The more things change …

I have deliberately taken a break from appearing in front of City Council to speak on issues pertaining to development and quality of life in Asheville and the county, and writing to the dwindling number of publications here to voice my concerns. I wanted to give the governing bodies a chance to make some adjustments, in light of the dramatic changes in the economic and political landscape of the country, county and city.

Sadly, it appears some things haven’t changed. The issue of eminent domain—a political pariah during the Parkside fiasco—does not appear to be an issue in removing ordinary homeowners from their homes and property in the name of progress and expansion of the I-26 corridor.

Again, county and city officials are making decisions not based on the so-called Master Plan they commissioned, but on their own vision for an ever-expanding Asheville.

Unfortunately, perhaps officials need a reminder of the changing realities of our economy. In the past year or so, the following business enterprises have either closed, filed for bankruptcy, stopped or put their projects on hold, citing the economic climate: Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, Friedman and Whitehall Jewelry, Kasey Realtors, Steve & Barry’s, Martha Nells (formerly Café on the Square), North Star Diner in Weaverville, Vigne Restaurant (on hiatus), Biltmore Mall (for sale), Weir condos on Hendersonville Road, Tony Fragga’s condos … .

And the list goes on: O’Naturals on Hendersonville Road—which just opened a few months ago—has closed, citing the recession. City and county officials might want to take a drive down Hendersonville Road and see the empty storefronts of the numerous malls they approved, and perhaps revisit the “If you build it they will come” premise that seems to have fueled so much of this spec building.

At the risk of being redundant, it appears that city and county have only one economic model to address future economic viability in the mountains: Build, build, build and they will come and bring economic prosperity to us all. Spending (borrowed) money for projects of dubious value in what should be a time of budgetary restraint? I must say, I’m confused.

Shouldn’t we be trying to balance our budget and possibly create a surplus? I’m no economics major, but I do understand the economic law of diminishing returns. Simply put, you can only squeeze so much money out of the WNC mountains and infrastructure before you reach the limit that can be sustained and remain a viable economy. Am I being obtuse in my observations? Someone correct me, please!

I really wish we could get a white paper from government officials to tell us exactly what they’re doing. What’s the plan, Mayor Bellamy, Brownie, Robin and Carl? What’s your vision for Asheville? Perhaps I’m out of the loop—maybe there’s something I’m missing, but so far no public official seems to be able to clarify or be definitive about the direction they want to take the county and the city.

My plea to elected officials is to bring something new to the table; think outside the box; take us to a new, better economic model in tune with the economic and political realities of the present and looking into the future. That’s kinda what you were elected to do.

But that’s just me: I could be wrong, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

— Jesse Junior

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