First, a little background… [or skip to The Pledge]
In 2020, when Councilmember Vijay Kapoor resigned his term early, City Council had a golden opportunity to respect the democratic choice of the people. An election cycle was already underway, and six candidates for Council had survived the primary. Every one of them received more votes in the primary than the then-sitting Councilmembers had earned in their own elections.
The General Election was just three months away, and three of those six primary candidates would be elected. Council could have chosen to hold off making an appointment until after the election. Or they could have appointed someone who would perform necessary duties until the election, when he or she would resign in favor of the fourth place finisher in the General Election.
Council chose to ignore the democratically expressed will of the people. Instead, they interviewed a handful of people from a pool of 45 self-nominated applicants. (I was an applicant and I publicly promised to resign in favor of the 4th place finisher in the election if appointed—as did Andrew Fletcher. Read our Op Ed column in the Asheville Citizen-Times. I also made a comment by telephone at the July 28, 2020 City Council Meeting.) Council picked Antanette Mosley, who now has an incumbent’s advantage in this year’s election. This is not basic democracy in action.
Last year, Council tried to have a “retreat” in secret, in defiance of North Carolina open meeting laws. Citizens sued, Council lost—rightly—and taxpayers paid attorneys’ fees. [Read the remarks I was not allowed to make at the time.] This is not transparent democracy in action.
Recently, City Council had been trying to develop an ordinance to restrict the distribution of food to our houseless neighbors in public parks. When this came to light and citizens were outraged, Council blamed a “leaker” rather than their own poor policy choices. This is not accountable democracy in action.
Now City Staff are working on a plan that proposes to reduce the number of citizen advisory Boards and Commissions from 20 to 4. And City Council has been making it harder for the public to participate in Council meetings, even though hybrid meeting technology is available. This is not inclusive democracy in action.
Despite giving lip-service to “public engagement” and its Reparations Proclamation, City Council went forward with renovations to Memorial Stadium that included turf and striping for a soccer field, but not the six lane running track that residents of the East End, the legacy Black neighborhood bordering the stadium, had been asking for—for years.
It took fierce neighborhood advocacy to shame Council into revisiting the matter. The result was a redesign that will include the much-overdue track, but is less optimal than it would have been had the track been incorporated into project from the beginning. It will also cost a million dollars more than it needed to (as work already paid for has to redone) and extend the project by at least an extra year. This is not responsive democracy in action, and we’re quite literally paying for it.
Asheville is Our City—not Council’s, or the TDA’s, or the millions of tourists who visit every year. Asheville doesn’t belong to a handful of wealthy developers or a bunch of well-connected folks who know they can always get a meeting behind closed doors.
This is Our City: we deserve a city government that answers to us, that does the public’s business in public, that we can see is trustworthy, that we know is fair and equitable because it has made it easy for all of us to be part of the process.
As your Councilmember, I pledge to advocate for your participation in the people’s business. I’ll bring your voices forward. I’ll be available and accessible in your neighborhoods, meeting you where you are. I’ll keep a public schedule. I’ll treat my responsibility to Asheville like the full-time job it should be.
For matters coming before Council, I pledge to publish—every week—a report detailing who I’ve met with, what topics we’ve discussed, what I’ve learned, and how my own views are developing. To the extent allowable by law, you’ll see the documents I see. I’ll show you my work, so when it comes time to vote, you’ll understand why I vote the way I do.
I pledge to be Responsive, Inclusive, Transparent, and Accountable to YOU, because this is Our City.