Former Asheville City Council member announces push for district elections at CIBO lunch

Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer addressed the Council of Independent Business Owners on Jan. 26. Before Manheimer's remarks, former City Council member Joe Dunn outlined his petition for district elections for Asheville City Council. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Dr. Joe Dunn, a retired dentist who lives in South Asheville, told members of the Council of Independent Business Owners he’s launching a push for district elections for seats on Asheville City Council — and he’s planning to take his case directly to North Carolina legislators.

“A lot of us in the outskirts of the city feel we are not represented on City Council,” said Dunn, who served on the body from 2001 to 2005.

Dunn told CIBO members he is working on behalf of a bipartisan group of citizens who are “highly concerned” and “disaffected” by the “tsunami of liberal progressives” who have served on City Council over the past ten years. Council needs at least one moderate voice, he said.

“Most City Council members want to hold onto power,” Dunn told the group. “They want to make sure they can get elected over and over again.” Dunn said he would “bet my retirement” that Council will never actually vote to implement district elections. City Council agreed at its Jan. 10 meeting to survey citizens and gather input on how Council members should be elected.

Dunn vowed to take his case directly to Raleigh, where, he said, “The Republican legislature will get it done.”

Dunn shared a copy of his petition to support individual district elections. The petition provides a background statement: “South Asheville and other areas currently do not have ANY representation on the Asheville City Council. It’s time that changes!! We deserve a City Council the represents ALL of the City of Asheville.”

The petition asks the legislature to create six city districts, with each electing its own representative on Council. The petition asks that the mayor be elected at large from among all districts.

In his remarks, Dunn said he missed having former Council member Jan Davis, who was seated at Dunn’s table, on the board. Dunn remarked that the views of Council member Cecil Bothwell, who has said Asheville is too small for district elections, “make me sick.” After the meeting, Davis clarified, “I agree with Cecil. I think Asheville is too small for district elections.”

“I wish we didn’t have to go over City Council, but they’re not ever going to do anything about this,” Dunn said. “Let’s see less talk and more action.”

Also present at the Jan. 26 lunch meeting, which was held on the grounds of the Eliada Home, were Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and City Manager Gary Jackson, who spoke on the city’s new equity and diversity initiative. City Planning and Urban Design Director Todd Okolichany provided an update on the city’s Comprehensive Plan process, and Assistant Planning Director Alan Glines outlined proposed changes to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene reported on the county’s property tax revaluation, saying that revaluation notices are being mailed to county property owners starting Jan. 26. “We expect to see a lot of appeals,” said Greene, noting that some areas of the county have experienced an average increase in value of up to 40 percent.


Editor’s note: This article was updated on Jan. 27 at 2:29 p.m. to clarify Dunn’s remarks about former Council member Jan Davis.



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54 thoughts on “Former Asheville City Council member announces push for district elections at CIBO lunch

    • Virginia Daffron

      Sorry I don’t have a link to share. I hope Dr. Dunn or another person involved in this effort will let us know how those who would like to sign on can do so.

      • bsummers

        And we’re sure all the signers of this petition will be verifiable Asheville residents?

    • Huhsure

      Uh, I’m guessing you have to be a resident of Asheville, Tim.

      No, living in Texas doesn’t count.

  1. bsummers

    Joe Dunn reveals thirty seconds in that his purported reason for district elections is a smokescreen. It isn’t about geographic under-representation – he & a handful of bitter conservatives simply don’t like the politics of the current Council members.

    Pretty funny that he claimed the support of Jan Davis, who immediately said ‘uh, not so much’.

    Good luck getting the NCGA to force district elections on Asheville, Dr. Dunn. Were you not paying attention when Tom Apodaca got humiliated trying to push this just last summer? He also made the mistake of openly saying that it was because of the politics of the people who currently sit on Council, not about geographic equity.

    Hey, here’s an idea – run better candidates!

    • Deplorable Infidel

      oh how we wish there were better candidates, but those that are qualified don’t want to be bothered by the nonsense.
      at least we have one leaving, which is great news.

      • luther blissett

        So you want South Asheville to be guaranteed a council member but expect whoever wins to be unqualified? Okay then.

    • Mike

      There is NO repub candidate that could win a citywide election in Asheville. Even a RINO like Sen Tillis would have no chance should he retire and move to Asheville.

      • bsummers

        Not that long ago, Republicans Joe Dunn, Carl Mumpower, and Bill Russell all won seats on City Council. Since then, the political right in this town has fielded candidates like Mark Cates, who kicked off his campaign by calling Asheville “the heart of enemy territory”, or Tim Peck (no elaboration necessary). This is also the period where the BCGOP elected Chad Nesbitt, well known voter-alienator, to be their Chairman.

        Perhaps the problem isn’t that the deck is stacked against conservatives. It’s that in recent years the local Republican Party has been terrible at recruiting qualified, sane Republicans to run, and at providing them with support that, oh, I don’t know… had any chance of getting them more votes in a progressive town.

        I’ve heard that current BCGOP Chairman Nathan West is stepping down. Maybe focus on building a party that attracts and supports real candidates, rather than say, “Oh, we need affirmative action from Raleigh, if we want any chance of competing!” Do that, and you may see a day when there is more than one, maybe even a majority of conservatives on Council (yes, it’s happened in our lifetimes). Ask Raleigh to to give you a leg-up, and there will never ever be more than that one token GOPer from south Asheville, accomplishing nothing.

        • luther blissett

          I don’t see any reason why a GOP-leaning candidate from North Arden, I mean, SAvl, couldn’t get 3,000 votes in a primary to advance to the general, especially if they made clear that they wanted to work within the structures of city government and not go running down to Hendersonville to seek an audience with Mini-daca, shouting “unfair! unfair!”

  2. luther blissett

    When did CIBO become the South Asheville Persecution Complex Moan-In? And do the South Asheville CIBO types somehow feel persecuted because that part of the city is stretched out like taffy? Blame Biltmore Forest and Royal Pines for that. Do they cross into Arden and pine for its rugged unchecked liberty and free-market dynamism?

    I’d be okay with a combination of large-ish districts and at-large members, but that would probably mean a larger city council to get the balance right, and there’s no demand for that. Six districts and an at-large mayor is ridiculous: it’d simply balkanize city politics, because the districts would be small enough to pit neighborhoods with differing priorities directly against each other for representation. (Remember that Apodaca’s dumb district map carved up downtown into two districts, but lumped everything from UNCA to the VA into one “leftovers” district, all to try and remove incumbents.)

    Actually: here’s a compromise: create one new council seat specifically for a Designated South Asheville CIBO Moaner, but the CIBO Moaner has to wear a jester hat in public for the entirety of that person’s term.

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    Where can I sign this petition now ? Yes, it’s time. We shall overcome.

  4. luther blissett

    I mean, Joe Dunn was on City Council back in the days when even Carl Mumpower could get himself elected, and South Asheville was a lot less populous back then. It feels a lot like the CIBO crowd is nostalgic for bygone days when candidates tended to represent old business owners and professionals and other self-appointed “pillars of the community”. Now those people — David Forbes calls the the local gentry — just get themselves onto unelected boards.

    Anyway, you don’t hear this kind of incessant whining from people in Oteen or Oakley or Shiloh, which underlines the sense that it’s more about ideological than geographical concerns.

    • Curious

      “Anyway, you don’t hear this kind of incessant whining from people in Oteen or Oakley or Shiloh, which underlines the sense that it’s more about ideological than geographical concerns.”

      Do the people living in Oteen, Oakley, or Shiloh have any organizations equivalent to the CIBO which can speak for them? Do they have the political skills and experience needed to make their voices heard? Does the commenter have any data (polling or otherwise?) to back up his assertion that the people of Oteen, Oakley, and Shiloh are satisfied with their current status?

      • Deplorable Infidel

        probably NOT…and what does all this have to do with a now seldom used government term, ‘affirmative action’ ?

      • luther blissett

        I always thought CIBO stood for “Council of Independent Business Owners”, not “Conservatives Irate Below Overlook”. When did that change? The sense of entitlement among the old gentry leads them to change the argument for why they should be in power, even though there’s no clamor for district-based representation anywhere else in the city.

        “Does the commenter have any data (polling or otherwise?) to back up his assertion that the people of Oteen, Oakley, and Shiloh are satisfied with their current status?”

        We have the blissful sound of “nobody whining.” You can choose to parse it as those areas being full of political incompetents, but that says more about you than anyone else. Does the CIBO crowd have any data beyond what it hears from its own echo chamber? 2,390 votes was enough to get through the primary in 2015; if CIBO can’t muster up that much support for a SAvl candidate, then perhaps we all need to question its political skills and experience.

  5. NFB

    “Dunn remarked that the views of Council member Cecil Bothwell, who has said Asheville is too small for district elections, “make me sick.”

    And district elections would make Bothwell’s return to Council more likely.

    • North Asheville

      If district elections help Bothwell to be relected in his strongholds, they might also provide some candidates/council members with other view to moderate his. It seems that he and his views have a stranglehold on the council. Not all progressives/moderates/liberals in Asheville share his vision for Asheville. But Bothwell voters are a cohesive bloc, and their support is currently needed for all candidates. Low turn out in city elections are responsible for his hold, not widespread support., as his efforts in more broadly-based elections shows.

      • bsummers

        Bothwell and his views have a stranglehold on City Council? BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!

        He sits at the far left of a mostly centrist-Democratic Council. Give us a break with these red-baiting exaggerations.

        • Lulz

          A centrist council? They don’t represent blue collar, hotel/restaurant industry employees, or residents. They do however represent fat cat developers, RAD developers, hotel/restaurant developers, Biltmore, Grove Park, Mission, an over bloated government complex, waste and fraud.

          • luther blissett

            “They don’t represent blue collar, hotel/restaurant industry employees, or residents.”

            And yet those people voted for them. How is that? Are they all on the take, or just dumb?

            This grand theory of false consciousness is Karl Marx meets Chico Marx. You claim to speak on behalf of blue-collar folks while spitting abuse at them and spewing evidence-free accusations at the people they vote for. When exactly was City Council more representative of the working class?

            Run for office. Put your theories and popular appeal to the test.

          • Mike

            And just who the hell do you think the current council “represents”? Struggling to make house payments and need to do STRs or lose your home?? Sorry pal that would compete with the low end of the hotel industry. Want to preserve the residential character of the Macon avenue and Grovewood road neighborhoods? Sorry pal that would interfere with GPI expansion plans and our tax revenue.

          • Mike

            The above reply was directed at supporters of the current council … and NOT the critics..

          • luther blissett

            Just who the hell do you think CIBO “represents”? We can’t know for sure, because it keeps its membership private, but from the names we do know, I don’t think any of them are “struggling to make house payments”, nor that the crowd at a CIBO “Power Lunch” would remind you of a local union hall.

          • Lulz

            Oh I know CIBO is full of the same fat cats. When people like 300 percent rent raiser Peterson are or were there, it’s indicative of more of the same rich fat cat crap. But it’s also representative of why Asheville is corrupt. Special Interest is no friend of the taxpayer. Whether it’s CIBO or government funded non-profits. Both are leeches.

      • Mike

        I was a fan of Dr. Dunn and Dr. Mumpower, but hell, Bothwell seems to be one of the most sensible members on council now. He is the only one who seems to have a sensible perspective when it comes to short term rentals (STRs) and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) .. I remember his classic statement along the lines of “Historically, attempts to regulate a black market have not worked out well!”

        • Lulz

          Bothwell also support sanctuary cities along with protesting Wall Street fat cats. Problem is the illegals are killing wages and instead of Wall Street, Riverside and Lyman are a 50 million dollar taxpayer sinkhole while the rest of the city is ignored. Now there’s an article claiming that the city pools need millions in repairs. My question is since we’ve seen tax increases year over year along with fees voted in by Bothwell, why is the RAD so important that it’s literally causing the disrepair of the rest of the city? What gain are we the residents going to get from it? None.

  6. Fox Watson

    Tom Apodaca is the neocon fool who’s life mission has been to turn Henderson County into one contiguous stripe mall like South Florida. His wet dream would be have it run by minimum waged clones who all vote for flat – Earthed Republican’s. What a NIGHTMARE designing a universe owned and run by politicians like Tim Moffitt. In this universe we would abrogate all human rights to dictators like Apoldaca & the ‘ gerrymandering GOP gangsters. Hell! Is just within their reach!csay no to that south side rep!

  7. “Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, [Apodaca’s replacement] says he is watching to see what City Council does about electing some of its members by district and that state legislation to impose districts is a possibility if council lets the issue drop.

    And former Councilman Joe Dunn is heading up a new group of district supporters who he says will ‘go around City Council’ and take the issue directly to legislators because they believe council efforts to look at the issue are only ‘window dressing.'”
    [Saturday, January 28, 2017, 12:03 PM]

    • Lulz

      What we need is a DA to investigate Newman and his solar panel company funding, the local non-profit scam and it’s use of taxpayer money, the intertwining of people in government and developers and big tax cheaters like Mission, and the mismanaged water funds used to gentrify the RAD. Forget council and the county commissioners for now. They’ll fall by the wayside as their fraud is exposed.

      • Mike

        And just who the hell do the current council “represent”? The poor folks that they talk the talk to or the hotel industry who they walk the walk for? Struggling to make house payments and need to do STRs or lose your home?? Sorry pal that would compete with the low end of the hotel industry. Want to preserve the residential character of the Macon avenue and Grovewood road neighborhoods? Sorry pal that would interfere with GPI expansion plans and our tax revenue. When they ban a new hotel its most likely due to input and contributions from existing hoteliers .. and then they attribute their objection to their local enviro supporters (most of whom are also well fixed financially).

      • Mike

        Newman, Inc. is our local Solyndra. But fortunately he as done better than Obama’s Solyndra as far as limiting the damage to the taxpayers!

    • Huhsure

      Mountain Xpress, Tim is a public figure — he was a one-time candidate for Asheville City Council. He now resides in Texas. Yet he is in our local forums daily, pushing the party line of the GOP. Seems like a worthy line of inquiry for a news organization: is someone paying Tim Peck to post in these forums? If so, who?

      • Virginia Daffron

        Huhsure, I agree the place of residence could be relevant. The type of residence seems less so.

        • Lulz

          If that’s the case, why is Summer’s who’s a Woodfin resident commenting as well? Why is he active in council and city business is what I want to know. And yet immune to the taxes.

          • bsummers

            This again? Wow, you certainly are eager to silence me. I take that as a compliment, my anonymous little who-the-hell-knows-where-YOU-live buddy. I’ll weigh in even more now, with that encouragement!

        • Huhsure

          Why is your place of residence relevant? You’re a public figure. You ran for Asheville City Council. You then ditched the state, you can no longer even vote in NC, yet you are still here, day after day. You now say, from your perch in Texas, that you want to sign a petition to support district elections in Asheville. Who are you working for? How much are they paying you to do this?

    • luther blissett

      Whenever Chuck “Mini-daca” Edwards opens his mouth, you can see Tom Apodaca’s lips move.

      At least he and Dunn are honest about their sad, selfish, anti-democratic intentions, but then again, this is North Carolina.

        • luther blissett

          We already know that you consider it appropriate for somebody whose district represents a small fraction of the city (and a whole lot of “not the city”) to impose legislation on that city against the wishes of the majority within the city and its elected representatives. It’s a bit like having a racoon living in your attic and then issuing diktats on what temperature you set the thermostat.

          Who will you be voting for in the city council elections? Oh.

          (Yeah, yeah, “another thread about me.” Change the record, you egotist, we’re bored of it.)

  8. Lulz

    LOL, considering that my tax dollars allow people to urinate out in the open at Pritchard Park, I say good job council and liberal loons. You’ve really brought progress to us all. And yes, I actually saw someone pissing behind the trash can in the park.

    • luther blissett

      You called the cops, then? You are allowed to do that, you know. Or should city council pay for a piss warden to be stationed on 24/7 duty? (Or, I dunno, public toilets?) If not, what’s your plan when elected to city council to end the scourge of pissing in the park?

      You come across as so fuelled by outrage and anger and bitterness that you desperately seek it out. It’s as if you wake up, see a blue sky and hear birds singing in the trees, and think “oh, I must find something to be angry about!”

  9. Lulz, you lovely scared anonymous commenter, what tax increases “year over year”? Somehow I missed that.
    And yeah, Lulz, like the national association of police chiefs, I supported sanctuary city status several years ago because the police chiefs agreed that if local cops enforce federal immigration law it makes you and me and all of us less safe — because if immigrants are afraid of the cops they don’t report crimes. That’s entirely apart from the other little matter of equal treatment under the law, and “give me your tired your poor,” which used to be America’s theme song.
    Luther, you offer pretty rational comments, even if we sometimes disagree.
    And thanks Mike. Interesting how the STR debate crosses liberal/conservative lines with a dash of libertarianism in the mix.

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