Asheville Council retreat gathers information on economics, affordability and quality of life

A component of the retreat was asking council members and the public to reflect upon important civic accomplishments of 2014. Photo by Pat Barcas

Asheville City Council members unveiled their 2015 strategic operating plan Jan. 30, collecting data on three focus areas: economic growth and sustainability, affordability and economic mobility and high quality of life.

Affordability in Asheville was high on the topic list.

“Affordability is definitely a trigger word. We’re struggling with that in this community,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer. “The finite space definitely pushes the prices up in Asheville.”

Council members and a half-dozen members of the public split into discussion groups during the morning session and brainstormed on what was most effective in 2014 and how to improve this year. The ideas flowed onto paper, with input into which ones made the most sense. (Stay tuned for the afternoon report later today.)

Vice-Mayor Marc Hunt peruses the ideas from the economic growth and sustainability session.

Council’s highlights of pride were an increase in affordable housing trust dollars, Sunday bus service, more sidewalks, housing growth and the funding of traffic-calming speed humps.

Some of the public’s criticisms were the availability of local food, the relationship between police and the community, a need for more greenery and multimodal paths, more open city government data, mental health care, pedestrian safety issue, and improving the city website.

Council member Jan Davis posts up his proudest council accomplishments of 2014.
Council member Jan Davis posts up his proudest council accomplishments of 2014.

“I’d like to see an increase in the community land trust,” said Asheville citizen Brendee Boggs, attending her third Council retreat. “In general, the main struggle here is with tourism. A lot of folks come in, utilize the services, but they aren’t giving back. We also need to continue following the food action plan. This is a foodtopia, but it’s one of the most food-insecure areas of the nation.”

Resident Joe Fioccola attended the retreat last year and praised the process for its openness of city government.

“I’d like to see an improvement to the city website. Reports come out, but I can’t find them on there. Overall, I feel the Council is receptive to suggestions, and certainly open to them,” he said.

A recess in the retreat allows some more intimate civic discussion.
A recess in the retreat allows some more intimate civic discussion.
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About Pat Barcas
Pat is a photojournalist and writer who moved to Asheville in 2014. He previously worked for a labor and social rights advocacy newspaper in Chicago. Email him at pbarcas@gmail.com. Follow me @pbarcas

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One thought on “Asheville Council retreat gathers information on economics, affordability and quality of life

  1. Grant Millin

    I guess everyone else knows why the majority of the participants were COA staff and council members. I’m not an insider so if someone could do a followup story on ‘Asheville civic engagement’ and why things are ‘just the way things are’ I would appreciate getting a clue.

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