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Say it ain’t so, Asheville! Alarmingly, Asheville tourism declines 2.4% in July (its best mo.)
Saturday, 16 September 2023 14:07

From Staff Reports

Tourism numbers for July in Asheville tumbled 2.4 percent, according to a report unveiled at the Aug. 30 meeting of the Buncombe Tourism Development Authority.  

In its Sept. 1 report, Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) said of the latest bad news that “Asheville tourism leaders are reporting another disappointing month.... and board members expressed concerns over the consistent drop in tourism this summer.

“July is typically Asheville’s peak tourist season. October can also be a busy month with the leaves changing. But merchants are bracing for a flat season considering what they’ve seen over the summer.”

Also, News 13 quoted several Asheville-area merchants who have noticed a recent decline in their businesses — and expressed concerns about the possibility of the trend in declining tourism — locally — continuing.

TDA board members also discussed concerns about public safety and the homeless crisis in downtown Asheville, but News 13 noted that business operators and downtown merchants had told the station in recent months that they are seeing improvements downtown. 

Further, TV station noted, “One business-owner, who spoke on the condition that News 13 not use his name, said Pritchard Park appears to be cleaner, with fewer homeless sitting on the sidewalk or in the park.

“But it seems they’re now spread out,” the unnamed business-owner told the station. “They’re all over Tunnel Road, panhandling.”

During the TDA meeting, members also discussed merchants' requests to have an enhanced police presence downtown, as there was during the summer when Buncombe County deputies spent 60 days helping Asheville police patrol the area.

“They said merchants were worried problems could return during the fall tourism season without the extra law enforcement officers,” the TV station reported.

Meanwhile, following are some of the comments on News 13’s website, following its article on the 2.4 percent July tourism drop:

• reggin — “Guess our reputation is getting around.”

• robert36 — “Now if only the homeless/drug addict numbers would decrease, Asheville might almost be fun for locals again..... almost.”

• WAVLNATIVE — “Votes have consequences!”

• AvlNC — “Word’s out. No vacationers want to drag their family around this nasty downtown. Why come here to step over zombies with needles sticking out of their arms and panhandlers getting in their faces? Yuck. Go to Charleston or somewhere nice. Stay away from here.”


Asheville sued for (reverse) racial discrimination in picking Human Relations Commission members
Saturday, 16 September 2023 14:04

From Staff Reports

Five individuals living in and around Asheville, all of whom are white, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Asheville after the city refused —based on their race — to appoint them to its all-volunteer Human Relations Commission, the group WNC Citizens for Equality contended in a Sept 6 press release. 

On its website, WNCCE bills itself as “a citizen watchdog organization that promotes racial equality and defends the civil rights of persons living in Western North Carolina. WNCCE believes that all persons should be entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of race.”

In the lawsuit, “Asheville attorney Ruth Smith is representing John Miall, Robyn Hite, David Shaw, Danie Johnson and Willa Grant, who applied but were not chosen to fill any of the commission’s four open slots in 2023,” Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) reported on Sept. 7. 

“If the city is putting quotas, saying, ‘We’re going to advantage all of these people based on skin color,’ it’s important to note they’re disadvantaging over 80 percent” of the city population,” the TV station quoted Smith as saying.

Asheville panhandling ordinance revised, requires a final vote during a 2nd reading on Sept. 12
Saturday, 16 September 2023 14:01

From Staff Reports

There was no major overhaul of the panhandling rules in Asheville, but public comment at Asheville City Council’s meeting on Aug. 22 consumed much of the meeting time.

Council “voted to amend the city’s ordinance on solicitation, usually called panhandling,” News 13 reported later Aug. 22.

Meanwhile, the Asheville Citizen Times reported on Aug. 23 that “the vote was the first reading of the proposed change, drawing 26 speakers over nearly two hours of public comment. It passed 6-1, with only Councilwoman Kim Roney opposing.

“A second reading will take place Sept. 12,” the ACT noted. An ordinance  change of this kind requires two votes to pass.

News 13 stated “The proposed amendments were all technical to bring the city’s rules in line with court decisions on panhandling regulations. That meant defining the who, what, when and where of solicitation rules, including an 8-foot distance restriction.

“The amendment also clarified that solicitation is allowed on sidewalks at any time, but a permit is needed to solicit on a street, shoulder or median,” the TV station noted.

“The city’s panhandling ordinances have remained largely unchanged for more than two decades. More intensive amendments are potentially on the horizon... Mayor Esther Manheimer said another discussion of the ordinance is expected in October,” News 13 reported.

‘Recall’ Asheville council (except Kilgore), activist says... Sheriff urged to take over city law enforcement... to (finally) clean up Asheville crime, panhandling
Wednesday, 13 September 2023 21:37


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The very idea of the City of Asheville rewriting its panhandling ordinance and City Council approving it causes Asheville native and civic activist H.K. Edgerton to break out into a belly laugh.

Indeed, Edgerton thinks just about everything that council does is laughable, albeit in a tragic way, he told the Daily Planet in a Sept. 8 telephone interview that focused on — or attempted to focus on — panhandling in general in Asheville, and the proposed ordinance rewrite in particular.

“Let’s put it like this, first of all, I have to agree with Michael Holcombe (the retired city water system director) who said that the City Council is incompetent” during a recent meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners.

However, Edgerton slightly revised Holcombe’s opinion of council, stating that, “with the exception of the new vice mayor (Sandra Kilgore), they all should be recalled.”

So why does he think Kilgore should be spared from a potential recall of council? the Daily Planet asked.

“Because Ms. Kilgore has talked about the impact of the bicycle lanes on Merrimon, asking, ‘What’re you doing?’ She talked about moving the Vance Monument (from Pack Square in the heart of downtown Asheville) to the Vance Homeplace (near Weaverville). She has made some astute comments, but Esther (Manheimer) controls the council. She (Kilgore) is the only one who seems to have an independent mind...

“I believe in my heart that Ms. Kilgore wants to be mayor. She’s not stupid and she knows that there’s a boat loaded with Democrats who have a great deal of loyalty to Esther. Sandra understands what she’s up against. I think she’s biding her time, so that she can become Sandra Kilgore again. It’s very difficult for her, as the people (of Asheville) need to wake up and ‘recall’ the council. The people know what a good job Sandra Kilgore has done on council.” 

In noting that Edgerton also is a Southern heritage activist, the Daily Planet asked: Why does he think that Zebulon B. Vance (1830-1894), who is known to have made several anti-black comments that are considered racist by today’s standards, should continue to be honored with a 75-foot granite obelisk (the Vance Monument) in the center of downtown? 

“Zeb Vance?” Edgerton, who is black, responded enthusiastically. "Nobody on council or the (county) commissioners is worthy of carrying his dirty underwear.

“This man (Vance) was the most-decorated citizen ever to come out of the state of North Carolina.”

Next, the Daily Planet pressed Edgerton on how he assesses the silence of the Asheville Jewish community, regarding the Vance Monument, inasmuch as, during his life, Vance was one of the United States’ top speakers and writers — and the top speaker-author from the South — to publicly oppose anti-semitism. 

You go ask them,” Edgerton answered, succintly. “My supposition is, it’s (all about) people who stay in the shadows — and not get involved in controversy.”

He added, “They (the Asheville Jewish community) are the ones who said they’d never give a ‘no’ vote of any kind to Zebulon Vance,” but now, “They’re saving themselves.” 

As for the attitude of blacks in Asheville toward Vance throughout Edgerton’s lifetime in the city, the activist noted, “When they (the city) took up donations to refurbish the Vance Monument, black churches donated,” too.

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