Dateline Asheville: Partisan Election Controversy

Skip this post if you don’t live in Asheville, where our city is seeing a tremendous grassroots reaction to our city council’s recent decision to make municipal elections partisan. For the first time in 12 years, Ashevilleans will soon vote a city ticket in which candidates must declare a political affiliation.

I was surprised to note the loud and rowdy local response, with people seemingly coming out of the woodwork to oppose the move. At a visit to the local farmer’s market near my house, I was asked to sign a petition against the move to partisan elections. I told the woman with the clipboard that I had to educate myself on the change first before I signed anything.

Well, now I’ve thought about the issue, read about it and asked questions. And frankly, I couldn’t care less about it. I merely find myself disappointed that the issue that galvanizes so many fellow Ashevilleans isn’t something more meaningful. Our city is threatened by overdevelopment, with luxury high-rises slated to appear all over as working-class people are priced out of their own neighborhoods and available affordable housing dwindles. Already no one who works downtown can afford to live there, and gentrification is rampant. New downtown construction is never affordable housing or even hip retail space; it’s high-rise hotels and million-dollar condos.

Atlanta and parts of South Florida are already casualties of overdevelopment and gentrification. Our city faces the same fate, as well as the looming threat of our 400-million-year old mountains being randomly shaved bare of trees and dotted with 10-bedroom trophy mansions. That’ll sure improve the view, and can only enhance the joy and wonder I feel when I look around at the still-wild and beautiful part of the world that has nurtured my spirit for nearly 30 years. Look around you, those who share this amazing city with me. Unethical developers will have their way with us and our mountains if we don’t speak out. Me, when I look to the mountains, I want to see mountains. Who else has the power to stop overdevelopment in Asheville but the people of Asheville?

So far, this seems to me to be a classic instance of speak up or suffer the consequences, which for Asheville will be a substantial loss of scenic beauty, increased pollution, increased traffic, a compromised downtown skyline showing brand-new buildings rather than ancient mountains, higher property taxes and a downtown slowly losing its one-of-a-kind Asheville funkiness to big hotels, pricey restaurants and condos that lie owned but empty, waiting for their wealthy residents to spare a weekend away from their main residence.

I don’t hate wealthy people. I just hate my city being compromised to line the pockets and pander to the interests of those who do not hold its unique charm as dear as I do. And I will hate a downtown that caters far more to the wealthy than to the working-class majority.

My lesson from the partisan-elections issue is that there are better things for me to spend my time on.

Erm, the whole point of this post was supposed to be to point y’all to the excellent local political blog Scrutiny Hooligans, which has a typically fine summation of the partisan-election brouhaha. Read it here: Partisan Election Controversy — Long on Rhetoric, Short on Facts

And join the anti-development group PARC (People Advocating Real Conservancy) here, and get on the email list of (development watchdog group) the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods here.

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