Letter writer: Mayfield failed to fight hard for city water system

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As we fought the oncoming state seizure of Asheville’s water system, members of our group, SaveOurWaterWNC, met over a number of months with WNC Alliance Director Julie Mayfield and other environmental leaders to try to craft a unified response.

We eventually quit working with Julie after it became clear to us that it was more important to her to protect her relationship with the “good” Republican on the environment, Rep. Chuck McGrady, than to fight really hard for the city of Asheville. This impression came from her attempts to get us to “work’” with Chuck to make the bill less bad, if it happened to pass. It came from Julie’s opposition to Gov. [Bev] Perdue vetoing the precursor Metropolitan Sewerage District bill, which we and a unanimous City Council were lobbying her to do.

It came from her opposition to actions we proposed, like the Mountain Voices Alliance forum, which put Reps. McGrady and [Tim] Moffitt face-to-face with angry Asheville opponents to the seizure. Julie tried to get us to cancel it. And, it came out of the other environmental representatives dropping out of the fight, one stating explicitly that he “can’t afford to make McGrady mad.” This was a common refrain from Julie that we should avoid doing anything that would anger the Republicans, especially Chuck McGrady.

And we found it significant that that year, she was the chair of the NC Conservation Network, the umbrella group for all the environmental groups in the state. There was much more, and all this was documented in emails to our working group.

It’s well known that McGrady (one of the sponsors of the seizure bill), currently holds the keys to moving any environmental legislation forward. This is Julie’s professional bread and butter – her access to Chuck McGrady. It’s also well-known that McGrady is going to be the chief enforcer of Raleigh’s will over the city for the foreseeable future.

City Council will have tough decisions to make, over the water and many other issues, and confrontations with McGrady are all but assured.

Do we want someone on City Council during this critical time that has such a serious conflict of interest? I want Julie to succeed in her environmental work — but Asheville residents shouldn’t have to wonder if she’s sacrificing one to succeed at the other.

Read more at: SaveOurWaterWNC.com.

— Barry Summers
Founder, SaveOurWaterWNC
Asheville

Editor’s note: City Council candidate Julie Mayfield responds to the points raised in Summers’ letter in her own letter to the editor, “Mayfield: Legislative Experience Makes Me More Effective,” also in this issue.

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9 thoughts on “Letter writer: Mayfield failed to fight hard for city water system

  1. Josh Kelly

    As an employee of the Western North Carolina Alliance from 2011-2013, I can tell you that Julie worked very hard and dedicated significant personal time and organizational resources towards protecting Asheville’s water. Barry could plausibly question her strategy, but not her motivations, and to accuse her of a conflict of interest strikes me as completely false. Off course, Barry has said far worse about Julie in other forums. My opinion is that Barry is bitter that Julie had more influence than he in the coalition of people fighting for Asheville’s water. I’m also under the impression that Barry deals with disagreements about strategy by questioning other people’s integrity. I saw Barry and Julie both work hard to keep Asheville’s water system in Asheville’s hands. They disagreed on tactics, but that’s about all. I urge folks to get to Julie themselves. She’s one of the most effective, hard working, honest, and good hearted people I’ve known. If you don’t like her policy positions, fine, but don’t attack her integrity just because you have different ideas.

  2. bsummers

    As I said last week when you called me an “effing d-bag”, Josh – I was working closely with Julie at the time, and you were not. At our first meeting in December of 2011, she was leaning towards supporting McGrady’s ‘regional’ system. Once the outrage over the forced nature of that plan started to sink in, I think that Julie recognized that she couldn’t be seen as supporting it, and maybe she even opposed it to some degree. But I know that her opposition only extended up to the point where it might jeopardize her friendly relationship with McGrady… and no further. You can call it an “attack” on her integrity if you want. But I believe that Julie made a calculation that her work on statewide environmental issues was ultimately more important than what she saw as a losing battle to protect the City of Asheville’s control of its water system. In my opinion, this conflict of interest will not go away, but get worse, if she is elected to City Council and is forced to choose between staying friendly with McGrady, or protecting the City from him.

    I’m sorry that you’re apparently blind to that possibility, that political animals make choices that look to us in the peanut gallery as ‘throwing us under the bus’, but that’s the way I saw this one. Obviously, you feel free to attack my integrity, rather than consider that disappointing reality.

    • Peter Robbins

      I have tried my best to objectively examine your main complaint about Julie on another thread, Barry, and I have concluded that a person with Asheville’s best interest at heart could have disagreed with your preferred strategy on the veto option you explained to me. I might have done so myself had I been one of the generals in the campaign, instead of just a foot soldier holding up a sign when called to duty. Not necessarily would have disagreed but could have. And, with respect, I think you do have an unfortunate swiftness to assign unbecoming motives and erroneous positions to people without factual basis. You’ve done that to me. More than once. And I’m just a nobody you’ve never met whose opinion will influence no one — in this election or anywhere else. I take things like that into account when people with mere strategy disputes — real or imagined — start accusing their betters of treason.

      • bsummers

        “I think you do have an unfortunate swiftness to assign unbecoming motives and erroneous positions to people without factual basis”

        I gave Julie over two years before I came to the conclusions I have shared here, and I have emails from her to back it all up. If anything, I should have been shouting this from the rooftops long ago.

        “…accusing their betters of treason”

        Wow, “betters”. Haven’t heard that word in a while. I take it into account when people use words like that, meant to denigrate and keep people in their place that aren’t, you know… “the right sort”.

        I never accused Julie of “treason” – I pointed out that she’s a politician that made a calculated choice: her political capital (McGrady) over fighting a losing battle (local control of water).

        And the veto issue isn’t my “main complaint”, it’s just the one that is most stark. If I could pick a main complaint about how Julie approached the issue, it would be her sitting down with McGrady, acting as if she had our proxy to negotiate a “less bad” bill with him, and then coming back and trying to convince us that we could trust him to protect us from Tim Moffitt. She was either: incredibly naive, a piss-poor negotiator, or lying to us. Which is worse?

        Never mind, I forgot. I’m not a “better”, so my thoughts don’t rate.

        • Peter Robbins

          I was using the word “better” in terms of legal acumen, not moral worth, but there you go again inventing unbecoming motives. But no, you don’t get to dismiss a legal potential litigation problem as “a stretch” until you have the legal background. And no, you don’t get to make up opinions and assign them to others and proceed to argue with your socketpuppet. Or at least you shouldn’t.

          • Peter Robbins

            There’s an extra word “legal” in there in the last comment. As I anticipate you will use that defect in your trademark “final word” retort, I hereby humbly apologize in advance.

          • Peter Robbins

            Not bad. I’ll have to remember that one.

  3. Oh well.

    “It appears the tactic attempted by city council was to persuade the Appeals Court to reconsider their ruling in the hopes that at least one judge would flip and dissent. Then they would have cause to appeal to the Supreme Court on substance and would get another 30 day delay in transferring the water system to MSD. The Appeals Court would have none of it. I guess the court was not amused by all those email bombs from Barry Summers and company.”
    https://twitter.com/ChuckMcGrady/status/664535226656362497

    It appears the tactic attempted by city council was to persuade the Appeals Court to reconsider their ruling in the hopes that at least one judge would flip and dissent. Then they would have cause to appeal to the Supreme Court on substance and would get another 30 day delay in transferring the water system to MSD. The Appeals Court would have none of it. I guess the court was not amused by all those email bombs from Barry Summers and company.

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