Mayor Bellamy on the road

In her two years in office, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy has taken nine trips to other cities for official business, according to a summary she prepared this week at the request of City Council member Carl Mumpower. In an e-mail written yesterday, Bellamy says those trips cost a total of $8,561, a sum she says was money well spent.

The travel expenses were a good investment, she asserts in the e-mail, because those trips helped her to “leverage nearly $1,000,000 for our community (new dollars awarded to the Homeless Coalition, new dollars for replacement vehicles for transit system, new dollars for Asheville Police Department, and new dollars for the Reid Center).”

“As you can see the majority of my trips were to Washington,” Bellamy wrote, adding that those trips were instrumental to the city’s effort to garner federal funds. “While I did attend various conferences to learn, I spent time lobbying our Federal legislators during my visits. I met with Senator Burr, Senator Dole, Rep. Shuler and/or their key staff members. At each meeting I presented council’s legislative agenda, which the majority of council adopted, as well as information on key grants that staff had applied for or were in the process of applying for.”

Bellamy itemizes trips for other purposes, as well. For example, she reports that the city spent $1,267.08 on her trip to meet with Staples executives in order to urge the office-supply company to modify parts of its Merrimon Avenue store.

The full text of Bellamy’s e-mail, along with a Dec. 31, 2007, e-mail she wrote to summarize recent federal appropriations for Asheville-based projects and organizations, is reprinted below.

— Jon Elliston, managing editor

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In a message dated 2/20/2008 9:00:53 AM Eastern Standard Time, MayorBellamy@ashevillenc.gov writes:
Councilman Mumpower (et al):

Thank you requesting the information on travel by council members. I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the results of my travel:

I have taken nine trips to represent the city to various conferences, including:
2008 US Conference of Mayors in Washington expense: 1403.65
2007 National Congress on Secure Communities sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security expense: 995.59
2007 Meeting with Staples Executives expense: 1267.08
2007 Gaston Chamber of Commerce Forum “Successful Partnerships among NC Larger Cities” expense: 106.43
2007 African American Leadership Conference expense: 1036.74
2007 Chamber of Commerce Legislative Visit expense: 14.00
2007 NC Metro Coalition Legislative Day expense: 314.84
2007 National League of Cities Conference expense: 1892.45
2007 US Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting expense: 1620.23

My total expenses were: 8651.01.

As you can see the majority of my trips were to Washington. While I did attend various conferences to learn, I spent time lobbying our Federal legislators during my visits. I met with Senator Burr, Senator Dole, Rep. Shuler and/or their key staff members. At each meeting I presented council’s legislative agenda, which the majority of council adopted, as well as information on key grants that staff had applied for or were in the process of applying for.

I have enclosed an email that I sent to council at the end of the year that highlighted the results of some of my travels. Please see below. I would like to also say that I used my visits to assist in informing Sen. Dole about the City of Asheville’s use and needs for Community Development Block Grant funds. Sen. Dole has been our champion for the fund and she has acknowledged her appreciation for my informative visits.

During my visits with Senator Burr we focused our conversations on the adopted agenda as well as the need for additional federal agents for drug enforcement, Reid Center, transit funding and homeless issues. Sen. Burr has been instrumental in getting additional funding to address homelessness in Asheville (including the increase highlighted below and funding for the VA center and ABCCM). Funding for Reid Center is proposed, but not approved ($160,000).

Recently, Rep. Shuler made announcements about the additional support for Asheville Police Department that he worked on for the City of Asheville. I am happy to let you know that we talked about those issues during our visits while I was in Washington, and I reemphasized them in letters, phone calls and visits with his local staff.

The National Congress on Secure Communities was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. I was a panelist representing municipalities’ views. I discussed the need to protect our nation and provide cities with essential support to address essential issues, including funding to prepare for pandemics, emergencies and riots. As a result of my comments, I had a conference call yesterday from the office asking how can the Department assist Asheville and I was asked to co-host an event with Asa Hutchinson (from the department) in Washington on April 2nd.

Additionally, During the US Conference of Mayors conferences I attended the new mayors training as well as committee meetings that focused on Housing and Economic Development.

My trips to Raleigh afforded me the opportunity to lobby for additional support for our court system and transportation. I have attached a memo that I used to support my case for changes in legislation that was being proposed (See Attached). Through the work of the NC Metro Coalition of Mayors we have been able to help get Gang Legislation out committee (thanks in huge part to Sen. Nesbitt) and additional funding for the court system.

My trip to Gaston County was an opportunity for the mayors of the largest cities in North Carolina to discuss the issues that we are working on together – including Gang Legislation, Transportation and Court System.

In conclusion, I have invested my 8651.01 in travel dollars to leverage nearly $1,000,000 for our community (new dollars awarded to the Homeless Coalition, new dollars for replacement vehicles for transit system, new dollars for Asheville Police Department, and new dollars for the Reid Center). I would like to add that this information only highlights some of my accomplishments and does not mention the scholarships I have received to attend other activities that have benefited the City of Asheville (in the email below I mention the success of a trip taken to Denver, which was paid for the sponsoring entity – Fannie Mae).

Warmest regards,

Mayor Bellamy

EMAIL THAT I SENT TO COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTING SOME ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

From: Mayor Terry Bellamy
Sent: Monday, December 31, 2007 11:51 AM
To: ‘jandavis@main.nc.us’; Jan Davis; Holly Jones; ‘hollyj@buncombe.main.nc.us’; Robin Cape; Brownie Newman; Carl Mumpower; ‘Billrussell@charter.net’; Bob Oast; Gary Jackson; Keisha Lipe; Jeff Richardson
Subject: Update on Federal support

Council and Staff:

As 2007 comes to a close, I want to give you a brief update on some federal issues that I have been working on for the City of Asheville.

Homelessness:

In November, Amy Sawyer and I attended the “Under One Roof” Summit that was convened by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Philip Mangano, Melville Charitable Trust President Robert Hohler, and sponsored by Fannie Mae. It was an opportunity to highlight the work that is being done in our community to address chronic homelessness.

Mr. Mangano called me before the holidays to inform me that the city’s funding for housing and supportive service needs of homeless individuals and families has been increased from $688,000 to $957,000. I announced the increase during the dinner portion of the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event.

Appropriations:

During the year, I have made several trips to Washington to attend conferences and meetings; while in Washington, I have met with each Senator and Congressman or their key staff members. Recently, Rep. Shuler informed me that he was able to get the following appropriations for the City of Asheville (there were others as well):

Over $90,000 to combat Meth in the City of Asheville for Asheville Police Department

Approximately $140,000 for the W.C. Reid Center for Creative Arts

Approximately $300,000 for additional replacement buses

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant:

Developing an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant has been a top priority of the US Conference of Mayors since the beginning of this year. As part of the work to get the block grant approved I worked with staff members of legislators (from down east and the piedmont) as well as Rep. Shuler to get their support of the block grant program. When H.R. 6 (The Energy Bill) was passed, the Block grant initiative was apart of the legislation. More information will be forth coming on this $10 billion dollar block grant commitment.

While this does not give the full details of all that was accomplished on the federal level, I did want to give you all a few highlights. I look forward to working with each of you in 2008. 

Warmest regards,

Mayor Bellamy

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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8 thoughts on “Mayor Bellamy on the road

  1. Rob Close

    it doesn’t seem like much for 9 trips. then again, it means nothing without the full context of what the cash was spent on – can we get an itemized version of this info?

    $1892 on a conference – is she traveling first class? are we paying for her wine? or is this actually restraint in action, and something to applaud her for? without details, I can’t say.

  2. Conferences are very expensive – event organizers pass a lot of the cost of the facilities, food, decorations, exhibits, man-hours (usually union), etc onto participators. Depending on the length of the conference, plus the travel cost of jet fuel, I doubt this is very excessive in cost. If it said $4-5K then I’d start raising eyebrows.

    I know Carl’s point in fiscal responsibility, but I don’t see much here that isn’t in line with what should be expected.

  3. SaraD

    I think Mumpower should calculate and show how much of Asheville’s time and money he has wasted on his self-serving political antics.

  4. Matt Mittan

    Just as a conversational curiosity… does anyone know what the annual salary for being Mayor is in Asheville? (And how does that compare with the travel expenses?)

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if the travel expenses for our Mayor were a significant number next to her salary?

    Maybe Asheville has grow to the point where we need to consider mayoral reform.

    Right now, I beleive, we’re a “weak mayor” system… Maybe it’s time to consider a full time mayor with more administrative powers. Just a topic to discuss.

  5. Matt –

    I totally agree-
    Leni Sitneck was pretty much an all-around beloved mayor and community activist. Many were surprised that despite her popularity and ability to get the job done she chose not to run again. Quoted from a previous Mountain X article:

    Asked (yet again) why she left office, she was concise. “I couldn’t support myself on the mayor’s pay, so I couldn’t afford to run again. I worked 60- to 80-hour weeks. This community deserves a full-time mayor.”

    Dang right we deserve a full-time mayor.
    With as many changes as are occurring in Asheville we need someone who can devote 100% of their professional time to knowing the details of the issues at hand. It takes a heckuva lot of time to meet with constituents across the board in order to make well informed and balanced decisions. It is ridiculous to expect one individual to be able to hold down a full-time living-wage job, take on what should be a full-time responsibility as mayor of the city, and maintain time for personal enrichment and sanity.
    While I am not necessarily in favor of the potential outcome of creating career politicians, I still find the situation to be flawed and damaging to the policies and overall great potential of Asheville.

    It is near impossible to find the exact amount of what the mayor’s stipend is, but I think I remember hearing once it estimates around $15K a year.
    I think city council members get somewhere around $10K a year. To do what I would consider a highly effective job in those positions one would have to spend at least 20hrs a week working on the issues and meeting with people. 20hrs a week for $10K a year isn’t much at all.

  6. dystopia

    As someone who has worked as a conference organizer, I must say that Mayor Bellamy’s conference expenses do not lead me to raise my eyebrows. It appears she exercised restraint.

    I agree the mayor’s should be a full-time job. As it stands now, the mayor’s salary is most likely to work for someone who is partnered and thereby able to manage on the low salary. Might not this narrow down who among council members might be able to consider running for the seat?

  7. Jason Sandford

    Matt Mittan, your question answered: From Laurie Saxton, Asheville’s public information officer:

    Salaries:
    Mayor – $17,897
    Vice Mayor – $14,853
    Council members – $13,149

    The mayor receives a $3,300 car allowance, while all other council members receive a $1,980 car allowance. The mayor and council members receive a $1,200 technology allowance. And The mayor receives a $1,669 phone allowance.

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