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Council High on Pot, Low on Vaping


Councilman Jan Davis asked for an item concerning the restoration of the Vance Monument to be pulled from the consent agenda. Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Ivester reported a recent survey of public art had identified the city-center obelisk as a top priority for restoration. The 26th North Carolina Regiment reenactors offered to adopt the monument and raise funds for the $115,000 project. The city contributed $11,000. The 26th, which specializes in commemorating heroes and preserving landmarks of the Civil War era, will be contracting with Kestrel Construction and Karkadoulias Bronze Art. For 3-4 weeks in April, the monument will be surrounded to the top in scaffolding. “This is too significant to not get those folks up here and thank them for it,” said Davis.

Next, Councilman Gordon Smith asked for more information about why the city was about to ban e-cigarettes. Reportedly in response to a number of complainants riding public transit, the City of Asheville has decided to subject e-cigarettes to the same restrictions that apply to cigarettes, cigars, and pipes on city-owned property. That is, firing one up could now result in a $50 fine.

At a meeting only weeks ago, Todd Stimson, who had been arrested for treating his daughter’s cancer with marijuana, stirred favorable excitement from members of council when he asked them to sign a resolution of support for legislation in the works. House Bill 78, with the acting title, “An Act to Enact the North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act,” passed its first reading in the House before being referred to three committees. This they did in spite of a number of studies that conclude the presidential choom weed is an anti-performance drug.

By contrast, the staff report published by the city on e-cigarettes stated, “While the long-term health effects of exposure to 2nd hand vapors emitted from e-cigarettes are unknown, according to a Study conducted by the Federal Drug and Food Administration, on 2 leading e-cigarette brands, there was evidence of toxic chemicals in both. Critics point to studies revealing that exhaling vapors from e-cigarettes releases measurable amounts of carcinogens and toxins in the air. Finally, in the last six months, there have been battery explosions either during charging of the e-cigarette or while in use. [sic., sic., sic., . . .]”

The claim is inane on several grounds: (1) Many things are not banned because dangers have not been identified. (2)One study does not establish science. (3) Every chemical is toxic, as toxicity is a function of dosage. (4) That a carcinogen or toxin is measurable does not mean the amount measured exceeds thresholds deemed safe. (5) Batteries explode in laptops and cell phones, and nobody is calling for their bans.

Councilman Cecil Bothwell was the only member of council to clarify the ban. He said there are about 250 e-cigarette devices and no consistency in the vapors they produce. Some appear to be OK; others, not so. Bothwell said it would be safe to apply the same rules to all the e-cigarettes until the good and the bad can be better differentiated.

Following that discussion, council moved on to the only business item, which was deciding which six of twelve candidates they wanted to interview for the Asheville school board. Vice Mayor Marc Hunt said council will proceed with background checks, and any information gained therefrom would be kept confidential. The change in policy couldn’t help but arouse suspicions it was targeted.

Like the teachers who give out the test questions early, Smith requested the floor to say what he would be seeking in candidates. He wanted them to be “collaborative,” “effective leaders,” “changemakers,” and “innovators.” More specifically, he wanted them to elaborate on, “justice for the Randolph School kids and what they believe that might be, why we haven’t gotten further on healthy food in our schools and how we can, and where they feel there’s room to be collaborative.”

Two chefs just happened to be in the audience to take the microphone during public comment at the end of the meeting. They shared Smith’s priority of appointing school board members with a commitment to availing locally-grown, organic produce to children. The six candidates who made the cut were Steve Dykes, Greg Walker Wilson, James Lee, Shaunda Sanford, Martha Geitner, and Joanna Best. Resumes and answers to candidate questions are available via

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