City Council considers poll results, sets public hearing on bond

Ray Mapp asked City Council to ensure that the city's policing policies are appropriate and are being followed. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Upwards of 60% of the 403 Asheville voters surveyed support the city’s proposed bond referendum, a pollster told City Council at its regular meeting on July 26. Citing the results of a poll conducted by his firm, Campaign Research + Strategy, Tige Watts said the data show “a very clear indication that there is support in the community” for the transportation infrastructure, parks and recreation and affordable housing spending proposed by City Council.

In response to a question about infrastructure spending,

There could be a bond measure for $32 million which would make improvements to our transportation networks. Nearly half of this amount would be dedicated to resurfacing many roads and bikeways. The other $16 million would be used to improve and build new sidewalks, build the Swannanoa River Greenway, build bus shelters and projects aimed to improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?

50 percent of poll respondents said “strongly yes,” 17 percent said “somewhat yes,” six percent said “somewhat no,” 15 percent said “strongly no,” and 12 percent were unsure.

To a question about parks and recreation facilities,

Another bond measure could provide $17 million that would be used to improve parks and recreation centers. Among projects are building a gymnasium and program space at the Wesley Grant Center, and upgrades to Memorial Stadium, Jake Rusher Park in South Asheville, the Montford Complex and Richmond Hill Park, as well as citywide outdoor courts and playgrounds in the city, lighting at ball fields and the purchase of additional land for recreation. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?

41 percent of respondents said “strongly yes,” 19 percent said “somewhat yes,” six percent said “somewhat no,” 21 percent said “strongly no,” and 13 percent were unsure.

To a question about affordable housing investments,

A third and final bond referendum could provide $25 million to address the city’s need for affordable housing. Individual projects would dedicate funds for home ownership loan programs, a trust fund to enhance rental housing, a community land trust aimed at providing permanent affordable housing options, and using City-owned land for affordable housing. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?

56 percent of respondents said “strongly yes,” 11 percent said “somewhat yes,” eight percent said “somewhat no,” 15 percent said “strongly no,” and nine percent were unsure.

If approved by voters in November, investments in those three areas would be funded by general obligation bonds backed by city property tax revenues. As part of the poll, survey respondents were told that, though the bond amount is not yet final, a $74 million bond package could increase property taxes by about $110 a year, or a little less than $9 a month, for the owner of a home valued at $275,000. A property tax revaluation which is now underway could affect the amount of the tax increase necessary to fund the bond, making it difficult to estimate the exact impact the bond would have on city tax property tax rates.

After hearing about the potential property tax implications of the bond, 48 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to support the bond, 37 percent were less likely to support it, five percent said it made no difference and nine percent were unsure.

Full results of bond referendum survey

City Council advanced its plan to put the question on the general election ballot by reading the bond orders and setting a public hearing on the bond referendum for Council’s next meeting on August 9.

After hearing comments from Lia Kaz, Dee Williams, Ray Mapp and another Asheville resident, City Council announced plans for responding to public concerns related to the July 2 shooting death of Jai “Jerry” Williams by Asheville Police Department Sgt. Tyler Radford. Council members said they have asked the Racial Justice Coalition to recommend members for a task force to explore the APD’s use of force policy, as well as possible training or policies focusing on deescalation techniques and an examination of implicit biases affecting policing in Asheville.

Council heard reports on the city’s Homestay short-term rental program and an update on process improvement efforts at the Development Services department. Council approved a land-use incentive grant application for 72 units of affordable housing at 29 Oak Hill Rd., an award that could reduce the developer’s tax payments and other city fees by an estimated $302,617.86 over 9 1/2 years.

A request by Ingles Markets for an exception to the city’s sign ordinance for signage at the company’s 863 Brevard Rd. retail complex, which is currently being redeveloped, was continued until the  Sept. 6 meeting of Council. The Council voted 6-1 in favor of the continuance, with Councilmember Brian Haynes voting “no,” and indicating that he would deny Ingles’ request.

City Council appointed the following individuals to the city’s boards and commissions:

  • African American Heritage Commission: Antanette Mosley
  • Citizens-Police Advisory Committee: Shana McDowell
  • Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee: Blake Esselstyn, Linda Giltz and Steven Sizemore
  • Multimodal Transportation Commission: reappointed Bruce Emory, Terri MarchPhil Lenowitz and Kristy Carter; appointed David Nutter and Billie Lofland
  • Neighborhood Advisory Committee: Pat Deck
  • Tree Commission: Diane Hillgrove

For the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE), Council voted to interview Bridget Herring, Emily Boyd and Brad Rouse.

The next meeting of City Council will take place at 5 p.m. on Aug. 9 in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. Public hearings for the meeting will include the General Obligation bond referendum and a proposed amendment to Chapter 7 of the Code of Ordinances to establish requirements for utility substations.

 

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

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14 thoughts on “City Council considers poll results, sets public hearing on bond

  1. Gwar

    I’m done. Moving out of the city limits. This town is run by fools. Fits in with the type of people who live here. But don’t worry I will still use city services best part is I won’t pay for them !!!!!!!!

  2. boatrocker

    Let’s make the sock puppets uncomfortable.

    Black Lives Matter.

  3. luther blissett

    I understand why affordable housing would poll strongly, as it’s the pressing issue for the city, but I’m still not convinced that bond funding is the right fit for the specific programs that the city government offers.

    The interest rate on the bond is expected to be under 2%, which tells you that it’s worth taking on debt for capital projects, but should the city be borrowing in order to lend that money at 2.5% to private third parties? What’s the current NPL / default rate on existing loans? How much is outstanding on those loans? What oversight is in place for developers and landlords? What recourse does City Council have if projects don’t go to plan?

    If a road isn’t paved or a gym isn’t built, we know exactly where to point the finger. The chain of accountability isn’t as strong for the affordable housing component, and that’s a problem when it represents a multi-year financial commitment for city taxpayers. Fund it out of general revenue, sure, but not from a bond.

    • Lulz

      LOL, isn’t putting money into the “general” fund why we find ourselves in this predicament? Umm yeah. Let’s toss all the money into one big pool and then spend it where it’s not needed. And then tell the sheep that we need even more money because we were blatantly not funding things like infrastructure but giving it away to out crony friends lulz. Criminals the whole lot of them.

      • luther blissett

        We’ve already covered the raw numbers for the city’s budget. We’ve already covered the historically low interest rates for muni bonds. We’ve already discussed the potential to accelerate and save money on capital projects — and provide jobs! — when the money’s available in one go as opposed to being contingent on general revenue.

        Suppose the city said “okay, we’re going to put $2m aside for the next five years and then spend $10m”, what’s the likelihood of the usual suspects saying “you’re sitting on a pile of money, lower our taxes already?” After all, that’s what the GOP typically does when it takes power and inherits a budget surplus, both federally and on a state level.

        This isn’t a “predicament” that’s exclusive to Asheville. There’s an infrastructure backlog right across America because people take for granted that roads and bridges and dams and water lines and sewer systems and schools and libraries built out decades ago, sometimes past living memory. are somehow going to last forever, and it’s a testament to the skill and overengineering back then that they’ve lasted for so long.

        If you want to re-litigate the money given to the Art Museum till you’re blue in the face, that’s fine: I’m not especially happy with that mess either. But it’s a distraction, and it’s hard to assume good faith from people who pretend not to see the parallels between bond funding for capital projects and arranging a 2% mortgage on a home. That’s the basic framework for judging each component of the bond referendum: what concrete things (sometimes literally concrete) will the city have for that money, and how long will they last and how much benefit will they bring beyond the time the bonds are paid off?

    • Curious

      This is indeed a good point. Will anyone put the question directly to the Mayor and the Council?

      • luther blissett

        One question’s already been raised by Sidney Bach at the July 5th council meeting, reported by MX here:

        http://mountainx.com/news/city-council-keeps-74-million-bond-referendum-on-schedule/

        “Bach responded that, while he supports the development of affordable housing, he objects to the city contributing to the profits private investors stand to make on affordable housing projects.”

        My objections are slightly different: as a basic principle, I don’t think the city should be lending borrowed money, period. It is not a bank and shouldn’t try to be one. Even putting that aside, greatly increasing the trust fund potentially raises the risk of delinquency or default from more marginal projects. We need to know the status of existing loans in terms of what’s currently outstanding, and on what repayment schedule. We also need thorough and transparent mechanisms for oversight and recourse.

        (The land-banking project involving relocation of the city fleet facility is also a pretty vague project right now.)

        Fundamentally, there’s not enough direct accountability in the affordable housing component compared to the transportation and parks & rec plans. Every dollar that the city borrows is a dollar for which it ought to be responsible and held accountable until the final repayment is made. A borrowed dollar that’s loaned off somewhere else is literally passing the buck.

  4. MMH

    WOW, we AGREE Luther! Very astute. You see the reasons that this next bond scam is ‘needed’ totally emanates from years
    of non leadership and infrastructure neglect by the controlling power mongers who have failed to serve their brethren effectively. The EVIL that still lurks within city government/council is pronounced. Taxpayers cannot trust any of them to make any good decisions based on history.

    • bsummers

      Yep, yoU really nailed that ONE with a red hot poker! You’re one who knows, that’s FOR sure…

      • MMH

        Thanks, I appreciate your snarky compliment. (remember, ignorance IS bliss around here…)

    • Lulz

      Local criminals, aka politicians, aren’t worried. They have a machine that keeps the info suppressed and the sheep in a stupor.

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