Reclaim legislative authority at the local level

In your article about a Montford homeowner under attack by the city for having “too many people” [“Sustainable For Whom,” Nov. 17, Xpress), Assistant Planning Director Shannon Tuch says, “This is all based on life-safety requirements. When you have eight related people living in a house, there's a head of household ... who would act ... in the family's best interest to get everybody out. When you have eight unrelated people, it's pretty much every man for himself."

Ms. Tuch's assertion that a head-of-household is more likely to act in his self interest than eight unrelated occupants is simply unfounded. I'm sure Ms. Tuch excels at her government job, but she's a dull sociologist. Recently, a small fire broke out at Bernard Carman's home — for the first time since taking ownership 22 years ago — inside someone's locked and vacated room. The smell of smoke was detected in minutes by several housemates. Acting quickly and with coordinated effort, a resident climbed a ladder, entered the window and doused a burning blanket moments from flaming. The house was saved and without fire damage.

Four unrelated people acting together effectively mitigated a serious life-safety incident. I suspect Ms. Tuch is not so interested in the life-safety issues of eight unrelated people living in a spacious and secure home. What she does, though, is provide a pretext for enforcing North Carolina housing code, which precisely defines who can live where in Asheville. A simple inspection of the historic home would satisfy any observer that this residence is adequate, safe and well-maintained.

We need to reclaim legislative authority at the local level. We can determine for ourselves a whole range of civil issues without blanket interference from a distant legislature. The only thing standing in the way of justice in this and many other cases is the lack of home rule.

— Tim Peck
Asheville
[Editor’s note: The author is a resident of the Montford home referenced in this letter]

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6 thoughts on “Reclaim legislative authority at the local level

  1. Barry Summers

    We need to reclaim legislative authority at the local level.

    According to Bob Oast, Asheville City Attorney, “North Carolina is not a home rule state,” and it would “probably” take an amendment to the state constitution to achieve ‘home rule’ for municipalities.

    He didn’t sound too certain. Does anybody know different?

  2. Barry Summers

    Done a little more reading, and talked to some folks at the School of Government. Part of the reason maybe, that the City Attorney is a little uncertain about this, is because a lot of people are. There has been a sporadic evolution over the past century, of the nature of NC’s “no home rule” status, with the courts weighing in, and various attempts to change things leading to nothing. However, it still seems that it would be at best the Mother of All Uphill Climbs to “reclaim legislative authority at the local level”, and is probably simply impossible.

    Good comprehensive article here:

    http://www.sog.unc.edu/pubs/electronicversions/pg/pgfal06/article2.pdf

  3. Yep. One of the frustrations I’ve faced this year on Council is that we are a “mother-may-I?” state. Over and over again we are blocked from making Asheville as progressive as its people by stuffed-shirt lawmaking in Raleigh.

  4. Barry Summers

    Just talked to Frayda S. Bluestein, the legal scholar behind the article cited above. She corrected me on the point of a constitutional amendment – she claims it would only require an act by the legislature to grant localities home rule authority, but that it has never been done.

  5. “but that it has never been done.”

    Perhaps it’s time to pursue this????? I’ve heard this lament from a cross section of party persuasions. I think it’s safe to say, most would like to see this changed.

    How do we do it?????

  6. John

    Davyne might be on to something. The R’s have complained about the tentacles of “Big Government” for a while now. Would be hard for an R to be against home rule in this case or any other…

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