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Kapoor challenges Edwards to debate; shift to district system bill clears hurdle
Thursday, 04 May 2017 13:06

From Staff Reports

City Council candidate Vijay Kapoor has challenged state Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Hendersonville, to hold a public debate with him on the pros and cons of Edwards’ bill to switch Asheville from at-large elections for city council seats to a district system.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ bill to split Asheville into six districts cleared its first committee on the night of April 25.

Most area legislators — as well as council members — oppose the hotly contested measure. Edwards represents a small portion of South Asheville.

Voters in the six districts could vote for only those running in their district. The mayor would still be elected at-large.

“I neither support the bill, nor do I agree with the manner in which Senator Edwards is proceeding,” Kapoor wrote in a March 26 guest column in the Asheville Citizen-Times. 

“The basic question that I have is ‘What is the problem this bill is seeking to solve?’ Is it one of geography, where Senator Edwards believes that the interests of parts of the city are underrepresented?

“Or, is it one of ideology, where he is trying to better the chance for someone with his political viewpoints to get elected? It seems to me to be the latter.” 

Later in his AC-T guest column, Kapoor, who is from South Asheville, noted that his area of the city is experiencing rapid growth “without corresponding infrasturcture investment. Of the 49 parks listed by (the) city, there are only three in South Asheville. There is no community center south of Shiloh. We don’t have any greenways. Just recently, sidewalks have begun to be added to Hendersonville Road.”

However, he added, “But just how South Asheville achieves council representation matters and I don’t believe that districts are the solution. First, districts create turf and have the potential pit parts of the city against each other in competition. My experience with this City Hall was they were very responsive to South Asheville concerns... Second, this change will cause unnecessary cost and confusion. The Buncombe County Board of Elections will need to create new ballots and voters will need to learn yet another district boundary. All county taxpayers will be paying more for this if it passes.

“Even if certain residents feel that their geographic area (or ideological area) is underrepresented, this district bill is not the solution. The way to solve this problem is to put in the effort to elect a candidate from a broad field of candidates who you feel represents your issues by asking candidates questions, getting out the vote in your neighborhood, and electing someone who is committed to working for you and your interests. 

“This proposed bill limits the field of candidates that anyone in Asheville is able to vote for giving us less opportunity to find a candidate who best represents our concerns, not more. It also creates a situation where City Council members may feel they only need to answer to the constituents who vote for them, rather than working for what is best for all of Asheville’s residents.”

Kapoor added that he feels “all residents of Asheville should be able to vote for all members of City Council.”

He concluded the column by asserting, “Finally, the manner in which Senator Edwards is pushing this bill is an affront to his stated conservative principles. Simply declaring via a letter that districts will occur is not democratic. This issue needs to be discussed and debated publicly, which is why I am extending an invitation to him to debate the merits of it with me in a public forum in South Asheville. I look forward to hearing from him and hope that you will encourage him to participate.”

Meanwhile, City Council on April 11 said the city is preparing to ask voters if they should split Asheville into electoral districts.

However, a November voter referendum only would have an impact if Edwards’ bill does not slip through to passage by the legslature earlier. Therefore, Asheville’s fate appears to largely hinge on the political will of Raleigh.

Council agreed to proceed after examining a poll on April 11 that indicated that voters support holding a referendum. However, the poll also showed that given the choice, most voters would choose to keep the current at-large system.



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