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
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.