At least four members of Asheville City Council favor amending the city’s charter to undo a move to elect council members by districts, the new system that North Carolina legislators made law last year, Councilwoman Julie Mayfield said Wednesday.
Mayfield offered the comments as part of her monthly update to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Mayfield is an ex-officio member of the TDA. Here’s more:
-Mayfield reminded the TDA that City Council held a work session in July to hear in more detail the options it had in responding to the legislation, sponsored by N.C. Rep. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County and approved by the General Assembly. The legislation did the following: created five districts for City Council members, while keeping one at-large district (with the mayor elected at large); did away with a primary election that was in place; and moved City Council elections to even years, pushing the 2019 election to 2020. After that session, City Council held a closed session meeting for further talks, Mayfield said.
-Mayfield summarized City Council’s options for the TDA: council could fight the new law in court, or amend the city charter to do away with the district election plan and put back in place a primary election. The primary would be held in October, she said. A charter amendment cannot move the date of City Council elections back to odd-numbered years, Mayfield said.
-“There’s a majority of council that is not interested in seeing 2020 elections happen under legislation that has passed,” Mayfield said. “We’re still exploring how to affect that change,” she said. “If I had to guess, my guess is a charter change.”
-So what’s next? “The timing of that is uncertain, but that’s where I think we’re headed,” Mayfield said.
-In the meantime, Councilman Vijay Kapoor has offered his own compromise: keep a district election plan, but expand the number of City Council seats from seven to nine. Under Kapoor’s proposal, five seats would be elected by districts, and three would be elected at large, with the mayor also elected at large.