Sayonara, Raleigh: It’s time for us to go

Sidney Finkel


North Carolina’s last several elections have produced a state government that has centralized all power — including those issues that have traditionally been under local jurisdiction. In order to reclaim our rights, the time has come for the people of Western North Carolina to secede from Raleigh and seek admission as the 51st state.

Part of what leads me to this conclusion is the Legislature’s recent passage of HB2. Extending far beyond the question of bathroom use, the new law takes away local governments’ ability to enact laws and regulations pertaining to daily life in their communities and provide basic protections for residents.

Over the last several years, state lawmakers have repeatedly intervened in local governments’ affairs. And going forward, it appears that if any local governmental unit in WNC enacts laws that don’t reflect the political positions held by a majority in the Legislature, it will not only void those laws but will impose the desired view in place of what local residents actually want.

The state’s varied geography and cultures clearly demonstrate that there’s no logical reason why Western North Carolina should be joined in political union with the Piedmont and coastal areas. If the WNC counties weren’t already part of the state, there would be no movement for them to join North Carolina. The fact that they are is a happenstance of history, not a deliberate plan for effective democratic governance.

In every western county, the median household income is below the national level. Meanwhile, the men and women who passed HB2 — and the governor who signed it into law late in the evening of the specially convened, one-day legislative session back in March — are among the economic winners in North Carolina. Their opportunities, their income and their lives really aren’t much affected by a law that prohibits localities from raising the minimum wage or prohibiting certain forms of discrimination.

But the same cannot be said for the men and women of Ashe, Avery, Cherokee and all the other WNC counties. Simply put, Western North Carolina cannot afford to remain a part of North Carolina.

The new state of West Carolina would logically include the mountain counties along the Tennessee border, the more populated, centrally located areas and everything in between. West Carolina would have a population just under 1 million and would cover an area of just over 8,000 square miles. It would be entitled to two U.S. senators and one member of the House of Representatives.

Currently, there are seven states that have a single House member; of those, only Montana would have a larger population than West Carolina. The new state would be comparable in size to Vermont, which it might resemble in many ways. West Carolina would be Republican-leaning, even though its largest city, Asheville, is strongly Democratic. So Republicans would be the favorites to win a majority of the statewide elections.

But if Democrats nominated well-known local figures, they’d be competitive and should prevail in a fair share of races. In many cases, the deciding factor would be not party affiliation but how well the candidates identified with voters’ needs and concerns — which, of course, is the way it’s supposed to be.

There is one major educational investment that West Carolina would need to make: a medical school. In fact, WNC needs such a school anyway, regardless of its statehood status. But that won’t happen as long as this area is ruled by Raleigh.

It’s obvious that the state of West Carolina would be far stronger economically than the western region is today. Creating a new state capital would, in and of itself, stimulate growth. It’s not difficult to envision the Asheville metro area as a budding Austin or Portland.

One word distinguishes WNC’s economy from its counterpart in the eastern portion of the state: potential. Increased tourism heads the list of reasons why. To open up the far western regions, a way needs to be found to build a parkway through or around Nantahala Gorge while still preserving the area’s beauty and wildness. The Carl Sandburg Home and the wonderful regional theater in Flat Rock, along with Hendersonville’s farms, orchards and historic downtown, offer vast untapped opportunities. With increased visibility, easier access and more accommodations, the craft, hobby and arts schools in places like Brasstown and Penland could help them become growth centers.

The isolated, sparsely populated rural counties to the north, along the Tennessee border, would pose the biggest economic challenge. But given their distance from Raleigh and lack of political influence, those residents would still have better economic prospects as part of West Carolina.

The new entity’s motto could be “The Environmental State.” And while West Carolinians would still develop their environment for economic purposes, it would be based on preservation, not destruction. By increasing prosperity and quality of life while preserving local governments’ autonomy, this would clearly benefit all of the region’s inhabitants.

Asked about the idea, City Council member Brian Haynes had this to say: “I don’t know about the feasibility of Mr. Finkel’s proposal, but I certainly could support such a plan. He makes a valid argument for the creation of a new state. Asheville the capital of the 51st state — I love it!”

Retired professor Sidney R. Finkel has a doctorate in economics from UNC Chapel Hill and has taught at various colleges and universities. The Fairview resident’s bucket list includes becoming the first person registered to vote as a West Carolinian.


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26 thoughts on “Sayonara, Raleigh: It’s time for us to go

  1. bsummers

    As much as I sympathize with the frustration over the current State government, fantasy solutions only distract us from the real work which can make things better.

    If nothing else, the rest of the State will send troops in to stop us from absconding with the water they are counting on drinking 50 years from now…

    ​Study: The Triangle could get its drinking water from Asheville

    Go to work for some Democrat you like. Participate in some group that is working to turn the political tides. But “wouldn’t it be great if…” isn’t helping.

  2. boatrocker

    Yes I agree to those who want to wrest control from McCrory and Art Pope/Koch Bros NC.
    Happy endings only happen in movies, however.

    To the ‘”We’ll hold the door open for you when you move” types, you have just nullified the very arguments used before the American Revolution. We informed citizens call you noveau Tories. Confederates pre Civil War also used the same arguments as the writer, so you as a
    “Waaaaah, ‘Murica, love it or leave it” don’t have an ideological leg to stand on.

    So shhhhhhh with the “Ahhhhhhh liberals” arguments.

  3. Lulz

    LOL, then leave. Go back to where you came from because it’s way past time people like you simply go away.

    Since the rise of the left wing loons in Asheville, all they have to go by is the rise of downtown. Like before they came along, Asheville was tumble weed central and need their saving, I got news for you. Downtown was a business district and people actually had neighborhoods. It was affordable to live here and the mountains weren’t awash with developer and realtor greed. Hey, now I get to watch out for puke on the sidewalks and bums with their dogs downtown. Asheville is the outcome of greed fueled by insider cronyism and one big heap of left wing crap to go along with it. And it all boils down to money and how best to scam it out of others who come here and pollute, take up space and make getting around a nightmare merely to sell them trinkets and a false narrative. Keep Asheville weird but make sure you spend money too lulz.

  4. Yep

    hmm, remember when the conservatives were proposing this a few years back ? now the libs…funny how times change

    anyway NC continues amazing recovery after 140+ years of democrackkk CONTROL in spite of all the ‘crackkk whiners…

  5. Tim Peck

    No one is “absconding with the water”. You progressives will soon find that out. And at great cost.

          • Tim Peck

            You shouldn’t be surprised at people incessantly insulting you.

          • Able Allen

            Let’s keep it out of the realm of the personal here.

          • bsummers

            Hate-filled ad hominem attacks in lieu of substantive response reveal how weak your arguments are. I feel sorry for you, and accept your surrender.

  6. Tim Peck

    This writer lacks a proper understanding of the relationship between the North Carolina legislature and local government. As stated by the North Carolina League of Municipalities, “North Carolina municipalities – cities, towns, and villages – operate under charters granted by the General Assembly and have powers and authorities granted to them by state statutes and the state constitution. In this state, municipalities do not have home rule, which means that the state legislature must grant the powers and authority to municipalities and authorize them to perform certain functions.”

    As stated by the University of North Carolina’s non-partisan School of Government, local governments in North Carolina are creatures of the state legislature. That is, the North Carolina constitution grants the General Assembly broad authority to establish and deal with local governments essentially whenever and however it sees fit. From the School of Government’s 2007 report:

    The North Carolina Constitution states in Article VII, Section 1 that, “the General Assembly shall provide for the organization and government and the fixing of boundaries of counties, cities and towns, and other governmental subdivisions, and, except as otherwise prohibited by [the]Constitution, may give such powers and duties to counties, cities and towns, and other governmental subdivisions as it may deem advisable.”

    Thus, if the General Assembly wants to create a city, county, or other local governmental unit, it is free to do so. If it wishes to abolish a local government, or to merge it with another, or to impose particular obligations on it, it has almost unlimited power to do as it chooses. North Carolina is not a “home rule” state, as that term is commonly understood. Its local governments exist by legislative benevolence, not by constitutional mandate.

    Under North Carolina’s system, the extent of the power of local governing boards to adopt rules to govern the city’s or county’s affairs or the life of the community depends on what the General Assembly authorizes. As creatures of the state legislature, local governments may act only if they have legislative permission to do so.

    North Carolina is a Dillon’s Rule state. Cities only have the authority granted to them by the state legislature. There is even some question as to whether North Carolina is even a purely Dillon’s Rule state:

    Is North Carolina a Dillon’s Rule State? by Frayda Bluestein

    Frayda Bluestein offers the pros and cons of Home Rule here:

    Do North Carolina Local Governments Need Home Rule? by Frayda S. Bluestein

    A city’s rule-making authority is contained in N.C.G.S. 160A.

    § 160A-4. Broad construction

    Sometimes the state legislature’s grant of authority to a city contains vague or open-ended permission and cities abuse that fact by pushing beyond the intent of the law prompting the General Assembly to step in and clarify the law. The Charlotte ordinance was such a case.

    One other example was the clarification concerning the regulation of aesthetics and design features for single-family homes: The General Assembly grants these local governments limited authority to enact and implement local zoning ordinances for specific purposes. The governing statute (N.C.G.A. 160A-381) says that “a zoning ordinance may regulate and restrict the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other structures, the percentage of lots that may be occupied, the size of yards, courts and other open spaces, the density of population, the location and use of buildings, structures and land.” But some of our city and county governments in North Carolina have broadly interpreted the law so they can regulate aesthetic elements not at all associated with safety and construction standards or the general character of a neighborhood.

    The City of Charlotte passed a local ordinance that, if it had been allowed to take effect, would have applied to all public accommodation in the city, privately-owned and publicly-owned, and that was so broadly written that it would have allowed deviant heterosexual men legal access to women’s facilities.

    HB2 prevented all of that and it prevented other cities from repeating Charlotte’s folly. HB2 reduces the size and scope of government by overturning the illegal Charlotte ordinance that would have forced private businesses and non-profits to eliminate sex-segregated public accommodations.

    • dyfed

      It seems you’re both on point AND missing the point. Yes, currently Asheville and the other municipalities of NC don’t have the power to rule themselves. Maybe they should!

      Most people would prefer to live where most government functions are handled locally and only those things that must be delegated higher are delegated higher. That’s the first principle of small government. When the locals of Asheville express a preference for home rule, I as a distributist and a believed in lightweight government am all in favor of it. I too chafe under the overbearing authority of the General Assembly, just as I believe the federal government takes too heavy a hand in governing the several States.

  7. Big Al

    It is silly talk like this that drives non-hippie/hipster/socialist types to call for help from Raleigh every time the “progressives” demand the right for different laws within their little blue island.

    And while the city limits of Asheville are home to a concentration of dreamers in tie-dye and tight jeans, I doubt the rest of WNC, the good-ole-boys that surround your blue island of love, will join you in your call for secession, especially after decades of calling them and their precious red rag…ahem…their “Southern Cross”, racists.

    • luther blissett

      ‘especially after decades of calling them and their precious red rag…ahem…their “Southern Cross”, racists’

      ‘sfunny, ‘Big’ ‘Al’, because you don’t see *that* much Dixie sh*t on display way out west — you know, in the bits that fought on the Union side during the Great Disgruntlement That Was Nothing To Do With Slavery At All No Sirree. I’m surprised you don’t know that. The bit of NC west of Old Fort has always been different. Appalachian, even.

      • Big Al

        I am well aware of the fact that WNC was not a hot bed of Confederate sentiment. That honor goes to my old home place of the Piedmont, i.e Raleigh, Durham, Person, Orange counties, etc.

        But, yes I DO see a lot of Dixie Sh*t out here, much more than back east where it “belongs”, and more than can be justified by their true un-Confederate heritage. The WNC public believes (and too many businesses promote this fallacy) that Appalachia is the “heart of the old southern Confederacy”.

        My point is that, whether historically correct or not, the good-ole-boys outside of Asheville city limits love their rebel flags and the conservative values that they claim it represents as much as the hippies and hipsters within hate the same, so I predict that there is less chance of the two groups ever coming together on the issue of WNC secesssion than there is of Jews and Muslims making peace over Jerusalem (and when you look at THAT historical reality, the irony really becomes fascinating).

  8. Jonah Goldberg

    Mr. Finkel is heading in the right direction, so I give him credit for that.
    Indeed, nationalism and socialism are in full gallop in America today and libertarians and true freedom lovers are without a horse. Trump and Clinton care nothing for constitutional limits or individual freedoms and will undoubtedly rule from the top-down; big-banker business as usual. What unites Clintonism , Trumpism, is the idea that the government in Washington is too weak. Put them in office they claim, and they will make all things right and bring the malefactors to heel. In line with Mr. Finkel’s thoughts I posit that we need to denationalize our politics. The republic has been dead and stinking for a long time now, and the current centralized national government is too horrendously corrupt to be salvaged. Devolution and secession are the only viable and reasonable options before us as mathematically guranteed economic collapse stares us in the eye. How much time do any of you think we really have? 5 years? 10? Less? Both parties are besotted with nostalgia for the mid-20th century. Conservatives tend to stress the social cohesion of 1950s America (or its seeming renaissance under Ronald Reagan), while liberals yearn for the economic security of the 1960s with its Boomer nostalgia for activism before the true economic and social costs of the Great Society came to bear. And worse yet for us all, both parties are totally beholden to our true masters–the globalist bankers and military industrial complex and their endless wars. Is it no wonder that the Millennials are so self-absorbed and vapid? They’ve got no skin in the game, and frankly the game was over long before they were even born. Although they have different goals, leading Republicans and Democrats alike want to go back to the way things were — and they think they can take us there from Washington and Raleigh. Trump says he’ll cut deals in the Oval Office that will make America “great” again, whatever that is supposed to mean; Clinton and Sanders promise “universal” everything (education, retirement, health care) to restore the American Dream. All leading us further into utter folly. The institutions that work best in all of human history but even more so in 21st-century America are those that give us choices. No one simply lives in the United States of America. Being a national “citizen” means absolutely nothing. There is no “nation.” We live in Indianapolis, Asheville, and Seattle. The virtues built close to home, are those that make us good citizens and ultimately draw us together. What would be so terrible about letting diverse communities decide how they want to live and spend their tax dollars? The culture wars would still rage, but at least the winners would have to look the losers in the eye and own the results of their social policy experiments. As it stands now, the federal and state governments, mostly through unelected judges, a bloated and corrupt bureaucracy, and gerrymandered and special-interest bought and paid for representatives, thinks it can best determine how more than 300 million people should live. The cure for powerlessness is power, not ceding even more of it to Washington and Raleigh. This is the only way to cut the Gordian knot choking our politics, and the best path forward for opponents of statism— in all parties.

    • The Real World

      Jonah — Wow, you need to comment more on this website and anywhere you can. I agree with everything you said (but have no opinion about the secession idea b/c I haven’t pondered it). But, more local control of our lives — YES!

      Big picture awareness is occurring more every year but too many just have no clue what is really going on. And what’s really sad is that those who are invested in their political views to the degree that it serves as their religion, like many are in AVL, are going to resist like crazy when the reality is eventually staring them in the face. I guess they’ll have to be beaten over the head to wake them up.

      “both parties are totally beholden to our true masters–the globalist bankers and military industrial complex and their endless wars.” — and add big corporate to that list. Here is a current happening worth knowing about:
      Why is the Bilderberg Group a concern? Because European and North American politicians, business execs, media, royalty — all high level– have been meeting secretly for over 40 years and doing what exactly? Cutting what kind of deals? Our elected politicians are supposed to be responsible to US. But, they meet quietly with corporate titans and the media and make what sort of plans? There will be no formal media coverage of this gathering and minutes of the meetings won’t be taken. Your politicians hard at work for you, in secret.

      It was only about 2 years ago that Bilderberg produced a basic website b/c the internet (not mainstream media) was putting on the heat and lots of questions were being asked. Before that, nothing publicly existed about them. Very fishy. But, that’s just one quiet, powerful group; there are others.

      Oh and, in case y’all didn’t know: the entity that issues and controls our currency, the Federal Reserve System, is privately-owned — and always has been. Chew on that one.

      • Jonah Goldberg

        Thanks RW and I also have appreciated your thoughts you have posted here from time to time. I can see that you are “awake” as well, and have wisely not been drawn into the two-party paradigm trap! The hour is indeed late, and I hope and pray we go nowhere near a full-on “One Second After” type societal breakdown, but it is comforting to know there are others that know the score! :) You are so correct about the Bilderbergers, Trilateral Commission folks, their international corporatist and NGO ties, the whole works…For me personally, it was a maybe strange combination in the late 90s-early ’00s of actually taking my Tanakh studies seriously as a mature adult, and coming across an amazing little book titled The Creature From Jekyll Island. Thanks again and Shabbat Shalom Real World!

        • The Real World

          Jonah – thanks for the comment. Odd thing is the Mtn X system emailed me that you had replied the same day I replied to you but your comment did not show up on the site until today (2 days later). Moderators: do you know why that is?

          Yes, I’m familiar with that book but haven’t read it yet. To those unfamiliar, it’s the backstory of how the Federal Reserve was created….in secret, between politicians and banksters at the private island enclave of Jekyll Island, GA in 1910. They cleverly included the word “Federal” to make is seem like a government entity — it isn’t!

          I’ve got to hand it to our overlords in that they are very adept at sending the public into a frenzy with their manufactured “injustices”. Like non-existent bathroom access issues or that there is a huge problem with police treatment of blacks in this country (hey, what happened to that problem….poof, it seems to have just gone away; funny how that is) when no one at the time, in 2015, was asking about or depicting the degree of mistreatment of blacks vs. white vs yellow vs brown. Good grief… can’t declare it bias or discrimination against blacks unless you can prove it happened much more so than to the other colors of people!

          Oh but, in America, clearly you can do such things and the knee-jerk sheep fall for it almost every time. While Rome burns.

          Folks, it’s called: bread and circuses. Definition from Wikipedia: a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace. An offered “palliative”, the phrase is used to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns.

          It’s a very old strategy, as is — divide and conquer — both are used constantly today in politics and elsewhere. The public allows themselves to be led down the garden path. There’s always a choice but they tend to choose whatever requires the least effort and the overlords know they will. We live in la-la land.

          Tip of the hat to you, Jonah.

          • Able Allen

            We aren’t sure why the previous comment was caught in moderation. When a comment is automatically moderated, we aren’t always available right away to let it through. Sorry for any inconvenience.

  9. Yep

    Wow…is that THE Jonah Goldberg from the big leagues? Townhall or one of the big sites ? I’ve admired your maturity for several years!

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