Monday, December 10, 2012

What the Water Study Reveals

Study: Asheville taxpayers lose with water-sewer merger
The Asheville Citizen-Times

“Utility consolidation under MSD could produce cost savings for sewer ratepayers but comes at a cost to the water ratepayers and city taxpayers,” the report states. “Consolidation under MSD reduces costs for sewer ratepayers by $18 million-$23 million over the nine-year period while increasing costs to city taxpayers by $33 million over the same period.”

The merger would increase the city’s property tax rate from the current 42 cents per $100 valuation to 45.7 cents, the study concludes.

The city would lose water revenues that pay for infrastructure improvements like streets and sidewalks that are made in conjunction with waterline projects. In addition, revenues that pay for core functions like administration and information technology would be reduced.

“If the water system is taken from Asheville and given to MSD, there’s all kind of ramifications for the citizens of Asheville just from a financial standpoint,” Councilwoman Esther Manheimer said. “Because of the financial losses the city will experience, the burden of making up that deficit is placed on the taxpayers. Asheville is already on a pretty slim budget.”

“Because of the financial losses the city will experience, the burden of making up that deficit is placed on the taxpayers.”

AHA. Now we finally have it.

The Claim: the water merger will cost taxpayers because taxes will have to be raised to make up the difference in a loss of revenue to the tune of $33M.

The Truth: The city is prohibited by law from making a profit from the water system. The Sullivan Act mandates that all water system revenue be retained within the system and permits the city to allocate some water system money to improvements ONLY RELATED TO THE WATER SYSTEM. In other words, all money from the water system stays in the water system. It does not go to the city. So, where is the "revenue loss"? That is, unless Asheville has been skimming revenues for unauthorized purposes. This is the only reason the city would feel any loss and thus the need to raise taxes.

Sullivan Act III:

"SECTION 1. The City of Asheville may use up to five percent (5%) of utility revenues for street and sidewalk improvements associated with waterline improvements."

“We really don’t know exactly what the legislature will do,” she said.

NONSENSE. The city know precisely what the legislature will do. They have directed the city and counties to effect a merger or they will do it for them. That's what they will do. All of this resistance and foot-dragging is not part of the directive.

LRC Recommendation:

"Committee recommends that the 2013 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly consolidate the Public Utility Water System with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. Should the interested governments craft their own solution for consolidation, which achieves all the objectives of the Committee, before the 2013 North Carolina General Assembly convenes, due consideration would be given to the local plan. Action will not be taken if the parties are engaged in good-faith negotiations on this matter."

Michael Muller:

What all this tells me is that the Asheville City Council has been siphoning millions of dollars a year from the Independent Water Authority to subsidize other expenses not directly related to waterline improvements — as is specifically required by state law. If the city's expenses were, in fact, directly related to waterline improvements and nothing more, there wouldn't be a budget hole.

Instead, City Council has been using the water system as its own cash cow — and milking water ratepayers outside the city with each squeeze. That's how they're able to pay for all these special projects without raising taxes: by overcharging the Independent Water Authority to pad their General Fund. One can only imagine where and to whom all that money has gone over the years. And now, when they're caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they seem to be trying to hiding it with some creative accounting.

This theft would be nothing new. Asheville City Council has been stealing money from the water ratepayers (inside and outside the city limits) and funneling it into its General Fund for years.

In 2007, the Superior Court of Wake County found that “from 1957 through fiscal year 2005, the City of Asheville did not put any funds into the water system. In fact, in addition to the net operating revenue for that period of time of almost $114,000,000.00 (income less expenses), there were a number of payments made from the “water fund” as part of the “operating expenses.” Essentially, the City of Asheville had taken (diverted) so much revenue from the water system to subsidize the City of Asheville’s general fund, the City of Asheville itself was primarily (not solely) at fault for the system disrepair by not having dedicated the water funds for said maintenance and repair." (From the Legislative Research Commission's Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee report to the North Carolina General Assembly. Read it all here: )

Given the shady nature of this operation, opponents of the pending water merger (including those on City Council) have been loathe to admit their true motivations up until now — for good reason, I suspect. A crooked establishment with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo can be very defensive, especially when they have a lot to hide. And they've been nothing if not very defensive.

As blogger Tim Peck has so astutely pointed out on this forum before, these folks have also kept changing the nature of their objections with each passing week: "First, the water merger was declared to be a bad deal because it was just plain ole THEFT. Then it was a bad deal because it was a SEIZURE by a bully. Then it was a bad deal because it might lead to PRIVATIZATION. Then is was a bad deal because it would mean JOB LOSSES for city employees. Then it was a bad deal because it would be COSTLY to ratepayers. Then it was a bad deal because there was NO DEFINED COMPENSATION for the city. Then it was a bad deal because NO DEFINED LEASE OPTION being considered in the studies. Then it was a bad deal because the process is being RUSHED. (Then) it's a bad deal because Henderson County leaders are pushing for undue representation on the regional board as part of a POWER GRAB."

One by one, all of these objections have been shown to be what they are: "straw man" arguments. There is no theft. The merger is an issue of merging one public system with another. There is no seizure. Seizure would imply ownership by the City of Asheville, and the City of Asheville does not "own" the water system — it's merely managed it up until now. It's "owned" by the rate payers (if the City of Asheville "owned" the water system, it could pledge the water system as an asset, which it cannot.) As far as privatization, that has never been part of the argument, as the Citizen-Times itself was forced to admit in an editorial a few weeks ago. The MSD study has shown that there won't be any job losses either — in fact, all the folks will be retained and given raises. Costly? It would save water ratepayers money through consolidation and efficiencies of scale. And as far as future compensation to the city through a lease of the watersheds, that avenue was closed when voters rejected it with November's referendum — a referendum which had the effect of leaving the city with no future leasing option — unless the result of that referendum is reversed, ironically, by an act of the General Assembly itself.

Having painted themselves into a corner, City Council is now forced to implicitly admit their theft. And NOW they're saying that cooperation on the water issue is a good idea — as long as they get to dictate the terms.

Bear in mind that the Asheville City Council doesn't have the greatest track record of trustworthiness in terms of cooperating with its regional partners — after all, they voted as recently in 2004 to unilaterally withdraw from the historic Regional Water Agreement, throwing everyone else under the bus. Also from the LRC's report:

"The agreement was a significant accomplishment. For the first time since the construct of the public water system, water security was enjoyed by the rate-payers in both the incorporated and the unincorporated areas. The de-politicizing of the public water system provided hope that a new era of regional cooperation and economic development synergy would spur smart industrial growth and opportunity for the region. The agreement also recognized that the public water system itself was truly a Public Utility Water System and acknowledged the contribution of non-City of Asheville rate-payers to its history.

Despite that history, in May, 2004, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to unilaterally terminate the Regional Water Agreement to once again attempt to charge differential water rates, to compel voluntary annexation and to control growth outside of its corporate boundaries."

So here we are. With the possibility of the city charging differential water rates forever out the window and City Council's Forced Annexation powers finally terminated (see ), they don't really have much left with which to bully their neighbors out in the county. So, knowing that, the city is playing the only card they have left: they want us to ignore all this uncomfortable history and to look the other way. There's no problem here, they say. Just give them back management of the water system, and trust them.

But I'm guessing, after 50 years, that it just might be too late for all that... creative accounting (and a silly protest by the usual hapless suspects) notwithstanding.


Pete Kalilner Show
12/10/21012 | Hour One: Water Merger
The City of Asheville is out with its own study of the state-ordered water system merger.

Resolution Condemning Water Merger
Asheville City Council | 12.11.12
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved...

LTE: Bothwell, Water
Tim Peck | October 2012
City council member Cecil Bothwell offers us a helpful window into the thinking of local government in his recent commentary.

Friday, November 30, 2012

MSD Meeting 11/30

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Livetweeting MSD meeting. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The gang's all here. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
There will be no public comment allowed at MSD planning committee meeting. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Full MSD board meets Wed 12/12 2:00p to vote on the planning committee proposal. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Susan Fisher and Chuck McGrady present. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Tom Hartye will give presentation. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The food here is great. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Elaine Lite is filming MSD meeting. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Scott Powell takes over the MSD presentation for the financials. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Powell: there is plenty of precedent for water system transfers without compensation. #avlgov

7h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Scott Powell is the MSD Finance Director. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Chairman Aceto not present this time.

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Developer-contributed amount: $17, 596, 559. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Cash transfers: $2,587,041. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
All figures will be available online after the meeting. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Developer contributions calculated from 2004 to present. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
This proposal is offered as a response to the option of a local solution. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Jon Creighton wants to hear more about the water system transfers without compensation. Some were voluntary. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Glenn Kelly wants to hear more about the possibility of not getting the watersheds. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer will speak as council member. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer takes the podium as visual aid. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer wants to speak to the compensation issue. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer emphasizes overwhelming referendum vote. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: city will present proposal 12/11. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: we will lose money from general fund if water system is lost. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: Sullivan transfers "a bone thrown to us by GA" since we are treated differently. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: compensation formula seems based on partisan consideration by adopting the county's model back when we were arguing. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Bill Stanley: we're gonna pass this thing and send it to the city and that's where the negotiations will take place. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Vote: Manheimer, Pelly: NO, everyone else: YES. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
13 members on this committee. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
They're still talking. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Going over legal and governance possibilities. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Root jokes: "let's just hand over the whole thing to Woodfin." #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady speaks. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: Moffitt is out of state today. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Mayor asked McGrady about rushing the process. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: we have to get something going, it's very complicated, can't just wait until last minute. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Henderson county already a part of MSD planning process. Include Cane Creek. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: the breadth of the solution is not fixed. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: may need greater Asheville representation in regional board. But let's not have a 40 member board. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: LRC recommendation does not contemplate compensation. My personal belief is that we HAVE to have compensation. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: we should stop spreading misinformation, esp. about AVL robbing the system. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: legislation will be introduced early in the next session. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: I expect the merger will be rolled out in an incremental fashion. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: tell us more about Cane Creek. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: Henderson County considering a sewerage operation. Should be a part of regional operation. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Manheimer: Cane Creek study should be rolled into Arcadis study. Tom Hartye: we have that study now but separately. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Susan Fisher speaks. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Fisher: 80% of AVL voters rejected the idea of a merger. (not true, actually) #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Fisher: I hope to be surprised after all studies and negotiations. #avlgov

6h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Meeting adjourned. #avlgov

5h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
So, Barry Summers tried to pick a fight in the MSD lobby. What a piece of work. #avlgov

5h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The Sullivan transfer figure $2.6M is three years of legitimate transfers that should have stayed in the system. #avlgov

5h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The other deduction is $21,396,956 for "Direct Payments to the City Per Water Agreement." #avlgov

5h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Planning Committee Presentation - November 30, 2012 #avlgov

The Evolution of a Shibboleth

Opposition to the water merger has strangely evolved over the last several months as each phony objection gets handily batted down.

First, the water merger was declared to be a bad deal because it was just plain ole THEFT.

Then it was a bad deal because it was a SEIZURE by a bully.

Then it was a bad deal because it might lead to PRIVATIZATION.

Then is was a bad deal because it would mean JOB LOSSES for city employees.

Then it was a bad deal because it would be COSTLY to ratepayers.

Then it was a bad deal because there was NO DEFINED COMPENSATION for the city.

Then it was a bad deal because NO DEFINED LEASE OPTION being considered in the studies.

Then it was a bad deal because the process is being RUSHED.

Now it's a bad deal because Henderson County leaders are pushing for undue representation on the regional board as part of a POWER GRAB.

Where it will go next is anybody's guess. We will be taking requests.


Now the water merger is a bad deal due to fears of WHO'S NEXT?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MSD Merger Presentation

11/14/2012 12:00p

The MSD presentation was fairly uneventful. You got a taste of it from the livetweets of David Forbes. But for some reason Forbes missed most of the meeting. We'll see what he writes up for the paper. He wasn't taking any notes. His "livetweets" were published on Mountain Xpress website the next day. The WLOS camera crew left early and I saw no other reporters. Board member Al Root was absent. Jerry Vehaun of Woodfin served as Chairman Pro Tem.

The presentation reiterated key points from the draft study. It was mainly all good news: better services, lower costs, better staff compensation packages, lower water rates, adequate debt service, etc. I was very impressed at the 5 and 10 year projections.

One thing struck me as peculiar is that people, especially Manheimer, were using terms like "potential merger" and "if the General Assembly chooses to do this" and so on.

I noticed at the end of the slide show a mention of a lease option with the city and I wondered why they were still talking about that.

During public comment, Barry Summers spend about 15 minutes at the podium after stating that he would make his comments brief. Summers complained that there is no hard information about the cost of a lease option or compensation. Mr. Aceto engaged Summers and kept him at the podium "if a lease option looks viable, we will address it" and asking him "what have we left out?" and "have we gone about this wrong?" and "if there are lingering questions, what are they?" Summers essentially had no quarrel with the study, the presentation, the methodology, the findings, or the numbers. Later that day on the Pete Kaliner radio show, Summers called in (28:42) to say that he had been dishonest in his praise of the study and told Kaliner that the whole thing was wrong.

After it appeared that Summers was completely out of gas I stood up and asked, "Isn't the lease option now off the table since the special election?" Mr. Aceto pushed back in his rocking executive chair, looked up at me and said, "That's a good question." Neither him nor anyone else responded to my question. However, Summers interjected that he could answer that question, saying, "the referendum only applied to the water distribution system and not the reservoirs." And that was the end of public comment.

[NOTE: David Forbes did not tweet my question to the board and it was omitted from the formal write-up on the meeting that Forbes published 11/15/2012 later on the Mountain Xpress website.]

Photo: Mountain Xpress

Recall the original language of the referendum from 8/14/2012 when the referendum resolution was passed:
“Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment system and water distribution system, including the reservoirs, watershed lands, water lines, pump stations, storage tanks and other facilities used by the City of Asheville for the treatment and distribution of water?”
It's hard to imagine a water distribution system with no source. I would contend that a "system" is inclusive of all essential elements that contribute to its functionality. This fact is recognized in the original referendum language. The language was simplified for the sake of voter comprehension and not to change its intent.
City Council meeting on water referendum
Video: 8/14/2012

Hunt: "I have a slight variation on the language if council is willing to consider. I don't think any of it is substantive:

Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment system and water distribution system, including the reservoirs, watershed lands, water lines, pump stations, customer service functions, storage tanks and other facilities used by the City of Asheville for the safe treatment and distribution of water to the community?”

Bellamy: "I think it's too long. I think it should say, "Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment system and water distribution system" Period. Because I think it's kind of a given what the other things are. And we want people not to get lost..And if we get too lost in describing what our system is, people won't take the time, spend as much time on it, and it's an easy YES or NO answer. Do we want to sell it or not."
Here, Bellamy is clearly stating that what is meant by the original language of the referendum is a reference to the whole system and not some of its parts. She acknowledges that the simplified language does not change the definition of the water system and that it should be "understood" by the voter that the referendum is making reference to all of the system's parts taken as a whole, which naturally would include watersheds and reservoirs as pointed out by Hunt.

11/14/2012 2:00p

Mr. Aceto introduced a discussion under New Business regarding the possibility of having staff explore the possibility of drafting proposal language to address the possibility of a lease option as part of a possible water system merger.

Most every board member equivocated and said they had no opinion. Bill Stanley said that the folks in Raleigh are more powerful since the election and that they should avoid making our legislators any madder than they are now. He said that the General Assembly has mandated that local government effect a merger or they will do it for us and we probably don't want them to do it for us so let's get a lease option proposal in place. Glenn Kelly, Biltmore Forest, stated that he's heard some folks claim that there is some kind of "carve out" for the reservoirs but he just doesn't see it. If there were a carve out, General Assembly would explicitly have said so. Someone said that he would be remaining objective; whatever we have to do, we'll do it, whatever that means.

Esther Manheimer made a motion to have staff create proposal language to address a possible lease in the event of a possible merger, up to and including a possible position statement against the merger if they conclude that "it just doesn't make sense." The motion was seconded by Stanley and was passed unanimously.

It seems odd that a board member would direct staff to develop a possible policy position that sounds strikingly similar to the board member's stated position.

Bear in mind that opposition to the water merger has strangely evolved over the last several months. The evolution of a shibboleth: First, the water merger was declared to be a bad deal because it was just plain ole THEFT. Then it was a bad deal because it was a SEIZURE by a bully. Then it was a bad deal because it might lead to PRIVATIZATION. Then is was a bad deal because it would mean JOB LOSSES for city employees. Then it was a bad deal because it would be COSTLY to ratepayers. Then it was a bad deal because there was NO DEFINED COMPENSATION for the city. Then it was a bad deal because NO DEFINED LEASE OPTION being considered in the studies.

Now that the special election is over and a majority of citizens have voted no on a referendum that is binding only for the City of Asheville, there is now no lease option possible. This is a consequence of city council and the local progressive politburo urging people to VOTE NO on the lease option contained in the referendum in order to "gauge the mood of the people" regarding the inevitable water system merger.

Well, opponents of the merger now know the mood of the people and the consequences of their ill-considered political kabuki theater.


Merger would cost customers money
Mark Barrett | Asheville Citizen-Times | Oct. 27, 2012

Report: MSD, water merger could save millions
John Boyle | Asheville Citizen-Times | Nov 12, 2012

Voters: No change to Asheville water
Mark Barrett | Asheville Citizen-Times | Nov 7, 2012

Pete Kaliner Show
11/13/21 Hour 3, Topic: MSD merger
Audio 16:02

Legislative Research Committee Report
Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System
April 19, 2012

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Local Thinking: Asheville BID

With Host John Green
FM 95.7
November 3, 2012
"Cleaner, Greener, Safer: Asheville & the Business Improvement District."
Guests: Peter Alberice, Tim Peck.

On October 9, at its biweekly Regular Meeting, Asheville City Council held a hearing on something called "the BID": the downtown Business Improvement District. After a presentation by the interim board responsible for developing the BID's implementation plan, as well as more than two hours of often impassioned public comment, City Council voted 5 to 2 to implement the BID.

This vote was the culmination of almost three years of hearings, public debates, refinements to the implemenation plan and - at times - rancor. This since the BID in emerged from the Downtown Master Plan, approved by City Council in December 2009. During that time the BID's interim board, under the direction of the City Manager, guided the refinement of an implementation plan into the form finally approved by City Council on the 9th.

But what is the BID? . . .



BID Timeline
Below is a summary of the provenance and development of the Asheville Business Improvement District proposal, or BID.

Op-Ed: To BID or not to BID
Tim Peck | Mountain Xpress | August 21, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Asheville Through the Wormhole

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension— a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."


Imagine a small idyllic city gently nestled in a mountain paradise but spinning progressively out of control, spreading its grasping tentacles to county's edges, consolidating power along narrow ideological lines, forming cabals of technocrats and webworks of crony connections, siphoning money from public enterprises for general purposes and taxing wealthy producers and passers-by to the max. A city with a sympathetic partisan press offering soft-focus optics, softball engagement, amnesia for scandal and cover for misdeeds. And a city with a voting base in love with its generous leaders, its entrenched legislators and itself. A city with golden days ahead and treasures aplenty outstretched in front of it, lying unawares just for the taking.

Now, imagine another city. A city quite similar to the first one but one meeting with an entirely different fate. A city grappling with a force that suffocates revenue streams and binds its room for maneuver. The arc of its progress is flat and circumscribed.

Instead of the creeping and unchecked expansion of its boundaries in all directions, the ambitious city is mightily curtailed through legal prohibitions, vast areas of prior encroachment de-annexed, and its corporate limits redrawn and reduced to a space no larger than its tiny Central Business District.

Instead of consolidating political power, its monopoly is broken up through a program of election reforms. Odd-year elections are now realigned to even years so that county referendums that need city votes to pass cannot be quietly held and go unnoticed by county voters. City elections are now conducted by districts instead of at-large so that candidates will have to run as honest representatives rather than back-slapping power-brokers.

Instead of holding public enterprises as a deep-pocketed debit card, their accounts are now cut off (snip snip) and de-politicized by removing direct operational and administrative control from the city and placing it in the hands of regional authorities whose governing bodies are appointed and which admit of no sitting elected officials.

These two cities, one with a puffed up chest and proud feathers, the other with its tail tucked and a seemly grimace, might seem quite different -- but they are not.

[cue eerie music]

They are the same city. One, the former one, living in its profligate present. The other being the very same city but projected through the power of imagination into its own near future. The future just around the corner. The one just up ahead, through the wormhole.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Livetweeting the Big Water Meeting

[NOTE: Present at the meeting: Gordon Smith, Cecil Bothwell, Esther Manheimer, Chris Pelly, Mountain Voices Alliance members, David Gantt, Jane Whilden..]

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
At the big #avlh2o meeting. #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
All the usual suspects. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
People carrying around Democrat campaign signs. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Elaine Lite starts things off. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Applause for Barry Summers. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Elaine Lite asks everyone to vote NO on the referendum. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The event is being filmed for MVA website. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Jane Whilden is here. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
And now, Barry. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
There are 4 Asheville city council members here. That's a quorum. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry is pointing out everything he thinks is wrong with the LRC process. Some groans from the audience. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Slide show displays @TimMoffitt's blogpost on "How Local Government Works." Still trying to sell it as a threat. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry is now playing audio of McGrady talking about neighboring gov involvement in merger. Bobbleheads in the audience. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry is once again imputing ill motives behind the merger initiative. It's all so nefarious. Booga. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
I didn't know Barry Summers was a conspiracy theorist kinda guy. Now predicting how these evil plans will develop in NC. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Thus ends Barry's scintillating presentation. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now it's time for Esther. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's wearing glasses. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Lots of "Vote NO" yards signs around. I need to pick up a few. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Esther talking about MSD impact studies. In a lot of detail. Font size keeps getting smaller and smaller for each slide. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Correct. /RT @michaelfmuller: Being a quorum of Asheville City Council...they are therefore doing business, no?

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
I don't see anyone taking minutes. /RT @michaelfmuller: Being a quorum, .. Is this being recorded? For the record? #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
John North is reporting. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Financial Impacts, Governance Models, Asset Evaluation. blah, blah, blah. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Haven't about 7,000 people already voted in Buncombe County? #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now we're looking at a spreadsheet. With numbers and financial stuff. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now we're looking at a photograph of the conservation easement. "Isn't that pretty?" #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
We're looking at a map of the current water sytem coverage across the county. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Esther always makes everything sound important. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
More data on the current system. Another pretty picture of water and mountains. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
I keep saying Esther because I can't spell Manheimer. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Next steps: Public education, more studies, reports, you know, stuff like that. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
On to the referendum. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
The referendum that people are already voting on. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
"To be safe, we didn't veer from the language of the statute." #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
"A NO vote indicates that you are opposed to the merger." Huh What?!@ #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Renee Moss? Who the hell is that? #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's uptalking. Kind of annoying. "Water belongs to everyONE" #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's telling us what an MSD is. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's now speculating on the potential consequences of the merger. Negative speculation, I mean. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Board members are not elected officials. City would lose control for smart planning, etc. #avlh2o #avlelect

14h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Shouldn't the City Clerk be here? Oh who cares about the law. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
"It costs more to get water to the county than the city. It becomes a social justice issue." Really?!@ #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now the favorite bogey man: PRIVATIZATION. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She is equating public-private partnership with PRIVATIZATION. [false] #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's afraid someone might make a profit. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now she's just blathering a bunch of anti-capitalism bullshit. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She claims that capitalist make money buy cutting corners and rendering poor service. [false] #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Only government can save us. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's listing some cases of fraud and implies that this is what will happen here. She says that's not what she's implying. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Urges everyone to vote NO on the referendum to protect our water. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
And now, Katie Hicks. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Oh, that was Renee Maas from Food and Water Watch, Durham NC. She's gone now. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Hicks is reading a legislative proposal to prohibit utility seizure. Everyone applauds. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Hicks: "We should inform people who are voting now." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
And now, Q&A. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Speaker makes fun of @TimMoffitt and then asks, "What is the driving force behind all of this?"#avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
This is making me thirsty. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Esther quotes Moffitt. "just an extension of what was started before. " #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry maligns McGrady. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry says McGrady must be bearing a grudge. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry says McGrady just want's representation on MSD. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Some chick is on Skype to answer questions. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Speaker confirms that NC is a Dillon Rule state. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Speaker claims that this is all because of greed. They're just trying to steal our stuff. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
He doesn't have a question. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
"We need a firm council that will stand with us!" #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Applause. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Skype chick is gone. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
John North left early. Now no one reporting. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Skype chick is back. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She sounds like a robot. I think she is. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Alan Rosenthahl asks what is the environmental impact? And what is the net financial impact to homeowners? #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Esther: "voters can fire and hire elected officials" Unlike, I guess, private businesses. Right? #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
She's using a private sector metaphor to sell us on government control. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Esther: "Rates will probably go up." Barry concurs. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry: "It would be more efficient for the city to take over the MSD." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Speaker: "Why is @TimMoffitt doing this? He's connected to ALEC." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Now asking Jane Whilden a question. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Jane is glad to answer. "Don't like Moffitt's tactics."

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Question to Whilden: "How can we become not a not home rule state or not one." Whilden: "Let me study up on that." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry talking about nuclear energy and fracking. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Hicks continues demonizing honest business people, lauding bureaucratic government. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Q: "Does Buncombe have to pay for lines in Henderson?" #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Whilden completely blew off that home rule question. She has no idea what he's talking about. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
My ass is getting sore. And Esther is talking numbers again. #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Speaker: "I don't like someone stealing my water system." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Q: "Are people outside AVL being disenfranchised on the referendum?" #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry: "BCGOP is urging people to vote NO on the referendum. Not what Moffitt would want." #avlh2o #avlelect

13h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
I can't take this clusterfuck any more. Good night. #avlh2o #avlelect

12h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
RT @gordondsmith: #avlh2o Summers telling assembled about Rep. Moffitt's threat to end Asheville after City Council voted to hold referendum

12h Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Barry forgot to tell "the assembled" what time Moffitt's post was published & what time council meeting was. #avlh2o #avlelect @gordondsmith

Friday, October 12, 2012

LTE: Bothwell, Water

Shrinking Asheville? It’s run by Dim and Dimmer
by Tim Peck
Asheville Daily Planet | October 2012

City council member Cecil Bothwell offers us a helpful window into the thinking of local government in his recent commentary ("The Incredible Shrinking City", Sep 2012) where he bemoans the fact that Asheville is legally prohibited from charging county residents more for water service than citizens of Asheville. His complaint centers on the consequence of this law which he says is "removing a huge incentive for voluntary annexation."

The only way I see that water rates could be an incentive to county customers is if those rates could be somehow manipulated to the disadvantage of those customers. In other words, the city could have an interest in rates artificially raised to the point where county customers have a disincentive to remain outside the loving arms of Asheville.

I say "artificially" because the desired rate hikes would presumably then be lowered immediately upon submitting to voluntary municipal annexation and the subsequent city taxes, ordinances and land-use regulations that annexation imposes on the newly abosrbed citizens. This, of course, counters any notion that higher rates simply reflect the higher cost of serving county customers that are farther away. Besides, the county is where the water comes from in the first place.

This arrangement would be about as voluntary as when the mobster warns the shopkeeper to pay protection money and when the shopkeeper asks, "Protection from who?" the mobster answers, "From us."

Yes, Asheville is a shrinking city. With the Sullivan Acts, new democratic barriers to forced annexation, a newly-independent airport authority, a pending regional water system merger, the repeal of some recent questionable annexations, and with businesses, students and residents moving out and half of city workers now living out of town, Asheville, and specifically its tax base, is shrinking and will continue to shrink. Couple that with the city thumbing its nose at Raleigh with an irrelevant water referendum and Asheville's future looks like it's being run by Dim and Dimmer.

The only question remaining is, if Asheville insists on dreaming beyond its means, what mechanism with she now resort to for skimming revenues from the unwilling?


Photos: Romney in Asheville

Photo Album

Sunday, October 07, 2012

John Boyle's Twitter Problem

Another Day, Another Twidiot
John Boyle | Asheville Citizen-Times | October 6, 2012

And here we go again.

Thank you, Twittersphere, for yet another example of stupidity in action. Let’s call it Twidiocy.

In the most recent case, a Buncombe County GOP volunteer was tweeting out some blow-by-blow from the presidential debate Tuesday night.

Should be innocuous enough, right?

Nope. This guy apparently was TWI-M — Tweeting while impaired, mentally.

“Obama sounds nervous, scattered, white,” the volunteer tweeted.

Say what?!? As one of my colleagues put it, “That sounds like a racist’s order at Waffle House.”

Other Tweeted gems included, “somebody gettin’ his (expletive) whooped!;” “enough about ya damn grandmother, already;” “Did Barry just crap his pants?;” and “You’ve had four years, ya big dummy.”

Classy way to address the president. Do these guys think this stuff will not make its way around the media world?

Buncombe County GOP spokesman Nathan West seemed to have a good handle on this Friday when I talked to him.

“In his exuberance of being excited about the way Romney was wearing it out, he got a little excited and sent out some messages like he was talking to his buddies instead of making public comments,” West said. “The language is what aggravated me the most. It was a very poorly worded point.”

The volunteer has since given up his access to the account, and, I’m thinking, learned a valuable lesson.

“If he didn’t, it’s going to take a baseball bat to the head,” West joked.

In the great scheme of things, this is a minor dust-up, but it is intriguing to me because, if the Republicans aren’t aware of it, they have a little trouble attracting African-Americans to their cause because many perceive them as insensitive and uncaring about African-Americans.

I’m not saying that’s a fair assessment; it’s just the way it is.

The tweets play right into that. Once again, the guy may have had a point — the president seemed pretty stiff at times — but it got lost in the stupidity of the moment and language.

“What this shows is with the rise of Twitter, everybody has a microphone, and this is the kind of nonsense you see,” said Chris Cooper, head of the political science and public affairs department at Western Carolina University. “Also, I think the Republican party has realized it cannot be successful as the party that has lost all non-white voters to the Democrats. It’s opinions like this that, when they become news, it makes it a lot more difficult to do that (attract non-white voters).”

John Hayes, president of the Asheville branch of the NAACP, said the tweet shows a distinct lack of historical perspective. Hayes said the commentary may point to a more disturbing mindset still prevalent in some corners of America, even after more than three years of Obama’s presidency.

“You still have people who don’t believe a descendant of Africa has any right to be president,” he said.


First of all, to say that someone "sounds white" is not racist. Not even close. It's an observation. Some black comedians base their observational stage act on impersonating whites and the way they sound, talk, walk and express themselves. This used to be very popular, especially among self-hating liberal whites in the 70's and 80's. Black comedians also make fun of fellow blacks in the same way by exaggerating some expression or idiom to bring out the humor. Also, we have seen this President, his Vice-President and his Secretary of State straining to sound black, dropping their g's with Southern accents, claiming to be the "Preezy of the United Steezy" and saying, "Ah don't feel no ways tired" and "they gunna put y'all back in chains." So, this breathless faux outrage over a simple and honest observation of a fact falls flatter than an Aunt Jemima pancake.

Secondly, it makes no sense whatsoever to condemn a tweet as racist in one breath and then later say you understand the point being made, as Boyle has done: "Say what?!?" ... "Once again, the [tweeter] may have had a point — the president seemed pretty stiff at times." Is the esteemed columnist implying that white people seem stiff as compared to black people? Is that a racist comment? You can't say the tweet is offensive and wrong and yet it really makes a perfectly legitimate point.

Third, Boyle questions whether or not this collection of tweets on debate night was a "classy way to address the president." Is that what we're supposed to do now, only address this dufus amateur in classy ways? Is that how Boyle and others in the partisan press addressed President Bush. I wouldn't have the time to document the perpetual insults cast his way during his tenure. Right here in Asheville you would have to search long and hard for a respectful appellation applied to our own Rep. Tim Moffitt. So, Mr. Boyle, don't begin to lecture me on how to address your favorite president. We've never had a king in the White House and you can't chide me into conjuring up one.

The reason progressives and their mouthpieces in the media are attracted to this story is because they think that making hay out of it will somehow injure the reputation of their political enemies. In their rush to validate their own peculiar politically-correct take on the story, some journalists have taken tweet to the street only to find, to their bemusement, that most normal people get it: the president turns on and off dialects, idioms and manners of speech to pander to different audiences, whether black, white, latino or muslim. Frank Fraboni reports, "Some people agreed with the remarks, others said they were confusing but were within their rights."

So, keep a workin' own it, y'all. Ya ain't found nothing no ways yet. Looks to me likes y'alls is just sniffin' each others butts.


Snoop Dog's Reasons To Vote For Obama
Some classy comments about the Presidential candidates

Some classy comments about a black Romney supporter

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Business Improvement District

Below is a summary of the provenance and development of the Asheville Business Improvement District proposal, or BID.


NC Constitution
Article V, Section 2
(4) Special tax areas

"...the General Assembly may enact general laws authorizing the governing body of any county, city, or town to define territorial areas and to levy taxes within those areas, in addition to those levied throughout the county, city, or town, in order to finance, provide, or maintain services, facilities, and functions in addition to or to a greater extent than those financed, provided, or maintained for the entire county, city, or town."

North Carolina General Statute
Chapter 160A, Article 23
Municipal Service Districts

§ 160A-536. Purposes for which districts may be established.

"The city council of any city may define any number of service districts in order to finance, provide, or maintain for...Any service, facility, or function which the municipality may by law provide."

§ 160A-540. Required provision or maintenance of services.

"(a) New District. – When a city defines a new service district, IT shall provide, maintain, or let contracts for the services for which the residents of the district are being taxed." [emphasis added]

§ 160A-542. Taxes authorized; rate limitation.

"A city may levy property taxes within defined service districts in addition to those levied throughout the city, in order to finance, provide or maintain for the district services provided therein in addition to or to a greater extent than those financed, provided or maintained for the entire city. In addition, a city may allocate to a service district any other revenues whose use is not otherwise restricted by law."


Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee

Goody and Clancy Consultants
To: Asheville Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee
Subject: DRAFT detailed recommendations on establishing a downtown management entity for Asheville
January 12, 2009

The Asheville Downtown Management Entity

A New Entity is Needed
"Asheville needs to join the ranks of healthy downtowns in North Carolina and around the country that have strong, professionally staffed downtown management entities. The leadership seeds for it may well be within the Advisory Committee that has guided the plan." -From the Downtown Master Plan Appendices

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission

Downtown Master Plan
May 12, 2009

"In 2007, the Asheville City Council authorized and funded the development of a Master Plan for Downtown Asheville. During the fall and winter of 2007-8, city staff and the Downtown Commission went through an RFQ selection process and selected Goody Clancy of Boston to create the master plan. Goody Clancy began work in Asheville in April 2008 and a series of public input meetings were held in 2008 with the final public input meeting being held in January 2009. The final plan was brought to City Council in May 2009, and was adopted."

Page 102

"A. Establish a Downtown management entity — termed here a 'CID' or Community Improvement District — to actively oversee and maintain Downtown’s many moving parts. The CID should be collectively conceived and led by Downtown merchants, property owners, employers, and residents to serve their unique mutual interests as efficiently as possible...It should ideally be self-funded to maximize the Downtown community’s discretion in directing their resources. The CID should coordinate closely with the City, supplementing municipal services and championing Downtown."

Page 103
"2. Draft legislation for City Council approval authorizing establishment of the CID as designed by the pursuit group."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
May 13, 2011

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"They have discovered that not only would the BID include a tax in that district on property, but is it also on personal and business property."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
June 10, 2011

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"Chairman Butner said they have gone public with the plans for Strategy 7, which he explained was the self-imposed taxing district which allows for services above and beyond base-line City services for downtown. They are discussing this with downtown property owners."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
July 8, 2011

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"Mr. Butner said they are putting together a group that will start looking at specifically outlining the district, e.g., sample budget, scope and nature of the services offered, etc."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
September 9, 2011

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"Ms. Vrtunski said that the study by Western Carolina is being finalized. They have met with property owners and will be making presentations to the Downtown Area Residents Neighborhood (DARN), etc."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
November 11, 2011

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"Ms. Sasha Vrtunski, Downtown Master Plan Project Manager, said they have holding education/feedback meetings with residents regarding the Business Improvement District (BID)."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission
Regular Meeting
December 9, 2011

Presentation: Economic Benefit Study of a Business Improvement District in Downtown Asheville

"Ms. Sasha Vrtunski, Downtown Master Plan Project Manager, said that with the support of the Asheville Downtown Association, City of Asheville and Buncombe County, the Downtown Management Committee commissioned a study to examine the potential economic benefits of implementing a Business Improvement District."

Dr. Steve Ha: "Business improvement districts are usually governed by the city but managed by a private, non-profit organization that is subject to an advisory board or board of directors made up of stakeholders."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission
(Noted in City Council minutes June 26, 2012, page 10)

"In December 2011, an Interim Board was formed as the Management Committee recognized that it did not have enough property owners to finalize a plan."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
December 14, 2011

"Ms. Vrtunski updated the Commission on their meetings on the Business Improvement District, noting some concerns by residents who have high value condos. Some residents feel they are paying in, but the benefits are all for the businesses."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission

An Economic Benefit Study to Establish an Asheville Downtown Business Improvement District
Submitted by Inhyuck “Steve” Ha, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Economics
MBA Program Director
Western Carolina University
December 14, 2011

"Business improvement districts are usually governed by the city but managed by a private, non-profit organization that is subject to an advisory board or board of directors made up of stakeholders. The municipal government typically collects the revenue and remits to the BID. Advisory and administrative boards are primarily made up of businesspeople and landowners, with some seats reserved for public officials, residents, community board members, and non-profit representatives."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission > Downtown Management Subcommittee
Regular Meeting
February 10, 2012

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"Downtown Master Plan Project Manager Sasha Vrtunski updated the Commission on their work on the Business Improvement District, which is progressing through the process. At the February 14 Council meeting, Council will consider a resolution directing staff to prepare a report regarding a Municipal Service District for downtown, which is required by State Statute. Mr. Butner noted that by the next Commission meeting there will be a firm plan to present to the community."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission
Regular Meeting
March 9, 2012

Downtown Master Plan Implementation

"The Interim Board determined that the entire Central Business District should be included in the MSD. Suggestions of the MSD services, above and beyond what the City is doing, is power-washing sidewalks on a regular basis, litter and trash pick-up with a broom and pan, a graffiti removal program, snow removal on the sidewalks, and an ambassador program (paid staff for eyes on the street looking to help people and alert police to potential problem situations). The second component of the services would be an advocacy component."

Asheville City Council

March 27, 2012

General Fund Operating Budget

"Several comments/questions were raised by Council, some being, but are not limited to:...question of whether the Business Improvement District contribution will be needed in the first year."

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission >
Business Improvement District Subcommittee

Downtown Asheville Business Improvement District Formation Report
May 10, 2012

"Chapter 7 of the Downtown Master Plan recommended creating a Downtown Management Entity to manage and coordinate downtown services, and augment city services to keep 'downtown clean, green and safe, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.' The Downtown Management Committee and an Interim Board have worked over the past 2 years to bring a proposal to City Council."

"This report outlines the services, budget, and governance for a proposed business improvement district (BID) in downtown Asheville. It is the result of research by the Downtown Management committee and Interim Board, interviews with property owners, and a survey distributed to businesses and property owners in the district."

Attachment B - Article 23, Municipal Service Districts
Attachment C - Survey Results
Attachment D - Economic Benefit Study

Asheville City Council > Asheville Downtown Commission
Regular Meeting
May 11, 2012

Resolution of Support for Business Improvement District in Downtown Asheville

"Ms. Sasha Vrtunski, Downtown Master Plan Project Manager, updated the Commissioners on the Business Improvement District (BID) in downtown Asheville. She said the BID came from the Downtown Master Plan and the Downtown Master Plan came from the Downtown Commission. She felt it was appropriate to bring this back to the Commission for their support."

"The Interim Board recommends...ask the City contribute $50,000 to the BID, along with some in-kind contributions, such as office space."

"Ms. Vrtunski explained when there is a special tax district in Buncombe County, that tax district gets a piece of the sales tax money (beginning in the 2nd year). Because it’s based on ad valorem value, the BID would receive approximately $130,000 from the County from the sales tax"

Asheville City Council
Community Meeting (Central Asheville)

May 29, 2012

"Director of Planning & Development Judy Daniel provided a brief update on the following:...consideration of a Business Improvement District"

"Mayor Bellamy then opened up the meeting for questions. Questions/comments responded to consisted of...opposition to Business Improvement District; support of Business Improvement District."

Asheville City Council
Public Hearing

June 12, 2012 (continued: Sep 25)


"Project Manager for the Asheville Downtown Master Plan Sasha Vrtunski said that this is the consideration of a resolution creating a downtown Municipal Service District, also known as a Business Improvement District (BID), in downtown Asheville. This public hearing was advertised on June 1, 2012. She said that the Downtown Master Plan, adopted by City Council in June 2009, strongly recommended a downtown management entity for Downtown Asheville. A subcommittee was formed by the Downtown Commission to explore this idea, and began meeting in December 2009. The Management committee worked for two years exploring a district for downtown Asheville. This included a needs survey, an Economic Benefits Study (which also included a business survey), a public forum at the Civic Center, and a series of seven meetings with business and property owners."

Continued to September 25, 2012

Asheville City Council
Public Hearing

September 25, 2012


Continued to October 2, 2012

Revised BID Proposal
Downtown Asheville BID Interim Board
September 28, 2012

The new BID proposal shortens the district's boundary, excluding the part of the Central Business District east of Charlotte Street. A proposed "ambassador" program, with uniformed volunteers assisting visitors and deterring "undesirable behavior," will be delayed until the second year of the BID, with its approval contingent upon review by a special committee open to community members. Instead, the BID will initially focus on street cleaning, snow removal, landscaping, graffiti removal and other clean-up services. -David Forbes, "Revised BID proposal," Mountain Xpress, 10/3/2012

Asheville City Council
Public Hearing

October 2, 2012


Continued to October 9, 2012

Asheville City Council
Public Hearing

October 9, 2012



Motion: Manheimer, Pelly second.
Passed 5-2. Bothwell, Bellay dissenting.

[NOTE: N.C.G.S. 160A-537(c) "In addition, [the proposal] shall be mailed at least four weeks before the date of the hearing by any class of U.S. mail which is fully prepaid to the owners as shown by the county tax records as of the preceding January 1 (and at the address shown thereon) of all property located within the proposed district."]

Business Improvement District Organization
Board of Directors

Organized under IRC Chapter 501(c)(6)
Three year renewable term

Voting Members:
3 Major Property Owners ($3M+)
2 Large Property Owners ($1.5-3M)
2 Small Property Owners (under $1.5M)
2 Retail/Restaurant Owners
2 Residents
1 Office
1 At-Large

Non-Voting Members:
1 City Manager
1 County Manager
1 Asheville Downtown Association
1 Asheville Downtown Commission

[NOTE: The revised proposal now calls for 19 board members with a voting member from Asheville City Council.]

Outside Service Provider Agencies
Request for Proposals

The BID board would enter into contracts with private entities to fulfill service requirements outlined in the BID charter; to include: "regular sweeping/washing of sidewalks, litter/trash pick-up, graffiti removal, snow removal, landscaping & amenities maintenance, and ambassador program."


City of Asheville
Annual district-wide property tax assessment

Downtown Asheville Business Improvement District Formation Report, Attachment D - Economic Benefit Study, Page viii

"If the BID tax rate is $.10 per $100, then estimated tax revenue for the BID is $637,411.69. If personal properties are included, the estimated tax revenue for the BID is $795,438.05...we can expect at least two percentage points positive in property values annually for the next several years with the implementation of the BID."

[NOTE: In the revised proposal, the initial budget would be scaled back from $750,000-$800,000 a year to $537,825, but would increase to $705,894 in the second year if the ambassador program is added.]

Asheville Finance Committee
Finance Committee Meeting
March 20, 2012

4. Downtown Business Improvement District Committee Presentation

"The cost to property owners is seven cents per one hundred dollars worth of property. This tax assessment would bring in about five hundred thousand dollars a year. The total program budget is eight hundred thousand dollars and taxes would bring in five hundred thousand dollars which leaves a three hundred thousand dollar shortfall. The District Committee is looking to the City and County to make up the difference."

City of Asheville
Outside Agency Funding
$200,000 annually

[NOTE: Outside Agency Grants are funded from the City’s general fund.]

Buncombe County
Outside Agency Funding
$200,000 annually

[NOTE: "The Interim Board decided to ask both City Council and the County Commission for $200,000 each, and Susan Griffin wrote requests to Council and to Wanda Greene. These requests were not made at meetings. Susan Griffin also presented at a Planning and Economic Development and a Finance Committee meeting back in the spring about the BID. In May, the Board found out that neither Council nor the Commission put the BID into their annual budgets. They decided to reduce their request to Council to $50,000 which is representative of what the city would pay if it's property was assessed at 7 cents. There has been no official action on this request (not in the current budget). This issue is coming back to Council on September 25 when a more detailed budget will be presented. If the BID is approved, it would take effect July 1, 2013. Any appropriations from the city to the BID wouldn't take place until the city's budget process next spring. I would think the BID would put their request through the outside agency funding process this winter."]


Towns, fire chiefs oppose Asheville BID due to loss of sales tax revenue
By David Forbes | Mountain Xpress | 07/18/2012
Buncombe County distributes a portion of its sales-tax revenue to every taxing entity in the county, including municipalities and fire districts. Another entity could mean a smaller piece of the pie for all the others. "The issue here is that we feel none of [us] should have to support a special district in the city of Asheville (or any of the other municipalities for that matter)," Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun wrote

StopAVLBID is an ad hoc community network formed in May of 2012 to oppose the creation of a business improvement district (BID) in downtown Asheville, NC. In addition to rejecting the proposed privatization of our public space, we advocate for a community development process that is collaborative, transparent and creative!

A primer on the Business Improvement District controversy
Mountain Xpress


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gordon Smith Opens Mouth

Be careful when mixing liquor with politics
John Boyle | AC-T | Sep 22, 2012

“Journalist” and “media” sure have loose meanings these days — Asheville City Councilman, local counselor and Scrutiny Hooligans blogger Gordon Smith attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on a media pass and proceeded to — let me word this gently — make a bit of a spectacle of himself.

He apparently snuck in a Dasani water bottle filled with a white liquor with a remarkably pungent aroma and proceeded to offer it around to folks in the press area.

This drew some odd looks from news organizations’ actual journalists. Smith also raised eyebrows by clapping enthusiastically during a speech, clearly violating the “no cheering in the press box” rule.

Hey, some may argue that he’s just doing what journalists have done for ages — drinking and being biased. Or maybe he felt the need to be a little oiled up for Obama’s speech. Who knows, maybe he just wanted to publicize the mountain moonshine tradition.

While it may be best to approach all politicians’ orations with a buzz on, allow me to get a tad sanctimonious for a second. Those of us who actually try to be fair and portray events accurately — and stay sober while doing so — take umbrage at someone calling themselves a “media” representative and then swigging moonshine at an event they’re allegedly “covering.”

Smith told me via email that he makes no effort to hide his bias, or to call himself a “journalist.” He got in on a “media” pass, he said. As far as the white liquor, he was pretty open about it.

“Neither journalists nor counselors are required to be teetotalers, and the other journalists who enjoyed the beverage in question at the convention can attest to that,” Smith said via email. “I could write about all of them, but that would be delving into their personal lives in a way that doesn’t suit me.”

“If you’d like to learn about some of my other experiences at the convention, whether it was meeting with Democratic municipal officials, watching the national media get tipsy at the Politico Lounge, or attending hours of caucus meetings, please feel free to contact me,” he went on. “It was quite an experience, one I’ll never forget.”

Side notes: How does a “media” person with the word “hooligans” in their organization’s title get past Secret Service security checks? Is security no longer concerned about liquids?

Anyway, people like his approach, Smith insists.

“I wear my bias on my sleeve, and the product is something that folks seem to like,” Smith said. “There was no mistaking that I was there as a friendly presence.”

Fair enough...

Email exchange between Boyle and Smith:

John Boyle:

Hi Gordon,

I’m working on a column for Sunday about some of the recent uproar over candidates’ wording (Obama and his “you didn’t bulid that,” Romney’s 47 percent brouhaha), and I’m mentioning the lawyer in the evidence room case suing “the office of district attorney” instead of Ron Moore, and the case getting tossed.

Those pesky words can be tricky, you know.

I was intrigued that you got into the DNC as a “journalist” and then proceeded to sneak in a Dasani bottle full of moonshine and offer it around, not to mention some flagrant cheering in the press box.

Needless to say, we have enough challenges as journalists without blogger/counselors behaving this way. I’d like to get some comment from you on this, today if at all possible. Some questions:

– Do you consider yourself a “journalist?’
– Why did you feel it was appropriate to bring moonshine to the DNC?
– Why were you cheering in the press box?

John Boyle

Gordon Smith:

Thanks, John, for reaching out.

I’m surprised at your perspective, and I’ll do my best to respond to your questions.

I’ve been blogging at Scrutiny Hooligans for over eight years, and the Democratic National Convention Committee offered bloggers the opportunity to get media passes. I applied and was accepted along with a colleague. My passes read “Media”, not “journalist”. We had a great time. Your colleagues, the folks who invited me to join them in the Gannett press box, Jon Ostendorff and Casey Blake, referred to me as an “advocacy journalist”, which I think is pretty generous. I referred to myself as a blogger. I asked to join them in their section for part of the convention, and they graciously invited me to do so. I spent some of all three convention days with them.

I am someone who records his thoughts, experiences and perspective across a number of online media platforms. I’ve been doing it for years. In addition to blogging at Scrutiny Hooligans, I also tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagrammed my experience at the convention in an effort to share it with the people of western North Carolina. I wear my bias on my sleeve, and the product is something that folks seem to like. There was no mistaking that I was there as a friendly presence.

As to “cheering” in the press box. That’s incorrect. At one point on the first or second day of the convention, I forgot where I was and began clapping in response to a speech being given. I got about two claps out before it dawned on me that the behavior wasn’t appropriate for the section I was in, and I slow-clapped my way down. It was funny and embarrassing in a Seinfeldesque sort of way. I then tweeted about it to explain that I’d learned a lesson and to let folks cringe at my embarrassment!

I did plenty of cheering at other times, in other areas. I was inspired and deeply moved by many of the speeches, especially Bill Clinton’s. Gabby Giffords’ recitation of the pledge of allegiance had me on my feet applauding as well. It was a great event that reflected some of the best things about our nation – definitely worth cheering about. I’m also a generally enthusiastic person. I cheered for you when you wrote that “Moffitt Ruling Like a King” article!

The stark contrast between the enthusiasm of the delegates and the focus of the paid media was one of the hallmarks of the entire experience for me. I appreciated Jon and Casey allowing me to join them. Never did I imagine that doing so would earn me a negative place in one of your columns. Another lesson learned.

Neither journalists nor counselors are required to be teetotalers, and the other journalists who enjoyed the beverage in questions at the convention can attest to that. I could write about all of them, but that would be delving into their personal lives in a way that doesn’t suit me.

If you’d like to learn about some of my other experiences at the Convention, whether it was meeting with Democratic Municipal Officials, watching the national media get tipsy at the Politico Lounge, or attending hours of caucus meetings, please feel free to contact me. It was quite an experience, one I’ll never forget.

I hope this is helpful,

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Big Water Meeting

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
#BIGWATERMEETING In attendance: Bothwell, Bellamy, Fisher, Mannheimer, Pelly, Chuck McGrady, Smith, Davis, Shoaf #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
TJ recording video #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Shoaf makes routine Powerpoint presentation. #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Mentions referendum in passing as part of future actions pending. #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Shoaf covers the LRC recommendations accurately. Discussing recent talks with effected agencies. #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Bellamy asks McGrady his thoughts on the upcoming referendum. #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: [light chuckle] "Frankly, I question the wisdom of the referendum" #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: "Neither outcome of the referendum gets us to the intent of the recommendations made." #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: "Council is a good advocate for the status quo" #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: "Barring change in sentiment in GA or findings of fact contrary to LRC, GA will introduce bill to effect recommendations." #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Davis: "I feel that the LRC process was disingenuous" #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Davis: "If I was Woodfin, I wouldn't want be a part of this thing either." #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Davis: "System takeover will add a layer of cost." #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Bothwell: "It looks like no matter what we do we will be forced to consolidate" [not sale or lease, eh, Cecil?] #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Smith: "We're being asked to negotiate in good faith with a proposal that was not made in good faith." #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Smith: "It's heartening to know that if the merger is too expensive it might not take place." [looks into audience for approval] #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Bellamy: "I wanted to do this in public and not behind closed doors." [that's a switch] #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
McGrady: "I'm sorry Rep. Moffitt couldn't be here but he is in a committee meeting today." [so THAT's why he's not here] #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Fisher: "I was very happy to get Woodfin boundary issue accomplished this session." [something on Moffitt's website about that ] #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Question of compensation broached by Bothwell in his general edgy comments. McGrady had no reply. Sat silent, inwardly grinning. #avlgov

Tim Peck ‏@timothypeck
Mayor thanks everyone. Pelly had no questions or comments. No further discussion. No public comment solicited. Meeting adjourned. #avlgov

Monday, September 10, 2012

Water Referendum

"Public bodies .. exist solely to conduct the people's business .. Every public body shall keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions .. Such minutes and accounts shall be public records .. [However, ] minutes .. of a closed session .. may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session. "

NC law mandates that accurate minutes be kept of closed sessions. "When a public body meets in closed session, it shall keep a general account of the closed session so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired."

Once a matter discussed in closed session is resolved, such as a lawsuit or settlement, the records of any proceeding of a public body must be disclosed to the owners of those proceedings: the public. Therefore, after the special election in November, publication of the minutes of the closed session on referendum language would no longer frustrate the purpose of the closed session and can be made public.

Council took up the matter of a water system referendum on August 14th. They deliberated, sought legal counsel and offered up variations on the wording. They settled on language for the referendum at that time and took a vote.

Why is this matter being revisited on August 30th?

Why did city attorney feel that he needed to further advise city council on referendum language that had already been approved by a unanimous vote more than two weeks ago? And why in closed session?

Clearly a change in the language was being contemplated.

Who suggested changing the referendum language?

How did they want the referendum to be differently worded?

What triggered consideration of a change in the language?

The law states, "A motion based on [attorney/client privilege] shall identify the parties in each existing lawsuit concerning which the public body expects to receive advice during the closed session.

What was the lawsuit connected with reconsideration of the language of the water referendum?

David Lawrence of the UNC School of Government states in his book 'County and Municipal Government in North Carolina,' that "the public body [city council] may give instructions to the attorney about handling or settling claims, litigation or other proceedings."

The referendum does not involve any claims, litigation or any other legal or court proceedings. And the advice was being given BY the attorney TO city council, not the other way around. It was Bob Oast who started the reconvened meeting by recommending that council go directly into closed session without discussion to hear his advice on the agenda item. Upon ending the closed session, council unanimously chose to take no further action on reconsideration of the language of the water system referendum.

Bob Oast states, "The outcome of the vote on the sale or lease of the water system would only affect the City’s ability to sell or lease the system. It would not affect the City’s ability to seek compensation if the transfer occurs in other ways."

This tells me that the purpose of the closed session was to discuss the issue of compensation. It also tells me that the city fully acknowledges that a transfer of the system will occur in other ways and that the referendum is being conducted solely as a political survey, which is not the intended function of the referendum process. The intended function is to effect the law. Council member Manheimer is on record stating that she favors the referendum because it will gauge the mood of the public.
"At our worksession we introduced the idea, or collectively, I introduced the idea of conducting a referendum in the next election, which would be the November election, regarding the potential sale or transfer of our water system. And let me just explain where this is coming from. The legislative study committee that concluded its work this last year stated that if the City of Asheville was in active negotiation regarding its water system that the city would avoid legislation that would effectively change the status of the water system by either creating an independent authority or transferring it to MSD. So, as you've already heard, the city, in compliance with that legislative study committee report, has put together a group to begin talking to MSD and we haven't done that yet but we've framed up a situation so that talk to MSD and then just in general just explore all of our options and try to understand what the possibilities are. We have stated though as a body that we're not in favor of any legislation transferring our water system. There is a statute, 160A-321, that was enacted by the legislature in the 2011 session which became effective January 1, 2012, which specifically says that if a city is considering the sale or lease of its water system it may conduct a referendum of its citizens to gauge whether or not there is approval of such a sale or lease. Since in any negotiation on the part of the city, again, looking at a scenario where the city is avoiding any legislation mandating a change, any negotiation that the city would enter into would contemplate a sale or lease. There may be other options too but sale or lease are the obvious two options. Since any negotiation might, would, contemplate those options we felt that it was very appropriate, under the statute, to conduct such a referendum since that information is absolutely necessary for the city council to know before it takes any independent action with regard to its water system. So, let me be very clear, we're not sitting up here saying we're ready to take action and sell or lease the water system. That is not the case. However, since we are required to enter into voluntary negotiations, and those negotiations ultimately would look at the sale or lease of the system, we feel it is necessary to use the statute to hold a referendum to understand the sentiment of the citizenry of Asheville on this issue. -Mannheimer, City Council Meeting, 8/14/2012, (time mark: 01:56:37)
The Legislative Research Commission’s Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee did not recommend that Asheville sell or lease a public enterprise that they do not own. This is the recommendation:

"The Committee recommends that the 2013 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly consolidate the Public Utility Water System with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. Should the interested governments craft their own solution for consolidation, which achieves all the objectives of the Committee, before the 2013 North Carolina General Assembly convenes, due consideration would be given to the local plan. Action will not be taken if the parties are engaged in good-faith negotiations on this matter."

Additionally, since the city has already taken $100M out of the water system for their general fund, it's unclear at this time whether or not Asheville will actually owe money after the merger.