Letter: TDA needs to listen to concerns

Graphic by Lori Deaton

You know. When someone says it’s all everyone else’s negativity and claims zero accountability for complaints, that’s a pretty big red flag right there. After reading Himanshu Karvir’s little rant [“On the Defensive: TDA Board Members React to Criticism,” Nov. 27, Xpress] … my first thought is: What a crybaby.

I have lived near Asheville and called it home now for nearly four decades. I loved it when I moved here. Yes, downtown was mostly dead. But there was a vibrant community here. I was happy to see the turnaround as old buildings were renovated and cool shops and restaurants sprouted up. Buskers and colorful events gave the city a spark. It’s always been a tourist-based economy.

But as more and more posh hotels sprouted up, rent hikes forced out the small businesses or forced them to hike prices and target the well-to-do; infrastructure is utterly maxed out; homeless people pushed out of sight; and literally the whole wonderful feel of the city moved into a fake simulation of what used to be — yeah, I no longer care to dine, shop or hang out downtown. I work three days/week near the RAD, and some days I literally dread the certain traffic snarls. I have watched the neighborhood I work in gentrify before my eyes in the last four years. And now even out where I live in the country, it is swiftly changing into housing developments. If I weren’t so far along in my years, I’d sell and move farther out.

So, yes, Mr. Karvir, there is such a thing as going too far. And you need to heed these complaints and concerns. Tourism adds a lot of wear to Asheville’s stressed infrastructure. And yet I see busted-up sidewalks and horrible potholed roads go unfixed for years. Tourists act like they can jaywalk anywhere they please without regard to traffic. And tourism has caused the popularity of Asheville to soar. Forcing out residents as cost of living shoots skyward, but measly service-job pay that the industry provides remains stagnant. It’s absolutely a factor. And to say it’s all good and none bad just makes you a shill. This kind of denial of how tourism has negatively impacted people who live here will only infuriate them more.

Instead, Mr. Karvir (and all the TDA) need to listen to these concerns. And understand why people are pissed. And acknowledge that they are very legitimate concerns and not just blow them all off with “tourism is all good and nothing bad.” What BS!

— Troy Amastar


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13 thoughts on “Letter: TDA needs to listen to concerns

  1. bsummers

    It’s well said, but I disagree. It’s past time to hope that TDA Board members or staff will ever institute serious change, as long as their salaries and bonuses depend on an ever-increasing stream of tourists. It’s time to pressure the County Commissioners to do what they have the authority to do:

    Sec. 23. Repeal of Levy. (a) The board of county commissioners may by resolution repeal the levy of the room occupancy tax in Buncombe County.

    Another path would be to make this issue front and center in the state legislative races. Make any candidate for NC House or Senate take a stand on amending the room tax legislation to direct some of the funding towards city infrastructure costs (which they could do).

    Just don’t let one bunch of politicians point at the other bunch and say ‘It’s their job’. But first and foremost, accept that the TDA itself will never solve this as long as they are getting paid to make it worse.

    • Lulz

      But pointing fingers at Raleigh has been the standard MO of the people around here. And it wasn’t because they want the TDA to go away. They just want to make the opposition look bad. But now since we all know that the local political hacks are just as responsible for the TDA as the TDA themselves, it’s way past time that they be exposed . Also how not one former or present commissioner has ever brought up the issue of their ability to change the funding of the TDA to the public. They have a lot to answer for.

      • bsummers

        I’ll try to get this out without having an aneurysm, but I mostly agree with you on this, Lulz (if that is your real name.) But with the caveat that we know you’re mostly only pointing fingers at the former or present commissioners of one party and not the other. I’ll point out that no GOP commissioners (that I know of) have brought up the idea of reducing or eliminating TDA funding (unless I’ve missed something – if so, please mention it.). And there’s a reason for that – they have no option to reduce that funding, or decide that it be redirected. The law only states that they can cut it off completely.

        On the other hand, the legislators can get together and amend the law to redirect a substantial amount to offsetting infrastructure in both the City and the County. It would take politicians of both parties agreeing to not snipe at one another, and everyone agree that it’s in the best interests of all residents. But watch out for those big TDA purses to overfloweth come campaign season. Can we all, right and left, hold our chosen candidates to reject tourism-related money? Tough row to hoe, but it can be done.

        • Lulz

          I don’t care what they call themselves. Fact remains the local city and county governments have been HARMFUL to the people who live here for many years now. The cronyism is right out in the open for all to see.

  2. TDA is corrupt and must be stopped

    **TDA won’t listen**
    They will commission another study they pay handsomely to tell them how great they are, and then laud themselves with their diatribe of doublespeak. Tourism great! No issues to address here! Just give us all the tax money and look the other way.
    *Voters need to listen*
    We can change this. Vote in commissioners that will repeal the occupancy tax. Repeal, a full repeal. Not someone who is going to “push the TDA to evaluate the way they spend funds”. A full repeal of the tax, if the TDA is doing such a great job I’m sure the hoteliers will continue to fund it.
    Replace the occupancy tax with an occupancy license or permit or something of the like that is relatively revenue neutral to the existing tax. The county can then keep all of the occupancy tax revenue and invest in sorely needed infrastructure (which also benefits tourists). We are getting close to $20 million per year that could go to infrastructure projects and lowering property taxes.
    From the Buncombe County CAFR:
    ‘The fiscal year 2020 budget includes a fund balance appropriation of $12.9 million. Fund balance appropriation is
    one of the available means to lower the burden on property tax owners. The County appropriates fund balance each
    year with the challenge to save the appropriated amount.’
    The point is that there are much better uses of $20 million per year in tax revenue than advertising Asheville, paying ridiculous TDA salaries, painting Frescos in churches and building rooftop bars for well to do breweries.

  3. Bright

    Well said, Mr. Alexander! In fact, too well said…the simplicity and directness with which you gave the facts, alerted the Einsteins. Now we will read gloating “brain exercise” chatter for all manner of bs…and, as ever, nothing will get done…but Thanks for a great letter!

  4. henry

    Have any Commission candidates for the 2020 election supported eliminating the room tax?

  5. Mike R.

    Absolutely nothing new under the sun. Big money talks….. out of state owners of the Grove Park Inn, the Cecil family that owns Biltmore (that by the way pay no property tax on that property), the big breweries, and of course the hoteliers just to name a few. And over and above all those immediate monied interests, is the overarching goal of Raleigh to “develop” western NC. That writing on the wall is all over the place: Asheville Airport expansion and NO revenue allowed to go back to the city or county, NCDOT major roads work ramping up even on roads that don’t need it ….yet, the infamous Equistrian Center near Tryon that, as best as I can tell, is a tax supported playground for the rich, and of course the richly crony capitalist TDA.

    If you follow the mantra, this is all for our own good in the long run. More people, more tax monies, better government services, a stronger economy, more jobs, etc. While some of that is true, it’s always really about how it is achieved and to what degree. And of course, climate change and the end of cheap fossil fuel raise ugly questions about the sustainability of all of this.

    Unfortunately, American has never been known to develop moderately and with sustainability in mind. She’s always been a leviathon careening wildly between the ditches.

    Probably the best we can hope for to stop these crazy growth pressures is the quick arrival of the long talked about serious recession that is becoming long overdue.

    • Curious

      You make this assertion: ” the Cecil family that owns Biltmore (that by the way pay no property tax on that property)”
      Do you have any evidence that the Cecil family and the Biltmore Company pay no property taxes?

      • Mike

        According to Wikipedia — After the death of William A. V. Cecil in October 2017 and his wife Mimi Cecil in November, their daughter Dini Pickering is serving as board chair and their son Bill Cecil as CEO. The house is assessed at $157.2 million, although due to an agricultural deferment, county property taxes are paid on only $79.1 million of that. Should be easy enough to verify on the Buncombe County Web page.

  6. K Smith

    TDA’s fat salaries. No need to elaborate. Those people have some sweet paychecks and bonuses!

  7. Austin

    Seems to me like the TDA has completed their task and that they are no longer necessary. Everybody and their dog knows about and considers Asheville a travel destination. To my thinking the TDA is obsolete and that is reason enough as to why it should be ended. We need council members who oppose new hotel development in downtown Asheville and the Biltmore Ave. corridor and commissioners who want to end TDA.

  8. MG Massey

    If you think the ruling class in this trashy tourist town gives a toss about how their actions affect others…
    You’re delusional.

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