Vote now for your next Asheville City Council member

***UPDATED Nov. 30, noon: Our online-polling account allowed only 100 voters to cast a ballot, so unfortunately this poll has closed, so to speak.

With the votes in, here are the results:

Abigail Emison, 27 votes
Cecil Bothwell and George Keller, 12
Gordon Smith, 11
Jenny Bowen, 8
Bryan Freeborn, 5
Lisa-Gaye Hall, Rebecca Hecht, Ed Hay, Barber Melton, Duane Nix, 3
William C. Meredith, Kelly Miller, Suzanne Molloy, 2
Randall Barnett, Dana W. Bierce, Bill Branyon, Anthony Alan Coxie, Sylvia E. Farrington, Clifford O. Feingold, Spencer Ellis Hardaway, Charlie Hume, Michael R. Kerr, Catherine S. Martin and John Quinn, 1.***

***UPDATED Nov. 29, 1 p.m.: With 96 votes tallied, Abigail Emison led with 26. Cecil Bothwell and George Keller were tied for second with 11 votes each, and Gordon Smith had 10 votes. Jenny Bowen had 8, Bryan Freeborn had 5, and Lisa-Gaye Hall, Rebecca Hecht, Barber Melton and Duane Nix had 3 votes each. The rest of the field had one vote or none.***

Asheville City Council says it will choose the next person to fill a vacant seat, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a vote — at least unofficially. Show City Council who you would choose by voting in the Mountain Xpress online poll.

In the November elections, Asheville City Council member Holly Jones ran for, and won, a seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. That win left a seat open on City Council.

Council members decided to fill the position by accepting applications, then interviewing a select few and picking one person to fill Jones’ unexpired term, which will last one more year. Council has received a whopping 47 applications for the seat, and will begin the process of deciding whom to interview at its Tuesday, Dec. 2, meeting.

Plenty of people are arguing that the voting public should still have a say. So we invite you to cast your online ballot here, where we’ll give regular updates on the results. We know it’s not in any way an official or scientific poll, but it’s an opportunity for you to weigh in with your pick.

Need background information? Go to the Xpress Files, and you’ll be able to view each applicants’ individual file.

Cast your ballot now — and please adhere to the honor system and vote only once.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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30 thoughts on “Vote now for your next Asheville City Council member

  1. Jon Elliston

    Hey Tim, thanks for the suggestion. Rather than look it up, I’ll ask you: What’s the Range Voting method?

  2. Paul -V-

    Chad: Please, please, please, endorse Mr. Keller. Shout his name from the roof-tops!

    Do for him what you did for Mumpower’s congressional campaign.

    Tim: Agree 100%. But to be fair, this whole selection process is less than ideal – so perhaps Xpress is just mirroring reality?

    Jon: Here is a short, slightly amusing, video explaining IRV. It’s a great idea, and sorely needed.

    As for me – I voted for Gordon Smith. I read through all the applications (I didn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving, what else was I going to do?) and he offers the clearest understanding of what is involoved in the job.

    Also, notice how Smith is the only person who answers question #5 completely. He lists, point-by-point, what programs he would cut or protect.


    in Tim’s momentary absence, it’s a voting method which allows one to RATE (not rank) each candidate on the ballot with a number corresponding to a particular scale.

    it is the same voting system used to rate movies, olympic games, beauty pageants, rating members of the opposite sex (or same sex, since this is Asheville! ;-), etc.

    it’s actually the most widely used voting system in the world, except for politics, because it works better than any other. (we all know here that politics is designed to not work, right? 8-)

    if we DID use it for politics, we’d have more potential for more than “2 parties” in Amerika (hence, one of the primary reasons why it will never be adopted! 8-) The nature of Plurality Voting, which is what we use, tends to favor a 2-party system.

    perhaps most notably, Range Voting eliminates the “wasted vote syndrome” and the “spoiler syndrome”.

    … and it’s SIMPLE because everyone knows how it works already! (they just don’t know what it’s called)

    here is a short flier which briefly describes the system:

    for much more detailed info, go to

  4. Thanks infinitybBBC.

    Under a range voting scenario, if Paul does not like George Keller he could assign him a minimum rating of 1 — assuring that he ends up at the bottom of Paul’s ballot — and give his favorite candidate, Gordon Smith, a maximum rating of 5. All others could be rated in between based on the strength of his preference for each.

    Now Paul would have a complete range voting ballot listing his preferences for every candidate which would be tabulated against all other ballots cast in a similar way.

    If Paul’s favorite does not win, he still stands the chance of having one of his runners-up win, which leaves him with less regret than having had is least favorite win; as would happen under plurality voting.

    Here’s an online poll of city council vacancy candidates using range voting:

  5. Wow Tim – that is incredible and sure does make a lot more sense. I get so frustrated during national elections because third parties & the substantial underlying issues receive a void of coverage in our current system.

    Do you know if any municipalities use this form of voting in the US? What is the success rate of putting this into action on a larger scale?

    Thanks for taking the time to make this pole. It will be interesting to compare the two polls alongside Council’s decision. From what I gathered in a brief conversation with Jan Davis, it looks as if Council will try to limit the interview to six or so people. At 30 min an interview I can see them not wanting to spend more than 3 hours. The question is, who will the six or so be?

    I went through all of the applications and I found 8 that really shined with possibility. Of course, mine was one of them.

    Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, so here’s the opportunity – and with these polls we can try to formulate a logic in who may be the lucky new representative for the citizens of Asheville.

  6. Paul -V-

    Cake: Oh NOE! Someone accused me of brown-noseing on an internet thread.

    AN INTERNET THREAD!!!111oneoneone

    Tim: Great work on the new ballot!

    Comments about the poll you created:

    1) You should clarify votes are tabulated dynamically, and that’s why there is no “submit” button. It took me a few minutes to realize that.

    2) I left most of the candidates blank – since I don’t have a positive or negative view of most of them. Does that skew the results?

    If it does – you should arrange it so all candidates must receive a vote before numbers are tabulated. (Or perhaps arrange it so that unless the previous candidate has a vote, the next one won’t light up.)

    3) The star descriptions aren’t accurate. (“1” star = extremely poor, “5” stars = Excellent.)

    For example: I gave Freeborn a “2” and Quinn a “3”. However, I don’t think Freeborn a poor choice – I simply believe Quinn is slightly superior. (Off topic side-thought: Quinn’s FDIC experience makes him ideal for a city that’s about to have the financial @#$% hit the fan.)

    For that matter – I don’t think Keller, despite the Stomper endorsement, is “Extremely Poor”.

    According to the star labels – “Extremely Poor” candidates would get more points than people who I have no opinion on.

    For the record:

    Smith = 5
    Bothwell = 4
    Fowler = 4
    Gray = 4
    Woods = 4
    Quinn = 3
    Freeborn = 2

    As mentioned earlier – I left everyone else blank. However, I’ll go back and give a “1” to the rest if you think those blanks spaces will skew results. (And if doing do won’t duplicate the ballot.)

  7. Paul: great comments. Thanks.

    I updated the instructions.

    I cannot customize the poll very much, so there is no option for requiring a rating. And I can’t change the tool tips either. That we’ll have to disregard and focus on just the numerical scale.

    Yes, you can get a different result by not rating a candidate instead of rating them a 1.

    All voting systems can be “gamed” in some way, but range voting offers the least problems, the least regret and the least wasted votes.

    At any rate, this example gives a demonstration of the concept and how it contrasts with plurality voting. Unfortunately, we cannot use range voting to vote on what voting system to use in elections.

  8. Reality Check

    How can we possibly move forward on this vote without a proper voter registration drive? I’ll call ACORN.

  9. Paul -V-

    Dave: The signs are high-end, attractive, and will help tourists find the parking garages. Happy tourists = Increased downtown spending and visits = More tax revenue.

    50K sounds expensive, but that’s not unusual for good signage. Ask Staples Office Supply.

    JBo: How interesting. Not to imply either of us base decisions on gender alone, but I’m curious as to why our results vary so much.

    My choices are based primarily on three criteria:

    1) How the candidate answered question #5. The other questions are useful, but #5 is the most important one right now.

    The majority of applicants answered along the lines of: “I’ll study it” or “I’ll cut wasteful spending”.

    Well, duh. Do these candidates think city staff has been hiring hookers & blow with taxpayer funds?

    Most Ashevillians don’t understand how dire the financial situation is right now. Our house is on fire, and we need people who know how to operate the hose on day one – not ask for lessons on firefighting, or blame the house for being constructed from wood.

    (Semi-related side-note: Freeborn & Quinn’s weak answers to this last question is why I ranked them a “2” and “3” respectively – although both are extremely strong candidates.)

    2) Resume. Past business experience is a plus, but understanding how to work within a municipal bureaucracy constructively was more important.

    It’s easy to tell a bureaucracy to cut costs, but it takes finesse to implement reforms without harming the overall organization.

    3) A general scene that the candidate would balance the needs of private enterprise with community investment.

    As the financial crisis ripples through our city, pressure will be to shovel increasingly scarce resources to businesses in the vain hope they will “provide jobs” … _any_ job.

    This would be a mistake, since it isn’t sustainable.

  10. nuvue

    Uh I got no financial disclosure from any candidate, nor any energy policy to my liking…..I need a billboard to help me vote!!

  11. Cecil Bothwell

    Well,Chad, I’ll go head-to-head on the IQ thing anytime. For whatever small matter that makes. Mine seems to be 150, though I don’t hold much store by IQ tests.

    Sorry to see that the MX poll crashed or quit or whatever. I would hugely prefer a popular election over the votes of 6 council members. Not for me, but for the public.

    Mostly, I would hope to see the Council adopt some kind of rule for succession. Applications are O.K., but only if that is standard. Appointing the runner-up in the previous election is good too. If that is the standard.

    On we go. But please, not George Keller. The city has consistently voted against Republican rule. If Freeborn and Lite hadn’t split votes, we would still have one Republican on Council. There is no popular support for another.

  12. did someone say “SUCCESSION”?

    i vote that we of WNC succeed from the “United States of America” and “North Carolina”! let us form…



  13. Reality Check

    They let me register 10,000 times as Reality Check. I only plan to vote about 9000 times though.

  14. JOHN-C

    Why is Asheville in financial trouble?

    Aren’t people flocking to live in the ultra hip west asheville

  15. yes, ‘secession’ is what i’m talking about, but at this point, any word which is similar is close enough for me! 8-)

    besides, i feel it would be SUCCESS in any account! 8-)

  16. JBo: I created a demo poll and I guess it had a 24 hour time limit. I should have registered. Then, maybe it would have stayed alive.

    I’m glad to see that the AC-T is using range voting in their poll. The results are a little hard to figure out, though.

  17. dave

    Yogaji-That might have been true a few years ago, but it isnt true now. And the city certainly already spent all that money as soon as it came in.

  18. Reality Check

    Yoga – the budget problem our governments are having mirrors very directly to the personal financial problems our population is having. No savings and very poor budgeting for the future. The only expectations included in future budgets is average growth rates. There is no contingency for economic contraction. Whenever a set of economic numbers comes out showing projected growth, the governments revise the budgets up and increase spending. The NC legislature did this in the 2003 and 4 even when world stability was very uncertain. Whenever the numbers show contraction, they borrow instead of spending less. Not a very good long term economic model.

  19. To All-

    Asheville’s budget & situation is not necessarily that different from many other cities all over America. The entire US market is starting to shift focus. Obviously ‘balancing our budget’ is easy rhetoric, but perhaps the real long-term solutions involve considering:

    1) How do you keep the money that is coming into your city STAYING in your city?

    — Ashevile is a tourist destination and will [hopefully] remain as one. When you have a nice home that you care for and take pride in, you want to invite people to come and visit. It encourages us to take care of our historic values and appeal to the asethic of community. But when tourist money comes in, how do you keep it in your community rather than letting it trickle back out? Community currency is one train of thought that many amongst us have considered, but again this is a part of our economic infrastructure that must be examined and solutions need to be applied quickly. Its difficult to believe that during our times of high-progress few considered how to keep the coffer full for those ultimately to come rainy days.

    2) How to create a secondary work-force economy not reliant on tourism?

    —- We simply need to create non-tourist based jobs in Asheville. In doing so, we have to consider several factors such as what services do we need to create or encourage both in government and in the private sectors. We also need to look at what public-awareness & eco-techno-green idustry intiatives are going to be handed down from the Obama-Biden administration. There will be federal funds funneling down and Asheville city needs to have lobbyists in Raleigh looking out for our needs. But we have to be aware of what we can sustain in this region, we certainly don’t want to risk the sprawl patterns of central Georiga. We currently have a surplus of water at the Mills River plant, but that is because so many factories went belly-up over the past decade. Factories take a lot of water & resources to run and we have to make conscious effort to recruit industry that works within our social needs and efforts. We won’t be able to sustain an entire new auto-industry, but perhaps there are eco-components we can manufacture here at a lower. In referencing the issue of water, the county and the city need to come to near-immediate terms with the state over the unjust Sulivan Acts – which rob the city of it’s power, resources, and funds.

    3) How do you cut government spending while creating new jobs and infrastructure?

    —- We are in the midst of a significant shift towards localism & creating community infrastructure. Boosting the private sector comes by building necessary city infrastructure so that people can spend less (whether that be with time, money, or effort) on getting to and from work, having affordable safe work-force housing, and by intiaiting living wage standards throughout the city. If you promote community services as new business opportunities in the private sector then the city can cut funding and redirect it to the infrastructure necessary to sustain community. It is very circular – we just need to get into the cycle. These next eleven months can be used effectively during trend of convergence by connecting individual, private, public, and government efforts. That would be my plan were I given the opportunity to represent & serve.

    Cetainly there are new taxes and old taxes that can be examined as well as number juggling that must occor – but what I am attempting is instating a pragmatic and philisophical long-term plan for Asheville’s economy.

  20. Cecil –

    I have previously considered running for City Council, but after working on campaigns I
    got nervous & intimidated – not for any lack of desire to work for and serve in the position – but due to the stress of campaigning. The process to campaign is overwhelming & exhausting, requiring a vast support structure and hardy personal means in order to have the time and capability to fund raise the average $15K that is spent to acquire a campaign seat. As a young (currently part-time) professional netting less than $25K a year, raising $15K for a council seat sounds like a Don Quixote task of fighting windmills. Despite whatever natural gift I may have for policy &
    service, and even as an active citizen who has great outreach in the community, there are socio-economic barriers that exist making
    politics a very difficult game to get into.
    Not that there isn’t other ways of going about getting ideas and face/name recognition out
    there, but as I said it requires intensely developed organization and a lot of time. I totally respected the ideals of Lindsey Simerly’s run for council two years ago – and I know all too well after working intimately on local and national campaigns how difficult it is to organize the necessary infrastructure needed to run a campaign.

    Some people are calling the application process un-democratic, but I see the process as a creative (& with any luck successful) experiment in local representation. Council could have spent less time and just straight appointed Sylvia Farrington or Jake Quinn, as has happened in the past when seats become vacant late into a term. Instead, they chose to make the process transparent and allow the entire populous to share their observations and visions for Asheville’s present and future. This has created an opportunity for many people to share their thoughtful insights & ideas for civic representation, people who
    in normal circumstances may not be able to consider such ideals or be able to find the means necessary to ‘break into politics’.

    Many qualified people have applied, and I do not envy Council’s task of deliberating who has the best grasp on our current situations and who can work with them in envisioning & establishing our future.

    Whatever may happen, the process of applying has forced me to think about the community issues as documented by Faces of Asheville project in a very creative problem-solving manner.

    What details can be altered or influenced that affect the whole macrocosmic process?
    And how can we as a community activate ourselves into taking more personal control of our local environment and economic structure?

  21. travelah

    JBo, I will vote for you. All it will cost is a good cup of coffee and a bagel (with cream cheese or no vote!)

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