Council nominations show split opinions on Kapoor’s replacement

Asheville city seal

The future direction of Asheville City Council lies in the hands of its current six members. On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Council will select a replacement for Vijay Kapoor — and city records reveal no consensus on who the ideal candidate should be. 

At Council’s meeting of Aug. 25, Mayor Esther Manheimer announced six finalists, selected out of a pool of 30 applicants. She explained that each sitting member of Council had been asked to select two finalists but did not share who had nominated which applicants.

In response to an Xpress records request on Aug. 28, the city provided the following additional information about the support each nominee had from Council. Each candidate’s name is linked to the application they submitted for the vacancy:

The finalists will be interviewed at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8; the final vote will take place during Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 5 p.m. The appointee will then be sworn in at Council’s meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 22 — the same day members are expected to vote on a budget amendment to allocate funding to the Asheville Police Department. 

In their applications, all Council hopefuls were asked if they supported the city’s plans for community reparations and the Black Asheville Demands call to defund the APD by 50%. Of the six finalists, only Bhakta did not explicitly support working to change the structure of policing in the city: “If you honestly feel that reduction of the APD would decrease crime, that is a false equivalent similar to assessing that less teachers in the classroom would increase educational success,” he wrote. 

Four of the finalists — Bell-Rogers, Kilgore, Mosley and Thomas — identify as Black, which may be among Council’s considerations as the city directs its focus toward inclusion and equity. Kilgore and Lee are both on the ballot for the general Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3: Lee finished fourth in the March primary, while Kilgore placed sixth.

The nature of a political vacancy is highly subjective to those making the decision, Manheimer said. The only set criteria finalists must meet are that they are registered to vote and reside in the city of Asheville, she noted, and members can each develop personal criteria for their ideal candidate. 

“We certainly have not gotten together collectively and talked about how we’ll be making this decision,” said Mayfield. “We’re going to be making this decision on our own, through our own lens.”

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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11 thoughts on “Council nominations show split opinions on Kapoor’s replacement

  1. bsummers

    My vote? Pratik Bhakta. Why? His answers on the questionnaire.

    Explain why you want to serve on City Council.

    “Lets not kid ourselves. My chances of being “picked” are less than nil.”

    This guy would be hilarious to have on Council.

    • NFB

      And couldn’t we all use s few laughs these days?

      But seriously, folks. If either Kilgore or Lee get the appointment, that what happens if they win in November? Doesn’t that just put us back where we are with another appointment?

      • Fun Times

        Why is council even considering two people already on the ballot? What a f’d up mess.

  2. Nina Tovish

    Please visit OurCityOurChoice.com and read about a better way to fill the vacant seat. We are calling on whomever is appointed to agree to step down on Nov. 3rd so that the fourth place finisher in the City Council election can be appointed. That way, the voters will actually have a say in who represents them!

    We are hoping to build a good number of citizen-supporters for this solution, which respects the voice of the people in a democracy.

    • NFB

      While I definitely understand and appreciate the sentiment behind this, I don’t see how picking the 4th placed finisher is really letting voters have a say since they only are given three votes. If they have only three votes then they have rejected the fourth place finisher. It is probably not possible at this point to allow people to vote for up to four candidates in this election which would then been letting them have a say and picking someone who hasn’t run lets them only have a say in an advisory role, but at some point Council is going to have to come up with a different system for filling vacancies, but as things are I’m not sure going with someone voters have rejected for one of the three seats is automatically the way to go right now.

      Also, with Nicole Townsned having recently dropped out there will only be five active candidates on the ballot.

  3. luther blissett

    It’s like the Rooney Rule, except that you have to nominate one hotelier or a property developer. It’s either that or make the chair of the TDA a non-voting ex officio member of City Council.

    I think it would be a shame if Rich Lee didn’t end up on City Council one way or another. He’s been first runner-up a lot of times; he’s put in a lot of volunteer work on city boards; he’d bring the (L)East Asheville perspective the way that Vijay Kapoor sorta kinda brought a South Asheville perspective. (Though in practice, he didn’t.)

    But this entire situation is a testament to why City Council needs more than seven members, districted or not. (Districting is dumb.) It’s a completely stupid state of affairs. You can’t boil down the different interests of the city’s residents into seven people. Double it and add one. Or subtract one. Just add more slots. It’d create room for a lot of voices, including conservative ones.

    I sincerely want a situation where Carl Mumpower’s constituency is represented. I sincerely want the conservatives who frequent this website to feel enabled to slap down their $75 and run for office and assemble a platform and do some actual campaigning and see whether there are enough voters who agree with them. (I’d even loan them the $75.) But that requires a bigger City Council.

    • Zora

      Rich Lee should be on the sidelines, or on some committees; he does not deserve public office, especially over these people (don’t know Bhakta).

    • NFB

      I tend to agree that having people who bring a different range of perspectives to Council is a good idea, but I also think that Mumpower has helped kill off that notion for a while given how his constant talk of “conservative principles” ended up being little more than using his position on Council to lecture his colleagues and constituents in condescending and sanctimonious fashion and to thank God he is not like other men. As long as he is the voice and face of conservatives in Asheville they aren’t going to get very far. Find a conservative that can actually have respect for people with differing views, wants to solve problems rather than just draw attention to themself, and plays well with others, and they might start getting somewhere in getting a place at the table.

    • Jonathan Wainscott

      Actually Rich Lee only came in”first runner up “ once. He finished 6th in the 2015 primary and then was “first runner up” in that year’s general election with a fourth-place finish. In 2017 he finished 5th in both the primary and general election.

    • Curious

      “Districting is dumb.”
      Can you support that assertion with some reasoning or data? It would be helpful to have more information. It appears that many NC cities have council representation by district as well as at-large.
      According to the National League of Cities, 26.1 percent of small towns compared to 45.5 percent of big cities use the ward system; experts advise wards work better for larger municipalities.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    MOST people in AVL have NO clue that any of this is going on…we have a totally disengaged ignorant population.

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