case, Bellamy claimed that because there wasn’t a motion or any changes made, public comment wasn’t necessary, and she adjourned after it was clear the text of the referendum will stay the same.
“When there’s a motion on the table, I allow people to make a comment on that motion,” Bellamy told Xpress. “There was never a motion on the table.”
Oast said that the meeting was continued to deal with the item because any changes to the language have to be made before the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, as ballots are finalized shortly after. He noted that he had checked the wording of the referendum with the state board of elections.
Asheville is the first municipality to hold a referendum on the sale or lease of its water system since a law allowing such a vote went into effect at the beginning of this year. The referendum will read: “Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment system and water distribution system.”