Letters to the editor

Conflicts of interest marred housing-code debate

The whole minimum-housing-code debate has been painful and unsettling. Wouldn’t it have been healthier for all involved if all of our City Council leaders were more evenhanded in the process and more forthcoming with information that was bound to become public eventually?

Shame on Asheville City Council [member] Jim Ellis for leading the charge to stop enforcing a housing code that was preserving lives and our older housing. Shame on Mayor Worley for not being forthcoming about his position as attorney for the Board of Realtors, which voted to gut the code. Shame on Mayor Worley and Joe Dunn for not clearly disclosing that they were landlords and the extent of their property holdings. And shame on Carl Mumpower for threatening the Affordable Housing Coalition’s city funding because the coalition publicly disagreed with City Council members on a major housing-policy issue.

The recent minimum-housing-code debacle is a shameful example of a well-heeled special-interest group calling the shots, and low-income renters’ safety being ignored by the majority of Council. Thank you Vice Mayor Bellamy [and] Council members Jones and Peterson for not pandering to the special interests.

— Sylvia Huning

Council coverage biased

I have to confess that my morning got off to a bad start. Imagine my disappointment in waking to pressing … ruminations on how many trees the Mountain Xpress had killed with last week’s issue. From there my sleepy but persistent brain wandered to questions about lead and other toxins in the print ink. When I started pondering the insensitivities of a publication that supports women’s issues on one page and provides advertising space for a strip club on another, I quickly caught myself and jumped up and turned on the cartoon channel for a reality check. Reciprocation of ill will is a temptation I work hard to resist.

Somewhere between benign indifference and pole vaulting over pooh-pooh is a point of reason that finds us resisting wrongs. We all know that this is not an easy target, but there’s a part of me that feels compelled to continue trying. A case in point would be the weekly vilification and polarization that seems to be artificially flavoring commentary on City Council. Is it my imagination, but is there a measure of bias, subjectivity, and personal agenda leaking into the reporting of Council interplay? Tell me no, but is it possible that the election is stimulating gentle efforts to anger and divide the community even further than we already are?

Yellow journalism is a nasty term and a bit dated. An objective resource for answering these questions might be our government TV channel. I invite your readers to tune in and make their own assessment of what is really happening with our City Council. That way everyone can play “good guys and bad guys” with a clear exposure to the facts and realities over subjective re-creations that offer the reflective powers of a fun-house mirror. That said, I can now go back to my cartoons. I need the relief.

— Carl Mumpower
Asheville City Council

Newman campaign offers hope

Over the past few years in Asheville, it has become increasingly clear that the citizens making the most positive impact on our community are those that approach differences as differences and not as divisions. One of the great strengths of our city is the diversity of beliefs and cultures within our population.

When I consider the candidates for Asheville City Council, I see Brownie Newman as the only clear representative of the diversity of Asheville, and the only candidate with a clear, positive vision for all of Asheville.

The present City Council has made numerous decisions that have created both social and physical divisions in our community. The Grove Park Inn decision is threatening the sale of our public open space and has eroded public trust of local government. The possible eight-lane I-26 connector project will further the physical division of our communities and paving of our valuable downtown properties. These decisions also threaten our “sense of place” and quality of life — the two characteristics that are the primary drivers for economic development (more jobs) and our consistent tourism industry.

We need new leadership on Asheville City Council that can actually work with our great people to make sure that we develop in ways that work today and for future generations. Brownie Newman has demonstrated time and time again — on important issues in our community ranging from the Clean Smokestacks Act to affordable housing to mass transit — that he has the vision, leadership skills and political acumen necessary to stimulate and facilitate meaningful public debate and then bridge diverse interests to improve our communities. We need new leadership on City Council. We need Brownie Newman.

— Matthew Raker

Asheville at the crossroads

This Asheville City Council election represents a crossroads for our town. What will Asheville look like in ten years? Will people be able to afford to live here? Will mega-development, insensitive to community needs, overwhelm neighborhoods? Will eight lanes roar through west Asheville? Will traffic clog quiet neighborhood streets in east Asheville? Will low-income renters have a decent standard of living? Will neighborhoods where homeownership and rental properties are mixed deteriorate because of lack of a basic mandatory housing code?

Jan Davis, as chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Jim Ellis, as a City Council member, have proven that they will not protect neighborhoods from invasive development. They have both supported eight lanes through west Asheville despite neighborhood concerns. They have both supported the sale of public land to private interests and limiting public input in the Pack Square planning process. They have both supported trashing our city’s model housing code. They both voted for the massive Wal-Mart development in east Asheville, disregarding neighborhood concerns about traffic and environmental impact. Again and again they have put private special interests above the concerns of ordinary citizens.

If you care about Asheville’s future and want to make this city a place we can all live, sustainably and affordably, join me in voting against Jan Davis and Jim Ellis on Nov. 4.

— Albert McSweeney

Disgusted with Council

I am extremely frustrated and disgusted with the recent decisions of this City Council, which clearly cater to special interests rather than ordinary citizens. I am concerned about this City Council election and am afraid that the results could conceivably make things even worse. If Jan Davis and Jim Ellis — who both represent big business and special interests — are elected, the right-wing conservatives who have hijacked City Council will have an even larger majority. We cannot let this happen.

Davis and Ellis say they care about neighborhoods, but their voting records tell a different story. Davis (as chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission) and Ellis (as City Council member) have voted time and time again to support big business and commercial development over the needs of the neighborhoods. Both support expanding I-26 to eight lanes through west Asheville. Both voted for the massive Wal-Mart development in east Asheville, disregarding the significant concerns of many citizens about its impact on surrounding neighborhoods. Both support the selling of downtown public land to an out-of-town corporation through a process that has disenfranchised the public. Both support the gutting of the city’s award-winning minimum housing code, saving their special-interest friends some money at the expense of the safety and well-being of renters and low-income people.

Don’t be fooled. Don’t vote for Jan Davis or Jim Ellis.

— Vita Hamer

Housing code an important tool

Thank you for your coverage of the minimum housing code issue over the past couple of months. Asheville’s model mandatory minimum housing code has been such an important tool for keeping neighborhoods attractive and maintaining minimum safety standards for low-income renters. I thought your readers might appreciate some information on the upcoming Asheville City Council election regarding the code.

Two candidates have vocally supported Council’s decision to undermine and weaken the code: Jan Davis and Jim Ellis. Davis and Ellis have publicly stated that they do not support a mandatory minimum housing code, while claiming at the same time to support “neighborhood integrity.” You can’t support the integrity of a neighborhood as you let it become dilapidated, as you let some neighbors (renters) live in unsafe, run-down conditions. Ellis voted against keeping the code mandatory as a Council member. Along with Ellis, Davis has made it clear where he stands on the code: with the special interests, against those of us who rent, against homeowners whose property values will decrease as neighborhoods deteriorate.

If voters care about the housing code — and about promoting affordable housing, assuring decent living standards for renters, and maintaining our neighborhoods — we should vote for candidates who support the code. Vote against Davis and Ellis on Nov. 4.

— Heather Steele

Neighborhood integrity

I’m still trying to get my head around this Jan Davis for City Council postcard I got before the primary. The postcard talks about preserving the “integrity of the neighborhood.” But Davis, as chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, has consistently proven that he does not care about protecting Asheville neighborhoods from invasive development.

He supports eight lanes through west Asheville. He used his position as chair of P&Z as a bully pulpit to promote the massive Wal-Mart development, despite the pleas of east Asheville neighbors to modify the design of the development [to reduce the] negative impact on their neighborhoods. He supports the destruction of the minimum housing code — so that housing, the most basic element of neighborhood “integrity,” will be allowed to fall into disrepair.

And how can you be pro-neighborhood and anti-public input at the same time? Davis squelched public input on the Sayles site, and along with incumbent Jim Ellis, supports a process that sidesteps public input regarding the sale of public land downtown. These guys support special interests, not neighborhoods. They have demonstrated that they consistently support big business over citizens. Vote against Davis and Ellis on Nov. 4.

— David Smith

Affordable homes?

When the city bought the seven acres at Virginia Avenue and Brotherton Street from the Housing Authority, they had a good opportunity to team up with someone like Habitat for Humanity and have affordable homes built there.

But did Council do that? No! Instead they promoted a co-housing plan on the urging of former Council member Barbara Field.

They had to spend $30,000 in an attempt to improve the [water] flow for fire protection. And they had to approve conditional zoning, since the project did not meet the [existing] zoning designation. They did so even though the seven standards required were not met.

Council members Bellamy and Ellis voted for the zoning change. As chair of the Planning and Zoning [Commission], Jan Davis also voted for it.

These three are running for Council. If you hear them say they are for affordable housing, take it with a grain of salt!

— Richard Rice

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