While Asheville City Council meets in retreat to discuss its procedures and goals for the coming year, new Council member Cecil Bothwell has announced 11 goals he’ll pursue in 2010, ranging from the sweeping (decriminalizing drugs, ceasing immigration enforcement) to the local (ceasing to build downtown parking spaces, simplifying the city’s development ordinance).
In an e-mail newsletter, Bothwell announced a list of 11 goals “for 2010 and beyond.” At the beginning of the list, he declares his overarching aim to be “reducing carbon emissions to address the global warming crisis.” The following 11 specific goals include everything from law enforcement (decriminalize drugs, rethink enforcement of prostitution laws) to political matters (publicly financed elections with instant-runoff voting) to the environment (reducing fuel budgets for city departments, halting the building of more downtown parking spaces). Some of the proposals — such as making Asheville a “sanctuary city” where local police would not help to enforce immigration laws — might prove to be controversial, though they have precedent in other cities throughout the country.
In a brief note on the Scrutiny Hooligans blog, fellow freshman Council member Gordon Smith also noted his priorities and said he hoped the retreat would bode well for making progress on them in the coming year.
“Finding our collective will on issues like affordable housing, sustainability, and transportation in light of the expected budget shortfalls will make for some creative problem-solving,” Smith wrote. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with the other members of Council, all of whom are faithful public servants with brains in their heads.”
Bothwell’s full list is below.
— David Forbes, staff writer
My priority list
City Council Goals for 2010 and beyond
My overarching goal is reduction of carbon emissions to address the global warming crisis.
It is apparent that we should double the target savings in the city’s energy conservation plan (or halve the time frame) because we need to catch up with the reports of climate scientists who have established that global warming is occurring at a far faster rate than predicted just a few years ago. In 2006 it was believed that summer Arctic sea ice would disappear by the end of the century. It is now predicted that it will disappear as soon as 2015. Global warming must be addressed everywhere immediately. The good news is that this effort can result in savings, jobs and a healthier population.
1. Publicly financed elections in the city (modeled on Chapel Hill’s recent success) coupled with an instant run-off voting system. This will require permission from the General Assembly – the House passed a law in 2009, we need the Senate to approve it in 2010. I think we should schedule a referendum on the plan in November 2010, add a check-off donation to tax bills, and implement the plan, if approved, in time for the 2011 City election. [Energy and dollar savings, and getting big money out of politics.]
2. Implement differential water rates to encourage conservation. Water is the new oil in the global economy and it will be our most valuable local economic resource in coming years. Deliver the first 100 gallons per day per household for free, with increased rates above that level to maintain revenue neutrality. We should instruct the water department to conduct a water bill audit to identify households and businesses that have significant undetected leaks. [Energy and dollar savings.]
3. Create a robust regional transportation plan so NCDOT will reduce the proposed I-26 connector to no more than 6 lanes. Jay Swain from the NCDOT has said that if we want the highway to be less than 8 lanes and shift investment to alternative transportation, we first need to put a regional transportation initiative in place in order to demonstrate that this actually takes cars off the road. [Energy and dollar savings. Neighborhood preservation. Reduced exhaust emissions.]
4. Refrain from building any more downtown parking spaces. Focus on freeing up existing spaces and building satellite parking at appropriate transit stops. City employees should be incentivized to utilize the transit system whenever possible and the city should provide GEM cars or other Low Emission Vehicles for employee use for special needs. (Examples: a sick child who needs a ride from school, medical or legal appointments, etc.) We can model this for the County government, Memorial Mission and other large employers. Eventually this will spin off into an urban ZipCar type operation which will help reduce automobile ownership and use in the metropolitan area. [Energy and dollar savings. Reduced exhaust emissions.]
5. Reduce the amount of money available for fuel for each city department over time. Let vehicle-dependent departments figure out how to reduce their needs. Replace standard vehicles with GEM or LEV-type vehicles as quickly as possible and where appropriate. [Energy and dollar savings. Reduced exhaust emissions.]
6. Simplify the UDO. Immediately implement publication of a grid system reportedly already in use by City Planners (on an informal basis) which greatly simplifies application of the Unified Development Ordinance. Follow up with application of the same logistic to the entire document. Contract with the Asheville Design Group to complete the re-visioning and then use that re-visioning to further simplify the code. [City and developer cost savings; more clarity for the general public.]
7. Create a PACE credit system to fund energy retrofit loans to home- and business-owners. Create a revolving loan system to enable property owners to do energy saving retrofits. This will reduce energy use and energy bills throughout the city. [Energy and dollar savings.]
8. Make Asheville a “Sanctuary City.” The Police Foundation published a report in April, 2009, titled “The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties.” The report confirms that when local police enforce immigration laws, it undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities that are already distrustful of police. I would like to see Asheville become a Sanctuary City, joining over 125 other cities across the United States, including our nation’s capitol, which do not participate in immigration enforcement.
[Save lives, money.]
9. Rethink enforcement of prostitution law. When police enforce prostitution laws, it undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, and exacerbates fear in communities that are already distrustful of police. We have never succeeded, and probably will never succeed, in eliminating prostitution, enforcement just moves it around. [Save lives, money.]
10. Decriminalize drugs. A generation or two back there were drug dealers in poor communities all through these mountains who either corrupted our sheriffs or shot at them. We called them moonshiners and we put them out of business by legalizing alcohol sales. We can move today’s so-called “open-air” drug markets out of housing projects and other neighborhoods and into the farmers’ markets and ABC stores where they belong.
Council should urge our legislative delegation to legalize production and use of natural plant-type drugs and legalize, regulate and tax plant-derivatives. Prohibition has failed for a century while the hard-drug addiction rate has remained constant at 1.5 percent of the population since 1905. The Obama administration has called for an end to the war on drugs and we should call on the General Assembly to act on that idea. Prohibition is the principle cause of a large percentage of property crime, violent crime and gang activity. It piles up public bills for law enforcement, courts and prisons. [We can save lives, money, energy and more. Local marijuana and industrial hemp production will be a boon for farmers and provide fiber and oil for local industry. Local pot has a much lower carbon footprint than the imported kind.]
11. Empower public housing residents. To the extent that individuals have nothing to lose they are free to engage in high-risk activities such as drug dealing (which is the main reason why young men comprise the largest proportion of the criminal population.) Recognizing that legalization of drugs may be a slow process (and not in the purview of the city), we can search for ways to help residents of housing projects gain an ownership stake in their communities. We should consider the possibility of creating condominium or cooperative ownership and governance of those communities.