asheville_city_hall_smallThere’s a conversation happening right now, one about the state of Asheville. It is a conversation that is taking place across the city, in nonprofit meeting rooms, at brewery tasting rooms and over backyard bonfires. For me, it boils down to this: is Asheville a land of prosperity or a place that keeps many at the edge of poverty?

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer added to the conversation on Wednesday with her “state of the city” address. Her assessment was mostly positive, according to an Asheville Citizen-Times report, and pointed to the potential of new areas of growth to boost the city. The challenges she noted were challenges for the entity of city government to continue to provide services and grow.

But Manheimer’s speech doesn’t get to the human level of what’s really happening in Asheville. For that, check out the discussion happening around a column by Asheville Blade reporter David Forbes. He writes:

It’s worth taking a moment to ask what the state of the city is for most of us who live here. One of the major points of the Asheville Blade is that the reality of our city must be a topic for real discussion and debate. One of our first columns asked what a city for the rest of us would look like. We’ve tackled low wages, lingering segregation, why many feel they have to leave and our city’s illusions about itself.

For my take, I’d say that Asheville’s certainly a rapidly-changing city. The optimist in me would say that it’s a city with a great deal of untapped power.

I’d add that it is also a very divided city. For the people on the wrong side of that divide it’s a struggling city. If it’s a city that has anything resembling a future — at least for most of us living here – remains an open question. I have hope.

Forbes then asks readers to chime in. He’s getting a great response. Here’s a sample:

Roger Hartly, WCU professor of history:

The state of the city is at a critical juncture with prosperity that can leave many behind and worse off. What is approved now will change the face of us for generations. We must slow down, plan, regulate, redistribute and insure that we consider the damage of our actions now…rather than fixing later when too late.

Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell:

The city does not preferentially boost hotel projects. The 51 Biltmore thing was a stupid exception to the norm. Overall, city policy is aimed at funding “affordable” housing. When Public Interest Projects suckered City Council into approval of its extortionist price for 51 Biltmore, a promise of affordable housing was part of the bait. They lied.

Priscilla Ndiaye, local historian and activist:

Multiple perspectives, minimal diversity and inclusion; lack of knowledge, much confusion, and discouragement for some; lost/unrecognized history – more focus on infrastructure and grant dollars; less focus on humanity and sustainability for the majority — in the name of progress — all entwined as spiders in a web and any way you touch it, it trembles.

Leave a comment here or click over to the Asheville Blade and join in.

RECENT POSTS

57 Comments

  1. For anyone who missed it, indeed, Mr. Moffitt skipped not one, but two chances to debate Brian Turner on Thursday.

  2. Will Rep. Moffitt attend tonight’s League of Women Voters/YWCA candidate forum tonight? Brian Turner will be there, so will John Ager, Nathan Ramsey, Terry Van Duyn, Mark Crawford, and a number of the judicial candidates.

    I’m hearing that so far, Tim Moffitt hasn’t even acknowledged the invitation.

    • Mr. Moffitt, VOTED THE MOST EFFECTIVE Legislator in the General Assembly, wisely chose not to attend…why should he, none of his supporters need to hear him and the other EVIL democrackkks would just sneer and interrupt…democrackkks are EVIL that way..NO TOLERANCE for anyone other than their own criminal kind…

      • Mr Caudle, your meds are recommended by a medical professional who only has your best interests at heart. You really should take them.

      • hauntedheadnc says:

        Mr. Caudle, are you physically capable of typing or speaking the word “Democrat”? Or has your mental illness penetrated just that deeply into your psyche?

  3. RedHotPoker says:

    AVL is about THE MOST government dependent cities in America…so many talented people who ought to move on to other places where there ARE some jobs, or WERE pre
    Obongo…

    This county is run by CRIMINAL democrackkks…they are TAXPAYER THIEVES…Ditto city council…

    • “Obongo”

      Wow. Stormfront much?

      bit.ly/Zsmw8m (drag & drop)

      Racism makes people stupid. Thanks for letting us know there’s no need to respond to any “points” you think you are making.

    • hauntedheadnc says:

      Now, now, Mr. Caudle… This isn’t Topix, where mental illness is venerated and encouraged. You need to be more polite when talking with thinking adults in a thinking adult forum.

      By the way, when you cite statistics, such as Asheville being “about THE MOST government dependent cities in America” you’ll need to cite your source, or else you look like a fool who doesn’t get out much — kind of the way you do when you go on and on (and on and on) about how Asheville is just about the wickedy-wickedy-wickedest city to ever wick wickedly.

    • Asheville was way screwed up before Obama got into office.

  4. To quote the Joker in Batman, “This town needs an enema!”

  5. Davyne Dial says:

    I wish I had faith in the current trend of Asheville’s direction. I wish our present leadership instilled in me a sense that we are on a path to a future where the next generations can stay here and prosper. But the emphasis on tourism and service industries and McMansion building projects on the surrounding mountains are just low hanging fruit. My sense is we are destined to be a city of mostly tourists, people who serve them and wealthy retirees.

    It’s disappointing that our elected leaders want the prestige of being elected officials, but their leadership skills are low level at best

  6. Isn’t Mission Hospital the largest private landowner in Buncombe County?

    And isn’t it a fact they pay no property taxes or income taxes?

    Just who is it that sits on their board? What are their connections?

    Has anyone affiliated with them made any money from shady land deals off the backs of the low-wealthy? (that’s ‘the poor’ to you and me.)

    If David Forbes were to $imply follow the money, he might be very $urpri$ed where it lead$. In fact, I’m po$itive.

    • As a non-profit, Mission pays no property taxes. Not wild about Mission, but there you are. Taxing Mission would involve taxing churches.

    • luther blissett says:

      For once Mouthpiece raises an interesting question: if, as Mouthpiece suggests, there were a few too many cushy property deals related to certain parties, then one would hope that the state representative whose district covers many relevant parts of Buncombe County would mention such things and not, for instance, focus instead on shinning up the greasy pole in Raleigh and treating constituents as mere pawns on an ego-driven political ascent.

      …crickets…

    • luther blissett says:

      Actually, if Mouthpiece wants a full follow-the-money investigation of recent dubious property deals in Buncombe County, we ought to include the ones around the airport and Ag Center and the one that tried to expropriate Asheville’s water system. Just who is it that initiated those deals? What are their connections?

    • Or heck, if we’re demanding ‘follow the money’ investigations, how about this one:

      NCGOP Contributions Connected to “Biggest Gambling Ring Bust in SC”

      bit.ly/1ElTO9Q (drag & drop)

    • the MtnXpress/Fobes/Frankel, etal, are all VERY AFRAID of the TRUTH because
      ‘Truth is EVIL in the Empire of LIES’…MtnXpress is a VILE truth DENIER…they censor all their posts and do NOT allow dissent…they are the antithesis of
      a community service…

  7. Asheville runs on the medical community, government and other people’s money (retirees and tourists).

    Opportunities are extremely limited for folks trying to earn a solid income and build a career.

    A few one off opportunities arise with a slug of good jobs, eg, New Belgium, but they are few and far between.

    I don’t see much change on the horizon.

    Property taxes in Asheville are extremely high versus the surrounding areas, including unincorporated Buncombe County, which limits the appeal for folks to locate in the city.

    Morons like Bothwell and much of the council think they have answers. They don’t, of course, and foolish expenditures like the museum drive taxes up and rents along with them Beany has never met a tax or expenditure he doesn’t like.

    • Calling someone a moron is so petty and small. Can’t you ever be nice Indie?

    • Actually, property taxes are higher in the city because we have to subsidize the welfare queens out in the county. City businesses generate most of the sales tax revenue in the county, but city government only gets a fraction of that money. City cops patrol in the county for next to no money, and clean up accidents and other mishaps in town due to visiting yahoos from the county. And, of course, there’s the water thing, with county residents lounging in the hammock that is the 22000 acre watershed paid for by city residents.

      Low-class people get a great deal and turn around and slag their benefactors. Thanks for helping address the problems we all share in an adult way, you slacker.

      • Ashevillian says:

        Welfare queen is a myth invented by Ronald Regan. Please look it up so you can speak truthfully.

        • Correct. There was no Cadillac lady with the 38 government checks. Reagan invented a myth.

          However, there are countless Buncombe County residents who receive subsidies from the City of Asheville. They’re on welfare.

          • Actually it is the retired people who receive the highest percentage of that pie both locally and nationally. Folks receiving benefits such as snap or wic don’t get nearly as much as our growing elderly population get. Maybe if we provided a decent wage and more importantly the opportunity for AFFODABLE HOUSING folks wouldn’t need help. Sure there are those who abuse the system but, as someone who used to be a case manager it’s a temporary means to an end for most.

        • Let the City of Asheville have 100% of the sales tax revenue collected in city limits and watch what happens to property taxes out in the county.

          • Asheville is the engine that keeps the County budgets fat. Good chart prepared by Joe Minicozzi shows the collection/re-distribution up to 2010.

            bit.ly/1pYUlDY (drag & drop)

            Why only up to 2010 you ask? Because when the GOP took over, one of the first things they did at the Dept. of Revenue was to stop breaking out tax re-distribution numbers this way. They don’t want city residents to know how much they are supporting the counties that are constantly sniping at them, and don’t want the county residents to stop & think how much they depend on thriving cities for their budgets.

          • Former Reporter at WYPN says:

            This is, in a nutshell, the biggest challenge faced by the City in terms of budgets and funding–the inability to retain all of the sales tax generated in the city.

            It’s what will eventually lead to city/county government consolidation, IMHO.

          • Actually, no City in NC has the ability to retain all of the sales tax. It goes first to the State, which takes a cut, and then it’s sent back to the County for distribution.

            Here’s where it gets hinky. The County then gets to choose which of two distribution formulas it uses: “ad valorem” or “population”. I’m sure you’ll be shocked shocked to learn that Buncombe County uses the formula that sends more of the tax money outside the City. Last I checked, I believe the word was that shifting to the other formula would send roughly $5 million more of the sales tax generated in the City back to its budget.

            As for ‘consolidation’, it won’t be anything related to sales tax distribution that leads to it – it will be because Reps. Moffitt and Ramsey hate the City of Asheville, and are willing to erase it’s charter (as has been threatened), despite the fact that their constituents hate the idea.

            Vote wisely this year, is my advice.

      • I am always amused by the Insider vs Outsider argument of folks like roo.

        The only Buncombe county people I know who step foot in your beknighted city limits are the people who work there but cannot afford to live there, like most of the employees of Mission Hospital.

        Most long-time Buncombe County residents I know avoid downtown like the plague. The hill-billies and good ole’ boys (many who have lived here for generations) are repulsed by the hippies and hipsters (most of whom came here from somewhere else!) and vice-versa.

        I have never seen an APD officer on patrol outside of city limits. They have no jurisdiction outside of city limits. WTF are you talking about?

        Asheville asked for and deserves every bit of mess that outsiders generate. If Asheville did not want their money and their vomit, they would not promote their “beer city” status.

        • City patrols some county areas near city line through an agreement with County, part of facilities swap involving WNC Nature Center and McCormick Field.

          And people on welfare are often resentful. It’s okay.

        • hauntedheadnc says:

          That’s interesting, Big Al, that you know so few people who ever go shopping or eat at restaurants. I’m also curious as to what downtown would look like in your perfect world. Can you describe what sort of businesses might be there, and who their patrons might be?

        • luther blissett says:

          The hill-billies and good ole’ boys (many who have lived here for generations) are repulsed by the hippies and hipsters (most of whom came here from somewhere else!) and vice-versa.

          Really? They weren’t repulsed a century ago by the fancy-pants stonemasons and wood-carvers and glass-blowers and gallavanters and outlander ne’er-do-wells who came along with the Vanderbilts?

          If the people of Buncombe outside of Asheville want to assert their rugged independence and no longer on the city’s teat, perhaps it’s time for them to move to Murphy instead of Candler and Leicester.

          And the only people in WNC who didn’t come from “somewhere else” within several centuries? They live in the Qualla.

  8. Why are my property taxes paying not only for an art museum, but also the removal of graffiti from the buildings of millionaires? All the while the last water line leak in front of my house went ignored for over 6 months? My sidewalk is still without concrete and it’s been over a year since the repair.

    Why does a con like a Turner claim that UNCA cost are skyrocketing and the college is in dire straights all the while UNCA is literally buying everything surrounding it? Again, 1 percenters in this town are not held to any accountability whatsoever. Flakes, fakes, and phonies, all of them.

    Why do teachers complain of low pay yet if I can’t afford to pay my DOUBLE property taxes, the city cronies will literally and via force of guns and under the guise of the “law”, evict me from my property? Where’s my pay raise at? The people who work in the tax department laugh at those that complain. Laugh. That’s your government.

    Problem is that morons vote on party but not the person yet don’t comprehend it’s not Raleigh who has the biggest impact on their lives. It’s the elitist cronies like our mayor who’s never held a private sector job and literally is nothing more than an over-credentialed and underqualified government lawyer that is harming us all. On top of the tools in this town who refuse to realize that there’s plenty of college kids that will work for the low wages. Hence the service sector jobs that ARE NOT MEANT AS CAREERS but only a people mill where there are no lack of applications.

    • Since we are in the ranting mood: I am sick of greedy teachers complaining about a pay raise. I don’t care if NC is last in teacher pay. Teachers are grossly overpaid in every other state. Privatize all the public schools and let their pay be based on their performance like in the real world.

      I am also sick of the city/NCDOT tearing up the roads and taking forever to repave them. Tear up roads in sections and quickly repave each section before tearing up the next one.

      • luther blissett says:

        Teachers are grossly overpaid in every other state.

        We already knew you were a D-student, LVR. You don’t have to yell about it. And you shouldn’t blame the teachers. They work with what they’re given.

        Take your teabags, both of ye, down to Hendersonville.

        • I was an A-student.

          I don’t agree with the tea party on all issues. I’ll vote for Moffitt because he is the lesser of two evils.

          Privatize the public schools. I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s kids to be educated. 1/4 of my income goes toward taxes. Cut public schools (not all education) hence taxes and Asheville will become more affordable for me.

          I’m not against some taxes going toward education or for those who really can’t afford it.

          Not all private schools are religious schools. My cousin when to a boarding school in Connecticut (now making a lot of $ in NYC). When I moved from Chapel Hill, NC to Derry, NH , I noticed the town of 35,000 had no public high school. Some went to religious schools. Others went to Pinkerton Academy. It received some city funds and the parents paid the rest. It was not a dangerous environment like most public schools. The students were well behaved and well-educated.

          Hendersonville is a nice place BTW, but I wanted to be closer to the Blue Ridge Parkway (1 mile from where I live).

          • So incredibly selfish and short sighted.

            We need education so that our country and economy can operate! If we do not educate the children when you are old and inept who run this thing?

          • luther blissett says:

            I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s kids to be educated.

            Or for someone else’s house fire to be put out? See, these are questions that were asked and answered a hundred years ago, which is apparently just long enough for people to forget because “screw you, I got mine” is such a tempting attitude.

            I’m not against some taxes going toward education or for those who really can’t afford it.

            As the line goes, programs for the poor tend to be poor programs. There’s already enough trouble from people who want to tinker with public education without having a genuine stake in its outcomes — the shysters behind large parts of the charter school movement are a good modern example.

            It was not a dangerous environment like most public schools.

            Uh huh. New Hampshire, you say? We already had a clue about what you might think “dangerous”, and you’re not proving us wrong.

          • “So incredibly selfish and short sighted.”

            Not selfish or short sighted. I plan to sacrifice to send my children to private prep-school. Parents in charge of education is better for America’s future than the government in charge.

          • luther blissett says:

            Parents in charge of education is better for America’s future than the government in charge.

            How about educators in charge of education? Because I’ve encountered a lot of parents, and many of them are full of shit, and the best education their kids could get would be to recognise that their parents are full of shit. Present company included.

            Seriously, this is not difficult. If you a) hire people who enter teaching as a vocation; b) pay them a non-pitiful salary; c) don’t encumber them with idiotic requirements, whether from the state or corporate testing companies or the fruitloops who somehow get elected to school boards (hi Lisa Baldwin!) then you end up with kids who are knowledgeable and capable and empowered.

          • hauntedheadnc says:

            “Privatize the public schools. I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s kids to be educated. 1/4 of my income goes toward taxes. Cut public schools (not all education) hence taxes and Asheville will become more affordable for me.”

            Before you advocate doing away with something, you need to be absolutely sure you derive no benefit from it.

            That is not the case with public education, no matter how you try to spin it.

    • “the elitist cronies like our mayor who’s never held a private sector job”

      She may be somewhat ‘elitist’ (not sure how you define that, but OK – that’s your opinion), but just get your facts right. From the Van Winkle website:

      “Esther joined The Van Winkle Law Firm in 2002. Her practice focuses on commercial litigation specifically in the areas of land litigation and creditors’ rights.”

    • Turner LIES because democrackkks ARE LIARS !!! They NEVER deal in TRUTH…

  9. FloridaScamp says:

    Asheville is not alone in this situation, I smile when I walk around downtown and watch some of the “trustafarian buskers” (you tell buy the chaco sandals and other hip clothing brands they wear, plus they must have a dog) work the “gawkerists” (tourists who are not going to buy anything just admiring this Top 10 list town).

    Aspen
    Boulder
    Nantucket
    Steamboat Springs
    mackinaw island
    charleston
    savannah
    amelia island
    THE LIST could go on….a desirable place gets discovered, disposable income flows that direction, people get displaced and the cycle starts again…it SUX but it’ the nature of “power, money, and greed”. Of course one option is to discover the next place to “go off” and get their first and make money so you can become the one with disposable income to keep the cycle going…

  10. Former Reporter at WYPN says:

    Why do so many people act like many of the issues that affect Asheville are limited only to Asheville?

    Look around, do some research, read a national magazine or newspaper. Many of these are American issues, not Asheville’s alone.

    Too many people in this community do nothing but engage in navel gazing.

    • luther blissett says:

      Um, I think we’re all capable of holding in our heads the concept that there are broader national trends (inequality, wage stagnation) and things that are specific to Asheville like the over-reliance on tourist / retiree / second-home income, the cliquishness of local power structures, the shadow cast by large local businesses, and the way in which population churn has been used to paper over the cracks. Asheville isn’t Hickory, or Charlotte, or Bryson City.

      • Former Reporter at WYPN says:

        You think “the cliquishness of local power structures” and “the shadow cast by large local businesses” are unique to Asheville?

        Not a chance.

        I’m not sure I understand the observation that “population churn” has been used to “paper over the cracks.” Population churn? That makes no sense, either. We have our challenges, for sure, but “population churn” isn’t one of them.

        • luther blissett says:

          You think “the cliquishness of local power structures” and “the shadow cast by large local businesses” are unique to Asheville?

          I think the particular combination of power structures are distinctive to Asheville. There just aren’t that many metro areas of this size with one dominant local grocery chain, one dominant healthcare monopoly, one significant quasi-aristocratic property owner, etc. (Boulder, which is considered Asheville-like, has Safeway, not Ingles, though its “community” hospital is reminiscent of Mission.)

          Trying to say that it’s all about broad trends is as misguided as claiming Asheville to be a unique snowflake, except nobody on this thread is claiming that Asheville is its own unique snowflake.

          Population churn? That makes no sense, either.

          Of course it does. Don’t be dumb. To quote NFB downthread: “Eventually people give up trying and move on, but there are always more to follow to take their place.”

          For every hopeful new arrival, for whom the surroundings are some compensation for shitty wages and shitty prospects, there are a bunch of people making do as best they can and a few others heading out of town. Asheville’s a tough place to leave, even if you know its limits, but once you’re gone, you’re no longer around to say why you left.

      • “Um, I think we’re all capable of holding in our heads the concept that there are broader national trends (inequality, wage stagnation) and things that are specific to Asheville like the over-reliance on tourist / retiree / second-home income”

        I have lived in several states. Asheville’s problems “over-reliance on tourist / retiree / second-home income” are unique compared to “Hickory, or Charlotte, or Bryson City”. As FloridaScamp pointed out, though, they are not unique compared to other tourist towns (try affordable housing in Jackson Hole, WY near the Grand Teton NP).

        Asheville was lucky to regain its status as a tourist destination. Otherwise, it could have collapsed like other manufacturing centers because of Bill Clinton’s free trade which gave our well-paying jobs to China. Now, the only “healthy” left cities are tourist-based, banking/financed based (Charlotte), government (Raleigh), or Education/Research based (Research Triangle). Some cities like Charleston (tourism, military base, Port of Charleston)have several.

        There are still some manufacturing based economies left (Greer-BMW). More manufacturing plants will return to the USA as automation reduces China’s cheap labor advantage and America’s shale/gas boom lowers our energy costs relative to theirs. It will prove too costly to manufacture it there and then to haul it across the Pacific.

        Asheville’s trump card is its mountains and its quality of life. It should use its advantages to entice industry, education, etc. All else considered equal, college students will choose Asheville (like they did Boone) over places like Durham or Chapel Hill (I have also lived there). Colleges generate massive opportunities and Asheville could do more to tap into it.

  11. This is nothing new. Asheville has always been a playground for the rich — even before the Vaderbilts arrived. Nothing has changed for the simple reason is that the system works well for the powers that be.

    As long as there are people willing to try to live on nine bucks an hour (of that) for the dream of living here nothing will change. Eventually people give up trying and move on, but there are always more to follow to take their place. Groups like the Asheville Chamber of Commerce understand this and, no matter the rhetoric, simply have no interest in changing the rules of a game that they have been winning for generations.

  12. luther blissett says:

    If you bring in a chunk of money from outside (or have it handed down to you) then you can do plenty in Asheville. If you try to succeed by working, regardless of your talent or ambition or effort, it’s pretty hard to build something that grows and lasts. Asheville is like a city under a thick transparent dome: you always find yourself bumping into limits.

    Perhaps that’s just the nature of the city, like a stove that needs regular fuelling, and the best we can hope for is that enough trees are planted to replace the ones we cut for firewood.

    • I found it interesting that they changed the tagline in an effort to sway people between 25-55 with incomes of $75,000+. They are finally getting away from the retirement crowd, but I can count on 1 hand the number of peers I have (45 & under) who make $75,000+ in this town – even as a family. It is really starting to feel exploitative.

      A couple quick facts:
      Males have a median income of $30,463
      Females have a median income of $23,488
      Median family income is $44,029 — that’s still $30K under what the chamber is trying to target our city to.

      And here is the real kicker:
      Persons below poverty level 2008-2012 20.2%

      1 in 5 people in poverty level.
      And we want to continue focusing our efforts on being a playground for the rich.

      Fine – then give everyone a living wage of $13/hr including the serving and hotel employees.
      Give us the opportunity to have a city worth exploiting by having healthy vibrant communities worth celebrating.

  13. If you’re filthy rich, it’s great.

    If you’re a working Joe like me- well, let’s see. Highest rents of any city in the state, high taxes, expensive utilities. Lowest per capta wages in the state. Cheap-@$$ employers that know people are hurting and want to live here and offer sh@t wages accordingly.

    Not so good in my mind unless you are the 1%.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*