Letter: An inauspicious omen for Asheville

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I read tonight that Forbes magazine named Asheville as the only city in North Carolina to be among the 30 most beautiful cities in America.

Forbes? Asheville?

Well, I’d known that my adopted hometown since 2008 had changed, but I’m surprised that now even Forbes thinks it’s cool. Nowadays, I consider this as an omen I don’t want to read about, especially because Forbes is not my type of magazine. I would rather read about us in a rag like Mother Jones, if we had to be reported on anywhere.

When I think of Forbes, I envision very wealthy people sipping their mimosas at a gentrified sidewalk cafe. Well, I guess that is us today.

I think of an ordered society of finely dressed patrons of the arts. Maybe sometimes in Asheville when the symphony entertains.

Or dressed-up executives rushing to work at big, incentivized corporations. Yep, that’s Asheville. Think Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney, which will even soon have its own exit off Interstate 26.

Has Forbes seen our workers downtown struggling to make enough to pay their rent this month because many of the apartments in which they used to live have been converted into Airbnbs or torn down to make room for big-box expensive apartments very few can afford? Have they seen the people on our streets who sleep there, too? Or in their cars or along the river?

And do they realize that Asheville often criminalizes the homeless and even those who advocate for them by food sharing? Do they know that some even face charges now of felony littering and have been banned from all of Asheville’s city parks for three years, and they haven’t even been convicted yet? All because they did just that at Aston Park on Christmas night 2021.

Or how about charging second-degree trespassing on a writer and videographer who represented a longtime online investigative publication? Do they realize that even the ACLU is challenging Asheville on both these cases because they threaten our rights of assembly and having a free press?

And do our visitors know that soon they’ll be under surveillance if they hang around Pritchard Park and North Lexington Avenue? Or that a huge Duke substation is in the works to be built right above Lexington Avenue?

And then there are the water problems. If you preferred bottled water, you were in the right spot here during the holidays when more than 36,000 households and even our esteemed restaurants lost water or had to boil what they had in some parts of our area till Jan. 4.

Oh, how life has changed since my arrival here less than 14 years ago when my rent was $400 a month, when the South Slope was pretty much just that without all the breweries, when there were a few restaurants that catered to the locals with plain home cooking at reasonable prices. There are still a few of these, but some recently have had to call it quits.

When I moved here, we prided ourselves as a diamond in the rough. Once a writer spoke at Malaprop’s about a book he’d written regarding the happiest people around the world, from little islands in the Pacific to cold, majestic areas along the Alps. As a side note, he added, “And I’ve heard that you guys in Asheville are among the happiest in this country.” We all laughed, but we agreed. We were proud of our city with only two hotels downtown at the time. Then the tourism development people started advertising our weirdness, our drum circle, our buskers, our eclectic downtown. Too many “discovered” us.

Now we lament with our brother and sister homeless friends downtown that Asheville has outgrown its kindness, its friendliness and toleration over the years. Fame has gone to some of our leaders’ heads. They now make decisions in closed rooms where the sun doesn’t shine in. They sign nondisclosure agreements and give away millions of dollars to entice multinational corporations to move here.

Then some folks come down from Forbes magazine, and you know the rest of the story.

— Rachael Bliss



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11 thoughts on “Letter: An inauspicious omen for Asheville

  1. MG Massey

    Asheville was always more favorable to the tourists and exploitative of everyone else.
    Liars with plantation mentality run this tourist town..
    All tourist towns obscure negative news.
    Not surprised the ACLU is taking on Asheville..
    No surprise at all

  2. NFB

    So, in other words, it was fine for the letter writer to come to Asheville but not anybody else?

    • indy499

      Guess we should have pulled up the drawbridge when ole Rachael arrived in ’08. Personally , I liked it just before she arrived.

    • Gyp

      Yeah, I’m with NFB. These kinds of takes seem like a dime a dozen in Asheville, and I think they’re really specious, because though they highlight real, serious problems, they only pose solutions that are inward and provincial.

  3. gyp

    It seems like this flavor of take is a dime a dozen in Asheville these days, and it’s unfortunate, because as much as they identify very real and serious problems and injustices, the only solutions they end up pointing to are inward, provincial, and backward-looking.

    Cities are going to grow and change, and that’s fine. Trying to impede that growth and change only contributes to austerity and xenophobia. Let’s save the nostalgia. The question is if we’re going to grow—welcoming new people, economies, and new urban patterns—how are we going to make that change work for working people? Whenever they got (or will get) here?

  4. Gordon

    Rachel omitted to mention that she is the ‘ Journalist ‘ who was charged with felony littering for dragging thousands of pounds of trash, like toilets, tire and pallets to a neighborhood park and rebranding it as an art display. And that those people illegally camping in a downtown park were transported by the city to Ramada Inn and housed there for one year at a cost of about 3million. Nice tail you spin Rachel, try again. Or better yet since you are apparently a Journalist why don’t you report on something. Oh that’s right Sarah at CT will be your mouthpiece.

  5. SpareChange

    I consider myself quite left politically, but I despair at the number of supposed “progressives” in Asheville, who, like the letter writer, seem to have made it their mission to live up to every right-wing trope and stereotype of the political left.

  6. Dylan

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative declaring “Trasheville” too darn “woke” or an “anarchist” “journalist,” Asheville was apparently so much better 20-40-60 years ago (Mx. Bliss has only been here 14, so she can’t even parade that tired old line). As someone who was here in the 90s when decisions were much less transparent and there was a lot less to do, I encourage Bliss to go out and discover a place that will never change or progress, where rent remains $400 and you can find “plain home cooking at reasonable prices.” Bliss has serious rose-colored glasses.

    • LIAMD

      She should leave. She will not be missed. I’m sure in her mind she is amazing and ‘part of Asheville’, but no one GsAF about her musings of how great Asheville was when SHE arrived.

  7. Juno Ferrara

    Hello Rachael
    I agree with you a 100 percent and I hope Forbes see your post. Well done!

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