Moffitt under fire: highlights from the Mountain Voices Alliance water forum

Rep. Moffitt pauses to enjoy some bottled water. (Photo by Bill Rhodes)

The Feb. 20 Mountain Voices Alliance water system forum boasted 10 panelists, but most of the audience members seemed interested in just one: Buncombe County Rep. Tim Moffitt. These are some of the highlights related to Moffitt’s comments and answers to questions directed at him during last night’s forum (for a collection of Twitter dispatches from the forum, see below):

Last week, the Asheville-Buncombe League of Women Voters held a public forum about the water system at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Moffitt was unable to attend the forum and sent a public statement instead. In this statement, Moffitt said the study committee, that he chairs, was not considering privatization.

At the Monday night forum, each speaker was allowed a five-minute presentation. These are some of notable quotes Moffitt said during his presentation:

Moffitt: Most of you don’t know me. I think most of you have judged me and that is my fault, and I apologize to you for that. Rep. Fisher tried to work with me early on at the beginning of the session last year. She tried to work with me in regards to the fact that I need to communicate better. I remember as a child that my dad said communication is the world’s biggest problem, and apparently I have not been an effective communicator.

Moffitt: We have to decide, are we Asheville or are we a community. And that is part of the reason why this study is so important. Asheville cannot survive without Buncombe County. Buncombe County cannot survive without Asheville. I don’t think it’s fair to the two-thirds of the people who live outside of Asheville to be regarded differently than those who choose to live inside of Asheville.

Moffitt: The constant debate, the constant complaint of the City in regards to not being able to charge differential water rates is a direct threat to your neighbors in the county, and I think you need to regard that.

A fter all of the 10 presenters said what they wanted to say and everyone took a five-minute break, the forum reconvened for a series of questions. These questions were addressed to the panel via index cards submitted by members of the audience. The questions were screened by the Mountain Voices Alliance for recurring or common questions. Most of the questions were directed at Moffitt. Speakers were also allowed to make brief one-minute comments in response to other speakers.

With time permitting, the forum then opened to questions directly from the audience.

Here are a few of the questions directed at Moffitt, and his answers:

Will you appoint Reps. Susan Fisher and Keever to the study committee?
Moffitt: This study committee was elected to be an LRC committee, a legislative research commission committee, which limits its members to five.

Is there any chance we can let the ratepayers vote on this issue?
Moffitt: The people of the county don’t trust the people of the City. (At this comment, many people in the audience shouted back, saying that was not true.)

If all these government officials have been saying that they think the City of Asheville is doing a good job with the water system, why does the study committee exist?
Moffitt: There still is the persistent conversation about differential water rates…My only request is that people admit that people more than the City of Asheville have invested in the water system. (At this, a man in the audience shouted back, “We admit it. Now go away!”)

What is to prevent this issue from going to referendum for Buncombe County and City of Asheville?
Moffitt: I’m not sure. I’ll check into it.

How do you plan to regain trust from citizens you represent?
Moffitt: I hope that by being here tonight, that will help.

Moffitt on privatization:When it comes to issue of privitizaiton. I’ve said over and over that it has not been a consideration of mine…I have no desire to privatize our system, and let someone take our asset and put them in hands of a private company

Moffitt on the Sullivan Acts I, II and III and differential water rates: You need to realize that our issue is unique. We do not have option to use differential rates. It is not up for discussion.

If residents of Asheville and Buncombe County show a united front about the water system, would you dissolve the study committee and let locals decide?
Moffitt: We (the study committee) have to finish by April, and quite honestly I appreciate what you’re asking, but this is an issue that if we had stuck to what every party agreed to in 1995, we would not be having this forum tonight.

Moffitt chairs the five-member study committee that will make a recommendation to the General Assembly regarding the fate of the Asheville water system. Currently the study committee is considering three different outcomes:
1.The water system remains managed by the City of Asheville
2.The creation of an independent regional water authority similar to MSD
3.Merging the water system with MSD, creating a regional water authority

The speakers at the water system forum were:
Jan Davis (Asheville City Council member, liaison to the study committee)

David Gantt (Chairman of the Buncombe County Commission) *Gantt had a previous engagement and instead addressed the issue at hand via a short video clip

Katie Hicks (Assistant Director of the nonprofit organization Clean Water for North Carolina)

Marc Hunt (Asheville City Council member)

Susan Kask (Professor of economics at Warren Wilson College)

Patsy Keever (N.C. Reprsentative for Buncombe County)

Chuck McGrady (N.C. Representative for Henderson County, member of the water study committee)

Joe Minicozzi (Executive Director of the Asheville Downtown Association)

Tim Moffitt (N.C. Representative for Buncombe County, chair of the water study committee)

Barry Summers (public-interest activist who operates

Collected Twitter dispatches from the hearing. Unless otherwise noted, all tweets were done by Xpress reporter Caitlin Bryd.

11:17 AM RT @gordondsmith: This is interesting. All of the   “Study Committee” members are also members of ALEC –

11:26 AM Joe Minicozzi created a presentation about the   study committee. View it here:

11:28 AM SmithMillCreek #AVL water forum TONIGHT! Tim Moffitt will be there – 6:30pm Jubilee 46 Wall St #NC

12:17 PM DavidForbes RT @gordondsmith: AVL Downtown Association releases draft Water Position Statement –  

12:42 PM mxnews MRT : ADA releases draft of Water Position Statement  

5:29 PM mxnews Follow and/or   (that’s the letter o not zero) for live reports on water-system forum tonite

5:35 PM mvwilliams Follow @MaryCaitlinBryd or   — that’s the letter o not zero:) — for live coverage of tonite’s water-system forum at Jubilee!

5:48 PM Less than an hour until tonight’s water forum at Jubilee! (starts at 6:30 pm). Rep. Tim Moffitt will be there  

5:50 PM I’ll be live-tweeting the forum, but you can, too. Use   and it will appear in our tweet aggregator. 

6:02 PM Heading downtown to tonight’s   forum. It’s at Jubilee (46 Wall St.). Starts at 6:30 pm. See you there.

6:24 PM Tim Moffitt has arrived

6:25 PM Check out our live tweets and streaming video

6:30 PM LIVE COVERAGE of tonight’s   forum:

6:31 PM Half of the room here at Jubilee is filled with people— the other half with mostly empty chairs. 

6:33 PM Looks like we’re about to start

6:34 PM Looks like we’ll be having a late start with this particular forum

6:34 PM Lael Gray is here right in the front row

6:36 PM Panelists contd …Patsy Keever, Chuck McGrady, Joe Minicozzi, & Barry Summers. 

6:36 PM Panelists for the evening will be: Tim Moffitt, Jan Davis, Katie Hicks, Marc Hunt, Susan Kask…

6:38 PM Room is starting to fill up now

6:38 PM Program says questions from the floor will happen with time permitting

6:38 PM As part of the Q&A portion of the evening, 10-15 questions will be from audience based on questions written on cards

6:39 PM Panelists have not taken their seats at the front of the room yet

6:40 PM If you haven’t made your way to tonight’s forum, there’s still time. It has not started yet (was supposed to start 10 min ago). 

6:43 PM Rep. Patsy Keever is making her way around the room, smiling, talking with people

6:44 PM Overheard at the forum (that has not started yet) from Keever: I’m against privitization, bottom line. 

6:46 PM Also if you can’t make it out tonight, remember the study committee will hold a public hearing Thursday at the WNC Ag Center

6:48 PM Finding out now that the forum will actually begin at 7 pm. 

6:50 PM Now that all the panelists are up and taking a seat, a hush falls over the room

6:51 PM Alright, looks like we’ve got a forum about to start. 

6:54 PM Video archive of this forum will be available within a day or two

6:54 PM Very full room now

6:54 PM Moffit reminds people to show up 30 minutes early to scheduled time for Thursday’s hearing, if uable to talk, they will take emails

6:55 PM Elaine Lite, Chair of Mountain Voices Alliance will be the moderator of tonight’s forum

6:56 PM Lite says ground rules: We all vary on issues, remain decorum, please remain civil

6:56 PM People present may write questions on notecards throughout the forum, then MVA will choose 15

7:00 PM David Gnatt unable to be here this evening. Will instead have video statement. 

7:01 PM Jan Davis to begin presentation

7:01 PM *Gantt

7:03 PM Davis: There’s a lot of rumor and positions being taken. Thank you for coming out

7:07 PM Katie Hicks about to speak now, Hicks is assistant director of clean water for NC

7:07 PM Davis: We felt like we needed to break agreement, may not have handled it the best in the world but I think it was the best thing

7:09 PM Clean Water for NC is statewide nonprofit org. 

7:10 PM Marc Hunt now talking

7:10 PM Hicks: we believe water systems should be local and public issue, transparent

7:10 PM Hicks: We believe everyone has same right to clean water, clean air, clean neighborhoods. 

7:11 PM Hunt wants to go into 3 issues: First being protection of the watershed

7:12 PM Hunt says City has been excellent stewardship for protecting that watershed

7:14 PM Hunt: We’ve been fighting over water for many decades

7:14 PM Hunt: Final point is the “fiscal jam” that the City of Asheville has found itself in

7:14 PM Hunt: 2nd issue water infastructure

7:16 PM Susan Kask, Warren Wilson econ prof on panel about to talk

7:16 PM Hunt: As we resolve this water system issue, we need to find a way to restore Ashevile’s health fiscally

7:18 PM Kask: As I began preparing thoughts, kept saying what’s the purpose of the Asheville Water system

7:19 PM Kask: : That purpose is access for all people in teh community to clean water at reasonable price. 

7:20 PM Kask: One important thing with water is you want 1 supplier and that they keep the water supply in play. 

7:20 PM Kask: If you have a private water system, you have to regulate it. 

7:21 PM Kask: You might lose access, transparency and accountability

7:21 PM Kask: Also should consider how large water system should be. Getting bigger is not always getting better. 

7:22 PM Rep. Patsy Keever: The bottom line of my next 4 minutes is that I’m adamently opposed to privitization in any form. 

7:24 PM Keever says a little miffed as a commisioner when 2005 Asheville/Buncombe agreement ended, but says that it was the right choice

7:25 PM Keever: This decision should be made at local level, not at the state level. 

7:26 PM Rep. Chuck McGrady now speaking

7:26 PM Audience applauds, cheers at Keever’s comment about that water decision should be made locally

7:27 PM McGrady: We have no regional authority, not a part of regional…it took a lawsuit for us to get he water back

7:28 PM McGrady: From my perspective in Henderson County, I frankly don’t have a lot of faith in our dealings with the City of Asheville

7:30 PM McGrady: We’ve gotten together on issues before, I’m telling you because I was there that Henderson Co. didn’t get treated fairly

7:31 PM Gantt: The best kind of policies we have are polices where local people as the G.A. for help. 

7:31 PM Video of David Gantt now playing. He says this is one of the most important issues of a generaiton

7:32 PM Gantt: Under no circumstance should we attempt to privitize or in a potential that it could potentially happen

7:33 PM Gantt: I’m convinced City of Asheville has done their part and the best ones to take care of the water, not outside entity

7:34 PM Gantt: And I believe City of Asheville should be able to keep doing what they’re doing. 

7:34 PM Gantt: We do not want a mandate from the GA without full compete study and thought

7:35 PM Minicozzi: Many communities allowed to have differential water rates, Asheville is not

7:35 PM Joe Minicozzi of Asheville Downtown Association giving presentation

7:36 PM In Minicozzi presentation: 84% of NC water system use differentials

7:38 PM Minicozzi took points in NC of rep. on study commitee, applied them to other parts of country. Many landed in other states

7:40 PM Moffitt says he came out to tonight’s forum not so much to make a statement, but to answer questions

7:40 PM Minicozzi now quoting draft of Water System Statement issued earlier today. See it here:

7:41 PM Moffitt says he has not been an effective communicator and says he apologizes for that

7:41 PM Moffitt: Most of you don’t know me. I think most of you have judged me and I think that’s my fault

7:42 PM Moffitt: Are we Asheville or are we a community? 

7:43 PM Moffitt: Asheville cannot survive without Buncombe County. Buncombe County cannot survive without Asheville. 

7:44 PM Activist Barry Summers now speaking

7:44 PM Moffitt says he will answer all questions, “there will be no time limit tonight.” 

7:46 PM Summers talking about how he became interested in this issue, bringing up drought and city of Tryon

7:49 PM Summers: I would like to see City of Asheville keep control of its water system

7:49 PM Summers: Privitization bids have come to NC, they will come to WNC

7:50 PM Now the forum is taking a 5 minute break

7:50 PM Applause after Summers presentation, a few people stood and clapped

7:51 PM I’m a big fan of the 5 minute break. It gives me a chance to rest my fingers from this rapid-fire typing and tweeting

8:00 PM We’ve got about 1 minute left before we resume here at the   forum

8:02 PM Remember, if you’re here at the forum use our   hashtag and it will end up in our tweet aggregator on @mxnews

8:04 PM And we’re back

8:05 PM Lite: We’re going to start with the written questions

8:06 PM 1st Question is for moffitt: Repond to Minicozzi’s presentation on representation, will you appoint fisher to study committee

8:07 PM Moffitt: The study that we have is not strictly about water. Instructed to be LRC comittee, only 5 members

8:08 PM Moffitt: As far as expanding, we’re limited to 5. Adding to this is not possible

8:08 PM Moffitt: Selected McGrady because of his involvement in regional water authority

8:10 PM 2nd question gets a little muddled…handwriting issues? 

8:11 PM McGrady reminds this is not just for water: This is a water AND sewer commitee. 

8:12 PM Summers asks Moffitt if study commitee is focused on too large of an issue to be wrapped up in 4 hearings

8:15 PM Minicozzi points out that citizens of the city of asheville are also buncombe co. residents. 

8:15 PM Moffitt saying folks in the county do not trust the city. Crowd responds quickly. Says, “No, no! That’s not true!” 

8:16 PM Question directed at Summers asking for more information about the Tryon water system

8:18 PM Another question for moffitt

8:18 PM Summers says he belives that large conglomorate will buy Tryon water system, expand out to be owned by outside company

8:19 PM Question about why study commitee when so many elected officials say the water system works. 

8:20 PM Moffitt: There still is the persistent conversation about differential water rates. 

8:21 PM Man in crowd interrupts, Moffitt says: We admit it! Go away! 

8:21 PM Moffitt: My only request that people admit that peole more than City of Asheville invested in water system. 

8:22 PM McGrady: I really think the focus of what we’re about is how can water be provided most efficiently and cost-effectively. 

8:24 PM Moffitt says he does not know, will check into it

8:24 PM Question for Moffitt, what is to prevent this issue to going to referendum for Buncombe County and City of Asheville. 

8:25 PM Moffitt says he watched the @ABLWV forum the other day. Says the history of water system is extensive

8:26 PM Moffitt answering question about Robin Cape who asked for consideration says considering other water systems has not been a thought. 

8:27 PM Moffitt says he hopes by being here tonight, that will help

8:27 PM Another question for moffitt, question asks how does he plan to regain trust from citizens he represents

8:28 PM Question for moffitt: If differential water rates are such a huge issues, how would you justify differential tax rate paid by city

8:30 PM Moffitt: Not sure I can answer that question. 

8:31 PM McGrady: You can’t have disconnect about the relationship between the water system and the sewage system. 

8:33 PM Question for Moffitt You seem determined to take privitization off the table, why should we take it seriously

8:34 PM Moffitt: When it comes to issue of privitizaiton. I’ve said over and over that it has not been a consideration of mine. 

8:34 PM Moffitt returning to differntial tax rate: we have city gov., police and fire, lot of services. 

8:35 PM Moffitt: I have no desire to privitize our system, to take our asset and put them in hands of a private compnay

8:36 PM Summer: Privitization very well could be indirect result…you issue assurances as if debate is over. 

8:36 PM Summers: I’ve never intentionally made suggestion that Moffitt or committee has authority to directly privitize water system. 

8:37 PM Moffitt: Privitizaiton is not an intent of this commitee. 

8:37 PM Moffitt: I hear you. I understand you. There’s no way unless I do a legislative act out of session. 

8:39 PM Hicks: I would love to see us take initative to go ahead and rule it (privitization) out. 

8:39 PM Hicks responds, says wants to suggest that WNC has opportunity to say this is not what we want for our community. 

8:40 PM McGrady: There’s been no discussion of privitization except in public session when people are asking me about it

8:41 PM Moffitt: says Susan Fisher might be better to explain. 

8:41 PM Moffitt: We are to report out, either study longer, no action, propose legislation. Then goes to joint legislative…

8:41 PM Keever has question that she thinks will help the audience to know what happens after committee meets 4 times

8:42 PM Fisher now at mic to explain process

8:43 PM Fisher: When committe through, send recommendations to ORC, then decide if those are suitable for introduction by committee to leg. 

8:43 PM Fisher what you are seeing is process very exclusive not inclusive. 

8:44 PM Fisher: But as we know anything can happen. 

8:44 PM Fisher: My process tells me that if any legislation is proposed it would have to wait until long session of 2013. 

8:45 PM Fisher: I can see that the City and the County get along

8:46 PM Opening up time for question and comment for audience

8:46 PM Fisher says people are seeing process of “divide and conquer.” Asks community stay united and vote

8:47 PM Minicozzie: We didn’t feel Sullivan Acts were created in stone tablets, we’re asking that they be removed

8:47 PM Minicozzi says he appreciates comments from boths sides of him (McGrady and Moffitt) 

8:48 PM *Minicozzi

8:50 PM McGrady on focus of commitee: We live with the laws as they are. 

8:50 PM McGrady says Sullivan Acts are not written in stone, but not subject matter of committee. 

8:51 PM Line forming for questions

8:51 PM Moffitt: I do think that words matter, when we’re talking about neighbors in the county that we owe them level of respect

8:52 PM Moffit says he feels he has answered questions effectively

8:52 PM Question for moffitt: You’ve had difficulty answering numerous questions. Do you think that’s a fair representation for the people

8:53 PM Resident says she is very mad and that he thinks there is a divide, that there is misrepresentation

8:54 PM Moffitt: We need to retire the discussion on differential water rates

8:56 PM Moffitt: you need to realize that our issue is unique. We do not have option to use differential rate, it is not up for discussion

8:56 PM Line getting longer

8:58 PM Hicks says it’s a big question, not sure where to start. 

8:58 PM Man asks how are we going to take care of biodiversity of mountains, keep clean and fresh water

8:59 PM Hicks: Part of the key is to be open with each other, hold accountable those who would use resources to profit themselevs

9:00 PM Summers says energy consumption is big concern for him on water

9:02 PM Man asks Moffitt if he has any membership, invovement, viewpoint, on American Legislation Exchange Council

9:03 PM Man asks how does it affect future of the comittee, Moffitt says no relation. 

9:04 PM Moffitt says my legislation is public record

9:07 PM Question for Hicks about connection between water privitization in NC, fracking operations, too

9:08 PM Hicks says fracking being considered in NC, but closer to Raleigh/Durham area, not WNC. Hypothetical at this point

9:10 PM Summers says not fair to completely dismiss it. 

9:10 PM McGrady says that bringing up issue of fracking is distracting from issue of water system at this point

9:11 PM Moffitt says he agrees with McGrady, that it is a distraction from discussion tonight. Also that fracking is complicated issue

9:12 PM Man says he has comment about water

9:12 PM Five people left with questions in line

9:14 PM Speaks about water in 1950s

9:18 PM Resident: We don’t need people in raleigh telling us what to do, especially an unrepresentative body like this

9:18 PM Man says disturbed as resident of Bucombe, that his intelligence isn’t enough to understand rep. body in water to make decision here

9:19 PM McGrady: If Asheville had always been a good neighbor to all of its neighbors, the sullivan acts would not have happened

9:20 PM McGrady: We’ve got to develop a level of trust to get to a point where decisions like this get made at local level

9:21 PM Moffitt says history has demonstrated that this issue cannot be handled locally

9:23 PM Moffitt says he’s hoping to bring resolution to water issue once and for all

9:25 PM Hoh: If residents of Asheville&Bucnombe show united front against united front would you disolve committee, and let locals decide

9:26 PM Moffitt:…but this is an issue that if we had stuck to what every party agreed to in 95, we would not be having this forum tonight. 

9:26 PM Moffitt: We have to finish by April, quite honestly I appreciate what your’e asking… 

9:31 PM Woman asking about value of water system compensation, when it does not include watershed

9:32 PM Moffitt: This issue will not stop with me. It did not start with me. 

9:32 PM Woman asks what happens if single sponsor of bill is no longer around

9:33 PM Hunt: Tim one of the points you’ve made in press, you feel that Asheville should be fairly compensated. Wants to hear more

9:33 PM Hunt: Difficult as some of the tension has been, I find this discussion helpful

9:34 AM Reminder: Tonight there’s a water forum at Jubilee. It all starts at 6:30 pm  

9:35 PM This meeting has gone over by 35 minutes, but still people here. Maybe 1/3 still sitting and listening

9:35 PM Moffitt: If that asset was to move to another publice entity, would have to consider what was said in 95 agreement. 

9:37 AM mxnews RT : Reminder: Tonight there’s a water forum at Jubilee. It all starts at 6:30 pm  

9:37 PM Hunt: Not sure that compensating for water system asset is the whole way…must have some discussion about fiscal place we’re in

9:43 PM Man asks Moffitt why is it state legislature finds it necessary to single out Asheville repeatedly

9:44 PM Moffitt: I think people in city think everything’s great, but by and large it is not the Panesea pretends it is. 

9:45 PM People starting to trickle out. This meeting has now gone over by 45 minutes. 

9:47 PM Keever: I probably disagree w/everything Moffitt believes, but he’s been a gentleman & this meeting is getting a little long

9:49 PM Woman asks moffitt, if your constituents think totally unfair, would you be willing to offer legislation to undo Sullivans

9:49 PM It being Asheville

9:49 PM Woman upset about Sullivan Acts, feels it is being punished

9:50 PM Moffitt says he thinks Sullivan Acts were implemented fairly. 

11:15 PM Sorry my tweets just stopped. Twitter said I exceeded my limit. 

11:20 PM Also I want to say a big thanks to other folks who were tweeting at tonight’s   forum. It’s always nice to have a mix. #twitterkudos


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