Letter writer: Mayfield says experience with legislators makes her more effective

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Barry Summers would have you believe that I was not sufficiently committed to fighting the legislative takeover of the Asheville water system, led by former Rep. Tim Moffitt and current Rep. Chuck McGrady. Here is just some of what the WNC Alliance and I did during that fight:

•          I testified in opposition to the bill at a legislative hearing.
•         We took out a full-page ad in Mountain Xpress calling on people to vote “No” on the 2012 referendum.
•          We hired phone bankers who called and asked thousands of Asheville residents to vote no.
•          I drafted a resolution that other local governments adopted in opposition to the takeover.
•          I secured the help of two full-time environmental lobbyists in Raleigh.
•         We promoted the forum Barry references, and we hosted an Asheville Green Drinks on the topic.
•          We worked closely with the city and its lobbyists, making sure our local grassroots strategy supported their efforts.

We stood completely aligned with SaveOurWaterNC on the goal of protecting Asheville’s water system. We differed only on strategy and tactics and, therefore, sometimes did different things. Everyone else involved in the water fight knew where I stood, including Rep. McGrady, and I have disagreed with him on this publicly. I have also told him that, if elected, I will fight him on the issue again if need be.

Asheville voters do not need to question my willingness or ability to fight for Asheville and its water system in Raleigh. Indeed, rather than creating a conflict of interest as suggested, my experience with the legislature and my relationships with our entire WNC delegation only make me more effective.

— Julie Mayfield,
Co-director at MountainTrue (formerly WNCA)
Candidate for City Council
Asheville

Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Barry Summers’ letter in this issue, “Mayfield Failed to Fight for City Water System.”

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19 thoughts on “Letter writer: Mayfield says experience with legislators makes her more effective

  1. bsummers

    I secured the help of two full-time environmental lobbyists in Raleigh.

    And they pulled out after you declared the fight against the bill unwinnable, even though it hadn’t even come up in the Senate at that point. The last one told us pretty directly why he was no longer going to fight for Asheville: “I agree with Julie… I can’t afford to make McGrady mad at me.” And in reference to our group suggesting taking the fight into Moffitt, McGrady, and Ramsey’s districts, he said “But in the end, I have lot to lose if I make McGrady mad at me and lose his support on other pieces of legislation. So if there is something loud and crazy planned please let me know as I will have to distance myself from this working group.”

    This was the tone all along from you, Julie – and these other lobbyists felt the same way: Don’t do things to anger Chuck McGrady.

    And sure, you supported some of the things we or the City initiated. But what about the veto, Julie? City Council unanimously voted to urge then-Gov. Bev Perdue to veto the first MSD bill, and we wholeheartedly agreed.

    You, on the other hand, contacted the Governors staff and made the case not to veto the bill. You told us so in a fairly detailed email to the working group (which you seemed to have forgotten about when you said on Facebook recently, “I certainly never urged the Governor not to veto the first bill.”) I was told that the Governor would only consider a veto if she received unanimous support from Asheville Democrats. She didn’t get that, obviously. Would things be different if we had managed to derail their game plan, even briefly, by forcing them to override the veto or come back next session & re-pass the first bill? We’ll never know.

    I’ll repeat my concern about having Julie on City Council. She will continue to have to face angering her mealticket, Chuck McGrady, or do what I believe she did with us – find a way to justify softening opposition to his pressure, or again, even work against us at some critical moment. And this doesn’t just apply to the water issue – he will be representing many challenges to the City from Raleigh, and his own score-settling locally.

    This is a serious conflict of interest, and I’m surprised that some who support Julie’s environmental work (and I count myself among them) are not concerned that she may face a dramatic loss of political influence, if she has to act against McGrady’s wishes. He is not known for looking the other way when people cross him.

    • Lulz

      LOL, you shouldn’t blame anyone for the loss of the water issue except those same Asheville Democrats, who used it as a way to annex areas for the sole purpose of raising cash for their own personal cronies and agendas. And then you can’t cry foul when those same Asheville Democrats blame Raleigh and label them with terms that describe to a tee just how the tourist and brewery industries here go about business lulz. LOL, hasn’t it crossed your mind that the reason all these brewers are moving here is because Asheville, and the county for that matter, has been selling out its water supply cheaply in order to claim the title of Beer City? All the while these brewers are facing supply issues in the western US because of droughts? And that not only subsidizing the industry with cheap water, tax breaks, infrastructure, and a whole host of incentives, then turn around and impose fees under the guise of stormwater that don’t go to actual upkeep but make up for the rates charged to the brewers lulz. Or if you were unlucky enough to be annexed, watch your tax rates double and the only prize you got was trash bins. All Asheville Democrats had to do when piping water to outside the limits is charge those customers higher rates and actual costs instead of incorporating their property and everything would’ve been fine. I also suspect that the county had an issue with it as they themselves want brewers to have ready access to water without having to go through the process of being annexed. After all, these guys need incentives to move here and those same Asheville and Buncombe county democrats are willing to do just about anything to ensure it.

  2. Beth Jezek

    Julie conveniently neglects to mention the ways she eventually did what she felt would best further her career and her personal agenda. I’d feel better about her as a candidate if she would admit she made some mistakes and errors in judgement. If she is elected to Council, I will always wonder about her motivation for the way she votes on issues before the city, particularly those dealing with Raleigh and the NCGA.

    • Lulz

      Mayfield, for all her contacts locally, wouldn’t need to be the biggest spender to win an election if she stood for anything of substance. Or had character and integrity. This is nothing more than another notch on her proverbial job title and status belt lulz. And considering the low turnout, one has to conclude that either people here are either happy with the status quo or apathetic and realize that the political establishment here cannot be defeated.

    • Yared Sharot

      Quite simply, Julie Can’tField doesn’t have the city’s interests in mind, she has her own interests in mind.

  3. keith

    POINT OF INFORMATION: As a “local” bill, the Governor had no option to veto. One premise of the appeal has been it violates the state constitution’s ban on local laws affecting sanitary districts and navigable waters.

    • bsummers

      Two bits of confusion there. First, we were lobbying for a veto of HB1009 in 2012, not the actual seizure bill HB488 in 2013, which is the target of the court case.

      Second, neither of them were ‘local bills’. They were both ‘public’, or general bills. The crux of Asheville’s case against 488 is that it was a local bill disguised as a general bill.

      Perdue might have vetoed 1009, had she heard unanimous support from Asheville (as I pointed out, she didn’ t – thanks Julie), but there was no way McCrory was going to veto 488.

      • Peter Robbins

        Wouldn’t a Democratic governor’s veto of the first bill have undermined the subsequent local-law theory with respect to the second? As you say, the current theory being advanced by city is that both bills were really local legislation (which would not have been subject to being vetoed). I’m not asking to be argumentative, only to suggest that this looks like a tricky business that would have required some finesse to avoid tripping over oneself.

        • bsummers

          The City’s lawsuit only applies to H488, not H1009. I don’t think H1009 figures into the lawsuit at all. We saw a veto of the bill that set up the seizure bill as a chance to expose what the whole thing was about – McGrady and Moffitt had teed it up as sadly having to encourage the City to hand over the water system voluntarily, but we all knew the plan was to use force. In between H1009 and H488 was the 2012 election. They didn’t want the potential backlash of seizing Asheville’s water to figure into it. That’s why they split the effort into two bills. It’s only H488 that had the local component.

          I still believe that if we had forced them to come back and override the veto, or re-pass the precursor bill with an unpopular seizure attached to it, things might have happened differently. Asheville’s attorneys and a unanimous Council agreed – only Julie acted in opposition. The fact that this was certainly also what Chuck would have preferred, I think we have to consider.

          • Peter Robbins

            If the first bill could have been lawfully vetoed because it was a public law in reality as well as name, it is hard to see why the second bill was not likewise a public law in reality as well as name. Perdue may have done your side a favor by taking that question off the table.

          • bsummers

            “If the first bill could have been lawfully vetoed because it was a public law in reality as well as name, it is hard to see why the second bill was not likewise a public law in reality as well as name.”

            I have no idea what that means. Have you read the bills? Do you understand what they are and how different they are? Have you read Judge Manning’s ruling in the Superior Court? He stated unequivocally:

            “The Water Act is a local act which was specifically drafted and amended to apply only to Asheville and the Asheville Water System.”
            https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/108366839/ruling.pdf

            And the NC Court of Appeals did not dispute this, even as they overturned Manning’s ruling on different grounds.

            “However, in the present case, we need not reach whether the Transfer Provision
            constitutes a “local law”.”

            https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/108366839/14-1255-1.pdf

            So there’s no logical basis that I can surmise for: “Perdue may have done your side a favor by taking that question off the table.”

            With all due respect, I think it’s stretching credulity to suggest that somehow Julie did the honorable thing by working against the actions of a united City Council, their legal staff,and all the other local activists. We felt undermined and betrayed, frankly. But I’m sure Chuck loved it.

          • Peter Robbins

            Sorry if the last comment wasn’t clear. I wrote a longer version, but the Xpress website kicked it back. Here is what I am asking: Imagine a world in which Perdue had vetoed the first bill, the veto was overridden, and all subsequent events occurred as they did. The veto-world trial judge now asks if the Perdue veto was consistent with your present legal theory that the second bill was really a local law. After all, he says, if the first bill (which he tells you he thinks is analytically the same as the second one) were really a local law, then the governor should not have vetoed it, given that the governor could not lawfully have asserted her veto power over what was really a local law. What is your answer? That form trumps substance when the city benefits but not when it doesn’t?

            I am aware that this question did not actually arise to potentially trouble the city’s case in the real world, but the hypothetical Perdue veto did not occur in the real world, either. Even if you can fashion a convincing answer to my judge’s question, the point remains: the hypothetical Perdue veto might have raised a problem for the city before a less sympathetic trial court — a problem that did not arise in fact precisely because in the real world no Perdue veto occurred.

            And please keep your answer friendly. I’m asking a straightforward strategy question that allies properly raise amongst themselves all the time.

          • bsummers

            “After all, he says, if the first bill (which he tells you he thinks is analytically the same as the second one) were really a local law, then the governor should not have vetoed it, given that the governor could not lawfully have asserted her veto power over what was really a local law.”

            Again, this is quite a stretch, honestly. The bills are “analytically the same”? I ask again: have you read them? H1009 adds water to the authorities of MSDs, and tinkers with the apportionment formula. H488 forces a City to relinquish its water system valued at over $1 billion. They are wildly different, and no judge is going to link them as if vetoing one affects in any way your legal challenge to the other. (I’m not a lawyer, but c’mon.)

            And saying that challenging one general bill as unconstitutionally local would somehow invalidate the veto of the other, simply because you’ve convinced yourself that they are “analytically the same”?

            I’m always friendly, but honestly – I think you’re simply trying to concoct some plausible-sounding scenario in which Julie did the City a favor by undermining their attempt to fight back. If you’re doing it out of a sense of shock that she would knowingly betray us that way to further her political ends, join the pack. We have been feeling that disappointment for the past two years.

          • bsummers

            And along with this scenario-spinning, you’re OK with Julie denying that she argued against a veto at all?

            “I certainly never urged the Governor not to veto the first bill.”

            This from an email to our working group, July 19th 2012:

            I did just talk to (Governor Perdue staffer) and (s)he agreed that a veto would likely be a statement with little effect and that the risks I identified in my earlier email were real. The legislature does have the votes to override any veto. That’s not to say that her veto would be meaningless – we push for vetoes we know will be overridden all the time – but it would be more symbolic than anything else.

            (xxxx) is still talking to folks, including city council members and I know (s)he talked to you this morning Barry, so they haven’t decided. She also reported a conversation with the mayor, who said she plans to put this on council’s agenda for Tuesday.

            Seriously, are you not bothered by her doing this, and then denying that she had done it?

          • Peter Robbins

            I’m not trying to do more in this part of the thread than explore the possible implications of keith’s point of information about local laws and vetoes. I haven’t decided what I think about his observation yet. If and when I choose to take a definitive position of my own on the potential litigation downside of a hypothetical Perdue veto, I can do it myself without assistance. I don’t understand, however, why you dispute the analytical equivalence of the two bills. It seems to me that the only legally relevant point would be whether they are both really local laws (that would not be subject to veto), and you already told me that they were the same in that regard. Since victory on the local-law point is absolutely vital (though not sufficient) for the city’s success, I’m wondering out loud whether the likelihood of a veto’s success would have been worth the tactical risk of creating any potential chink in the consistency of the city’s subsequent legal argument, even a small and unlikely one. Your answers have been helpful, and I will consider them.

            I don’t think it would be productive for me to continue this part of thread to deal with any of the new issues you raise in your last comment. You’ll have to take those up with someone who knows more about the underlying facts.

          • bsummers

            Sadly, I believe you are still simply trying to spin some alternate scenario whereby Julie’s working in opposition to our and the City’s lobbying efforts looks less bad. The legal argument you pose doesn’t hold any water, and in any case it isn’t remotely why she claimed at the time that she was urging against a veto. The principal reason she raised was that it would make McGrady & Moffitt angry, and we had to avoid that at all cost. It was either a huge strategic blunder, or deliberately working against the City’s interests. Which is worse?

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