Letter writer: District elections will divide and conquer

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a resident, property owner and voter in Asheville, I vehemently oppose [state Sen.] Tom Apodaca’s plan to force district elections on our city. If the mere fact that Tom Apodaca was behind it was not enough to know its intent, we’ve seen how the artful drawing of district lines can unfairly create nonrepresentative majorities in the state legislature. Especially in municipal districts, special interests can fund handpicked candidates with relatively small amounts of money and easily overwhelm popular candidates.

In my previous hometown of Miami/Dade County, I experienced firsthand what happened when county commission districts were implemented after a covert campaign by an alliance of real estate developers and zoning attorneys. It was a means of dividing and conquering.

District commissioners will become less interested in the good of the city as a whole and more subject to the will of special interests in their districts. It balkanizes the commission, marginalizes poorer districts and disserves residents and the general quality of life. And Smart Growth — forget it.

— Michael Carlebach

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17 thoughts on “Letter writer: District elections will divide and conquer

  1. Yep

    the LTE writer seems to be confused about the purpose of CITY COUNCIL district elections vs County Commission districts which we already have…THANK YOU Sen. Apodaca for coming to Asheville’s rescue from years of progressive domination by a select few
    power mongers. Enough of the old system, now we will have BETTER representation on CITY COUNCIL! … much needed!

  2. Matt McClure

    Thanks for writing this letter, so there’s at least some mention in the print edition. I was hoping to see an article in the print regarding this bill. I guess the developments are too fast paced for a weekly to report on until it’s all said and done.

  3. Lulz

    LOL, you mean like the RAD where millions are being poured in? Or is it downtown where millions have been poured in? Forgive me here but Bele Chere was subsidized by the city even though the bars and restaurants made tens of thousands that weekend alone. Yet they weren’t liable for the expenses. Not one candidate has ever ran on the issue of those that are benefiting the most here actually paying their fair share. Yet what you just wrote says that isn’t happening and districts will bring that on. But for years now, special interests such as the art museum, non-profits, brewers and tourism, downtown merchants, and the Biltmore/Mission cabal have been propped up and paid for by you and I. They are millionaires that aren’t paying their fair share.

  4. A common complaint from the establishment left is that district elections is a matter that should be left to the people of Asheville to decide in a referendum. (Although this could have been done before under §160A, Article 5.)

    But it seems the progressive ruling elite has only lately come to the idea of popular consent prior to taking actions. This was certainly the case in its attempt to annex Biltmore Lake to the benefit of its general fund.

    The self-sufficient residents of Biltmore Lake were resolutely opposed being forcibly annexed. They needed none of the city’s services. Asheville took no vote on the matter yet the annexation proceeded — against the wishes of “the people”. The residents then sued Asheville, at their own expense, and it took legislation from Raleigh to de-annex the properties of Biltmore Lake.

    With district elections, we have an opportunity to spread leadership across the expanding reaches of a growing city. Asheville has exhibited a recalcitrant frame of mind in sharing power and this is offensive to justice. It will once again take legislation from Raleigh to give “the people” what they deserve. This time in the form of greater representative democracy in electing its leaders.

    • bsummers

      If this were something any sizable percentage of “the people” wanted, they could have called for a referendum to be put on the ballot at any time. It’s a simple process and has worked before, as recently as 2007, with the partisan election issue. Nobody has ever cared enough about district elections to even try.

      That, and the fact that Apodaca has pretty openly said that the reason he won’t allow a referendum now is because he knows it would be defeated, shows what a giant lie this is.

      This isn’t about justice, democracy, or fairness. This is about power, vindictiveness, and partisanship. I fully hope the City files suit if this becomes law.

      • The House Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 897 to elect Asheville City Council by districts on a 17-9 vote Thursday, clearing the way for likely passage by the full House, the last step needed for the bill to become law.

        Full audio:

  5. Big Al

    “District commissioners will become less interested in the good of the city as a whole and more subject to the will of special interests in their districts.”

    The flip side of this is that under the current system the fate of the entire city could end up in the hands of a small clique of like-minded hipsters from West Asheville, or from a cabal of wealthy elitists from Montford.

    In a city as small and interconnected as Asheville, I do not see how any one district’s representative can afford to focus solely on THEIR district while ignoring or neglecting their neighboring districts. Straw Man alert!

    Like most actions from Raleigh, this is driven by complaints from the local political minority (conservatives and GOPers) over continued abuses of power by the Liberal Democrat majority. It is funny to me how when the shoe is on the other foot, like civil rights for ethnic and racial minorities, this kind redistribution of power for the sake of “fairness” is celebrated and glorified, but when it threatens the power base of a Liberal Democrat blue island paradise, it becomes evil.

    • luther blissett

      “this is driven by complaints from the local political minority ”

      How much has state Sen. Apodaca done for his constituents in, say, Shiloh, compared to the ones in Hendersonville’s gated retiree subdivisions? If we’re talking about under-represented political minorities, then the Asheville residents in Apodaca’s district are a case in point, let alone the 50% in NC who voted for Democrats in gerrymandered state legislative districts and ended up with a Republican supermajority.

    • Matt McClure

      I have trouble trusting that this is the intent behind Apodaca’s bill. There has unarguably been a trend of state level conservatives reducing autonomy in progressive cities in NC. The historical norm of cities having more independence from state’s reach is changing all over the US, and particularly in NC. In this environment, and with Apodaca’s overt lack of cooperativeness, and his rebuff of the citizen-times breaking the story, and his invulnerability to blowback (he’s retiring )all convince me that this is indeed a power grab. I do not see near enough research or true data to support such an intense bill. The points about concentration of power in Asheville are thought provoking, but I do not currently see it as sufficiently threatening to the well being of Asheville to warrant such aggressive, uncooperative action.

  6. J.M. Westall

    Worse still, it might mean ONE conservative on the “non-partisan” council. Who wants to go back to the days of someone like Mumpower sowing discord. Councl works better when everybody thinks just alike on important issues!

    • The Real World

      “works better when everybody thinks just alike on important issues!” — wow, did I really just read that? Did an adult of mature age write it?

      Yep, you’re right J.M. — it’s much easier to bamboozle a group when all of their brains have been hijacked by a particular dogma. The blind faith of (political) religion; same as it ever was.

      Could there be anything more obvious in the world today than that we need LESS ECHO CHAMBER? Yeesshh.

    • luther blissett

      Asheville had Republicans and conservative Democrats on city council for a long time. Maybe they’ve all moved out to Fletcher and Candler or (if they’re really rich) Biltmore Forest.

      Or perhaps, as David Forbes noted in the Blade, the willingness of some Asheville conservatives to have the city run by fiat from Raleigh via Moffitt and McGrady and now Apodaca has contributed to how they no longer get elected to local positions.

      As I said in a previous thread, a mixture of districts and at-large wouldn’t be terrible, to ensure areas don’t get neglected while reflecting that Asheville is small enough that every consideration has a city-wide impact. But I’d draw the lines very differently.

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