In a split and controversial vote, the Asheville City Council on Tuesday, June 12, decided to make the city’s mayoral and Council elections a partisan affair, pitting Democrats against Republicans (not to mention lesser parties and independents).
Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council members Jan Davis and Carl Mumpower voted against the measure. Those voting for it were Brownie Newman, Bryan Freeborn, Robin Cape and Vice-Mayor Holly Jones.
Unless a successful voter petition drive can be fulfilled within the next 30 days (followed by a voter referendum), the change will go into effect by the time of this year’s Sept. 11 primaries, followed by the city’s November general election.
Those voting against said the change was unnecessary and would hurt third-party candidates, who would be required to gather thousands of signatures via petition just to get on the ballot. Those who voted in favor said the move would help voters better decide who to vote for and should spur greater turnout, among other advantages.
At least one independent candidate for Council — the Rev. Brother Chris Chiaromonte — railed against the move, while local talk-radio host Matt Mittan got his keaster escorted out of Council chambers by speaking out against the measure (in violation of Council rules).
And, in other momentous news, Council voted 5-2 (with Davis and Mumpower against) to ban any further gated communities in the city. Davis supported a failed amendment to allow such exclusive communities in special cases (for instance, when communities need to control traffic or crime), while Mumpower dissented strictly in terms of protecting property rights. The rest of Council supported the move largely on grounds that such communities are a detriment to community interaction and integration.
And, finally, Council moved one step closer to adopting a fiscal year 2007-08 budget (which would go into effect July 1). More tweaks will be made at the Council’s June 19 meeting when a final vote is taken, but the tentative $129.9 million budget will roll back property taxes (though very slightly), to the tune of about $7.60 annually for the owner of a $200,000 home. Further, Council agreed to cut recycling fees in half, saving taxpayers more than $15 annually — though caps on business-license fees will largely be eliminated, resulting in slightly more than a dozen large area businesses such as Ingles and Wal-Mart pumping an extra $75,000 into the city treasury.
For the full story on Council’s June 12 meeting, be sure to check out the June 20 edition of Xpress.
— Hal L. Millard, staff writer