Friday, December 23, 2005

Bowen Can't Take Yes For an Answer

In a recent letter to the Mountain Xpress ("Why quote Mumpower, when he stands alone?" 12/21/05), Mountain Area Information Network, (MAIN) Director Wally Bowen complained that TV station WLOS quoted Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, and no one else, even though the motion to waive market-driven pricing on antennae placements and offer MAIN a discount was approved 6-1, Mumpower dissenting.

Mr. Bowen, claiming that the report was incomplete, although not in error, first charges that Mumpower brought to Council's attention that MAIN is a decidedly political organization; a factual claim that Bowen reinforces himself saying, "nonprofits are not prohibited from engaging in political speech." The problem here is that no one has disputed MAIN's right to promote a distinctively partisan political point of view--which indeed it does. On any given day, you can find some mention on MAIN’s website of the standard Leftist complaints and tired arguments. Mr. Bowen then admits that "Mumpower is entitled to his view." So much for argument one.

The reason Dr. Mumpower was quoted by WLOS was because he pulled the item off the Consent Agenda and was the only Council-member to comment substantially on the matter. “Why quote Mumpower when he stands alone”—asks Bowen? Mumpower should have been quoted precisely because he stood alone. That was the story: Mumpower’s dissent!

Second, Bowen takes pains to explain that his monthly rent would be, not $200, but $200 thrice, since MAIN intends to employ three antennae at the discounted rate. Here again, Bowen is not presenting any new compelling information. As he states himself, rent would be set at $200 per unit, as factually reported by WLOS. This is well under the $600/month normally required to compensate the City for their cost of doing business. And who picks up the tab for the difference between cost versus discounted rent payments? The already tapped-out City residents who generate tax revenues..

That city taxpayers will subsidize three antennae instead of one is a bookkeeping detail that does not significantly alter the facts as reported by WLOS. MAIN will be paying a reduced $200 per unit no matter how many they choose to rent, one or one hundred. So much for argument two.

What Bowen fails to appreciate in his misapplied rejoinder is the essence of Mumpower's dissent: MAIN, being primarily a partisan political media organ, in this case on the Left, should not be afforded the consideration that Council majority has given due primarily to its explicit intellectual bias and its rather transparent motives.

Bowen’s intent, it seems clear, is to extend his influence beyond Asheville and across the mountains by supplying a seemingly innocuous service to needy subscribers that will then draw them to his websites, newsletters, and radio programs with the aim of immersing a captive audience in his political bias. This will be the first step in putting the imprint of Leftist Asheville onto a greater Buncombe County and sets in motion the fulfillment of Bowen’s vision—one presumably shared by City Council—which is to insidiously convert county residents to his political persuasion and then deliver them to a national Leftist movement—ideally, in time for critical elections.

Our new progressive City Council has allowed a nonprofit organization that shares their own partisan political leanings to offset their expenses using the property of the hard-working tax producers of Asheville. Then certain Council-members turn around and reap the benefits of their own largess by subscribing to services provided by MAIN whose operating expenses have now been reduced by direct Council action. Mayor Bellamy and Council-members Jones, Davis, Freeborn and Newman all have accounts with MAIN; and Robin Cape used to host a program on MAIN’s radio station WPVM: The Progressive Voice of the Mountains. In the vote to allow subsidies for MAIN, these Council members should have recused themselves. That would have left Mumpower alone to decide the matter. (Would it were so.)

So it would seem we have expanded our working definition of what it means to be a progressive on City Council: To cavalierly hand out sweetheart deals to their pals at our expense as they laugh all the way to the Westville Pub. (Oh, for joy.)

Despite Wally Bowen's insistence that we thoughtlessly treat his own private Wally-World as just another generic, run-of-the-mill nonprofit—in the end, we cannot. And, indeed, must not.

And City Council should not be in the business of handing out favors to its favorites, Left or Right.

Bowen's letter to the Mountain Xpress has been reprinted in the Wed Dec 28th edition of the Asheville Daily Planet (pg. 14).

Bowen's letter to the Mountain Xpress has also been reprinted in the Wed Dec 29th edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times.