Friday, May 25, 2007

LTE: True Representation

District elections just might work

by Tim Peck
Mountain Xpress
Vol. 13 / Iss. 45

In his letter to the editor, “Asheville needs true representation” (05/23/2007), Ashton Walton stated that “what’s needed is true representation on City Council of all the citizens of all of Asheville.”

What Mr. Walton laments is the lack of balanced representation from all major areas of the city in local government. In doing so, Mr. Walton seems to be advocating district elections for city council.

District elections would help to ensure greater geographic balance on city council and would give currently under-represented areas some chance of inclusion in decisions that might affect those areas.

But is a district the correct level of political aggregation for seeking representation? And is a district really a homogeneous political entity? I think a good case, perhaps a sufficient case, can be made in the affirmative. But would district elections in Asheville bring to local governance what Mr. Walton is really seeking? – which I believe is greater control over the destiny of smaller, distinct areas.

I too think that the smaller, distinct areas of town should have more influence on matters of governance and should be empowered to grow, develop and change in ways that best suit the people who actually live in them.

This is why I have advocated in the past the concept of the Neighborhood Zoning Authority. This is where established neighborhoods in Asheville would have the authority to develop, implement and enforce their own regulatory standards – within reasonable boundaries set by the city in a federalist model. This decentralization of government enhances democracy at its proper level and puts more control in the hands of those who must live under it.

Certainly the city does not currently have the statutory authority to delegate regulatory powers. This is a problem stemming from the general absence of home rule in North Carolina. The absence of home rule presents Asheville with a great number of problems; from water negotiations to land use planning and much more.

However, Mayor Bellamy, in her State of the City Address, called for greater neighborhood organization and a stronger sense of community within those neighborhoods. This is a good sign and I applaud the mayor’s wisdom and foresight.

And the city has plans now to implement Small Area Zoning as part of its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and I think this addition could be a good starting point for recognizing that neighborhoods are unique geopolitical entities that deserve special consideration in the structure and function of local governance.

I believe that the lack of home rule, district representation, and neighborhood autonomy, as well as the cynical drive toward partisanship in municipal elections, reflects a serious disconnect between elected officials and the people who have temporarily loaned them their power.

I agree with Mr. Walton that we truly need a “government of the (whole) people.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Public Comment: Partisan Elections

Public Comment
Asheville City Council
May 22, 2007

City council will be voting on June 12th on a proposal to change the city’s charter to make municipal elections in Asheville partisan elections rather than the nonpartisan elections that we have now. This change, in my view, would have several negative effects. It would:
  1. Disenfranchise third-party candidates by creating process hurdles not imposed on the other two parties;

  2. Discourage unaffiliated citizens from participating in the political process in the first place;

  3. Establish an atmosphere of divisive partisan rivalry over much-needed coalition-building;

  4. Increase the likelihood that uninformed voters can disregard a candidate’s stand on the issues and vote a straight party line ticket; And,

  5. Further lend the appearance of cynical maneuvering to city council’s record.

Of the 56,000 registered voters in Asheville, there are currently 15,000 who are registered as unaffiliated.

This in no way should suggest that unaffiliated voters think alike or represent any kind of unified voting bloc. But the fact remains that this group, the second largest group of voters in Asheville, is comprised of citizens who are not particularly enamored of the two dominant parties. I am speaking of the 27% of voters in Asheville who want nothing to do with either the Democratic or Republican parties that this change would exclusively favor.

My questions are these: Why is this change needed? -- not wanted, but needed. Why now? And what's the hurry?

I believe that city leaders should be cheerfully encouraging participation in the political process rather than devising technical methods for discouraging a large portion of our thoughtful but disillusioned citizens from sharing a place at the table.

Is council sensing in the public mood a desire to make city elections even more partisan than they are now? Or are certain council members sensing the need to ‘circle the wagons.’

It has been amply demonstrated in the past that certain lawmakers, once in office, will attempt to use their legislative powers to ‘stack the deck’ in their own favor in an attempt to retain or advance their hold on power and privilege. In the absence of any really credible evidence to the contrary, I have to think that this is one of those occasions.

As a consequence, a committee opposing partisan elections in Asheville has been formed to carry out the task of securing a valid petition that will force the city to hold a public referendum on this matter. That vote of the public, and not city council’s adoption of this resolution, will determine whether or not this proposed change to the city’s charter will indeed take effect.

Thank you.


Public Comment: Matt Mittan, City Council, June 12.


Let Asheville Vote! website.
Referendum mailing list, Yahoo Groups.


"Memorandum to City Council" by Brownie Newman, May 8, 2007.

"Partisan plot" by Eamon Martin, Mountain Xpress, May 16, 2007.

"Partisan elections a way of cutting competition?" by Tim Peck, Asheville Citizen-Times, May 22, 2007. [cached]

"Political parties play vital role in democracy’s nuts and bolts" by Holly Jones, Asheville Citizen-Times, May 27, 2007.

"Partisan plot thickens" by Bert Bass, Mountain Xpress, May 30, 2007.

"Keep political parties out of city council elections" Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 3, 2007.

"What I learned from Hortense" by George Keller, Mountain Xpress, June 6, 2007.

"City elections could stay non-partisan" by Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 7, 2007.

"Voters should tell council they’ll make the call on partisan elections" by Editor, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 17, 2007.

"Anti-partisan petition surfaces" by Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 18, 2007.

"City OKs partisan elections; challenge launched" Asheville Daily Planet, Tuesday, 19 June 2007.

"Machine politics returns to town" Editorial, Asheville Daily Planet, Tuesday, 19 June 2007.

"Council narrowly approves partisan city elections" by Hal L. Millard, Mountain Xpress, Vol. 13 / Iss. 47, 06/20/2007.

"Partying down" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, Vol. 13 / Iss. 47, 06/20/2007..

The Report Card by Editors, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 25, 2007.

Partisan elections opposed by Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, June 26, 2007.

"Partisan elections? Critics make plea for fairness at rally" by Jim Genaro, Asheville Daily Planet, 26 June 2007.

"Grass-roots organizers challenge partisan elections plan for Asheville" by Nelda Holder, Mountain Xpress, 06/27/2007.

"Progressive election policy seems more like oppressive" by Matt Mittan, Mountain Xpress, 06/27/2007.

"City Council Gets Weirder" By Screwie Hoolie, Blog Asheville, June 16, 2007.

"Elections: partisan (yawn) or not?" by Ashe, Ashevegas, June 21, 2007.

"Partisan Voting Controversy Live Blogging" By Screwy Hoolie, June 25th, 2007.

"It’s my party" by Chris Pelly, Mountain Xpress, 06/27/2007.

"Partisan Election Controversy: Long on Rhetoric, Short on Facts" By Screwy Hoolie, June 28th, 2007.

"Wisdom questioned in partisan vote" by Ashton Walton, Mountain Xpress, 07/05/2007.

"Get a vote, Asheville" by Christy Fryar, Mountain Xpress, 07/05/2007.

"Asheville's return to partisan elections" by Jerry Sternberg, Mountain Xpress, 07/05/2007.

"Petition is an opportunity for Asheville to speak loudly" by Charlie Hume, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 6, 2007.

"League of Women Voters supports referendum" By Ruth Christie, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 8, 2007.

"Partisan vote foes halfway to goal" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 10, 2007.

"Council rejects partisan elections referendum" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 12, 2007.

"Voters of Asheville should decide" by Charlie Hume, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 13, 2007.

"Buncombe GOP supports initiative" by George Keller, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 13, 2007.

"Candidate petition numbers finalized" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 15, 2007.

"Public vote push picking up" By Jeffrey Javier, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 16, 2007.

"Partisan critics say petition succeeds" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 17, 2007.

"Public weighs in on partisan elections" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, 07/16/2007.

"Batting 5,000+" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, 07/16/2007.

"Critics say referendum petition succeeds" From Staff Reports, Asheville Daily Planet, 17 July 2007.

"The Fabtastic Four" by Asheville Disclaimer, July 18,2007.

"Partisan politics costs vote" by Art Jones, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 20, 2007.

"Press Release: Partisan vs Non-Partisan" by Brownie Newman, BCDems, July 20, 2007.

"Challenge to partisan vote fades" By Clarke Morrison, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 21, 2007.

"Referendum drive may have fallen short" by Jon Elliston, Mountain Xpress, July 21, 2007.

"It ain’t over till it’s over" by Kent Priestley, Mountain Xpress, 07/23/2007.

"Referendum petition needs 39 signatures" By Clarke Morrison, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 24, 2007.

"Won’t forget the feats of electoral tinkering" by Brian May, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 25, 2007.

"Partisan candidates declare" by Hal L. Millard, Mountain Xpress, 07/25/2007

"Brownie Newman’s modest proposal" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, 07/24/2007.

"Lessons in democracy" by Danny Lack, Mountain Xpress, 07/25/2007.

"Forget the two-letter alphabet" by Tim Green, Mountain Xpress, 07/25/2007.

"Partisan petition too close to call" by Jon Ostendorff, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 26, 2007.

"What would partisan elections mean?" by David Forbes, Mountain Xpress, 07/25/2007.

"Petition appears to fall short" Asheville Daily Planet, Wednesday, 25 July 2007.

"Voters will decide on partisan elections" by Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, July 31, 2007.

"Referendum petition succeeds" by David Forbes, Mountain Xpress, 07/31/2007.

"True democracy in action" Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, August 5, 2007.

"Next city elections nonpartisan" by David Forbes, Mountain Xpress, 08/08/2007.

"Campaign redux" by Brian Postelle, Mountain Xpress, 08/13/2007.

"Deadline for City Council candidates to file extended" Asheville Daily Planet, 14 August 2007.

"Partisan referendum set for Nov. 6" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, August 15, 2007.

"November referendum set" By Joel Burgess, Asheville Citizen-Times, August 16, 2007.


City Council Minutes 050807: Resolution to set public hearing on amending charter.

City Council Minutes 052207: Public hearing on ordinance to amend charter.

City Council Minutes 061207: Adoption of resolution to amend charter.

City Council Minutes 071007: Consideration of referendum on partisan elections (pg. 25).


G.S. 160A-101. Optional Forms of Municipal Government

G.S. 160A-102. Amendment by Ordinance

G.S. 160A-103. Referendum on Charter Amendments by Ordinance

G.S. 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments

G.S. 160-122. Unaffiliated candidates nominated by petition

G.S. 163-55. Qualifications to vote; exclusion from electoral franchise.

G.S. 163-106. Notices of candidacy; pledge; with whom filed; date for filing; withdrawal

G.S. 163-218. Registration of Notice of Circulation of Petition

G.S. 163-296. Nomination by petition

Sample Charter Amendment Petition (pdf)

Asheville Code: Article XII: Initiative, Referendum, Recall (refresh)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

LTE: Partisan Elections

Dear Editor,

So, according to your article "City moves toward partisan elections" (May 11, 2007), certain members of Asheville's city council would like to make our elections even more partisan than they are now.

The change being considered would require that unaffiliated candidates obtain signatures from 4% of the total electorate (2,249) on a certified petition in 17 days to get on the ballot and would open ballots to straight-ticket voting.

My question is this: Why this, why now and what's the hurry? I have heard a lot of defensive talk from proponents, but I have not heard any satisfactory answers. None.

I can see no other benefit of going back to partisan elections other than to manipulate the law to protect the vulnerable from competition in the political marketplace, to preserve an tenuous ideological monopoly, and shield a governing body from diversity.

Asheville, I think, should be one city that is unafraid of dialogue on a level playing field without the tribalistic patronage of party machinery. City leaders should be cheerfully encouraging participation in the political process rather than cynically devising technical methods for discouraging 27% of our voters from sharing a place at the table.

We can do better than use our positions of power to circle the wagons. We have real work to do. Let's do that instead.

(Tim Peck is an unaffiliated libertarian running for city council.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

City Council Race

The Asheville Citizen-Times has published a preview of this year's city council elections and placed my name in the "definitely" column.

Election may refocus Asheville City Council
By Joel Burgess
May 10, 2007

Tim Peck, the only newcomer to council elections, is one of many local activists known for opposing development they feel harms neighborhoods.

Peck, 50, of Oteen, is a former Atlanta Coca-Cola employee and small-business consultant. He now works for Wal-Mart. The Libertarian candidate said he worries local quality of life “is being threatened by the reckless big government approach of our current City Council.”

Like Hebb, he wants to reduce of regulations on business. But Peck said he would also push for “stiffer penalties for bad development” and put an emphasis on neighborhood-based zoning decisions.

Here's the text that I sent AC-T reporter Joel Burgess:

My name is Tim Peck. I am running for Asheville City Council. My political philosophy is libertarian in nature. I believe in free markets, limited government and individual rights. I believe that people, not bureaucrats, should be the drivers of a political community.

I am 50 years old and moved to Asheville from Atlanta over three years ago for a better quality of life. I believe that I have found that quality of life here in Western North Carolina.

However, that quality is being threatened by the reckless big government approach of our current city council. I believe that city council has gone off the rails and I am running to provide the citizens of Asheville with an alternative: Less government interference in the marketplace, a business-friendly economic environment, job creation, tax relief, rising market wages (which then means affordable housing), lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, respect for personal freedoms, stiffer penalties for bad development, preservation of natural regional assets, greater municipal autonomy through home rule, greater community participation of local government through neighborhood zoning authorities, continuous improvement of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and its hard and fast enforcement going forward, and an end to the dictates of special moneyed interests in our community.

With your help and your vote I will work to return Asheville to its promise: The jewel of the state, if not the country. With your help we can finally "let Asheville be Asheville."

Thank you.