Mayor calls $74 million bond referendum catalyst for equity

Mayor Esther Manheimer stressed the theme of equality during the State of Asheville speech on Tuesday, Oct. 4. Photo by Dan Hesse

Brochures advocating the approval of $74 million in bonds greeted audience members at every table and set the tone for the State of Asheville speech delivered by Mayor Esther Manheimer on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The flyers, paid for by Go AVL Bonds Committee, advised, “Financial experts agree that bonds are the smart way to build a city,” but don’t cite which financial experts are being referenced.

The speech focused on how the city can foster equity in three key areas; approving the $74 million in proposed bonds, Manheimer said, would act as a catalyst for that vision.

According to Manheimer, equity, diversity and opportunity are key needs for the city. “Equity is different than equality. Equity is when the [need] meets you where you are,” she said.

“What can a city do?” asked Manheimer, explaining that minimum wage, rent control, discrimination ordinances to protect transgender residents and other issues are controlled at the state level. “No, cities can’t do that,” she said.

“We can focus on service delivery, community engagement and planning with an attention to equity,” she said.

Flyers advocating approval of $74 million in bond referendums were laid out at all of the tables during the State of Asheville speech.
Flyers advocating approval of $74 million in bond referendums were laid out at all of the tables during the State of Asheville speech.

Service delivery
Manheimer said City Council is focused on identifying gaps in equity when it comes to delivery of city services, noting that most single family homes have had recycling programs for years. Until last year, however, recycling was not offered in the city’s public housing complexes. “This is unacceptable,” she said, going on to state that 280 households residing in public housing now have access to recycling.

On the issue of transportation, Manheimer said the city is expanding sidewalks, greenways, bus service and more.

In regard to public safety, Manheimer touted the partnership between citizens working with Police Chief Tammy Hooper to review policies and the use of force. “It’s an opportunity to review with an eye toward equity,” she said. That task force is set to deliver recommendations over the next few months, according to Manheimer.

She also said the city wants to have a staff that is representative of the city it serves. “That is reflected in hiring process, but we can do better,” she said. Manheimer said minority recruiting efforts have met with success in the city’s fire department, noting 21 percent of 2015 employment applications were from minorities.

Finally, she said the city is establishing an Office of Equity and Diversity to focus on how it can mitigate disparity in service delivery, hiring and contracting.

Manheimer’s second talking point was equity in policy. “Affordable housing is an equity issue because it’s a basic need everyone has, and we have an equity imbalance when it comes to housing,” she said. However, she noted the city has helped leverage 732 affordable housing units over the past five years via the city’s housing trust, land use incentives and other means. Manheimer also noted the city is working on its first effort to turn public land into affordable housing on Hilliard Avenue.

In regard to children and education, Manheimer stressed the need for after-school programs. She also spoke of the success of the City of Asheville’s Youth Leadership Program, which provides summer employment and mentoring to city high school students to promote college readiness.

Manheimer highlighted city initiatives aimed at helping minority-owned small businesses such as events showcasing opportunities to earn contract work from the city. Asheville also contributes to a $250,000 Community Capital Fund that provides support when traditional lending isn’t available, she said.

The mayor also noted that the city is working with processes it can’t control, but can help guide; such as the Interstate 26 connector and Duke Energy substations. “The Department Of Transportation controls the [I-26]project, but the city has worked with the DOT to mitigate effects in city neighborhoods while still moving it forward,” she said.

She wrapped up the policy portion by bringing up House Bill 2, which mandates people use bathrooms associated with the gender on their birth certificate, and said, “While Asheville can’t avoid the legislation, we have voiced outrage and opposition to the bill.” That statement received a round of applause from the audience.

The State of Asheville speech drew a large crowd. The theme of the speech was equity in city service, policy and community. Photo by Dan Hesse
The State of Asheville speech drew a large crowd. The theme of the speech was equity in city service, policy and community. Photo by Dan Hesse

“Asheville has robust community engagement, but this year grew it even more,” said Manheimer, citing the new Online City Hall as an example. She also said the city created new community task forces to look into issues such as short-term rentals, comprehensive land use planning and what to do with the so-called ‘pit of despair,’ located across the street from the Civic Center.

Manheimer went on to tout projects such as improvements to the Livingston Street area that will feature roundabouts, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Manheimer showed a video about the bond package that touted the general obligation bonds as a “safe and common way” to invest in infrastructure. Next, the video stated that Asheville’s per capita debt is lower than the state average, but the presentation did not state what either of those per capita debt numbers are.

The video went on to state that if the full $74 million in general obligation bonds is approved, it would require a property tax increase of 4.15-cents per $100 of property value. At that level, a home valued at $275,000 would see a property tax increase of $110 a year.

“To advance these initiatives, we need to get behind the bond initiatives. It is growing what we’ve been planning for so long,” she said in her closing remarks.

Before the speech, people outside the U.S. Cellular Center passed out flyers entitled “The State of Black Asheville.” It notes several inequities between the city’s minority populations. You can view that flyer below. Scan Scan2


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at

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10 thoughts on “Mayor calls $74 million bond referendum catalyst for equity

  1. Apparently, the word of the day was equity.

    And just curious, why doesn’t the city pick up all recycling? Downtown residents pay full share city taxes but the city doesn’t collect recycling. dumb.

    • Lulz

      LOL, you get the urine, puke, bum funk, and dog crap washed off the sidewalks. Can’t have the stench around to turn the tourist away. After all, how are the 1 percenters suppose to fleece not only the idiots that travel here, but also the ones who live here and are foolish enough to think someone who has never held a real job and is also an elitist clique lawyer will distribute “equity”. Oh and don’t forget about Newman who is salivating at gentrifying Asheville even more. The irony is that the only equity meted out is to ensure wealthier morons move in and working class folks move out.

  2. Lulz

    LOL, when all else fails them and they can’t fathom why people are steadily becoming angered at the waste , fraud, and corruption, why just make it about equity and diversity. That’ll shame ’em into complying. Good grief where do these people come from?

    Dear Mayor, you personally go kick people out of their homes when they can’t pay the taxes. Because you need to feel the burn upside your empty head.

    • Lulz

      Oh and as far as blacks are concerned, if 12 trillion over 50 years in subsidies didn’t help them, I got news for you. Whatever pittance you’re demanding out of this scam, it ain’t gonna do squat. Money can’t replace things like ethics when your values are centered around everything destructive and you blame others for it.

      • Deplorable Infidel

        $20 TRILLION on the Wah on Povuhty …. we ain’t won it yet…

    • Negrodamus

      Look at it as the mayor building resume equity. If she’s like most in that guild, she’ll move on to greener pastures once her resume is padded with sufficient equity.

  3. Sparrow

    God I have to move outside the city limits, this town is run by morons. How about equality fixing our roads? All roads matter, just not the ones that produce the tourist dollars.

  4. Deplorable Infidel

    uhm, did Mayoress talk about how this $74MILLION bond scam will take $110 MILLION to PAY BACK over 30 years ? ? ?

    Did you know that they can delay issuance of said bonds up to 10 years ? Lots of secrets with this plan … read all about it at

    • luther blissett

      “will take $110 MILLION to PAY BACK over 30 years ? ? ?”

      I heard that if YOU BuY a hOUse with a MORTGAGE it could cost TWICE aS MucH as paying cash! What a SCAM!

      (The city expects to issue bonds at about a 2% interest rate, which is 1% in real terms right now and might end up a negative real rate if inflation goes above 2%. There’s never been as good a time in decades to borrow for capital projects.)

      • Deplorable Infidel

        Only a FOOL would vote to be BOND SCAMMED TWICE in one year in NC …

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