I have been reading more and more calls to make Asheville for locals, and it feels unnecessarily divisive. Who is a local? I moved here with my family in 1966 — but I’m not a native. Do you have to live here full time to be invited to enjoy this city? What about students at UNC Asheville or A-B Tech? Migrant workers? Street musicians? Vets who’ve come to get help at the VA and now have nowhere to go? Who do we make welcome? And who gets to decide?
I remember what Asheville was like in the ’70s and ’80s and even the early ’90s. When I graduated from school, most of us assumed we’d live elsewhere; there was no reason to stay. I love that bright and creative people now choose to come here. I like having great food, and great music, and independent businesses, and artisan bread makers, and craft brewers and young farmers. I think it’s wonderful that people come to Asheville and see that it is possible to have a community that isn’t “made in China.” And how many current Asheville residents fell in love with this city as Asheville tourists?
We do have challenges as a community — low pay, lack of affordable housing, older infrastructure, inadequate funding for arts and schools, to name a few. Blaming visitors will not solve any of them. I’m guilty of getting frustrated when I can’t get a table at a favorite restaurant on a Friday night, but I’m glad that my neighbors have sustainable businesses. We can make Asheville a great place for locals, while still welcoming visitors. We can afford to be gracious. We get to live here; they have to go home.