Mayor Gives Informal State of City - TribPapers

Mayor Gives Informal State of City

As the elected leader of the City of Asheville, Mayor Esther Manheimer felt compelled to remind certain people with a history of disregarding law and order about the importance of living together amicably and respectfully and appreciating the rights of everyone to go about their business with a sense of safety.

Asheville – Prior to the last formal meeting of Asheville City Council, Mayor Esther Manheimer thanked everybody on the dais for granting her a moment of personal privilege. She began, “I just wanted to speak to a couple of incidents that have happened recently in our community. As many of you know, our Councilmember Maggie Ullman had an incident at her home where her car windows were smashed out and her tires were slashed, and we had an incident where two police vehicles were lit on fire and burned….

“As I’ve served in this office, I interact a lot with groups that study service in public life, and they do interviews and polls, and they talk to mayors and councilmembers and other elected officials and ask them if they experience incidents of being attacked or – and it’s on the rise, as you may know.

“I personally have had people come to my house at Passover, during a Passover Seder that I was hosting for my family because they wanted to convey to me messages about policing. I’ve had people come to my work that we’ve had to get restraining orders against. I have had sexually violent communications sent to my email accounts.

“I haven’t publicly shared these incidents, but I think it’s important now. I think most people don’t realize that these sorts of things happen because they’re not participating in them in any way. They’re just being regular people in the community, and once in a while might feel the need to email their city council, and they’re very polite when they do that.

“But that is not always the case, and at least for my family, we have this discussion periodically with my husband and my boys, and my extended family about what are the risks and whether it’s worth it. I still think it’s worth it, and I still generally feel safe. But I will say this incident with Maggie was very jarring. It’s scary. It’s very serious.

“We’re going to have some difficult discussions tonight. We’re going to have some strong opinions. People are going to disagree. But just keep in mind that we’ve all got to live and work, be around and love one another after today and on to tomorrow, and try to do our jobs to the best of our ability. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re all doing it. You’re doing it. We’re doing it because we believe in this community. We believe in each other. And I try to look through a lot of the noise, see the substance, and try to make good decisions for this community. And I know these councilmembers do, too.”

The mayor’s call for civility represented an attempt to get ahead of discussions on matters she knew were polarizing the community. After all, activists from the Defund movement were in the audience, and a couple would say things during public comment that sounded like thinly-veiled threats. Sadly, the meeting ended as discouragingly as it began, as Jonathan Wainscott took the microphone for general public comment.

He began, “I’d just like to extend a little open statement of support for Councilwoman Ullman. I’m really upset over what happened to you. You had somebody come onto your property and damage your car in a pretty significant way, and I certainly hope that person is caught and charged with all of the crimes that would have been involved with that. I would imagine that criminal trespass, coming onto your property, would be included, maybe a communicated threat.

“Now, back in January of 2019, which was quite a long time ago, somebody came onto my property and set my car on fire in my driveway. They set my car on fire in my driveway! Then, on March 15, 2019, a long time ago, a person was arrested for this crime. They weren’t charged with criminal trespass onto my property or communicating a threat or damage to my car, all of these things which could have been charged. He was charged with felony burning of personal property…

“Now, he was arrested four years, five months, and one week ago, and this trial is still not on the court calendar! This case has been pending for longer than the term of our district attorney, Todd Williams. Does anybody know if he’s still alive? Could somebody please check on Todd Williams to find out why my case has not been heard in four years, five months, and one week and counting and is still not on the calendar?”