What I learned from Hortense

More years ago than I care to admit, I enjoyed driving and repairing my first car—a lovely, maroon 1949 Ford named Hortense. Now, Hortense had a carburetor, and there are some fine, true stories about that carburetor and my prospective mother-in-law. But I digress. I learned an important lesson from that carburetor, and it is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In Asheville, we pride ourselves on having a city with vast diversity. Indeed, I tout that very diversity when I brag on “living in Paradise.” However, the Asheville City Council is not diverse, all too often discussing and voting 6-1. Dr. Carl Mumpower tries to steer the Council away from socialism, but it’s a tough job, and he is often alone in seeing the problem with the latest hot proposal and voicing a cautionary comment.

Council member Brownie Newman has proposed that we make the election of City Council partisan! Amazing! Today, if one wants to run for City Council, one has only to plunk down one’s fee, about $75. If the partisan proposal passes, and if one is neither a registered Republican nor Democrat, one will have to plunk down $75 and about 2,200 signatures! In a city with (I regret) more unaffiliated voters (UNA’s) than Republicans, this astonishing proposal would make it much tougher to have true diversity on the Council.

If the partisan proposal passes, instead of arguing that one is well qualified for a seat on the Council, we would be stuck with arguments between individuals to the effect: “I would do more for Asheville than that particular Democrat.” Candidates run against the entire field now; as partisans, they would run against individuals from the other party.

If the partisan proposal passes, it would be much easier to be a City Council member if one were a Democrat, and easier than now if one were a Republican. But it would be much more difficult for a registered UNA. Adding an additional obstacle of 2,200 signatures unfairly discriminates against UNA candidates.

If the partisan proposal passes, citizens who haven’t studied the plans, proposals and platforms of the candidates could just vote a straight ticket, hoping against hope that the party affiliations of the candidates meant they agreed with the party platforms. That might or might not be the case for any particular candidate. A partisan election could discourage voters from becoming informed about individual candidates, a step backwards for all of us.

It could be argued that this proposal would align us with the state requirements for running for the legislature. What a terrible argument! Which one of you readers was not admonished by your mother: “If your friend Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you also do such a stupid thing?”

Vote NO, Councilfolks. This idea injects even more politics into the City Council. It takes us all in the wrong direction.

— George Keller

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