I attended the so-called "public-input meeting" for the BID on July 17, and was very disappointed. This was a ruse set up by the city on its terms.
Upon walking in I was asked to fill out some background info, because apparently it matters if I am a business or property owner or just a resident (there was no space for downtown employees or patrons). Then I moved into the main room where I expected to see a public forum getting started; instead I walked into a room lined with info tables that explained the process of forming a BID or gave examples of other cities that already had BIDs in place.
There were also two or three tables where I could participate in questions like, "What should the role of the Downtown Ambassadors be?" and "How should the BID board members be selected?"
These are obviously loaded questions that assume the BID will be approved by City Council in September. There was no space for actual input on alternatives or for voices that were simply against the BID. I stayed for about an hour and only saw [two members] of City Council there, Mark Hunt and Jan Davis. I wasn’t in the mood to try to be civilized so I didn’t bother to speak with Hunt. Davis doesn’t have anything do with the BID in the end, his voice in city affairs (legally) is only as strong as any other member of the general public at this point.
At some point a few people walked in wearing “Ambassador” ribbons and I was elated. It was great seeing house-less and/or traveling people empowering themselves, but then I found out the truth. These people were told they would be compensated for showing up at the meeting, with a pack of cigarettes. I do not approve. (Apparently they were never actually given their smokes either.)
I can only assume this was a stunt pulled by someone who is actually for the BID. The idea of showing off Asheville’s “problem” in the middle of a meeting that is implicitly there to eliminate such people from the eyes of our beloved tourists.
— Matthew Burd