Asheville Area Chamber pushes back on plan to poll public on district elections

From the newsletter of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce:

Asheville Districts?

Last night, City Council voted unanimously to hire a professional polling company to gauge municipal citizens’ opinion on whether Asheville should be divided into districts for City elections. Currently, all members of City Council are voted on citywide. Prior to the vote, Mayor Esther Manheimer read a letter from State Senator Chuck Edwards, wherein he stated his intention to file a bill to divide Asheville into districts later this year. This move would be reflective of the State legislature’s obvious intention to divvy up Asheville geographically over the last year or so.

There appears to be no nuance in this debate. Asheville will be split into voting districts sometime in the future. While it may not sit right with a lot of people locally (including our elected officials who are directly affected), it is the reality of living in a Dillon Rule state. Dillon Rule state municipalities, like Asheville, are limited in what rules and ordinances they can enact by their presiding State legislatures. Generally, we can only do what Raleigh allows us to do, within the law.

Therefore, let us not waste time spending months gauging public interest. Let us spend that time wisely on educating our citizenry and engaging knowledgeable consultants and experts on how we draw the districts. Let us make the process fair, equitable and void of political influence. Many of city residents and businesses do feel left out of our local political process. A large portion of that issue can be addressed through districts.

We support a plan that allows each district (whether it be 4 or 6) to vote a couple of candidates through to a general election. Thereafter, every city voter can have a say on who sits on the Council as a whole. Geographic representation is guaranteed by having the candidates come from districts but the whole citizenry still would get to vote for all candidates.

In addition, we think it’s important that all candidates be elected in even number years, when turnout is larger. Electing city council at one time avoids having a constant election season. This structure would curb the frequently divisive campaigns that go along with the current staggered, odd-year elections. It would provide more time for good governance. We support a system that does not create more political divisiveness, nor that promotes too much provincial thinking.

Regardless of the plan put forward, let’s not waste time or taxpayer money on figuring out if. That decision ostensibly has been made for us. Let’s now focus on how to go forward fairly and effectively.

About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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3 thoughts on “Asheville Area Chamber pushes back on plan to poll public on district elections

  1. Jonathan Wainscott

    Mayor Manheimer an Cecil Bothwell have both, repeated;y, said that Asheville is too small to have district elections. Cecil Bothwell likes to cmpare Asheville to Chicago when talking about district elections. Here’s the top 20 most polulous cities in North Carolina and how they organize their municipal elections wit “D” representing Districts and “AL” signifying At-large elections:

    (D) Charlotte [Meckelnburg] 731,424
    (D) Raleigh [Wake] 403,892
    (D) Greensboro [Guillford] 269,666
    (D) Winston-Salem [Forsythe] 229,617
    (D) Durham Durham [Wake] 228,330
    (D) Fayetteville [Cumberland] 200,564
    (D) Cary [Wake, Chatham] 135,234
    (AL) Wilmington [New Hanover] 106,476
    (D) High Point 104,371
    [Guilford, Davidson,
    Randolph, Forsyth]
    (D) Greenville Pitt 84,554
    (AL) Asheville Buncombe 83,393
    (D) Concord Cabarrus 79,066
    (D) Gastonia Gaston 71,741
    (D) Jacksonville Onslow 70,145
    (D) Rocky Mount 57,477
    (AL) Chapel Hill 57,233
    [Orange, Durham]
    (AL) Burlington [Alamance] 49,963
    (D) Wilson [Wilson] 49,167

    (AL) Huntersville [Mecklemburg] 46,773

    (AL) Kannapolis
    [Cabarraus,Rowan] 42,625

    Of course when we want to spend money on a party, why good golly we need to emulate…Austin, TX. Remember when Cecil was going to turn Asheville into the next Austin by bringing us Moogfest, the next South By Southwest music festival. The population of Austin, TX is 931,830 Cecil and the Ausitn airport has direct flights to 36 cities including London, England.

    More importantly, conducting a land-line telephone poll about a relatively esoteric matter of civic structure is bound to reveal irrelevant results. This is an issue that is not on most people’s radar because there has been little public discussion, but ( ).

    This poll is just a way for City Council to punt their responsibilities as is their typical protocol.

  2. Jonathan Wainscott

    13 hrs ·

    Meanwhile, Gordon Smith is draggin out the charged phrase “affirmative action” to scare off the very people who are pushing for district elections, mostly Republicans (which I am not and never have been).

    We have the opportunity to control our own affairs but City Council would rather sit on their hands and wait for the political forecast to give them a safe way of either not doing anything or go with the perpetual flow of the Democratic party which is turning their backs on the African-American community in Asheville.

    My proposal is to create 6 municipal electoral districts: North, South, East, West, Central and a sixth district comprised of all the residents of Asheville Public Housing. While Republicans scream bloody murder over not having a single representative on council from the largely Republican area of South Asheville, the residents of Asheville Public Housing live in the most distinctly defined boundaries of the housing projects and have the most unique living situations of any group of people in our town, but their chance of ever having a representative on Council is effectively zero.

    Asheville loves to consider itself a progressive place, but it’s all talk and no walk.

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