From the newsletter of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce:
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.