City - County Gov.Leslee KulbaNews Stories

Council avoids controversy with short agenda

By Leslee Kulba –

The Middle East is ablaze. Back home, concepts like enumeration and separation of powers are on the verge of extinction, as citizens believe socialism is the best way to perpetuate a strong welfare state. But all this must be brushed from the mind; it’s officially Silly Season. This time of year, candidates say anything to get elected, and they know sometimes they say it best when they say nothing at all.

And so Asheville City Council breezed through their light agenda Tuesday. Approved without comment via the consent agenda was the Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Master Plan, a change order of $69,969 to enable the water department to integrate data stored on its old system into the Water Resources Asset Management Plan Update, and the purchase of two buses. The buses, which are larger than the others in the city’s fleet, will be purchased from the City of Gastonia for $9537 each. Gastonia displaced the buses, originally valued at $286,098, with two new ones purchased with porkulus.

Councilman Gordon Smith proclaimed October 24 Food Day in Asheville. He and Mayor Terry Bellamy lamented the food insecurity epidemic. Bellamy told of islands in the city where people have access to to neither fresh fruit nor grocery stores. Smith addressed obesity as a major form of food insecurity. Bellamy wished to thank Eblen Charities and Hearts with Hands for stocking backpacks with food so children dependent on school lunches can eat on the weekends. Last year, 49.4 percent of Asheville City Schools students were enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch program.

Next on the agenda was a celebration of Asheville’s Sister Cities. Former Mayor Russ Martin and his wife, New Age author Karon Korp, shared highlights of the past year. They were assisted by Valeria Watson-Doost, whose bright magenta fro brought out the curry tones in her native batik dress. Doost presented the mayor with a flag, a plaque, and a painting from Osogbo, Nigeria. A delegation from Valladolid, Mexico, had just returned from its visit to Asheville. Councilman Jan Davis had the highest of praise for the production “Palenque Rojo” delivered by 20 artists from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. In closing, the mayor attempted to thank Korp in Spanish for her good work.

In the next report, Civic Center Commission Mike Burke shared hopes, wishes, and dreams for the facility; but added the enterprise will not be in the black this year due to capital improvements. Sam Powers, who has been doubling as the city’s director of economic development and the Civic Center, introduced the facility’s new general manager, Christopher Corl. Corl managed the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a larger municipal facility in Winston-Salem that hosted the same forms of events. He will likely enjoy the peaceful mountain lifestyle. While in Winston-Salem, he fled his BMW on foot after two uninvited perps entered the vehicle, one of whom beat him on the head with a gun.

Another report was provided by the Civil Service Board. As usual, hints of the less-than-stellar activities that could only be mentioned in closed session were dropped, but all was said to be resolved. Phil Kleisler, in the interest of transparency and good faith negotiation, presented a brief update on the city’s compliance with programs set in motion by Representative Tim Moffitt’s legislation, which put Asheville on the defensive to prevent its water system from being taken over by the MSD.

By way of new business, council hastily and unanimously approved bicycle rickshaw taxis for downtown. The routes will cover the Central Business District, Historic Montford, and the River Arts District; and bikes will only run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. on weekends. The rickshaw bicycles may have motors with outputs up to 1 hp. The vehicles must carry insurance with minimum coverage specified in the contract, and they must also be subject to inspection. Drivers will have to pass a background check; applicants who have been convicted of “moral turpitude” and other specified offenses shall be rejected. Council previously approved a similar operation, but the business went under.

Fred English was the only citizen to offer public comment. He said Asian countries are doing away with rickshaws. He complained that the city outlawed skateboards, which move much faster than the bicycles. He urged council not to allow, “this nineteenth- . . . fourteenth- century stuff. We don’t need it.”

Following open public comment, Smith gave Moogfest a free ad. The festival will showcase synthesizer artists in multiple venues in the city this weekend. Tickets are still available. Following that, Councilman Marc Hunt invited members of the viewing public to apply for a seat on the Business Improvement District’s board of directors. Applications are available on the city’s “Boards & Commissions” web page. The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m., November 16.

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