Letter: Branyon favors humane, ecological positions

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Bill Branyon, candidate for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners from District 1, has three positions that could make our county much more humane and ecological.

The first is the decriminalization, not the legalization, of most drugs. This will remove much of the violence in our city that comes from police interventions into drug use, much of the homelessness, as the expense of black-market drugs and fleeing from police drive many addicts into the street, and much of the violence that results when drug abuse is made into a punitive issue rather than a health one. He will use a harm-reduction approach whenever possible, not a mass incarceration approach that’s being violently enforced now.

His plan to hold a countywide referendum on how much more development we want may prevent the continued destruction of our tree canopy in the city and destruction of our remaining forests, including Big Ivy, in the rural areas left in the county. As well as the destruction of the grace of many of our beautiful neighborhoods by excessive traffic and crowding.

If we vote no more development, or a small amount, he will zone the county accordingly, just as Biltmore Forest zones its town. Though, of course, Buncombe County would have many more different gradations of zoning than Biltmore Forest. Should we vote to have significantly more development, his plan is to appoint someone like Jack Cecil (cousin of the Biltmore Estate owner) as zoning czar. Mr. Cecil’s ecological developments of Biltmore Park, Biltmore Lake and The Ramble are models of how to preserve forests, tree canopy and grace.

And then there’s Mr. Branyon’s plan to fight homelessness and poverty by instituting at least a $15 minimum wage and hopefully even a $17.30 living wage as determined by Just Economics. This would replace the brutal $7.25 minimum wage now imposed by the N.C. General Assembly. Why should we be bound by a state legislature controlled by mostly Republicans who support Donald Trump, who wants to overthrow the democracy? And one in which profit maximization is their only goal, when they aren’t trying to end democracy?

He will also try to freeze property taxes in lower- and middle-income neighborhoods, and thus end the policy of the commission of effectively taxing people out of their own homes or putting pressure on landlords to raise rents to pay for ever-increasing property taxes. Subsidize security, not precarity.

As noted, some of these policies will require bypassing the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, but Mr. Branyon has a plan for doing that. He will harness nonprofits as well as use the county commission as a social pressure center on nonconforming entities, and even bypass Raleigh, should that be needed as a last resort. He notes that Asheville already bypasses Raleigh by being a sanctuary city and by lax enforcement of marijuana laws. So, avoiding inhumane Raleigh laws can and has been done.

These positions may sound somewhat transformational, but we live in transformational times. Without a more humane, ecological economy, we may lose our democracy. Vote Branyon in order to govern Buncombe County as a beloved community, not a bulldozing corporation.

— Ed Schell
Former chairman of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods
and Precinct 3 for over 20 years


Editor’s note: Schell did not respond to a question about whether the writer is volunteering for the candidate.


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Branyon favors humane, ecological positions

  1. NFB

    “Editor’s note: Schell did not respond to a question about whether the writer is volunteering for the candidate.”

    Since MX has made it a policy to include the information about whether or not the writers of letters in support of specific candidates has any ties to the candidates campaign, should not the letter be withheld from publication until that information is obtained?

    • Tracy Rose

      Thanks, NFB, for raising the question. Ideally, we would have held onto the letter until we had that information. Doing so in this case, however, would have meant that the letter would not have been published in time to be relevant for the primary. So the next best thing was to publish the letter and let readers know what information was lacking.

  2. Keith Thomson

    If Mr. Branyon can promise to rule, as only one vote on a 7 member board, what about the other 6 Commissioners, or ever other elected official who promises to ignore the laws?

    Isn’t that why tRUmp and Cowthorne are such bad actors? Sigh….

    • ND

      None of the ideas are are truly possible….sorry. Zoning Czar….nope, ain’t gonna happen y’all. Additionally, the County can only control and zone what’s outside of the city and town limits. You cannot pass laws to wholly devalue and deprive a person of their constitutional rights to use their property. “Others” property aren’t your protected viewshed and playground to enjoy. Others pay taxes….and most likely the ones with largest properties have been here well before all the “do gooders” complaining of change they brought upon this place. As far as taxing goes, the County is already providing rebates to those who apply. There’s no way to sort out low and middle income property owners…..here’s a fact, a larger portion of low and middle income persons are RENTING so they indirectly pay property taxes to County via their rent. It’s built in, so if you think that “penalizing larger” property owners or richer property owners (that’s not subjective is it?), you effectively leverage more pain on the rental side. Decriminalization can’t be done on a County or City level. Just stop it. Please stop believing you can “work around Raleigh” Elected official take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of both the State of NC and the US. There’s no local oath that is contrary. Failure to uphold the oath is grounds for removal. We already live in the experiment that is Asheville with lackadaisical enforcement by the DA’s office. The repeat drug offenders need substance abuse help….not assistance. It’s literally killing every one of them, maybe not directly via an overdose, maybe secondary infections, damaged circulatory or respiratory systems.

  3. kw

    Someone locally needs to take a look at the Trump criminal act (Tax Act of 2017) that legalizes the rape of communities through the developer-friendly vehicle known as the Opportunity Zone. It’s unfathomable that the Town of Woodfin could approve a development (on a piece of non contiguously annexed land next to Richmond Hill Park) that would send 10,000 cars through a residential street in Asheville just because some Republican politician and a lackey from the IRS deems it so. Will any Buncombe County Commissioner step forward to do anything in such a case?

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