Election dejection blues

I believe that Asheville is one of the most enlightened cities per capita in America. I also think it’s now clear to most enlightened folk that to achieve a truly sustainable civilization, we need carefully controlled levels of development, population and pollution.

So how do I explain our recent election in which Elaine Lite, the clear anti-overdevelopment candidate, lost, and pro-rampant-growth blokes won? My take is that we’re dealing with a fundamentalist belief in unlimited property rights that is more powerful than the fundamentalism of snake-handling Christians. This economic subservience is all the more blind in that it thinks it’s a science, not a leap-of-faith religion, and because it has most of the money and political power. Thus we must currently trust Asheville’s future to a developmental bubble blown up by irrational exuberance, sustained by a coalition of greed and stock-marketed by an insatiable bull stampede.

A closer look at the election shows that we have about 5,000 stoically enlightened voters in Asheville: those who voted for Ms. Lite. Then there are the enlightened who are tired of losing and so vote for candidates who sit on the development fence. In the past two years, it could be their votes that have authorized what is probably the most environmentally devastating, most explosive growth in the history of Asheville.

In addition, there’s the over 44,000 registered who didn’t vote—about 75 percent of the electorate. Some are enlightened but believe that a New Age miracle will transform drumming, prayers and random kindness into strict zoning laws and social justice. Some are too disillusioned. If we weren’t still in the democratic Dark Ages, we’d require them to vote and give them time off to do it.

In my discouragement, I offer 10 good reasons for celebrating The Ellington, our giant new shrine to the worship of unlimited property rights:

10. We can steer all downtown panhandlers to it, knowing those renting its exorbitantly expensive rooms have plenty to share.

9. It embodies that old maxim that building size is often in inverse proportion to the size of the developer’s self esteem and other things.

8. The length of time necessary for construction obstructions may destroy the precarious existence of the too-weird local businesses in the area.

7. It will help raise all Asheville property-tax rates, perhaps destroying many more of those weird businesses and artists, replacing our prickly edginess with comforting conformity.

6. Downtown Asheville may never have another day’s boring tranquility because of the nail guns exploding, bulldozers emoting and I-beams colliding from endless development.

5. Earth First! will have the perfect place to harass, sabotage and hang banners.

4. We get to imagine the late downtown philanthropist Julian Price quietly shaking his tall head as his Public Interest Projects legacy is swept away. (Price subsidized only recycled buildings and small, locally-owned businesses and affordable housing.)

3. We now know that if it’s LEED-approved, City Council will cut down almost any tree, pave most every green space and greenwash any developments.

2. Council will also kowtow to any big money, including the hype-inflated, gated communities of the Vanderbilts [né Cecils] and the gold, hotel commodes of the Groves [né Beck Group].

And the number-one reason we should be happy about The Ellington:

1. Given the current election, it’s clear as a 23-story building that the 13 percent of Ashevilleans needed to win the election have chosen to grow as fast as possible with only the most superficial environmental restraints. Watch out Charlotte, here we come.

— Bill Branyon

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14 thoughts on “Election dejection blues

  1. travelah

    Well, it could be that the false progressives and “enlightened” leftists are just not as strong an element as you suppose nor nearly as enlightened as they like to portray themselves.

    I recommend another 3 or 4 tall buildings downtown to balance out the effect the Ellington will have. A couple of regional banks and maybe a larger business focus in the downtown will work quite well. Asheville will not be another Charlotte since another one is not needed but it is not likely to be a massive drum circle and anti-progress either.

  2. Rob Close

    do you realize how smug you sound calling Elaine Lite’s voters “enlightened”?

  3. Rob, do you realize how smug Elaine Lite’s voters are THINKING they’re enlightened? ;-)

    There is NOTHING so smug as a bunch of people who have moved in here, causing building all over the place, who THINK they have the solution to over development.


    Not in this world.

  4. Sam


    And when, exactly, did your family move here and begin building things? Was it the beginning of time? Because I am pretty sure that you also replaced others, and yet you now want your opinion to be set in stone as fact. We are all new-comers at some point. We need to respect each other’s opinions and learn to have civilized debate, minus the partisan name calling and “I’m-more-local-than you” BS.
    Your self-righteousness is comparable to those you decry.

    I just love all of the psuedo-local crap that gets flung around on this website in the guise of aged wisdom. (Predictably from Nam Vet, Ralph, or Travelah)

  5. Okay, Sam… ya got me… my family’s only been here a few hundred years (well, some of the Cherokee longer). But it you think you can understand us mountain folk in less than three generations well… good. You believe that. ;-)

  6. travelah

    Poor Sam …. have the middle people upset your preconceived notions of what Asheville is?

  7. boolah

    I don’t go for this argument that if you haven’t lived hear all your life, you can’t argue that
    other people shouldn’t come here. Overpopulation
    has to stop somewhere, why not here where we have
    so much to lose by too much development and
    Also, no, it’s not smug to see a group as enlightened versus another group. It’s using the plain as day reason that too many people on the planet will be a mess, and too much development will eventually destroy the atmosphere, the water, and the sanity of everyone. That’s not even enlightened, that’s just common sense not drowned by the massive hype of madison avenue and capital hill.

  8. Richard Bernier


    I can understand Sam somewhat, however it must be sad not to know anything about his own roots.

    Sam just sit back & review the recent city elections, the people – the issues – the middle of the road that effect real working people.

    Thats my 2cents….

  9. SAM

    “Boolah”: Yes, but Ralph and Nam Vet seem to think that playing the “Good ‘Ol Boy” card and throwing the words “Socialist” and “Yankee” around are the definition of educated debate.

    Travelah: What the hell does your last post mean? “Middle People?” Is that people who live in Middle Earth, because I don’t think Asheville is a mythical land in a Tolkein tale.
    I have lived here since 1995, and my grandmother was born in Sylva, so perhaps you are the one with inaccurate, preconceived notions. My only point is that this “Ralph” person seems to think that his opinion holds more water since he grandfather had alleged relations with a Cherokee woman 75 years ago. Laughable. Where would Ralph be today without these hoards of invading, socialist yankee gay mexicans to complain about? Oh, I know, visiting the one downtown business without boards over the window: the Porn Theater.

    It is disappointing that such a small minority seem to think their opinion represents more than just themselves. (And then they miss the irony when they call the “Progressives” out on this same point.) It’s great that you feel the need to chime into the debate, because multiple perspectives make for a enlightening read. But more and more, all I read on here is tripe from Nam Vet and Ralph about how much they hate large portions of the Asheville population. How about keeping it on topic? How about not making the Xpress website your personal grieving grounds for some irrelevant, chip-on-the-shoulder crotchety-old-man schtick that really is very boring and uninspiring.

    There is nothing more boring than the smugness of the pseudo-redneck.


  10. DonM

    There is nothing more exhilarating than the deer-in-the-headlight look of a progressive that just realized others do not care for their thinking.

    Stand by for more of the same next election as more of the conservative county is annexed by the city and more conservative folks buy those new condos at the Ellington, et al.

    Ah, I love the smell of fading patchouli in the city. Smells like victory!

  11. Nam Vet

    I am against unbridled growth. BUT, I am not in the camp of so-called “progressives” either. Progressives tend to be fuzzy-headed socialists who think they can better the world by taking property from the workers and doers of the world, and re-distribute it to those who do not have the ambition to work hard or create. Socialism has not worked where ever it has been tried. But explain that to the insane lefties who think the right commissar can do it.

    Private property rights? I ALL in favor of that. But, I am also in favor of enforcing building codes that serve the community long term. Do we want Asheville to be turned into a Southern Manhattan? I think NOT! Besides, the real estate industry is slowing down, way down. And I think the economy will as well. We may end up with a Manhattan-style high building with 30% occupancy. Well that would be a nice joke on the builders. :)

  12. travelah

    Sam, the “middle people” are those caught between the fake progressives on one side and the outside monied equity interests on the other side. It’s time they got THEIR city back.

  13. Hopefully

    Define working, vetboy! Dude, there ARE socialist countries…and no I don’t want to go there and live. I am beginning to think you are in the 18-24 y.o. range. You might be a vet, but not a namvet. Ayn Rand was a nut case, stop reading that crap!
    Look you guys, the free market will take care of all our problems. Only a commie would believe otherwise. Bush Rules!!!

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