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District elections? System rigged, proponents claim
Monday, 06 March 2017 12:34
By JOHN NORTH
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Accusations of a “rigged” system were voiced during “a panel investigation” into proposed district elections for Asheville City Council that drew about 50 people to an early-morning Feb. 10 issues meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center.

The panel discussion was intended by CIBO to address questions, such as “Do districts work?” “Are they fair?” “What are the pros and cons?” “How would districts be set-up?”

Panelists included Joe Dunn, spokesman for the Individual District Election Citizen Group; Cecil Bothwell, an Asheville councilman; Joe Belcher, District 3 representative on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners; Dusty Pless, former district representative on the Buncombe County School Board; and John Miall, former candidate for City Council.

Dunn’s citizens’ group, which he says is nonpartisan, has put together a petition asking the state General Assembly to mandate district elections for the six council seats in Asheville, while leaving the mayor’s post elected at-large.

He has said council is totally dominated by a “tsunami of liberal progressives” who have dominated city affairs for more than a decade — and that council needs at least one moderate voice. Dunn has contended that council members wants to hold onto power, so they never would vote to implement district elections on their own. Thus, he has said, the citizenry must look to the state, where he said at a Jan. 10 CIBO meeting, “The Republican legislature will get it done.”

In opening comments, Dunn said,  “In 1776, the colonies had a problem with representative government… I just keep seeing the argument that Asheville is too small” for district elections, leaving many citizens without representation on council.

“Really, too small for representative government?... In 2001, I was the last elected official from South Asheville (the city’s fastest-growing area) — and I was the top vote-getter... As I said, our city is not too small. Our present council will never support it. Just look at their history. I’m tired about hearing about diversity. It’s not there.”

Bothwell then said, “We, as a City Council, have decided to ask the citizens of the city of Asheville to make the decision on whether to split the city into political districts. Personally, I think it would be a mistake to split the council into districts... I don’t see that we’re treating parts of the city differently....

“I have a great deal of concern about the effects of districts over time — and that’s because districts tend to lead to gerrymandering… I think the at-large system is working pretty well for the city — and there’s a South Asheville candidate already for the next election.”

Miall said, “The truth is the system is rigged. I’d be glad to talk about my experiences with the local Democratic Party. It has all to do with a cabal that has a total lock on local government — and a complete lock on City Council.

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Developer to fight city in court over hotel denial; city adds future hurdles
Monday, 06 March 2017 12:32

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council likely will be challenged in court. a Raleigh developer said, after its recent 7-0 decision to turn down his company’s request for a permit to construct an eight-story, $24 million hotel downtown.

Shaunak Patel, president of Park Hospitality Group, was quoted in the Asheville Citizen-Times in late January as saying that he has “every intent to push this project forward.”

In the aftermath, council members voted 7-0 on Feb. 14 to raise the level of scrutiny for practically any new hotel in the city via a requirement that any proposed hotel with more than 20 rooms must come before them for approval.

The Feb. 14 action followed critical pushback from a number of citizens who have complained that the hotels — despite generating millions in dollars  — are changing the city for the worse and are putting unfair burdens on local taxpayers.

Patel said he is disappointed with council’s decision on Jan. 24 to deny the permit to build the 185-room Embass y Suites at 192 Haywood Road in northwestern downtown.

“Last night, we were supported by some of the most respected professionals in the industry, along with members of the community. We want to thank each one of them for coming out and supporting us,” he wrote in the email to the AC-T.

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