Ashvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.By James Harrison

Happy Monday! Here’s your Hit List.

Bothwell’s “get out of garage free” card

Who knew such a thing existed? Late Thursday news was revealed that City Councilman Cecil Bothwell opened the gate for an estimated 60 vehicles leaving this week’s Mountain Moral Monday protest in downtown. According to Citizen-Timesreporter Mark Barrett, electronic records show Bothwell used his electronic parking pass to allow as many as six cars per minute to exit the garage, without paying any fees. The councilman has said he’ll be willing to pay for any unpaid parking fees, if the county sends him a bill.

Mountain Moral Monday redux

Speaking of Monday’s protest, did you go? Approximately 3,500 people did. The turnout for the second edition of Mountain Moral Monday was significantly less than the amount to show up on Pack Square last year, but the amount is still big for your typical protest in Asheville. You can read a recap of what went down at the event, here.

City eyes vacation rentals

Have any experience with VRBOs in Asheville? That may be about to change. City Council is expected to take a look at new rules for vacation home rentals in Asheville, which is big money for a lot of property owners in town. Discussion on the issue has been going on at the city level for some time, but new rules could be up for vote in a matter of months. More here in Mark Barrett’s report for the Citizen-Times.

Commissioners get in their zone

Some significant rezoning ordinances were approved by Buncombe County Commissioners this week, among which included the Asheville Regional Airport shifting from a Public Service Zone to an Airport Industrial Zone. According to Cameron Huntley’s report in Mountain Xpress, the change will accommodate ongoing expansion at the airport, and encourage “growth of aeronautic industry” in the area.

Budget in rearview

The week began with expectations for Gov. Pat McCrory to sign the $21.3 billion budget compromise put forward by state House and Senate members, and on Thursday he did just that. The governor said he was “proud” to sign the bill, at a ceremony at the Executive Mansion. Five weeks overdue, the budget includes $1,000 raises for most state workers and pay increases averaging 7 percent for public school teachers, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. Of course, legislators are still arguing over what the changes exactly mean. Analyses on sectors of the budget are just getting started (the environmentcoal ash and film incentives, to name a few), expect more in days to come.

Pope steps down

Besides the budget, the biggest news in Raleigh this week was Wednesday’s announcement that state budget director Art Pope would be stepping down from his post. Pope wielded (an arguably still wields) wide influence over conservative politics across the state, which drew him national attention and broad criticism during his two years at the helm. Pope’s future is unclear at this point, with some suggesting he may return to to help lead the Koch-brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, make a run for office, or seek the top slot at the University of North Carolina.

Moffitt trailing Turner

This week’s tidbit from the battle between Brian Turner and state Rep. Tim Moffitt—an internal poll released by Turner’s campaign has the Democratic challenger up 11 points on the GOP incumbent. The state Democratic Party House Caucus sponsored the poll, which was conducted by a firm which “specializes in electing Democrats and advancing progressive causes,” according to this Citizen-Times report. It’s the second poll released by Turner’s campaign showing the candidate with a lead over Moffitt, who is seeking a third term, is also contemplating a bid for House Speaker.

Meadows pushes exemptions

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows this week could be on its way to a vote. Meadows put forward the “Student Worker Exemption Act,” which would allow for Universities to not be penalized under the Affordable Care Act for not providing health insurance coverage to students employed on college campuses. The congressman put the bill forward after hearing the idea from the president of Western Carolina University, and UNC System President Tom Ross has given the plan his endorsement. More here.

Burr on the trail

Not the campaign trail, silly, the hiking trail! U.S. Sen. Richard Burr visited the Roan Highlands this week to commemorate conservation with U.S. Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell. Burr, who is the sponsor of a bill to allocate money for the continuation of a federal conservation fund, had some nice words for the mountains we call home. Read more on Burr’s visit and and area conservation work here.

Senate race update

Last week ended with news that U.S. Sen Kay Hagan underwent successful emergency eye surgery, causing her to miss Senate votes the previous night. The senator was expected to be “back to full speed” this week. Hagan’s procedure didn’t slow down any of the action in the fight for her Senate seat, though. Midweek, Hagan was ranked No. 4 on Roll Call’s list of the “Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators,” another poll has her and Tillis deadlocked. And the real fun is just getting started. Expect Tillis to get some support from high profile Republicans soon—according to this report from the Washington Post,former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will stump for the GOP candidate in North Carolina “over three days in mid-August.” Will big-dog Democrats be following suit for Hagan soon? Count on it.

James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for Nooga.com, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.

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32 Comments

  1. Cecil always has a way of painting his antics in a way that makes him look like a champion, even when he’s being a jerk.

  2. Hey, if Bothwell’s going to pay for it, who cares. Good for him for helping ease some congestion.

    • But this is the extra creepy part of it. Wanda Greene admits that the average charge to people who paid was $3.50 apiece. But she is charging Cecil $8 apiece for the 63 people he let out.

      The County is going to make a cool $300 profit off of Cecil, who was only trying to help people escape a County-caused clusterf***.

  3. I think we all know who should be paying that $512, now.

  4. Mike Fryar, on the other hand, was told by the County Manager not to take down the cable that was closing off the lot (after hours)…

    and told that it would be considered “destruction of County property”…

    what did he do – he removed the cable and allowed folks (his friends perhaps) to park in a closed County-owned parking lot.

    No cameras recorded his actions, no electronic device was present to show the number of folks who then entered the lot…

    Why has he not been charged with a crime – why was this not considered news-worthy at the time?

    • Just for the record, a lot of people park in those county (and county-leased) lots on Coxe Avenue after business hours, and I would wager that the overwhelming majority of them don’t even know who Mike Fryar is. His behavior in this instance sounds like it was a little bit “out of line” but it was unquestionably the right thing to do, and I know that I’ve taken advantage of it multiple times since the cables were removed.

      It’s an amusing coincidence that both incidents involve parking, but there’s no lost revenue involved in Fryar’s action, it just allowed people to use a public asset that had previously been restricted. I’m much more likely to support Bothwell’s side in the current kerfuffle, but Fryer doesn’t deserve the accusations of hypocrisy, at least.

      • there’s no lost revenue involved in Fryar’s action

        Is that really true? How many people no longer use the City’s parking garage two blocks away, now that they can park for free on a County lot that was previously closed?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the free parking, myself. But I don’t think it’s true to say that Fryar’s action isn’t leading to lost revenue for the City.

    • But Wanda Greene disputes Fryar’s story, telling News 13, “I told Mike, don’t do it, don’t mess with it, because it would be destruction of county property.”

      So Mike Fryar “destroyed county property” in order to let his friends park for free, over the expressed objections of the County Manager…

      We can expect Chad to call for Mike’s skull over this any minute now, right?

      • It’s OK if you are a Republican.

        • Idiot liberals. Man, you people are simply pathetic. Let’s deflect form the real issue to keep our liberal morons from getting in trouble.

          No, it’s NOT okay, and everyone knows that. Well, except for the liberals. Cretins.

          • Why do you have to call people names?

            Did your Mother not raise you better?

          • Ok, lets not fall off a nonexistent cliff here….

            yes, both are wrong, both are even morons, and both shouldn’t ‘get away with it’

            But, one is paying, quite literally for it, while the other is throwing stones and defending hypocrisy, and not willing to pay a pittance. His defense ‘I think the taxpayers have paid for the lot, so they should be allowed to park there’ right or wrong?

            This started outed as just an another eyeroll moment of Bothwell antics, turned into a political issue by Fryar, then his own hypocrisy ensued… In my mind what was a negative for Bothwell, now seemingly, is a positive. (in the public arena of stone throwing that is)

          • You need your own country.

          • In the ACT Fryar said he was trying to contact Ron Moore to get Bothwell criminally charged. Yet, when Fryar acted in a similar manner — doing damage to county property in the process — he wants a pass.

            Sounds like he certainly thinks it is OK when he does it.

    • Yeah but, I didn’t, but , It’s not the same, but, it doesn’t count I’m a conservative, and, uh, and ends justify the means right, and uh, Bothwell’s a crazy lib, and well you know?

      -things just got ackward……

  5. I’ve totally seen other city officials do exactly what Cecil did – stand at the gate with a card and just let folks out. I don’t know if he had the authority or not, and maybe that’s why they billed him, but I have seen more than once parking garages in downtown get blocked and impossible to exit because of faulty exit machines that wouldn’t take money, or just not able to handle the number of cars leaving all at once.

    The Rankin ave. deck and the College street deck.

    Not excusing him or anything, just saying it’s not totally unheard of for city officials to do that.

    • Steve feingold says:

      Mike, would you please fill us in on who else you’ve seen do this. I don’t believe you at all. Been in asheville 20 years and first incident I’ve heard of it.

      • The proper role of city officials in this instance would be to alert the proper authorities to repair the problem, not to use their personal cards and codes to deny the city its’ due revenue.

        Bothwell did this to help out HIS friends. I doubt he would have done the same if this had been the day of a rally at the Civic Center of, say, the GOP, the Tea Party, the NRA, etc.

        • First of all, this was a Buncombe County parking deck, not City. Second, as he said, Cecil saw that there was already a County employee on the scene, trying to help people with the ticket machine, and it still wasn’t working.

          It just bugs the crap out of you that Cecil did the right thing here, doesn’t it?

      • I think you are addressing me? (wrong name, if so).

        Permit me to use my words more carefully: ‘city officials’ is probably not what I saw. What I saw were ‘city employees’ or something of that nature. Parking deck attendants, maybe. So, no, I’ve not seen other city council members or whatever do this, but twice I’ve seen city employees do this when the machine stopped working or there were too many people.

  6. The UNC system would be a lot less Politically Correct with Art Pope running it. I have personally witnessed (and by default of not standing up for myself, been a victim of) discrimination against students who do not meet ultra-Liberal litmus tests in the classroom.

    Fascism works both ways.

  7. turnout for the second edition of Mountain Moral Monday was significantly less than the amount to show up on Pack Square last year

    That’s because last year’s MMM was the first MM outside Raleigh. Since then, communities all over the State are having their own events, and getting active in their own ways. It would be surprising if the 10,000 had all come back this year.

    The governor said he was “proud” to sign the bill

    Is he proud of the part that now gives police the authority to conduct drone surveillance on us without a warrant? The drone bill (co-sponsored by our own Rep. Tim Moffitt), was pasted word-for-word into the budget (anonymously of course – that’s the way you do it if your goal is to chop away at civil liberties without being held accountable for it in the coming election…).

    The GOP set it up so that it was a must-pass bill with no chance for amendments, so even after House Democrats saw the drone language in it, there was no way to pull it out.

    Thanks for the surveillance, NCGOP!

  8. Sounds like a great way to buy votes! And what was he doing in a parking garage anyways? I thought he lost his license for a month.

  9. According to Bothwell, his ‘free parking’ conspiracy was a different story.

    His story: The parking computer/money machine thing, was broken. Cars were waiting for at least two hours trying to get out of the garage. He was able to open the gate with his ‘free parking card’ and did so to get traffic moving and out.

    Sooo, was he a nice and concerned citizen, or was he maliciously giving like minded voters a free parking pass?

    • According to Wanda Green there was no malfunction. Someone is “mistaken”.

    • How convenient an excuse. Maybe if this had happened any other day than Mountain Moral Monday…

      Bothwell should DEFINITELY be sent a bill.

      • if this had happened any other day…

        During large events downtown, where hundreds of people are trying to leave at once, the garage is supposed to be set for a flat rate beforehand so that people can just drive out.

        Why was this not done this time? The County had plenty of warning, and a precedent of 10,000 people last year.

        If you want to get conspiratorial about it, maybe somebody was having a good laugh at the “libs” stuck breathing exhaust fumes for two hours, and Cecil screwed that up by doing the right thing.

        Wah!

      • He was sent a bill. Just under $600.

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