In a Valentine’s Day meeting, Asheville City Council voted to evict the Occupy Asheville encampment in front of City Hall, one of the last remaining in the country. Council also unanimously backed a resolution supporting the city retaining control of the water system in the face of a state study.
Council voted 6-1, with Council member Gordon Smith against, to extend the boundaries of Pack Square Park to cover the swath of land currently filled with the tents of Occupy Asheville campers and designate that area and the one in front of Vance Monument “public forums” exempt from the park’s 10 p.m. curfew. Under the new rules, protesters can now demonstrate 24/7 at both spots, but they can’t camp.
A second measure, banning camping and storage on city property, passed 5-2, with Smith and Council member Cecil Bothwell against. Both motions were made by Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer. A previous proposal by Manheimer — who’s asserted Council needs to move on to other issues — at the Jan. 24 meeting had fallen one vote shy of approval. This time, the votes were there to evict the campers.
The ordinances give the Occupy Asheville camp a deadline of noon Feb. 17. During comment on the move, many Occupy Asheville participants asserted that the ordinances will criminalize the homeless and restrict free speech, though one speaker said it was time for the city to evict.
Smith, who voted against both measures, said he was uncertain about their effects and couldn’t support them, but advised Occupy Asheville to better learn the city’s process for dealing with outside organizations and build more public support for its initiatives before coming to city government.
A statement, quickly released by the protesters’ media working group, condemned the move.
Council also unanimously backed a resolution against corporate personhood. While supported by all Council members, the idea of such a resolution was broached at the Jan. 24 meeting as part of an a possible deal to get Occupy Asheville to voluntarily decamp from the site. But protesters made additional counter-demands, including a permanent “safe haven” for the homeless and a living wage throughout the city, among other demands.
In other business, Council unanimously backed a resolution supporting retaining the city’s water system. Currently, a study group convened by the state’s General Assembly is studying moving the system to control of the Metropolitan Sewerage District or another outside entity. Council members asserted that the city already runs an excellent, fiscally sound system and Asheville is burdened by state rules restricting the way it uses water. A recent forum on the issue attracted over 200 people.
Photo by Bill Rhodes
For the compiled dispatches via Twitter from the meeting, see below. Unless otherwise noted, all tweets were done by Senior News Reporter David Forbes.
4:05 P.m. RT @mxnews: Asheville City Council preview: Yes, they’re meeting on Valentine’s Day. http://t.co/Ei1Xv3XU
4:05 PM mxnews Asheville City Council preview: Yes, they’re meeting on Valentine’s Day. http://t.co/7zqavws1
4:47 P.m. In Council chambers, waiting for #avlgov meeting to begin at 5.
5:02 P.m. Meeting’s started.
5:05 P.m. Council member Cecil Bothwell reading invocation about multiple translations of Bible, not killing people in name of god
5:06 P.m. Proclamation recognizing United Services Credit Union Scholarship day.
5:08 P.m. Consent agenda passes unanimously
5:09 P.m. Report from Asheville-Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.
5:11 P.m. Sports commission director Ben VanCamp: Equally funded by city, Buncombe County. Focused on growing local sports events
5:17 P.m. VanCamp: SoCon basketball tournament, returning in March, will have major economic impact
5:20 P.m. VanCamp: SoCon will bring $4mil in econ impact to city, nat’l exposure
5:24 P.m. Council member Jan Davis on SoCon, BigSouth in Asheville at same time: “Big week for basketball in Asheville.”
5:25 P.m. Next up: presentation on Lake Craig/Azalea Rd project
5:27 P.m. Project involves dam investigation, road, flood improvements
5:32 P.m. City staffer Craig Coates: Lost 4 weeks due to issues w Corps of Engineers
5:35 P.m. Council member: At best we’re going to “shave the peak” off major floods. This will mitigate.
5:37 P.m. Next: Council resolution supporting Asheville’s retention of the water system
5:39 P.m. Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer: Reason for presentation is #ncga studying taking city’s water system.
5:42 P.m. State holding hearing next Feb. 24 at Ag Center. Lasting all day, open to public
5:43 P.m. Manheimer: Most of pop growth in county, not city limits, but have one of highest daytime populations in state
5:44 P.m. Manheimer: Asheville’s having to shoulder the burden of a much higher daytime population.
5:46 P.m. Manheimer: Everyone but Asheville can charge higher rate to water users outside city, due to state law.
5:49 P.m. Manheimer: Water system run as separate fund, outside of general fund. City borrowed $40 mil to improve since 2005
5:50 P.m. Manheimer: System well-run, in excellent financial shape. Want to get public involved.
5:51 P.m. Manheimer: Water system “not a cash cow,” but important city run to protects assets, incl environmental
5:54 P.m. Hunt: Want to see Asheville retain control of the water system, put this behind us.
5:55 P.m. Hunt: Asheville can’t use better water rates w/in city to entice outlying areas to join. City res “unduly burdened”
5:57 P.m. Hunt: Asheville is the capital of WNC, important for us to be fiscally healthy so we can be regional leader
5:58 P.m. Mayor Terry Bellamy: Under 2 of the 3 options proposed, we could lose water system.
5:58 P.m. Council member Chris Pelly asking Council to support independent public hearing, says #ncga water study ignoring Asheville citizens
6:00 P.m. Bellamy talking about addl state legislation that might also target water system
6:01 P.m. Council member Gordon Smith: We know current state of system is excellent, though improvements ongoing.
6:02 P.m. Smith: Now #ncga activities putting excellent state of Asheville’s water in question.
6:03 P.m. Davis: Maintained system consistently, moves to support city keeping it.
6:06 P.m. Council unanimously endorses resolution in favor of keeping water system.
6:08 P.m. Council moves discussion of charitable contribution campaign for city employees. Bellamy recused
6:09 P.m. City allows deductions from paychecks for charitable contributions to United Way. New rules would open to other charities.
6:13 P.m. Hunt: High-quality input on this issue, but certain inadequate votes to pass this tonight.
6:15 P.m. Bothwell: Heard argument that this might hurt United Way, can’t see inclusion of new groups would harm.
6:17 P.m. Council moves to consider resolutions on corporate personhood, #occupyasheville camp
6:17 P.m. Bothwell makes a motion to adopt new charitable giving policy, fails for lack of a second
6:19 P.m. Smith, who introduced corp personhood resolution, citing support of Move to Amend, Asheville Grown biz alliance
6:20 P.m. Smith: Our responsibility to protect electoral integrity. In Asheville, retained early voting.
6:21 P.m. Smith: City needs to take a stand on this issue, for electoral transparency, we can be “another voice in chorus”
6:22 P.m. Anne Craig, from Move to Amend, #occupyasheville’s Meet, Talk, Act affinity group, presenting petitions.
6:23 P.m. Bellamy: Will send to Rep. Donna Edwards, heading up efforts in Congress, been in touch w staff
6:24 P.m. Rod Hudgins, CIBO President: Not here to endorse or oppose, but take issue with villification of corporations.
6:27 P.m. Curry First, #occupyasheville participant: We do support this resolution. Corporations are not people.
6:34 P.m. Victor Ochoa, #occupyasheville: We’re not anti-corporation, we’re anti-manipulative corporations.
6:35 P.m. Ochoa: I’ll believe a corporation’s a person when it’s incarcerated for a crime
6:39 P.m. John Penlee, raised in Asheville, says he was part of original #ows camp, now at City Hall camp, campaign finance part of orig goals
6:43 P.m. Kathy Holt, from Meet/Talk/Act reading poem: “we request a solution/please pass our proposed resolution”
6:44 P.m. Bothwell: Citizens United a big deal, but this has been going on for a long time. Glad to see it’s come to a head.
6:45 P.m. Council passes motion against corporate personhood passes unanimously
6:46 P.m. Ordinances would also allow 24-hr protest, but not camping, in front of Vance Monument, City Hall
6:46 P.m. Onto ordinances that would extend camping ban to #occupyasheville site.
6:49 P.m. City Atty Bob Oast: ACLU has asked to clarify status of those two sites, because protest often lasts after 10pm park curfew.
6:51 P.m. Oast: Ordinances rely on past court rulings on protest camping, ban tents, except for pop-ups, on city property.
6:52 P.m. Naomi Archer, #occupyasheville spokesperson: Passing regulations not same as doing right thing. This is human right
6:53 P.m. Archer: Something wrong w community. If not for #occupyasheville, wouldn’t have conversation
6:54 P.m. Archer: Most of you elected on progressive platform, sure voters wouldn’t want eviction of #occupyasheville
6:56 P.m. Bob Sanal: Flag behind you shouldn’t be US flag, be new world order, one world gov. Will be microchips.
6:57 P.m. John Spitzberg, Vets for Peace, Avl Homeless Network: City plans talk about being affordable, banning camp counter to that.
6:58 P.m. Spitzberg: Don’t know what you’ve done to walk the walk for chronically homeless, esp veterans
6:59 P.m. Spitzberg: Give homeless a safe haven, not getting that from private agencies
7:05 P.m. George Ingram: Not for these people here, been “occupying” Asheville for 83 years. Time to move these people out.
7:06 P.m. Ingram: We’re mountain people, we have a lot of patience, but our patience has run out.
7:07 P.m. Last speaker’s name was Ingle, not Ingram
7:09 P.m. Clare Hanrahan: Camp has brought homeless, poverty issues up, can’t ordinance that away.
7:11 P.m. Next speaker, Kennedy: These ordinances criminalizing houselessness. Calls Oast’s statements a lie.
7:13 P.m. Leah Grine: Occupations never intended to provide long-term housing, but do make reality clear.
7:15 P.m. Grine: Women’s shelter just shut down in Jackson Co., those people will come to Asheville.
7:16 P.m. Steve Norris: If you close camp, these problems will not disappear
7:19 P.m. Amber Williams: Issues won’t go away. Occupy will go on occupying, even if elsewhere.
7:21 P.m. Ochoa: Willing to work w city, trying to address concerns we don’t see being addressed.
7:21 P.m. Ochoa: Understand [Ingle’s] concerns, don’t want be a burden to anybody. Presenting petition for haven for homeless
7:23 P.m. Ochoa: Proposals of #occupyasheville to city may seem daunting, but we’re willing to start tackling them.
7:26 P.m. Smith: Looks like this might be last night we have #occupyasheville camp. Don’t fault anyone for position, difficult situation.
7:27 P.m. Smith: Won’t be voting for end of #occupyasheville tonight. A lot of uncertainty about whether this is speech.
7:28 P.m. Smith to #occupyasheville: City’s got a model for working with organizations; learn it. Build public support
7:29 P.m. Hunt: Have concerns about Friday at noon when #occupyasheville camp will likely end, concerned about homeless
7:30 P.m. Hunt: Hope members of #occupyasheville will help homeless members transition, sad city doesn’t have space. Hope no violence
7:31 P.m. Ordinance designating Vance Monument, spot in front of City Hall public forums passes 6-1, Smith against
7:32 P.m. Bothwell not supporting camping ban. Concerned about effect on homeless.
7:35 P.m. Camping ban for #occupyasheville site passes 5-2. Smith, Bothwell against. Deadline noon Feb. 17
7:42 P.m. Council taking 20-min intermission.
8:02 P.m. Council’s back. Next issue is initial report on Biz Improvement District for downtown
8:04 P.m. Susan Griffin talking about interim board crafting BID – meaning addl tax for prop owners in certain area
8:05 P.m. Interim BID board made up of 13 downtown prop owners. Griffin asking for public hearing on Feb. 22
8:06 P.m. Davis: Needs to be significant buy-n from those affected, feel better if final proposal went back through process
8:07 P.m. Griffin: interim board working on final plan for Asheville downtown BID. Davis makes motion to move fwd w staff preparing a report.
8:08 P.m. Davis: This is a considerable change to a very important district
8:08 P.m. Hunt: Insistent there’s a defensible, well-crafted survey on people’s attitudes towards this.
8:09 P.m. Bellamy: We need to have a clearer process.
8:11 P.m. Council unanimously directs staff to prepare report on BID. Hearing for May 22 (not Feb, that was my mistake)
8:12 P.m. New fee schedule for next fiscal year up. No water fee increase. Minor increases totaling $159,000 in new revenue
8:12 P.m. Bellamy excused for remainder of meeting
8:14 P.m. Smith asking that fees for A-frame signs, home biz remain flat, as minor revenue, mostly hit small biz
8:20 P.m. Council discussing meter rates
8:22 P.m. Transportation Director Ken Putnam: Testing credit card option for parking meters.
8:23 P.m. Council passes fee schedule for 2012-13
8:24 PM (MaryCaitlinByrd) RT @DavidForbes:Camping ban for #occupyasheville site passes 5-2. Smith, Bothwell against. Deadline noon Feb. 17
8:25 P.m. Manheimer appointed to serve the remainder of former Vice Mayor Brownie Newman’s term on Airport Authority
8:38 P.m. Public comment. Rev. Chris Chiaromonte: Woke up to hail this morning. God’s judging Asheville for how it treats the homeless.
8:41 P.m. Charles Rawls: Also an Asheville native, support what #occupyasheville’s doing, disappointed in Council’s actions.
8:44 p.m. (SmithMillCreek) Quite a night for the Asheville city council. Is the meeting not done until Rev. Chris has spoken? @DavidForbes tweeting it
8:45 P.m. Meeting adjourned.
9:02 P.m. #OccupyAsheville issues statement on Council’s vote to evict camp http://t.co/zm4wd9M4
9:42 P.m. RT @mxnews: Council gives #OccupyAsheville camp Feb. 17 deadline, supports keeping water system http://t.co/3ZqT9GVe
9:42 PM (mxnews) Council gives #OccupyAsheville camp Feb. 17 deadline, supports keeping water system http://t.co/C8RoDYEV