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Two city government veterans throw hats in election ring


Michalove RS

Ken Michalove

Miall, Michalove round out city council candidates

By Roger McCredie-   A longtime city department head and one of Asheville’s best known former mayors have formally entered the race to fill city three council seats that are up for grabs in this fall’s municipal elections.

Former city risk management director and civil service head John Miall announced his candidacy just before the candidate filing deadline last week. Just two days before Miall, former mayor and city councilman Ken Michalove declared that he would run.

Though the election is nonpartisan, both Miall and Michalove identify themselves as Democrats, though not, they say, of the same “progressive” stripe that each claims has brought upheaval and financial instability to the city, especially over the past decade.

Miall, who opposed Esther Manheimer in the 2013 mayoral race, says he has been reflecting on running for council “for many months,” and that his decision to do so was based on “the direction the so-called progressives that dominate city government have been taking us for several years, particularly the past two years.

“We’re in desperate need of a more moderate mindset in city government,” Miall told the Tribune.  “As it is, we have biennial tax and fee increases to support a really badly skewed set of priorities.  For instance we can’t get our city infrastructure fixed, but we can dole out millions of dollars to bribe outside businesses to locate here on the grounds that maybe we’ll get some of that money back someday.

Miall also decried what he called “a constant dribble of scandal” coming out of city hall.  “One day, it’s the police chief business,” he said.  “Next it’s the ransacked evidence room. Or the brazen hijacking of a public building, Pack Place.  Or deciding to spend $30 million on property in a floodplain.  It all erodes public confidence.  These decisions are not sustainable.

“Frustration is growing across the board; even some of the progressives aren’t happy,” Miall said.

Miall was employed by the city for a total of 34 years.  He served as head of the city’s risk management department and spent two terms as city-council-appointed chairman of the Asheville Civil Service Board.  A lifelong Asheville resident, he attended Asheville city schools and is a graduate of Montreat-Anderson College, UNCA and the School of Municipal Administration at UNC-Chapel Hill.

John Miall (2)sm

John Miall  

In announcing his candidacy, Miall said that if elected he would work to:

  • Set a tax rate that would support “core needs” including “policing, fire protection, trash collection, paving streets and sidewalks, and making the community as safe and conducive to healthy and vibrant living as possible.”
  • Hold Council city council and government “fully accountable for their decisions and actions.”
  • “Bring a halt to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent annually on consultants and outside legal costs.”
  • “Diversify Asheville’s economy,” and wean Asheville away from overdependence on tourist dollars, or else, says Miall, “ … the endless support of that one single element of our economy will continue to suppress wage earners and fail to create genuine employment opportunities.”
  • Simplify “the red tape and endless stream of regulation that frustrate small businesses.”
  • Work with “all local governments in the region to find a way together to share the precious resource of water that makes life, development, and commerce possible … the City of Asheville has squandered too many opportunities to lead on the issue of water, and are content to fight and litigate over a commodity too precious to be hoarded,”
  • “Fight to bring a halt to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent annually on consultants and outside legal costs.”

The Return of the Ghost at the Feast

            In the Shakespeare play, the ambitious MacBeth has his political rival Banquo murdered, only to have the bloodied, accusatory corpse return and claim a seat at the dinner table.  The scene gave rise to the “ghost at the feast” saying, signifying “A presence that mars one’s enjoyment by causing guilt or reviving unwelcome memories.”

Enter Ken Michalove, former Asheville Mayor and City Manager, later consultant to now-defunct Pack Place and most recently dogged opponent of the present city council and manager, particularly in matters relating to the Pack Place takeover and the handing of it to the Asheville Art Museum.

Michalove, considered by many to have been one of Asheville’s most effective and best-liked mayors, was in office in 2002 when the multi-discipline Pack Place Ats, Cultural and Entertainment Center was open.  Twenty years later he presided over a lonely birthday observance after the city, led by Vice Mayor Marc Hunt (a candidate for re-election this year) and city manager Gary Jackson, had forced the Pack Place board of directors to abdicate by means that former councilor Barbara Field described as “fraudulent.”

Michalove’s candidacy announcement referenced his “experience of more than 20 years” in city government.  The Pack Place issue heads his list of priorities; he said he “will work to revive  the Pack Place board and return its jurisdiction “due to the $5 million-plus lawsuit that is likely to come [from the Board] for the wrongful taking of the building by the city.”  (The displaced Pack Place Board continues to meet and oversee the distribution of its assets, but has kept alive the possibility of suing the city.)

Michalove said he would also work to knock a total of 3.5 cents off the city’s current tax rate, noting that council’s recent 1.5 cent increase raises the tax rate to 47.5 cents.  He mentioned that in 2013 Council raised taxes 2 cents to cover art museum remodeling that has yet to take place.

Michalove pointedly referenced Jackson, without naming him, by saying costs could be further cut by holding annual evaluations of the city manager’s performance and the price of running his department, vis-a-vis and focusing on increased funding for such core services as  “police, fire, sanitation, public works, recreation, transportation, long-range planning, water and inspections.”

A Free-for-all?

Miall’s and Michalove’s candidacy announcements followed declarations to run by two other well-known figures, former conservative council member Carl Mumpower and black neighborhood activist and consultant Dee Williams.  Hunt is the only incumbent to seek re-election, councilors Jan Davis and Chris Pelley having opted not to run again.  All in all a crowded field of 16 candidates has emerged for the October 6 primary, a dramatic increase over the five that sought office in 2013.  Observers say the number and variety of candidates signals a prevailing dissatisfaction with the status quo from many different points of view and predict an autumn slugfest.

The other candidates, all newbie office seekers, include  Corey Atkins, Joe Grady, Brian Haynes, Lavonda Payne, Lindsey Simerly, Keith Young, Julie Mayfield, Grant Millan, JRichard Liston, Rich Lee, Lavonda Nicole Payne, and Holly P. Shriner.

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