I am writing in response to recent decisions made by Asheville City Council regarding downtown. These include the bike lanes on College Street and the diversion of $2 million from South Slope to McCormick Field. (Don’t start me on the gimme to McCormick.)
Ms. Esther Manheimer feels that “if you get the people out of their cars, walking around and hanging out, you create a safer environment. More eyes on the street is a more safe city.” I have to ask if the eyes of the Council are on the street. The evidence shows that, even though they all work downtown, it took national media attention and a scathing series of articles by the Asheville Watchdog before any attention was given to this vital issue. It seems like they really had no idea it was a problem until there was a possibility of tourist dollars being affected. Downtown workers and locals want the streets to be safe first, not to be the “eyes” watching the crime, misery and mental illness unfold. Do they seriously think us gawking at these things will keep them from happening?
A laughable assurance regarding the bike lanes was contributed by Sage Turner: “If we see businesses fall to the wayside and leave downtown because they can’t handle the bike lane, then I will be the first to call the three women up here who are not supportive of it and say, ‘We have got a problem, and I need the four of us to rally and fix it.’”
Really? First, Ms. Turner, in this hypothetical scenario should say, “We created a problem …” And so once local businesses have fled downtown, they can undo the damage and they will come back? Is that how the real world works?
Speaking of undoing damage, let’s not forget Merrimon Avenue. I personally will never travel that road again. I have found other businesses in different parts of the city to frequent instead. The traffic is a nightmare, and the bike lanes are not being used enough to justify the fustercluck the area has become. Has this problem been acknowledged by the Council? Are they collectively going to “rally and fix it”? Or will it be another shrug and move on? Since it is not a tourist area and mere locals are at stake, of course, it will be the latter.
I urge the Council to listen to downtown and South Slope business owners. I respectfully remind them that the vision and creativity of local business owners are what saved downtown in the first place. As I’m sure they recall, the “vision” of local government at the time was to gut downtown and build a mall. Yes, I realize different politicians were on the Council at the time. I do believe, however, that the different perspectives of elected officials and local business owners remain widely divergent. Although I belong to neither group, I would give more weight to people who have invested sweat, money and time into enterprises that, should they fail, would mean disaster to them, their families and their employees. Maybe they know something that people elected to office for a few years don’t.
— Julia Martin