In the last eight years, I’ve seen the political process whittle down the most idealistic, well-meaning folks in Asheville. It’s finally whittled me down: The June 4 City Council work session was my last. I’m leaving Xpress for a much less political career — the flooring business.
To quote Eva Peron, don’t cry for me, Argentina — I mean, Asheville. Xpress may still snag me for the occasional commentary and a wayward article or two, but don’t look for me in any situation that could be called a meeting.
I may actually have time now to read Xpress each week … and maybe sit back and write that great American novel I’ve been meaning to get around to, if it weren’t for meetings that sometimes go on till midnight. I think I’ll include lots of political intrigue, a superhero or two, activists storming City Hall, or an alternate-universe kind of tale where stripper Ukiah Morrison ends up as mayor …
To steal from Romeo, parting can be such sweet sorrow. My chronic writer’s cramp may finally heal. The word “deadline” will disappear from my vocabulary. I’ll forget what all those Asheville zoning codes mean … RS-what? CBD-who? I’ll infiltrate a right-wing conservative organization and disavow all my liberal media leanings. Maybe I’ll run for City Council. (Or maybe not. I can’t afford it.)
But I can voice my true opinions now. No more objective stuff — that unbiased and fair reporting that Asheville Mayor Charles Worley and Vice Mayor Terry Bellamy praised me for at my final City Council session. For almost eight years, I’ve kept quiet.
The problem is, I know there are no easy answers to issues like affordable housing, budget crises, water-system repairs, growth-and-development pressures, interstate widenings and the like. I actually respect the local politicians, city/county staffers and activists who slog through the details and try to come up with solutions. Notice I didn’t say I always agree with the results.
I’m a gal who hated civics class in high school, but now I understand enough about politics to know that if you (yes, you) don’t speak up, the political machine rolls right along without you –and sometimes, over you like a Blaw-Knox PF-161 (that’s the city’s paving machine). You say we need jobs … but would you want a Super Wal-Mart next door along the Swannanoa River? You say you support affordable housing … but you don’t want so much as a duplex on your street? You don’t want the city or county to raise taxes … so which program or service do you want cut so the potholes on your street are fixed and the law comes when you call?
To citizens, governments and businesses alike: Quit guarding your turf so doggedly that you ruin things for the rest of us.
To quote J. Lewis Daniels, a city appointee to the Regional Water Authority, “That would be too logical.”
Enough soapbox. If I’ve learned anything in the last eight years, it’s that politics is about people. That’s a bit idealistic, and a notion that my growing reporter’s cynicism has been unable to dismantle. Who are the people making the decisions? Who are the people affected by those decisions? What makes them tick?
“Find the drama,” Xpress publisher Jeff Fobes has told me, time and again.
I came into this newspaper business with a literature degree and a head full of Shakespeare. Drama was easy to find. Peace, though, eludes us. We seem to like stirring things up. But it’s time for me to step outside this play, discard one costume for another and take on a new role. I feel like an old character actor, trying to break away from always playing the bad/good guy.
So as my dad used to say to us kids, “See you in the funny papers.”
You can reach Margaret Williams … somewhere else.