As she wrapped up her work on the AVL Greater and AVL 5×5 2025 plans in late September, we chatted with futurist Rebecca Ryan about her upcoming encore keynote address at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s WomanUP gala on Thursday, Nov. 18, what makes Asheville and Buncombe County different and how we’ll know if the area is on track to make good on the new strategies.
Sen. Chuck Edwards, who represents Henderson, Transylvania and eastern Buncombe counties in N.C. Senate District 48, said he remained firm in his desire to see the city of Asheville take a different approach to electing its council members. “I get constant feedback from constituents in Asheville that they can’t get City Council folks to pick up the phone, let alone to listen to a specific concern that they might have in their neighborhood,” he said.
Asheville City Council members clashed over whether a state-imposed district election system would negatively impact black voters during Sept. 24 meeting.
As currently drawn, the proposed districts would shift representation for large areas of Buncombe County. A 2011 state law also required that districts for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners match those of the county’s House representatives. As currently drawn, the maps would move Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara from District 1 to District 2, shift Al Whitesides from District 1 to District 3 and reassign Amanda Edwards from District 2 to District 1.
The money contained in a stalled budget bill that passed the General Assembly would go to Montreat College, a school in eastern Buncombe County with an enrollment of fewer than 1,000 students. $20 million would be used to establish a center to train people to protect digital information and systems.
The 10th Congressional District representative’s constituents challenged him on issues including climate policy, Israel-U.S. relations and the behavior of President Donald Trump at his annual Buncombe County town hall on July 31 at the Riceville Community Center.
On Friday, Sept. 6, said Council member Julie Mayfield, the city will hold an affordable housing work session to explore options such as tiny homes and housing voucher acceptance for long-term rentals. Mayfield also announced that Council plans to discuss whether the city should temporarily ban new hotels in the city during its Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29.
Republican members of the board argued that their Democratic colleagues were out of place in issuing official letters against pending state HB 370, which would require Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller and other sheriffs throughout North Carolina to comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests on penalty of removal from office.
The four Democratic board members — Chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides — have all signed letters asking state officials to withhold their support from the proposal. In February, Democratic Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller announced that his office would no longer honor ICE detainers.
After much anticipation, Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham presents the city’s legal options — and limitations — of addressing state-imposed district elections to Council during a July 2 work session.
Both WNC congressmen, Reps. Patrick McHenry and Mark Meadows, represent districts that are staunchly Republican. But most of the money they used to run their campaigns and boost GOP candidates in more competitive races came from outside of North Carolina.
“We used to talk about presidents and members of Congress having permanent campaigns, meaning they never really stop campaigning, and I think the same thing has now trickled down to the state level,” says Chris Cooper, head of Western Carolina University’s Political Science and Public Affairs Department.
Asheville City Council is making moves on state-imposed districts for municipal elections.
Community members took the opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding the tourism industry in Asheville and hear a presentation from the WNC Green Party about restructuring of hotel occupancy taxes during an April 24 “Re-Imagine the TDA” public meeting.
“The youngest generation … they are particularly focused on climate change,” says Ashley McDermott, one of the founding members of Sunrise’s Asheville chapter. “They’re the ones who have this emotional connection to it the most. They’re seeing and experiencing it now.”
During a March 14 listening session at The Collider in downtown Asheville about the DEQ’s Clean Energy Plan, a key provision of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80 on clean energy and climate change, many of the roughly 70 Western North Carolina residents in attendance expressed frustration that the state wasn’t doing enough.
In conjunction with Buncombe County voters and members of Raleigh-based lobbying group Common Cause North Carolina, the mayor will discuss how gerrymandering splits Asheville voters and advocate for nonpartisan districting reform. The press conference takes place at Pack Square Park on Tuesday, March 26, at 10:30 a.m.
With James Lee opting out mid-term to take a job in another state, Asheville City Council will soon select at least one new member to serve on a board that will be compelled to turn the ship around. Two other members, Martha Geitner and board Chair Shaunda Sandford, are completing their first terms on the board and seeking reappointment. Meanwhile, in a process that will play out in the coming weeks, 11 other community members have applied to be appointed.