Updated: Apodaca files bill to establish district elections for Asheville City Council

Asheville city seal

Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) has filed State Bill 897 to establish district elections for Asheville City Council. The bill creates six electoral districts and specifies that each district will elect one representative who lives in that area. The city’s mayor would continue to be elected by a city-wide vote.

If enacted, the legislation would transition Asheville’s city-wide elections to staggered district elections. Council members elected in 2017 would serve a two-year term (rather than a four-year term, as would be the case under the election law now in effect). The terms of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith end in 2017.

Council members Brian Haynes, Julie Mayfield and Keith Young were elected in 2015 to four-year terms ending in 2019.

In 2019, all districts would elect new Council members. The three highest vote-getting districts’ members would serve four-year terms, while the other three districts’  representatives would serve two-year terms. From 2021 on, City Council representatives would serve alternating four-year terms.

The seven-term senator, whose district includes Henderson and Transylvania counties as well as a small part of Buncombe County, will not seek reelection this year.

The full text of the legislation is available here.

On the evening of Wednesday, June 22, Manheimer provided a comment on the legislation by email:

There is a full meeting of council on Tuesday so the council will have the opportunity to talk about it at that time. The delegation is also working to address the legislation — opposing it first and foremost and amending it if possible. Again, this bill does not provide the opportunity for Asheville’s citizens to weigh in until after the 2020 census. I believe the majority of Asheville citizens would like the opportunity to vote on this by referendum, at the very least, before it is implemented.

In a followup email, Manheimer clarified the relevance of her reference to the 2020 census. The bill specifically states, Manheimer explains, that Asheville can’t use a current statewide law that allows cities to choose whether to implement district elections by referendum. The bill says the city may avail itself of the current law only after the 2020 census. “It’s just a point in time when the state statute can be used by Asheville to effect local choice,” Manheimer continued.

A 2015 state law that created district elections in Greensboro entirely removed that city’s ability to hold a referendum to consider the matter, Manheimer said. A federal court’s initial ruling said the Greensboro bill could not be implemented since it violates the equal protection clause of the United States constitution.


Editor’s note: This story was updated on Thursday, May 23 at 10:24 a.m. to reflect Manheimer’s comments.


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61 thoughts on “Updated: Apodaca files bill to establish district elections for Asheville City Council

          • bsummers

            No we won’t.

            increase representative democracy” is a bumper-sticker, focus-grouped phrase intended to mislead people about the intent of forcing a new election regimen on a group of voters that did not ask for or approve of it.

            You’re applauding using the Power of the State™ to forcibly intrude on local matters. Ms. Rand would be so proud.

          • Huhsure

            Agreed, Barry. Nothing but a naked power play by some impotent legislators who can’t win elections in Buncombe any other way than creating gerrymandered districts.

            Sad move by pathetic also-rans.

          • Barry said: “‘increase representative democracy’ is a bumper-sticker, focus-grouped phrase ”

            The reason I use the phrase “increase representative democracy” when speaking of district elections is because the words naturally occur to my mind and I find them highly descriptive. District elections will ensure that voters all across Asheville will have a representative from their area sitting on city council deciding matters that are important to the whole of the city.

            The progressive establishment opposes district elections (“naturally, we’re opposed to this,” says Manheimer) and wants to put up roadblocks (a referendum, council drawing the maps, bah) and generate animus toward the idea when in fact the idea is generally viewed favorably.

            I think the governing elites prefer to keep the old system where a small group of people decide the entire make up of the governing body for our diverse city. I think that is because district elections promise to disrupt the concentration of power, hamper the manipulation of elections, encourage citizen engagement, and motivate voter turnout.

            They have indicated that they would not have done this themselves so it must be done for them. Good. The better it will be for all of us.

            Commentary on District Elections: http://bit.ly/28KMA4y

          • bsummers

            when in fact the idea is generally viewed favorably

            Again, you’ve previously confirmed you have no empirical data to support that statement, just your anecdotal reporting that people you talk to support the idea of forcing a new election regimen on Asheville voters that they did not ask for or approve of. In other words, a lie… again.

            The reason I use the phrase “increase representative democracy” when speaking of district elections is because the words naturally occur to my mind and I find them highly descriptive.

            Wow, it really is about you and your fantasies, isn’t it? “Just lay back and think of me, Asheville.”

          • Everybody loves the idea of increasing representative democracy in a more fair and inclusive election process for city council. Bravo, Senator Apodaca. Thank you for your service to the state and our community.

        • James

          Yes they do. I was forcibly annexed into the city almost ten years ago by a city council majority that did not did not reside anywhere near my former neighborhood. (I no longer live in Asheville thank God!) The current council elections are structured to preserve a progressive majority that are only concerned with the priorities of Montford, West Asheville, Downtown and other in-town areas where those types live. If the elections were for all seats every four years, it would be one thing but this business of having an election for a few here and a few there (so Cecil votes won’t take away votes from Gordon) make about as much sense as the superdelegate fiasco the democrats have in their party rules.

          • “I was forcibly annexed into the city almost ten years ago by a city council majority that did not did not reside anywhere near my former neighborhood.”

            You mean they didn’t take a vote of the people with a referendum?

      • bsummers

        How do I know you do, Mr “lulz” (if that is your real name)? You’re probably sitting in a trailer in the Nevada desert right now, running 20 sockpuppets.

        Sen. Apodaca doesn’t live in Asheville, nor do any of the other Republican legislators in Raleigh who will help him screw Asheville voters. When they stop meddling in Asheville elections, I’ll “go away”.

        • Lulz

          Put it up to a vote by the electorate. Not the crony crooks on council or their minions. The area is becoming a scam for the 1 percenters Summers Eve. How in the hell can you even support the establishment that fleeces the neighborhoods so that the wealthy can make bank? And even worse, not even have enough money, unless of course they put their phony bond up for vote, to even fix the problems that tourism brings lulz. What good is all this tourism and brewery garage Mr Eve if it has to be subsidized bu those that gain NOTHING from it lulz?

          Oh and I’m willing to bet you a grand right now that I do indeed live in Asheville. You willing to put your money where your mouth is at?

          • bsummers

            You’re wanting me to enter into a wager with an anonymous sockpuppet over where he resides? That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard, Hatey McHaterson.

    • bsummers

      I’m getting email notifications that both Mr. Peck and Mr. lulz are trying feverishly to post a response that the moderators will clear because it doesn’t involve insult or vulgarity.

      C’mon, guys! You can do it!

        • Do you really think the people of Asheville will continue to sit idly by while the disgruntled ruling elite waste more tax money on another fruitless lawsuit?

          • Yes. Life will go on. But a better life. One that is more democratic. The one thing that elitist leadership can’t abide.

          • luther blissett

            Oh, so that’s the grand strategy: force the city to divert time and money that could be spent on useful things towards legal challenges, then complain that the city’s not spending money on useful things.

            In other words, Peter Thiel tactics from spiteful state legislators glutted on their own gerrymandered power, propped up by lickspittles in undisclosed basements. What a pathetic, spineless way to conduct politics.

        • bsummers

          Agree. More power to Asheville’s City Council if they choose to fight this abuse of State power.

          • Not a Fan

            Keyboard warrior b summers. Yes the city will sue and waste even more tax dollars. Far fall from the mighty elite throne they sit on. The bill will pass and life will go on.

    • Bsummers

      You have achieved troll status, use your full name and back your words up like Mr Peck does.

      • Bsummers

        I see who you are now. Your the Glenn beck of liberal radio. People like you are why I vote for those idiot republicans. Liberals are worse.

      • bsummers

        Or he had his right to vote in Asheville/Buncombe/North Carolina revoked for some reason. Darn that Oppressive State Government™.

  1. bsummers

    The important thing to take away from that 1995 primary election is… look at how many conservative candidates ran in an open non-district election and won! That 1996 Asheville City Council was dominated by Chris Peterson and his Republican CIBO cabal. It’s possible for Republicans to win local elections… but they don’t want to have to work for it, in a town where they are the minority.. They want it handed to them by gerrymander.

    Disgusting to call that “increased representative democracy”. Anyone saying that should be ashamed.

    • Lulz

      Peterson ran as a democrat lulz. And don’t you remember are 1st woman mayor Leni, the buffoon that pushed out the Honda Hoot?

      • Now, with municipal district elections, every district in Asheville will have a representative sitting on a more democratically-elected city council. I feel better already.

        • Huhsure

          Gerrymandering gives Tim the warm fuzzies. Too bad he couldn’t get elected on his own merits.

          • Huhsure

            Failed candidate for Asheville City Council, who has been removed from the NC voter roll, is cheerleading for gerrymandering of the city. Of course you’re the topic. Why would you think you would be immune from criticism on this issue?

          • Graphic: Asheville District Elections Timeline

  2. Senate Bill 897 (Asheville City Council Districts) moves in Senate today.

    06/23/2016 Senate Passed 1st Reading
    06/23/2016 Senate Ref To Com On Redistricting

  3. Yep

    Thanks to Sen. Apodaca for this bold move to help free the citizens of AVL from the oppressive, controlling progressives who
    refuse to yield to anyone else…

    Notice that everyone opposed are heinous democrackkks …

  4. Senate Redistricting Committee
    Friday, June 24, 10:00 a.m., 643 LOB
    SB 897: Asheville City Council Districts
    Full Audio: cpa.ds.npr.org/wcqs/audio/2016/06/hearingrawaudio.mp3

    Sen. Ralph Hise on SB897: Asheville District Elections
    Senator Hise: “I thank the chairman. Just a quick comment. I thank Senator Apodaca on his work on this. Being near the area, I also heard a lot of complaints about the Asheville council and its failure to represent many of the people that live in that community…and I just wanted comment on the fact that when individuals are currently serving and have a tremendous advantage in being elected, as is obvious in this case, I hate to make them the arbiters of whether or not we should make any changes when they’ve developed a system that obviously benefits them in that process, so…I thank Senator Apodaca all these years, and I will tell you that it is your voice that I trust [regarding] the city of Asheville.”

    • Matt McClure

      While we’re cherry picking quotes that support our personal agenda, here’s mine from the WCQS website: “Senator Apodaca is hoping to force the changes despite unanimous opposition from the Asheville City Council, and all other state lawmakers representing Buncombe County. Democratic Senator Jane Smith from southeastern North Carolina brought that up to Apodaca in the committee meeting, “My only concern is that we seem to continue to be going into local areas and telling them what to do, even if they don’t necessarily want that. Would you be open to having a referendum from the citizens of Asheville to see whether they would be willing to support that?”
      Apodaca said no thanks.”

      • “Apodaca said no thanks.”

        LOL. We’ve got this.

        City council has all the statutory authority it needs to hold a referendum on district elections in N.C.G.S. 160A: Article 5, Part 4. Modification of Form of Government. § 160A-101,2,3,5.

        They can hold one any time they like; this year, even. I dare them. Yes, they are free to once again “gauge the mood” of the citizens, just like they did on the water system.

        There are all sorts of juicy quotes from the committee meeting:

        • bsummers

          You got nothing but spin.

          The public has all the authority they need to force a referendum on district elections. If, as you say, it’s so dang popular, why has no one tried to use the mechanism that allows them to put such a referendum on the ballot? We all know it’s possible – it was used successfully in 2007 to put a referendum on partisan elections on the ballot:


          If it’s so popular, as Mr. Peck says, why has no one gathered the 5000 signatures necessary to put district elections to the voters in November?

          • City council doesn’t need a petition to put a district elections referendum on the ballot. A petition is for citizen action. You certainly spill a lot of ink getting it wrong on a daily basis, Barry.

          • bsummers

            A petition is for citizen action.

            Exactly. If there’s such outrage over this, if “Everybody loves the idea of increasing representative democracy in a more fair and inclusive election process for city council” as you keep saying, why has no one in the public done the minimal legwork to put it on the ballot? Because only a very small number of people want it. That’s why you and Apodaca don’t want a referendum – because you know you’ll lose.

            Neither trying to spin back to your Council-hating talking points, or insulting me, makes you any more right.

      • bsummers

        That’s because he knows that the voters of Asheville would reject it. That’s why Council has never bothered pursuing it – so very few people seem to care about it. If there were actually a sizable chunk of voters who cared a lot about shifting to district elections, they would have to at least recognize that.

        This is a handful of whiners who can’t get elected fair & square, trying to get Raleigh to give them a booster seat so they can sit at the grown-ups table.

        Speaking of Asheville haters, why haven’t we heard anything from Chuck McGrady on this? He’s been silent, despite the fact that he helped Tim Moffitt threaten the City with district elections 3 years ago.

        Emails reveal state reps trying to settle Asheville water lawsuit, may change city elections

        • I have every expectation that South Asheville will elect a Democrat to city council in 2019. District elections are not about getting Republicans elected. They are about increasing representative democracy. If that happens to get a Republican elected, so be it. That is why the ruling progressive elite are opposed to the change.

          • bsummers

            Start a petition drive, and all you need is 5000 of the people you say love the idea, and it goes on the ballot. Sidestep the “elite”. Wouldn’t that be great?

            Whatta crock – a powerful State Senator’s spokestroll calling local City Council members “the elite”. If they’re so dang elite, how is it that a single man who doesn’t live is here able to stand on their throats?

          • City council has had the statutory authority to have long ago passed an ordinance establishing district elections to be ratified by voters as a referendum on a ballot in an up-or-down vote. They haven’t done that because they’re afraid of consulting democracy.

            Just like it took legislation from Raleigh to de-annex Biltmore Lake, it will take legislation to bring greater representative democracy to the city council election process; something the progressive elites fear.

            And it looks like SB897 is moving along quite nicely.

          • bsummers

            They haven’t done that because they’re afraid of consulting democracy.

            They haven’t done that because hardly anyone wants this. If it was more than just a handful of disgruntled Republicans, someone would have used the petition process to force a referendum a long time ago. They haven’t. It’s possible to gather signatures to do this, as witnessed by the 2007 partisan-elections referendum. In the end, only 2357 Asheville residents voted in favor of it. Less than half the people who said they wanted it on the ballot actually turned out to vote for it.


            That’s why Asheville-haters are using the power of the State to force this on the voters who didn’t ask for it, despite a mechanism to do it locally. They know Asheville voters don’t want it. That will be part of the City’s legal challenge, I’m sure – violating the rights of City voters to determine their own electoral process.

          • “They haven’t done that because hardly anyone wants this.”

            You’re guessing.

            The petition process is for citizen action, not for city council action. Let council ask the people what they want. Heck, let the Citizen-Times do a general poll. They won’t even touch it. So much for democracy, Barry.

          • Huhsure

            Guessing? He brought data. You brought nothing. Literally. You have no data to support your assertions and justify gerrymandering the city.

          • Your bestest buddy brought wishful thinking and echo-chamber group-think. Inadmissible as evidence.

            A referendum result would be evidence. Why not hold one? The city has the statutory authority.

            By the way, Senate Bill 897 passed easily in the Senate and should come before the House tonight.

            Here’s the Asheville City Council Districts Map:

            And here’s the Asheville City Council District Elections Timeline:

            Good stuff.

  5. bsummers

    “I have been asked to allow a referendum on this plan. I will not. And there’s a simple reason why. If Asheville were allowed a referendum, I have no doubt that the current Council would work to defeat it.” Sen. Apodaca, on the Senate floor just now before a party line vote.

    “So much for democracy”. He’s openly saying that he doesn’t want the voters to decide this, because he’s afraid they won’t decide it the way Sen. Apodaca wants.

  6. bsummers

    Meanwhile, don’t forget that in 2013, Henderson County Rep. Chuck McGrady was pressuring Asheville on the water lawsuit http://goo.gl/vTJQOz at the same time that Tim Moffitt was threatening them with district elections http://goo.gl/QL8Muf .

    But I’m sure there was absolutely no connection between the two, or the fact that Henderson County Sen. Tom Apodaca is now delivering on that threat.

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