By Leslee Kulba-“The Mayor and the City Council of the City of Asheville through the adoption of this protest resolution hereby declares [sic.] its [sic.] outrage and condemnation for SL 2011-268 and SL 2013-369.
“The Mayor and the City Council of the City of Asheville resolve that a copy of this resolution be spread upon its minutes for public consumption and that a copy be sent to the North Carolina General Assembly.”
So read a resolution unanimously approved by council Tuesday. It was in response to what Councilman Cecil Bothwell referred to as an “idiotic law passed by our legislators.” The subject was exactly which recreational areas should allow concealed-carry handguns.
As Assistant City Attorney Jannice Ashley explained, a state law passed in 2011 prohibited municipalities from prohibiting concealed carry in parks. The same law gave municipalities an out by exempting recreational facilities, which were defined to be playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools, and athletic facilities. Predictably, the City of Asheville revised its ordinances to make sure concealed carries were banned to the maximum extent allowed.
This year, the legislature weakened the ban. It prohibited local governments from banning concealed carry on playgrounds anytime, and on athletic fields except at “organized athletic events . . . scheduled with the municipality.” It further added clarifying language so municipalities would not be able to ban concealed carry on greenways or “designated” bike or ped paths. City staff requested council once again revise its ordinances to ban legal weapons to the fullest extent allowed.
When the full body of council first considered the proposed ordinance, they remanded it to the Public Safety Committee. Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer thought there may have been a typo. It made no sense to her to allow guns on playgrounds. That night, council also determined a resolution should be crafted to decry the legislature’s actions.
With further investigation, staff determined no mistake had been made in their interpretation of the law. At Tuesday’s meeting, in response to a prompt by Councilman Gordon Smith, Ashley said if council did not update its ordinance, it risked having the entire ordinance declared invalid, thereby lifting its bans on handguns in exempted areas.
Manheimer’s issues remained unresolved. Some of the city’s parks include areas that allow concealed carry and areas that don’t. It would be impossible for somebody with a concealed carry to walk from one end of certain recreational areas to another. Enforcement would be nearly impossible. What’s more, some of the areas that allow concealed carry abut or are near residential areas.
Only Dean Worley wished to address council during public comment. In what should have been a reminder, Worley told members of council about restrictions already in place for those who obtain concealed-carry permits. For example, if they wish to enter a complex with 300 offices, and just one is a federal, state, or local government office, they are not allowed to take their guns. Because concealed carriers submit to more restrictions than others who carry guns, it should follow that they are more-likely to be law-abiding citizens.
The overwhelming majority of today’s shooting sprees that capture headlines take place in venues where concealed carries are forbidden. Anybody wanting to get away with murder is more likely to shoot where no law-abiding citizen is likely to fire back. Worley reiterated that nobody in their right mind wants to kill anybody, but many want to be empowered to defend the innocents.
In Other Matters –
For the benefit of the public, council received a report from the NC DOT about the Diverging Diamond Interchange planned for I-26 by the airport. The traffic pattern would cause the northbound and southbound lanes on NC 280 to cross, with drivers on the left while under the bridge. The design would reduce conflict points from thirty to eighteen and increase levels of service from failure mode to A’s, B’s, and C’s. Construction should finish sooner with fewer traffic disruptions, and cost $5.5 million instead of $30 million – except bids to date are coming in higher than the engineers’ estimates.
Council also received a report from Mission Health. Top executives stood by as they screened a slide presentation. Repetitive, nondescriptive music tinkled as clipart graphics and unqualified statistics did antics to sound effects. Half the audience couldn’t see the screen due to the layout of the room.
Council quickly rubber-stamped the county’s budget-friendly architectural changes for the new Health and Workforce Development Facility at AB Tech. Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton said the greatest accomplishment in reworking the plans was bringing the building toward Victoria Road so newcomers would know they had arrived on campus.
Following the bursting of the housing bubble, council decided to transfer $27,178 in HUD funds initially awarded to the now defunct Neighborhood Housing Services to Mountain Housing Opportunities. 95 percent of the grant will go toward helping people who may not qualify for conventional mortgages become homeowners. The city will get to skim 5 percent for administrative costs.