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.