Board and commission assignments were made last week, soon after freshman councilors Brian Haynes, Keith Young and Julie Mayfield were sworn in, and were ratified at Council’s regular meeting Tuesday. When the committee assignments were posted, Haynes was shown to have been named to six such bodies and Young to five.
Julie Mayfield had been named to 13. Specific assignments are as follows:
Brian Haynes: Civic Center Commission (liaison), Downtown Commission, Firemen’s Local Relief Fund (liaison), Planning and Economic Development Committee, Public Art & Cultural Commission (liaison), Public Safety Committee
Young: Board of Adjustment (liaison), Boards & Commissions Committee, Citizens/Police Advisory Committee (ex-officio member, non-voting), Community Relations Council, Governance Committee, Recreation Board
Mayfield: Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (liaison), Finance Committee, French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, Historic Resources Commission (liaison), Housing Authority (liaison), Housing & Community Development Committee, HUB Economic Community Development Alliance Board (alternate), Planning & Zoning Commission (liaison), Public Safety Committee, Soil Erosion/Stormwater Review Committee (liaison), Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (liaison), Tourism Development Authority (ex-officio member, non-voting), WNC Regional Air Quality Agency Board (liaison)
Council members serve as the city’s liaison to “outside” committees, meaning those that are creatures of city government but not an integral part of it. Where the word “liaison” does not follow a committee name, a standing board or commission of city council itself is indicated. With the liaison functions subtracted out, this means that the new council members’ membership on bodies that directly affect city operations breaks down as follows:
Haynes: Downtown Commission, Planning and Economic Development, Public Safety.
Young: Boards and Commissions, Community Relations, Governance, Recreation.
Mayfield: Finance, French Broad MPO, Housing / Community Development, Public Safety.
Thus, in terms of total assignments, Mayfield was appointed to more positions than Haynes and Young combined, even allowing for the fact that both she and Young will be serving on the Public Safety Committee. Which seems to beg the question: How is who serves on which board determined?
“The council members themselves ask for committee assignments,” City Clerk Maggie Burleson told the Tribune. “It just depends on personal interest and preference. If two or more members are interested in the same position and only one position is available, then they work that out among themselves, or the mayor does it for them. The mayor has the final decision.”
Recalling the various candidates’ campaign platforms going into the November 3 elections, some observers expressed surprise at the matching of council members and committees, particularly considering that the members themselves have first say in the assignment process.
Affordable housing, for instance, was the cornerstone of Haynes’ campaign. Haynes, an assistant manager at Habitat for Humanity, is credited with originally hatching the idea of turning his brother Warren’s annual Christmas Jam music festival into a benefit event for Habitat.
“ … a larger percentage must be dedicated to affordable housing and developers must be required to keep them affordable for longer periods if not indefinitely,” Haynes said last summer. Yet the closest Councilor Haynes will get to being involved in helping to remedy Asheville’s housing crisis is peripherally, as a member of the Planning and Economic Development Committee. Affordable housing and Housing Authority liaison positions have been assigned to Mayfield, as has a pivotal liaison spot on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Affordable housing issue was also a plank in Young’s campaign platform, especially with regard to the possibility of retooling the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) as it relates to that issue. “The vison is to help tailor the growth where we can. When it pertains to affordable housing it should always be a priority to fit this into the construction mold of developer,” Young said during his campaign.
Yet when the assignments smoke cleared Young had not been appointed to any of the committees directly relating to development. He did, however, score an appointment to the Public Safety Committee, which Mayfield is also on, and police/community interaction was indeed one of his primary campaign interests.
Haynes and Young are both native Ashevillians.
Mayfield, who is from Atlanta (though she is quick to call attention to her family’s roots in Jackson County), came to Asheville in 2008 to manage the environmental and conservation agency Mountain True (formerly the Western North Carolina Alliance). As such, observers say, she was favorably positioned to make a run for city council, particularly at a time when the twin issues of development and environmentalism figure prominently in city politics. She is a lawyer – a point she has in common with mayor Esther Manheimer – and worked extensively in environmental law when she was in private practice. Local political observers say they see her as smart, energetic, pragmatic and ambitious.