Letter: The same old solutions won’t solve Asheville’s problems

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Asheville digs recycling. That’s cool with trash, anything but with social problems.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in our community’s relentless exercises in hand-wringing over homelessness, Black student performance gaps, affordable housing and minority hirings on our police force.

Go back 25 years, and you will find precisely the same problems, the same talking points, the same homogenous mindsets, the same dominating political party, the same hollow platitudes, the same interventions, the same lofty declarations, the same prophecies of success potential and the same commands that “we come together to fix this problem once and for all.”

In this predictable script, politicians get attention, nonprofits get funding, taxpayers get fleeced, our safety net gets tired, the media get headlines and the problems — none of the above being an exception — get worse.

That’s what happens whenever adults substitute fairy dust for realism, mature thinking, accountability, creative problem-solving and — dare I say it — science.

The Asheville Watchdog article on Asheville’s most recent consultant report on a “‘road map’ to end homelessness” illustrates the pattern, except that this time it was a bit different [“From Asheville Watchdog: National Consultant Offers ‘Road Map’ to End Homelessness in Asheville … Again,” Feb. 8, Xpress website]. Dissenting voices were included, and the weariness of 25 years of recycled fantasy thinking and programs was brought into view. Thank you.

I personally liked the comment “We’ve got to keep trying.”

But that doesn’t mean we should keep trying the same things. There is a relevant compass reading in George Patton’s comment, “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

With such in mind, may one add an observation or two?

1) When the personal accountability of the recipient is removed from any helping equation, that effort is doomed to fail — if not now, then soon.

2) Dig around the root of the greater majority of Asheville’s social/economic issues, and you will find drugs fertilizing the misery.

3) One cannot be an angry victim and an equal at the same time.

4) Money thrown at problems does not produce solutions for the same reasons that lottery winners do not become happy people.

5) Public programs will never replace the importance of individual attention coming from a hand guided by love — and government will never be able to provide that.

6) Without a functional, wise and time-tested moral compass, there is no amount of gas that will secure a society’s safe landing.

7) Effective change agents and those who complain, blame, avoid, manipulate or demand rarely sit in the same room.

8) If goals are not set, accountability established and outcomes measured, no endeavor reaches a point of fruition.

9) If there is a problem to be solved, “questions down and answers up” is a priority management style necessary to securing workable solutions.

10) It is not possible to create a city that is weird, safe, affordable and elitist all at the same time.

There are many ways for us to solve homelessness, Black student performance gaps, affordable housing and minority hirings on our police force.

What we can’t do is continue pretending that headlines, hand-wringing, a lack of diverse thinking, anger, studies, politicians, enabling and spending other people’s money will create the solutions.

— Carl Mumpower


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8 thoughts on “Letter: The same old solutions won’t solve Asheville’s problems

  1. Grant Millin

    The City of Asheville / Buncombe County homelessness study produced by the National Alliance to End Homelessness failed to count the homeless Citizens with Disabilities (CWDs). CWD may be a strange term for some, but here’s a reference:


    HUD and the White House are beginning to use the term ‘persons with disabilities’ versus just ‘chronically homeless’. Here’s a UN ‘global’ reference to that concept:


    Trapping the possibility of new rights and resources for CWDs in legislation from the past like the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t good enough.

    Just referring to them as people with Substance Use Disorder or with severe mental illness does not encompass the Asheville and Buncombe CWD space. It’s more than unfair the way COA, BCG, and local journalists treat CWDs. It’s a lot worse than unfair.

    The way CWDs and homelessness are covered politically here is an example of strategic obstruction.

    At the same time, I am not going through each element of Carl’s call to action on “creative problem-solving” in this comment; but here’s a couple of differences as to strategic thinking quotables in contrast to the, “We’ve got to keep trying” idea he liked… that sounds to me like just another reference to more Failure of Imagination and the Rework Hamster Wheel around here… paradoxically:

    1) “Do; or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda


    2) “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

    Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

    He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15: 10-14

    And Carl talking about failure effects modes is simultaneously ludicrous and heinous given the massive role of GOP strategy and ‘innovation’ failures in our multitude, major American crisis arenas.

  2. SpareChange

    “4) Money thrown at problems does not produce solutions for the same reasons that lottery winners do not become happy people.”

    Yeah, but I am willing to take the chance that I might be disappointed by the results.

  3. Zodwa

    This hits a lot of excellent points. Every day another non profit gets formed and funded by some well meaning endowment , then rushes out to do the bare minimum while having zero accountability to anyone except the founders bank balance. The press praises it, the public donate, the problem remains and everyone complains. No one actually wants to solve anything and neither can they. Since we are now at about 300million in unfunded dreams and wishes, perhaps we should just stop dreaming up new things.

  4. Voirdire

    Sage proselytizing from a known white christian nationalist whose moral compass always points one way…. towards his insatiable need to spread the gospel of me, not you ….us, not them. I love the part about black student performance gaps…. uh, that would be black, white and every color in between student performance gaps. Politically and pathetically disingenuous as it gets …as always from the fountainhead. sigh.

    • Voirdire

      oh, and let’s savor this one as well… “dare I say it — science!” …as something lacking in our current approach to our most pressing issues. Science, huh? ….and what kind of science would that be? The kind that denies climate change… and dare I say it (…lol ;) even evolution? Mumpower and his christian nationalist MAGA crew have a bit different take on reality than most of us ….no surprise there… and their version of science is nothing short of a fairy tale that is a cross between Noah’s Ark and Atlas Shrugged. But yeah, rich as it gets for sure ;)

      …. https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Atlas_Shrugged
      Atlas Shrugged – Wikipedia
      Atlas Shrugged is set in a dystopian United States at an unspecified time, in which the country has a “National Legislature” instead of Congress and a “Head of State” instead of a President. The US appears to be approaching an economic collapse, with widespread shortages, business failures, and decreased productivity …all due to a lack of personal responsibility and a malfunctioning moral compass..

      • WNC

        If your thought on the following subject is accurate
        “The US appears to be approaching an economic collapse, with widespread shortages, business failures, and decreased productivity …all due to a lack of personal responsibility” then your premise is a good reason to have already locked the border several years ago.
        Are you a Science and Biology believer who says one boy plus one boy equal 2 something’s.
        Are you a math/ statistic denier regarding at grade level testing per nationality?

        You know statistically (in both math and science) there’s no chance something comes from nothing, none.
        On the other hand you can’t disprove creation came from a creator.
        So by faith you are forced to believe the former or the latter.

  5. James Cassara

    I wonder how this squares with Dr. Mumpower’s 40 year allegiance to “trick down economics”. Does he still insist it works?

  6. Robert

    I have never voted Republican, and I rarely agree with this writer, but there is some truth to this. In general, it seems to me that the far right and the far left each need to move a bit closer to center.

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