What’s the Big Idea? Some thoughts for Asheville in 2012

For its next two issues, Xpress will feature an array of “Big Ideas” for 2012 from local notables, citizens, politicians, activists, artists and more. Here’s a peek at some of the ideas. What’s your Big Idea for Asheville in the year to come?

Earlier this week, we featured posts going into a little more detail on two Asheville City Council members proposed “Big Ideas,” Chris Pelly’s plan for a neighborhood committee and Cecil Bothwell’s push to move the city’s money to local banks. Here are some ideas and plans from other Council members.

Here’s Gordon Smith:

Thanks to the efforts of the people of Asheville, we’re beginning to see some life in our economy, and we’ve got to build on that this year. We’ve also got to build on the momentum we have regarding affordability measures such as multimodal transportation infrastructure and affordable housing. New routes for the bus system will be implemented soon, increasing efficiency, utility and dependability. The Asheville/Buncombe Food Policy Council will be a excellent source of leadership as we address poverty alleviation, public health, local commerce, and sustainability.

This will be the year that Asheville has to fight to ensure responsible, accountable management of our water resources, and we’re going to need the whole community to come together. It’s also the year that we can advocate for fair treatment in regards to occupancy tax rates. Keeping up with the rising costs of good service to our citizens requires that we continue to find efficiencies in our systems while being fiscally responsible in our search for equitable revenue sources.

Making Asheville affordable, sustainable, and prosperous – those are big ideas that make this a great place to live.

Esther Manheimer:

Continue to maintain a balanced budget without raising taxes while still providing necessary services such as police, fire, water, garbage pick-up, recycling, and parks.
Continue to strengthen regional partnerships.
Plan affordable long-term capital investments to improve our quality of life (e.g. sidewalks, greenways).
Work with our legislative delegation to protect and enhance Asheville (e.g. the study of the water system).

Marc Hunt:

2012 is certain to be a year of great challenge and opportunity regarding Asheville’s regional role.  Specifically, the future ownership and management of the Asheville water system is in play with the Legislative Study Committee beginning its work now.  My aim is work with others to ensure that the water system goes forward in a way that reinforces a healthy non-sprawl growth pattern for the region, ensures affordable clean drinking water for us, and ensures environmental integrity of our pristine 22,000-acre watershed.  Also, the City has a huge investment in the system that must be protected.  Asheville is integral to our region’s success, and I am hopeful we can reinforce our partnerships as we work though this challenging issue.

Xpress also received responses from local activists, like this one from Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, on the organization’s efforts entering a busy year:

In 2012, the Campaign for Southern Equality (www.southernequality.org) will expand the WE DO Campaign to communities across the South. Through this campaign, same-sex couples request and are denied marriage licenses in order to express our full humanity in the public square, resist unjust laws and call for full equality under federal law by the end of the decade.

We’ll be doing this against the charged political backdrop of an election year, discriminatory laws on the books in all Southern states, and, not least of all, an anti-LGBT amendment on the May 2012 ballot in our home state.

The big idea behind it: a movement of LGBT folks and allies in the South taking coordinated, ongoing actions calling for full equality under federal law. The Asheville piece: this effort will be headquartered in Asheville, an ideal regional hub for LGBT organizing in the South.

Here’s one from Sandy Maxey, economic development thinker:

Create a civic forum for discussions about unemployment/underemployment and the long term systemic ramifications for our region. Citizens in our region require a shared knowledge of 21st century economies/economic development. At issue is the complexity of the numerous variables that have created our current economic situation. The lack of systems-thinking and understanding of these variables is a prerequisite for developing, designing and implementing actionable initiatives. I’ve been approached by Lisa Kimball from the renowned Plexus Institute to implement just such a forum.  http://www.plexusinstitute.org/?page=liberatingstructures

Kimball cited the high level of community commitment towards sustainability and resilient economies, specific institutional assets such as Warren Wilson and our historical underemployment as reasons she sees Asheville as a prime target for their program. Citizens and leaders require the skill sets of 21st century civic dialogue to address the complex problems facing our community. Our historical disproportionate focus on industrial recruitment and fragmented (inefficient and ineffective) entrepreneurial development system are key indicators that a new way forward is necessary. However, the first step is creating the community-based, bottom up demand for a different approach. The first step is a critical mass of shared civic knowledge.

We’ll have more ideas for 2012 in our Jan. 4 and 11 issues. In the meantime, what are your big ideas, Ashevilleans? Feel free to submit them in the comments below.

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