Friday Open Thread: Retreat!


Your Asheville City Council will convene at 11am in the Canon Lounge at Warren Wilson College.  In this public meeting away from Council chambers, Council sets priorities for the coming year.  Click here to see the agenda for the retreat, which will run 11am – 5pm today and 9am – 1pm on Saturday.

Finding our collective will on issues like affordable housing, sustainability, and transportation in light of the expected budget shortfalls will make for some creative problem-solving.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with the other members of Council, all of whom are faithful public servants with brains in their heads.

Anyway, that’s my next couple of days.  What are y’all up to?

Categories : Uncategorized


  1. barry says:

    I’m just so thrilled that Sean Hannity has lately been using the term “Teabaggers” on his radio show. Even while apologizing to those who are pissed off, he keeps saying “teabaggers”, not “teapartiers”.

    I feel so free now…

  2. Michael Muller says:

    By the way, why do they call it a Retreat? Isn’t a Retreat when you get away from the glaring eyes of the Twittering public and press?

    What y’all should do is lock yourselves up, conclave style, in Carl Mumpower’s little church and don’t come out until you’ve solved all these pesky problems.

  3. barry says:

    Retreat? I believe the military term is a “strategic redeployment”.

    Nice link, MM. I especially like the Casio soundtrack.

  4. Michael Muller says:

    I prefer the term “Manufactured Dog & Pony Show In Order To Project The Illusion of Transparency” (although, admittedly, that’s a mite unwieldy). If I wanted transparency, I’d go down to the sausage-making factory, thank you very much. I want results! Results, I say!

    The first bus for Warren Wilson leaves the Transit Center at 11:30 am. Alan Ditmore better be on it.

  5. Michael Muller says:

    Speaking of Transparency, here’s a neat video from the folks over at the Sunlight Foundation. It’s worth a look. (Thanks to Ellen Miller at the Sunlight Foundation. Their website is here.)

    Also, the Homeless Memorial Service has been rescheduled for Saturday, January 30, from 2-4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 1 Edwin Place in Asheville. The event includes a service, a pot-luck meal and music.

  6. Gordon Smith says:

    Lauren Bradley’s City of Asheville press release about the retreat:

    “Asheville City Council identifies strategic plan goals:
    Collaborative discussion focuses on balancing community vision and financial conditions

    The Asheville City Council began identifying goals for the city’s strategic plan during the first day of its annual two day goal setting retreat at Warren Wilson College . Council members worked throughout the day to discuss key initiatives for the annual plan that sets priorities for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010.

    Through collaborative discussion, city leaders brainstormed and listed goals they would like to see move forward in the next year. Among the top priorities were continuing to forge intergovernmental and community partnerships to implement initiatives during economically challenging times.

    “In order to overcome the impacts of the current recession as well as key structural issues we’ve indentified in the city’s budget, it will be crucial for us to continue to develop strong and lasting partnerships,” said Mayor Terry Bellamy. “We need to continue to focus efforts on working with our state delegation, Buncombe County , the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and key agencies.”

    City Council reaffirmed its commitment to four key focus areas including affordability, safety, fiscal responsibility, and sustainability and green initiatives. City Council also added community development and job growth as a new focus area in the plan.

    Additional goals discussed during the retreat included incentivizing affordable housing, exploring financing mechanisms for energy efficiency investments in public and private buildings, identifying and prioritizing multi-modal transportation projects, and enhancing public safety investments.

    “As a body, we’re working to be effective and innovative in addressing the community’s needs while holding the line on property taxes,” said Vice Mayor Brownie Newman. “The purpose of the retreat is to spend dedicated time as a group working on these issues.”

    City Council will meet for the second day of its retreat tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Gladfelter Building ’s Canon Lounge on Warren Wilson’s campus.

    Tomorrow’s agenda includes additional discussion about Asheville ’s financial structure as analyzed in a city staff written paper entitled Asheville 2010: A Financial Crossroads. Council will also discuss updates to city master plans, including the Downtown Master Plan, Sustainability Management Plan, Transit Master Plan, and the Parks and Greenways Master Plan, among others. The full retreat agenda is available at http://www.ashevillenc.gov/government/mayor_city_council/city_council/default.aspx?id=5396&ekmensel=116_submenu_0_link_3.”

  7. barry says:

    According to the MtnX article on the City Manager’s budget report, he recommends two distinct alternatives to the current shortfall:

    “choose to be a low-tax, low-service community” OR raise taxes & go on other revenue-hunting explorations.


    Gordon – is that article essentially accurate, that the advice from City staff is that you have an either/or scenario in front of you?

  8. Or Asheville could simply maintain the status quo of high-tax, low-service, and the stick-yer-nose-everyone’s-businessitis that afflicts the current city government.


  10. Gordon Smith says:

    Barry – I’ll talk more about the budget after I hear the City Manager’s report tomorrow.

    Karen – Affordable Housing takes many forms. I believe that we can focus on expanding opportunities for private developers to create mixed-income housing that incorporates affordable housing in it while pursuing strategies for improving our public housing. Further, the work that Mountain Housing is doing has been a lifesaver, and we need to continue to partner with them to continue their successes.

  11. One of the most telling statistics in the City Manager’s report is that we have a daily influx of about 40,000 commuters – the largest percentage influx of any N.C. city.

    While they do contribute sales taxes (about which more in a moment) they don’t pay property taxes, but we do provide city services. They represent the core problem for downtown parking. And, on the up side, they are urgently needed as a work force.

    Sales taxes generated in the city are split with the county, and we receive a smaller percentage back than comparable cities in the state.

    One specific way that commuters cost the city money is that the state highway patrol dumped accident response for state/federal highways within the city limits on our emergency responders last year.

    My take on the Managers report is that it simply points out that given the shortfall in tax revenues due to the recession, but also due to our differential treatment by the state (i.e. room tax, water rates, sales tax percentage), we face the question of either cutting services or raising revenue. It’s not like we can only choose A or B.

    And, see Herbert’s column today. NYT.

  12. barry says:

    My take on the Managers report is that it simply points out that… we face the question of either cutting services or raising revenue. It’s not like we can only choose A or B.

    That’s what I was getting at, Cecil. At least the way the MtnX article described it, the City Manager is offering you an A or B choice, and I found that remarkable. In terms of how to manage the discussion about the budget, I wonder if it was considered how an “A or B” presentation like this could lead to a polarizing and paralyzing debate, and make creative solutions and compromise more difficult.

    Of course, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that MtnX oversimplified or misrepresented what the report says…

  13. barry says:

    Of course, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that MtnX oversimplified or misrepresented what the report says…

    And after reading the report, I believe that is the case. I don’t see this as an “A or B” presentation, like the MtnX paints it. I think it’s more a “A is clearly unacceptable & won’t solve our long-term problems, so I recommend B” presentation.

  14. Alan says:

    Cecil, Just because the “state highway patrol dumped accident response on the city last year,” doesn’t mean the city has to pick it up. The city can just leave the accidents in the interstate until the state gets sick of it. It’s a game of chicken really, whoever gets annoyed first is the one who has to clean it up. The strongest stomach wins.

  15. Alan says:

    Municipal contraception solves this because a city with a low fertility rate can easily be low tax high service like gay cities, Provincetown, Key West, and Frisco rather than high fertility cities like Detroit.

  16. Michael Muller says:

    Alan, maybe the city ought to actively encourage contraception, sterilization, and abortions. And since fertility rates among Blacks and Hispanics are far greater than those of whites (arguably also two demographics which disproportionately over-utilize scarce social service resources), any PSAs should be targeted to those groups. Would you agree?