Moffitt will serve until the end of the year. During the November election, a permanent replacement will be elected by the people to serve the remaining two years of DeBruhl’s term. Both the Republican and Democrat parties will be able to nominate one candidate to run in that election. The Republican Party, in accordance with state law, is conducting a search to name a candidate to replace DeBruhl in the contest for chairman of the board.
Moffitt, to say the least, is an interesting choice, since his political career to date has been characterized by using legislative powers to weaken Democratic strongholds in local government. He first ran for House 116 in 2008 and lost. He then won in 2010 on an agenda of overturning any attempt of the City of Asheville to annex Biltmore Lake. He kept his campaign promise and saw to completion the passing of legislation that gave citizens threatened by municipally-initiated annexation the power to hold a referendum, so the will of the people would decide whether or not their properties would be joined to an incorporated area.
Other landmark legislation, construed by local leaders to intentionally blockade Democrat seats of power, seized revenue streams from government-owned enterprises. One took the airport from the City of Asheville and put it in the hands of a regional authority. Moffitt attempted to seal a similar fate for the water system, but the city sued, and the legislation has since been appealed all the way to the NC Supreme Court. The case has been heard, and a decision will be delivered any day.
Moffitt argued he was not a politician but a pragmatist. He cited a study that concluded consolidation of the region’s water and sewer services would be in the best interests of those the utilities serve. In the meantime, Brownie Newman and Holly Jones left Asheville City Council to become Buncombe County commissioners. They were serving on council when the debate boiled over, and now the commissioners, as a body, have also strongly opposed Moffitt’s legislation calling for Metropolitan Sewerage District control of a regional water authority.
Moffitt further ruffled feathers on the traditionally Democrat board when he sponsored legislation to change the way the commissioners were elected. It was a lot easier for people downtown with proverbial “New York values” to get elected than farmers (a.k.a. Republicans) living few and far between out-county. So, the county was divided into three districts for commissioner elections, drawing a line around everybody in the city who might want to run and making them compete against each other for no more than two seats, and perhaps the chairmanship.
Be that as it may, Moffitt’s intelligence is difficult not to notice. He can speak with ease at any level on any legislative matter. It’s a gift he shared with fellow House member Tom Murry (R-Wake). During their terms of service, both were named among the most effective state lawmakers by NC Insider. In his second term, Moffitt was named number-one. He was elected with the wave of Tea Party candidates, running as a “strong advocate of private property rights, good government, and fiscal responsibility.” And he consistently got high ratings on conservative scorecards.
Progressives feared Moffitt’s affiliations with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC describes itself as, “the vanguard for freedom who dedicate their time and resources to promote limited government, free markets, and federalism. So, it would not be a stretch to say Moffitt is a smart alec. As evidence, one might recall the time he told the media he had excluded City of Asheville representation from the Culture and Recreation Authority to punish them for challenging his water authority. Another stunt was capitalizing on the hatred he knew the left had for him by walking around a progressive rally downtown with a sticker campaigning for political anthithesis Gordon Smith.
In 2014, Moffitt lost his bid for a third term. He was one of a number of high-power Republicans in the state whose opponents received considerable outside funding, to guarantee a certain ouster. Perhaps most memorable on the campaign trail was a conversation in which opponent Brian Turner claimed Moffitt had offered him a position at UNC-Asheville if he would drop out of the race. Then Buncombe County Commissioner David King got in the middle and vouched for Moffitt. (King was primaried-out by DeBruhl in a bid for re-election, prompting his wife, Nancy Waldrop, to quit a leadership position in the Republican Party to run as an Unaffiliated candidate. She lost, and now King and Waldrop are Democrats. But we digress.)
Moving Right Along –
Moffitt didn’t say much his first meeting. In fact, the entire meeting was rather short. Following a few proclamations and a rezoning request, the commissioners once again solicited public comment on the budget. The news was pretty much that county staff needed more time to research questions from the last meeting. At least the commissioners established teacher assistants’ pay wasn’t quite as bad off as they had supposed.
Frequent public commentator Rice accused Greene of unfairly singling out former Sheriff Bobby Medford for current budgetary woes. An unlawful imprisonment settlement had blown an $8 million hole in the county’s $407 million budget. Rice said looking at county CAFR’s, he found debt had increased from $262.5 million to $509.2 million in five years, and the fund balance had increased from $172.7 million to $286.1 million over a similar timeframe. He said the people needed a tax decrease.
Greene cautioned the commissioners there would be twenty-one public hearings at their next meeting. New legislation requires any form of economic development incentive to submit to a public hearing. Requests may still masquerade with names like Project X, though.