When you have the time, try this experiment. Starting in North Asheville, take Kimberly Avenue, then Edwin Place south, turn south on Charlotte Street, make a left at the College Street lights, then a right at the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive lights. Follow MLK Drive to the intersection with South Charlotte Street.
Here are some questions to get you started (it’s OK, I know the answers):
MLK Drive was built half a century ago on the ashes of the homes of East End residents — has it been resurfaced? Ever?
Kimberly Avenue and Edwin Place have traffic-calming measures along their length. Despite the addition of traffic generated by the 500 apartments built over the last few years, MLK Drive has none anywhere. Why not?
Kimberly Avenue and Edwin Place have marked pedestrian crossings and pedestrian refuges. There are school bus stops on MLK drive, but no signed crossings anywhere and no pedestrian-controlled lights at the MLK Drive/Hazzard Street intersection. Why not?
There are stoplights at the intersection of Edwin Place and Charlotte Street. There are none at the intersection of MLK Drive and South Charlotte Street, despite the traffic from the new apartments. Why not?
The city’s motto, “Our quality of service, your quality of life,” rings a bit hollow in the face of these differences. In many parts of the world, it would be surprising that a city can find millions of dollars to build a mile of “green”way to benefit tourists and bike-rental shop owners, but nothing to ensure that kids from the East End get to and from school safely. Here, of course, not so much.
Council members may talk a good game but don’t seem as good at getting their staff to live up to the policies we hear discussed every other Tuesday. We are assured that some of the $74 million bond money will go to maintenance that has been deferred for far too long. We are asked to join in the process of recruiting a city equity manager. But half a century of experience tells us that while clever people come up with clever slogans like “Beer City” and “Climate City,” an honest slogan might be far less comfortable.
The current Council may be ineffective, but its composition is a testament to the efficiency and integrity of at-large representation — at nearly half female, one-in-seven minority, it mirrors the makeup of the city. And yet the cry goes up that the people living in South Asheville deserve their own representation because — well, because they live in South Asheville. There are two ways this might happen:
First, put in the hard yards and come up with a platform of South Asheville-friendly policies that also appeal to the rest of the city. The dog-whistle being used at the moment is so crude that it’s impossible to get beyond the racial animus, so it’s hard to tell what those policies might be.
Or second, cheat. Make the votes of South Ashevilleans count more than those of other city residents. Switch to district-based voting and gerrymander the districts. The words used so far and the maps floating around show that this is precisely what is intended.
— Geoff Kemmish