With a Little Help from Your Friends

Photography by Noah Buscher

AshevilleAsheville Editor’s Note: If you haven’t read the “Council Can’t Control Their Wish List” article, please do so before reading this commentary.

After reading reporter Leslie Kulba’s coverage of the Asheville City County’s retreat, I’ve concluded that the city council are like kids in a candy store who can’t figure out what they want, or they want it all. The trouble is that’s costing the taxpayers plenty in wasted time. The city staff is exploring ideas that the council has come up with in these work sessions and retreats and then not even remembering them. That’s right, don’t even remember them. Just read the next paragraph.

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer says she has gotten “wise to how these things work,” adding the council “brainstormed and spitballed ideas.” Then when council saw the finalized list at a later date, there would be things on it that all members could neither remember being suggested nor even explain what they meant.

Huh? Can anyone say unorganized and out of control? That’s what I’m seeing here, and that costs the taxpayers money. And what is poor Asheville Mayor Manheimer’s response? The town has a “weak-mayor system, so she doesn’t get a press office and other perquisites like New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio.” 

Now pardon me, mayor, I don’t mean to be “mansplaining” to you, but you are the mayor, and you pretty much set the tone and agenda for the meetings. At least that’s the way it works in Weaverville. You might want to call and get some tips from Weaverville Mayor Al Root, but don’t think that organization is just a man’s area of expertise. Former Weaverville Mayor Bett Stroud, who recently died and current council member and former Mayor Dottie Sherrill, also conducted their meetings with a method that operated like clockwork. Oh, and they’ve never had a facilitator run their sessions.

I got an idea. Now, I’m gambling that I might be seen once again “mansplaining” to you, but I’ll risk it to help you out. How about if each member comes up with say, one idea, they’d like to work on during the year. Well, that would give you six items right there. That’s right there where your facilitator wanted you all to be. 

You could even push the limits and come up with one yourself, mayor, and give yourself a little power too. You can even vote on the ideas and see if the majority likes the idea. If not, whoever’s idea gets shot down gets another chance to come up with another item. Now, that wasn’t so hard, now was it? Everyone now not only can remember who brought it up, but the majority votes on it. Heck, I think I’ll put in for that facilitator’s job next year.

Now we’ve solved part of your problem. Let’s tackle Councilwoman Kim Roney’s strategy to pull together a task force of experts and stakeholders to decide. News flash, councilwoman, we live in a representative republic, not a democracy. You were elected in a democratic way to represent the people and make a decision for them. Don’t waste more money building a taskforce of experts and stakeholder. Just listen to your constituents and represent them.

Councilwoman Gwen Wisler added, “it might seem like a lot of money, but she was sure the community – because they were expecting it – had already spent it.” 

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