Parking “Gate,” Snowpocalypse, And Common Sense


County parking deck on Saturday charging Special Event Rate of $5

A word or two about fairness and common sense. Maybe more than two.

There’s been a stink this week about an Asheville city councilman using his parking pass to unjam a traffic jam in a county parking deck caused, he said, by a malfunctioning exit gate.

WLOS-TV asked drivers what they thought about the councilman waving through others without paying. One said, “Wow, that doesn’t seem fair.”

We have some strange ideas about what’s fair. (View image before continuing.)

Suppose she parked in the lot on Friday and paid the $8 day rate then parked in the lot on Saturday and paid the $5 flat rate. Was her Friday self treated unfairly because she paid more than her Saturday self? Or did her Saturday self cheat her Friday self by paying less? If her Friday self parked for an hour and paid $1 and her Saturday self parked for an hour and paid $5, who was treated unfairly? And when the county opens decks and allows anyone to park for free?

Don’t even go there.

The 90-minute event at Pack Square Park on Monday drew 10,000 people last year. When approving special events, city parking decks charge a flat rate going in so drivers leave unimpeded afterwards. The County Manager’s office didn’t do that Monday. Does that make any sense?

There are two public exits for this deck. One automated. One manned. The event was scheduled to end at 6:30 p.m. but the manned exit closed at 5:30 p.m. Does that make any sense?

After the event ended, a county employee stood beside the automated gate feeding tickets into the machine for drivers because it worked slowly or not at all. To relieve the four-level traffic jam, the city councilman used his swipe card to let 60-some drivers out the employee gate without paying. This, the news tells us, was a mistake for which the councilman will reimburse the county.

Except after telling newsmen the average cost to park in that deck is $3.50, the County Manager’s office sent the councilman a bill for $8 for each car leaving the 90-minute event — the daily maximum. Does that make any sense?

When the governor, city, and county declared a snow emergency in February and the Highway Patrol asked people to stay off the roads, the Register of Deeds closed his office and 17 employees took time off.

But since the county doesn’t have an inclement weather policy that allows closing offices in a declared emergency, the news tells us the closing was also a mistake. Does that make any sense?

Instead of asking the Register to reimburse the county for the 17 employees’ time as the councilman will for 60 cars, the news tells us the County Manager’s office recommended that hundreds of other county employees get an additional 13 hours off. Because fairness. Does that make any sense?

Exactly who is making the mistakes here?

BTW: When I drove up to the gate in my F150 on Monday and handed my ticket to the county’s man, the pay mechanism wouldn’t accept the ticket. Locked up solid. He tried it several times. Nothing. Frustrated, he took a key, opened a panel on the gate mechanism, lifted the gate manually, and waved me through (or we might still be there). The same thing — same gate, different attendant — happened to us a couple of years ago. The County Manager’s office insists “the exit gate was functioning properly.” Or was that another mistake?

Categories : Buncombe County, Local


  1. Jake says:

    The answer is that it is the County Manager who is making the mistakes here, again.

  2. Greg Hackley says:

    Know what all this reminds me of??? There’s a story in the 20th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. We Catholics call it the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable. Here’s the gist of it: A landowner needs some day-labor. So he goes out at dawn , negotiates an agreeable daily wage, and hires a bunch of guys to work in his vineyard. Then, at around mid-day, he hires more workers, saying “I’ll give you what is just”, or something like that. And, late in the afternoon, he hires a bunch of other dudes, promising them only, “You’ll get what’s fair”. Okay. So then, at the end of the day, they ALL come to the landowner – and he pays ALL of them the SAME AMOUNT. So, as is human nature, the guys who worked since the early morning complain and carp and whine. And the land-owner guy says to them, “Didn’t I pay you what you were owed? Why are you so mad about my generosity to others?” The theological message, I think, is that we should rejoice in the fact that others are happy, especially if WE WERE NOT WRONGED. I cannot believe people are bitching about having to pay for parking – just because some other people got a lucky break. The ones who paid for their spaces did it willfully and gladly. The ones who the commissioner helped were at the right place and the right time. Anyone who demands that the commissioner fork over funds for those who parked for free during the traffic jam really need to do some serious self-examination. This is Asheville!!! Where is the love?!?!?!?! Peace.

  3. dave russell says:

    This whole thing is much to do about nothing.

  4. Jeff Mclarty says:

    I’m glad to see the disconnect between our elected representatives and the unelected bureaucracy that surrounds them getting some of the attention it deserves.

  5. Spot on. Glad somebody said it.

  6. RHS says:

    I’m not always Councilman Bothwell’s biggest supporter but I applaud his actions here. He saw a problem, saw that it was not being fixed by those who should be making an effort to fix it, and used the resources he had at his disposal to assist people who were having problems because of the situation. He has also said that he is willing to pay the expense incurred.

    There is nothing to see here. Move on.

    Thank you Councilman Bothwell.

  7. Tate says:

    I was there too. The attendant had to feed ticket in 2x and there was a problem with the money. Who approves events at the park? Kinda seems like the County was being childish, how we could they not know there was an event? Oh brother.

  8. Suggest folks tune in to WLOS TV13 at 10 pm, or go to live feed on Web.
    Fun new twist in Parking-Gate story.

  9. Don’t keep us in suspense. I don’t have TV, and there’s nothing on WLOS website.

  10. Jake says:

    I hope the County is preparing a bill for Mr. Fryar’s unauthorized use of the parking lot that was described on the WLOS telecast. After all, fair is fair.

  11. WLOS discovered that Fryar illegally removed a cable (using wrenches) intended to prevent entry to a County lot posted as no-parking after business hours — get this — in order to provide free parking. County Manager Wanda Greene says she told him not to do it, that it would constitute destruction of County property, and that the concern was for liability. He did it anyway.

    But you see, when a Republican breaks the law to provide free parking it isn’t a crime. On the other hand, when a Democrat uses his clearly I.D.’d electronic pass to clear out a traffic jam, and takes full responsibility, it is … why it’s almost as bad as all that voter fraud! (BTW, I honestly expected to be thanked for solving a problem, but with the gracious help of many folks I’ll simply pay the County bill — though I have yet to see it.)

    To contribute to the Fry Fryar Fund, click here.

  12. So over the expressed objections of the County Manager, Mike Fryar destroyed County parking garage property, in order to let his friends park for free…

    Chad Nesbitt must be leading a pitchfork-wielding mob over to Mike’s house as we speak, right?

  13. To recap – it was the County’s mistake in not opening up the garage with a flat rate, which they’re supposed to do for big events downtown, even though they had advance notice that up to 10,000 people were coming. And then problems with the County machines led hundreds of people to be trapped in that garage, which at the rate they were leaving, some may have been there for up to two hours before they could get out.

    Cecil’s act led to people being able to leave the County garage, while Mike Fryar’s act led to people being allowed into an unattended County lot, which still has a “No Trespassing” sign at the entrance. As Frank Kracher said in that piece, that exposed the County to liability issues. What sort of potential costs are there to the taxpayer if someone gets hurt, or their vehicle gets damaged in that lot? Mike decided to ignore County staff, and give his friends a big freebie at the taxpayers risk.

    I think we all know what has to happen now. When Cecil gets that bill, send it over to Mike Fryar.

  14. Heck, I’d be happy with a public apology from Mike Fryar and Chad Nesbitt, stating that they were wrong.

  15. Shameless plug: last night’s Making Progress: News for a Change.

    Personal story from Detroit water, algae bloom poisons Toledo’s water, and North Carolina water, private water rate increases in NC, and How the Frack Did That Lousy Drone Bill Become Law?!?

    (Answer: why, anonymously, of course…)

  16. N.C.Rohan says:

    I’d like to see a bill introduced that requires, REQUIRES legislators to read entire bills before voting on them, and forbids anonymous additions or changes to legislation. What happened to accountability? Can mischievous/ devious staffers just slip stuff in too? Bogus!

  17. RHS says:

    “Heck, I’d be happy with a public apology from Mike Fryar and Chad Nesbitt, stating that they were wrong.”

    Oh now, don’t be silly. The rules that apply to us mere mortals don’t apply to Republicans.

  18. After Pete Kaliner’s show tonight (sadly not on the air) Fryar explicitly rejected any apology to me.

  19. Richard Brown says:

    Asking for an apology…defies reality. The “big, little men” that parade around these days engaging in their ideological and political battles would choke before they would apologise for any of their excesses. It’s simply a bridge too far in this insanely partisan country in which we live. What goes on in Asheville simply mirrors what we’re seeing out of Washington. Politicians actually governing and conducting themselves with a degree of civility is a thing of the past, but hopefully a part of our future.

  20. Warrene Williams says:

    About a year ago, I attended some event downtown where every parking place in the Rankin deck was taken. And, of course, there was nobody manning the exit booth and the “dollar slot” was not working, so nobody could get out. People were out of their cars, calling 911, waiting…. waiting …. and — nothing. After about 40 minutes, out of simple frustration, the first car just ran into the arm, knocking it down so cars could leave. I would have done the same thing. What was the alternative? Camp out in our cars until someone from the City showed up in the morning?

    The loss of revenue to the City appears to be what the flap is all about but what about the City’s responsibility to keep the system working? In a medical emergency, what about the City’s liability if a person were to be trapped inside a parking deck because of a malfunctioning machine. Whether one approves of Boswell as a commissioner is beside the point. He simply used a tool he happened to have to eliminate a problem. Suppose all those people had been trapped in the deck for a couple of hours? All the potential revenue from those who would not have been able to get into the deck because of the bottleneck would have been lost anyway, making this one of the dopiest non-issues ever.

  21. “One was for political gain,” he said of Bothwell’s action. “The other was for the county taxpayers.”

    Yeah, to help “county taxpayers” not have to pay to park in the City’s garage a block away. Thanks, Mike.

  22. Off topic, but related I guess… Speaking of pitchforks, the Asheville Tea Party is going after Rep. Tim Moffitt on drones. They released an email where he claims to believe that the drone bill that he co-sponsored had not become law, and was unlikely to.

    (Um, Earth to Tim – you voted for it, and the Governor signed it into law a week ago.)

    The Tea Party isn’t buying it, and they accuse him of lying to them and treating them like they are stupid.

    I’ve gotta hand it to them – I disagree with them on just about everything. But on this topic they are solid – warrant-less police drone surveillance is bad, and we need to call out anyone who helped make it legal in the State of North Carolina, starting with Tim Moffitt.

  23. andrewdahm says:

    I never do anything for political gain. I am always working to benefit Buncombe County Taxpayers – myself among them. I am, therefore, ABOVE THE LAW!

  24. Hey conservatives: Thom Tillis got an ‘F’ from Civitas in 2010.

    They tried to scrub it, but the Daily Haymaker dug it up using the Wayback Machine.

    Thanks, Mr. Peabody!

  25. Arleen Higgins says:

    Mr. Bothwell used common sense. Period. There are so many more important
    issues that demand our attention. Really people!

  26. N.C.Rohan says:

    Hope they’re not taking notes in Raleigh on how to handle next Moral Monday protests from folks in Ferguson.

  27. Vyvyan L. Dunne says:

    As was Warrene Williams a year ago, a friend and I were trapped in the Rankin St. Parking Garage earlier this summer. The gate had malfunctioned and there were probably 30 or so cars stuck inside and the line was growing. An Asheville Police Officer arrived on the scene and raised the gate so everybody could get out. If a policeman has the authority, why shouldn’t an elected city official have the same?

    I see this as a public safety issue. It is possible that in those trapped cars were parents having to calm frightened children, elderly or sick people who experienced unnecessary anxiety, or just folks needing to be somewhere at a certain time! It’s starting to look like these gates have a history of malfunctioning, and i think that an investigation needs to be made as to who is responsible for the maintenance of these garages, and they should be brought to accountability as far as keeping these facilities in good working order.

    Given that there was an event taking place, the parking lot employees should have been notified beforehand, as is normal when a special function is scheduled. I wonder if there would have been such an uproar if this had happened after a sporting event at the convention center! I applaud Cecil Bothwell for taking action when he saw a situation that he had the ability to remedy; he used his head, and did what was necessary, proper, and humane.

  28. Two final creepy things from that garage fiasco:

    1) Wanda Greene admits that the average charge from the patrons who did get out through the pay lane was $3.50 apiece. But they are charging Cecil $8 apiece for the 63 cars he let out. The County is making a $300 profit off of Ceil doing the right thing by helping citizens escape from a County-created clusterf***.

    2) While they were trapped in that garage waiting to get out, their tickets were still racking up charges. At the glacial rate they were going, it would have taken the ones at the back an extra two or three hours to get out. Ka-ching!!

  29. Jeff Mclarty says:

    This really should put Wanda’s job on the line.

  30. Jeff Mclarty says:

    I couldn’t remember, so I had to go look it up. Wanda Greene has been the County Manager since 1997. That’s a long time.

  31. Jeff Mclarty says:

    Average tenure for County Manager, 7.5 years as of 2012.