By Leslee Kulba- Fourteen candidates remain standing in the race to serve on Asheville City Council. Early voting started September 23. The primary election will take place October 6, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The top six vote-getters will advance to the general election to be held October 9.
No surprise, all candidates think people who work in Asheville should be able to afford to live here. None want children to starve or suffer deprivations of opportunity. Nobody tolerates harm inflicted on anybody because of the way they look. All love the natural beauty of the area so much none would burn it all to make a buck.
So what are the differences among the candidates? Splitting hairs, we could argue about priority rankings or preferred modes of transportation. We could fault methods of communication. 76-year-old former mayor and city manager Ken Michalove, computer scientist/musician Richard Liston, and 23-year-old long-hauler Lavonda Nicole Payne aren’t invested in maintaining informative web sites. After skimming the pabulum, Corey Atkins, Joe Grady, and Keith Young don’t have much to say about their stances, while folk artist Brian Haynes supports a hodgepodge of issues lacking widespread appeal.
Grant Millin, by contrast, wants to take on the world. He claims his management experience has empowered him with ideas to launch a New Deal II. With federal grants, the plan will launch in Asheville and overspread the country, staving off global warming and economic collapse.
The fatal conceit shared by most candidates is the assumption that more government is key to pulling Asheville out of the economic rubble, offering more to citizens than sixteen hour shifts with nothing to prove for it, not even sufficient for families to feed their own children. It is so political to name a problem and tack on a non-sequitur magical government solution with management du-jour tachyons. We’ve got poverty? I will align evidence-based engagement for quality interfaces . . .
People who have been around the block realize imposing one’s plan on self-actualizable humans should never go off like clockwork. People innovate and want to follow the latest trends. They see creative workarounds to avoid expensive bureaucratic delays. They avoid poverty by lying on tax forms and creating underground economies. The tighter government turns the thumbscrews, the more people feel compelled to disobey to survive.
Often, high-ranking leaders don’t bother to model plans. They either ignore or hope constituents will give them a pass on direct costs, opportunity costs, feedback loops, long-range effects, and other “unintended consequences.” Progressives view government as a pump to transfer money and resources to places favored by those in power. Conservatives say government is a middleman who drives costs up to cover costs of “processing.”
A huge part of making Asheville affordable is going to be deregulation. Dr. Carl Mumpower, who is running again, used to fault his peers for enacting zoning that would result in “elite neighborhoods.” Every architectural add-on, every tree requirement, every test and inspection cost depletes resources productive people would otherwise have spent making something new or better. Mumpower has a good grasp on public policy and economics. Not going along with government lies and having the guts to say touchy-feely programs harm those they purport to help has made him one of Asheville’s most loved-to-hate.
Though they appear to campaigning on single-issue vendetta against the Asheville Art Museum, Michalove and John Miall also speak of containing government by focusing on core services, like police, fire, and basic infrastructure. Miall earned no small fame for coming up with the money-saving Asheville Plan while serving as the city’s risk manager. He, like Dee Williams, believes the city is spending too much on studies and litigation while wrapping the little guy in red tape. Unlike Miall’s, veteran also-runner Dee Williams’ web site displays a mixture of good and bad ideas.
Some candidates build up resumes. Lindsey Simerly makes a big deal about being gay and wanting to get a house for her fiancée and child. This is Asheville. Tolerance of diversity is our middle name. If we walk the walk, it won’t matter if we’re yellow with one eye. Council needs leadership that views government as the means of removing obstacles standing between citizens and success – not the great creator of impediments, be they exacting building codes, a whimsical design review process, bureaucratic hassles, extortion for pet projects, excessive taxes, or any other form of injustice.
Payne wants to serve because she knows what it’s like to be poor and struggle. She maintained an honorable ethic of hard work and persistence, but she did not say if she had a great government program to solve all ills, or if she would be willing to risk lightening up on building codes so the working poor could hang their hat somewhere between a castle and the street.
Honorable mention would go out to Marc Hunt, Julie Mayfield, and Rich Lee. These guys are effective leaders. Hunt and Mayfield have demonstrated records of listening across party lines and searching for ways to solve problems. Lee, though unelected, has been attending council meetings regularly for some time. While all are knowledgeable in business affairs, they take progressivism, with its implicit government-growing solutions, as axiomatic.
Asheville is a Democrat/Progressive stronghold. Mumpower is the only candidate claiming to be a Conservative, and he is backed by local Republican clubs. Anybody wanting him to be elected is advised not to vote for him and the two least vomitous of the Progressive candidates, as those two votes would likely cumulate to outnumber what is garnered from the small Republican base.
One vote in seven is good for educating the public, but useless in approving policy. Unlike the last time Mumpower ran, voters have an option to elect two other guys who understand market economies, advocate for transparency in government decisions, and want to cut back on the size of government. These two likely won’t get enough Democrat votes to defeat the guy who paints himself as the only red paper doll in a chain of blue. These guys are Miall and Michalove.