The Sierra Club and other environmental groups worked hard to get the city of Asheville to adopt a 100% renewable energy goal back in 2018. The city has developed plans to expand bus service hours, frequency of service and routes. We are losing our tree canopy and need a plan to rectify that. Addressing these issues has broad community support, and developing these plans was a great first step. But now it is time to begin implementing those goals. That takes funding.
We can’t afford to keep waiting to start doing our part to fight climate change. The city has identified $1.5 million in energy conservation and renewable energy projects that can begin as soon as funding is available. Workers in the service sector have no way of getting home on the bus after work because bus service currently stops before they get off of work.
Unfortunately, the city’s options are very limited in how it can raise funds. Funding options such as a quarter-cent sales tax would require a countywide vote, which will be difficult to pass. Other options such as a food and beverage tax or reallocating money from the hotel and motel occupancy tax require support from the Republican-controlled General Assembly in Raleigh, which have been unsuccessful. The city can’t issue new bonds until 2022 at the earliest.
The only viable option for the next few years is a property tax increase. The Sierra Club supports the proposed 3 cents per $100 property tax increase to fund these badly needed initiatives. The city can pass the property tax this year, and we can start tackling these issues. We can’t afford to keep waiting.
— Judy Mattox
Chair, WNC Sierra Club