Here’s an update on Asheville City Council elections for Election ’17. There are four seats up for grabs this year: Mayor Esther Manheimer’s seat, as well as the seats held by Gwen Wisler, Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell.
Manheimer has announced she’s seeking re-election to a second term as mayor. Smith has announced he’s not running. Wisler hasn’t made a formal announcement that I’ve seen, but word on the street is that she will run again. And Bothwell has announced he’s running again for a third term on council.
From Bothwell’s statement:
“The biggest piece of unfinished business I want to work on is the new park in front of the Basilica.” Starting in 2005 Cecil has been a leader in the fight for a park opposite the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the Civic Center, helping to defeat plans for a multi-story parking deck and then opposing construction of a hotel or other commercial development on the property.
“Since 2005 residents have lobbied City Council to make that area a green space and I have always favored it. “We now have three solid votes for the park on City Council, and I’m pretty sure the November election will add a fourth,” he said, and added, “Though I remain optimistic that we won’t have to wait that long.”
Bothwell notes that his main focus has been on environmental issues over the years. In 2003, he wrote the petition which generated enough support to block construction of a condo building on part of what is today Roger McGuire Green in Pack Square Park, and he’s been a leading advocate for single-stream recycling and the steady reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from city operations, he says in his statement.
Bothwell also has a fascinating background. Again from his statement:
Cecil’s career includes decades as a green builder, founding editor of a Warren Wilson College environmental journal, managing editor of the Mountain Xpress, investigative reporter, radio host and commentator, syndicated columnist, musician, slam poet, artist and organic gardener. He is author of 10 books, winner of regional and national journalism awards, and has addressed issues of ethics and the environment before groups in 25 cities in a dozen states. A Buncombe resident for 37 years he has camped and traveled in every state and canoed parts of every major river system in North America. For more than a decade he has served on the boards of two local nonprofit groups building libraries and grade schools in Bolivia and Guatemala.
Other declared candidates for City Council include Rich Lee, Kimberly Roney and Vijay Kapoor.
In other candidate news, Asheville Realtor Jeremy Goldstein, who serves as chairman of the Asheville Planning & Zoning Commission, says that he’ll be making his first run for City Council this year. A key issue for Goldstein is development. Goldstein was notably opposed to new hotel development regulations recently approved by Asheville City Council.
Here’s Goldstein’s statement:
I am running because I love Asheville. I am running because I want my four sons to have the option to return to these mountains once they are grown to find a job and an affordable place to live. I am running because I want them to want to return to Asheville, a place that my wife and I chose to make our home nearly twenty years ago, the place where my wife grew up, where we are raising our children. I am running because I believe a small business owner with a common sense, moderate voice is needed on Council.
In addition to serving for over five years on the Planning and Zoning Commission, including three and a half years as the Chair, I have spent most of my waking hours working in downtown Asheville, starting a local business, helping other local businesses launch, expand, and sometimes contract. I have also assisted developers bringing much needed housing to our downtown, and I will continue to pursue both market rate and affordable housing efforts in downtown Asheville. I feel obligated to serve. With nearly twenty-five years of commercial real estate experience and a degree in Public Policy, I believe I have a valuable perspective to add to our Council.
The public invested thousands of collective hours in the creation of our Downtown Master Plan. The City is in the midst of a major comprehensive plan update, an 18-month process. The culmination of this process will reflect our collective community goals. I believe we can then turn our focus to reexamining our UDO. Approving a 51-page amendment to the UDO at this point in time, after one public meeting in which participants favored leaving the regulations as-is 2-1 and one online survey with 140 participants who were nearly evenly split, is a mistake. I realize we had an election. I realize people are frustrated by traffic, lack of affordable housing, and tourists. In my opinion, Council’s recent policy change will contribute to sprawl, make housing less affordable, and increase traffic in downtown Asheville. It will also lower our tax base and discourage the improvement of our infrastructure and development exactly where we need it.
Finally, an update on the possibility of district elections for Asheville City Council arrived this week in the form of a story by the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reports that N.C. Sen. Chuck Edwards says he’ll submit a bill requiring that Asheville City Council elect members by district. Right now, all City Council members are elected in at-large (nonpartisan) elections.
Edwards now holds the seat formerly held by Tom Apodoca, who pushed a district elections bill last year before he left office. Apodoca’s bill passed in the state Senate, but failed in the N.C. House.
City Council has been considering whether to poll city residents on the issue of whether the city should move to district elections.