Author Archive

Mar
24

A Good Decade

Posted by: | Comments (4)

Screenshot 2014-03-24 at 12.46.04 PMJune 4, 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary of this group blog we call Scrutiny Hooligans. That’s 110 years in internet time. That’s older than this gentleman. The decade has seen bloggers come and go. It’s seen periods of raucousness and ennui.

For me, Scrutiny Hooligans began as a place for friends to swap stories and vent frustrations. I found community here and later found more through BlogAsheville. The local political scene largely opened its arms, and where it didn’t I went ahead and awkwardly embraced it anyway.

To all you Hooligans- front-pagers, commenters, lurkers and trolls -I’m grateful for the lessons and the opportunities. This blog has always been an experiment. Every blogger with complete editorial license, and every commenter given latitude with the patience of Job’s therapist. There are other little miracles that only the gentlemen behind the curtain can know.

My participation here has dwindled over the years since I was elected. Turns out there’s only so many hours in the day, and turns out there’s a lot to accomplish outside of this virtual realm. I’ve been honored with election and re-election to Asheville’s City Council, and I relish the opportunity to serve. On the flip side, I’m of the opinion that it’s time for this ScruHoo co-founder to take a bow and exit stage left. It’s time for wilder heads than mine to populate these digital environs. It’s time to call it a decade and a good one at that.

Scrutiny Hooligans has been a springboard and sounding board. I’m grateful for all of you who have been a part of the journey. You may see an occassional guest post from me if the Hooligans at the helm deem it worthy, or this may be that last. Thanks, all. The animating contest of freedom and the bending arc of history require different exertions from each of us. This one for me is finished.

Comments (4)
Mar
10

Affordable Housing: The Rest of the Larchmont Story

Posted by: | Comments Comments Off

Back in 2010, there was Screenshot 2014-03-10 at 9.46.47 AM>quite a debate over adding a 60-unit apartment complex on an abandoned site off of Merrimon Avenue. The building, known as The Larchmont, had folks worried that crime would skyrocket, traffic would spike, and quality of life would be irreperably harmed. Fast forward four years, and Mark Barrett at the AC-T takes a look at what actually happened. It’s great to see old prejudices melting away and hear more and more support for Asheville’s working people.

When Mary Chakales’ mother passed away a few years ago, Chakales knew she needed to move to someplace less expensive than the North Asheville home she and her mother had shared.

She found it at The Larchmont, an apartment complex developed by nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities near North Asheville’s Grace post office and a couple blocks east of Merrimon Avenue.

“It’s just fallen into place beautifully for me. … I walk everywhere,” said Chakales, 62, who works as a cashier at a nearby grocery store. “Walking’s the best exercise in the world. It’s a nice neighborhood. You don’t have to worry about things happening.”

[...]

Read More→

Comments Comments Off
Mar
06

Martin Nesbitt, Taken Home

Posted by: | Comments Comments Off

“He was a champion for the common man, his friends said, and always had what was best for the people of Western North Carolina in his heart.” – AC-T

Rest in peace, Martin Nesbitt. Your labors were great, and your legacy will endure.

Screenshot 2014-03-06 at 8.01.24 PM

Comments Comments Off

Screenshot 2014-02-27 at 3.37.06 PMFrom the press release at his website:

Williams Announces Bid to Restore Integrity to District Attorney Office

Attorney Todd M. Williams of Asheville announced that he has filed as a Democrat running for election to the Office of District Attorney for the 28th Judicial District. The Primary is May 6.

“The Office of District Attorney should be renowned for its fairness and integrity in pursuit of justice. In seeking justice, the office must safeguard the rights and reputations of the innocent,” Williams said. “To regain this reputation and trust, we need new leadership that will demonstrate the highest degree of integrity and professionalism. I offer to provide that leadership.”

Williams believes transparency will be essential to renewing public trust in the Office of the District Attorney.

Local and national media have documented the Office’s lack of transparency. Documents in the public interest were suppressed. Innocence Commission hearings resulted in overturning murder convictions that had kept young men in jail for years.

“These events have tarnished the public perception of the openness of the Office of District Attorney,” Williams said. “That perception harms our criminal justice system.”

Williams has nearly 15 years of experience as a defense attorney. He has served as Assistant Capital Defender, Assistant Senior Public Defender, and Assistant Public Defender for nine years in Buncombe County. Williams said he is ready to transition from defense to prosecution within the criminal justice system.

“Defense attorneys and prosecutors are united in seeking justice. The players are different, but, in a well-run system, we are all on the same team,” Williams said. “The most pressing need in our criminal justice system is the need for new leadership in the Office of District Attorney. We need to rebuild public trust, increase consistency, and increase professionalism. I am ready to step up and deliver that new leadership.”

Williams, 45, is a North Carolina native and long-time Buncombe County resident. He and his wife Catherine have a 14-month old daughter. Williams serves on the board of Green Opportunities. He is also an investor in a local business, Wedge Brewing Company.

“I am committed to making our community an even safer place to live and raise a family,” Williams said.

“It will be my honor to bring a fresh, measured approach to the Office of District Attorney, which will be efficient, responsive to law enforcement, and fair to defendants that are brought before the court for prosecution,” Williams said.

Williams earned his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and his J.D. from Northeastern Law School. Williams has been practicing law in North Carolina since 2000. In addition to serving on the board of Green Opportunities, Williams volunteers on Democratic campaigns and is a past Commissioner of the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County.

For more information about the District Attorney Race in Buncombe County NC visit www.WilliamsforDA.com

I’ve known Todd Williams for years, and I know him to be trustworthy, hardworking, intelligent, and fair. He’s also got guts. It takes a lot of guts to take on a long-time incumbent, so I hope you’ll take some time to get to know the candidates and make your decision based on your values.

Comments (5)

From the Mountain Housing Opportunities website:

Cierra, Treva, and Corrie Williams - homeowners

Corrie, Treva, and Cierra Williams – homeowners

“Momma, when are we ever going to get a house?” It was a question Treva Williams’ youngest daughter, Cierra, always asked.

After 13 ½ years of living with five people in a two-bedroom apartment in River Glen apartments, Treva knew that it was time to take a leap of faith.

While living in the Mountain Housing Opportunities River Glen apartment complex, she received a mailing about the organization’s Self Help Home Ownership program. MHO’s Self-Help Homeownership program provides families and individuals in Buncombe County with low or moderate income an opportunity to achieve the American Dream of homeownership. The program makes owning homes affordable by allowing families to contribute “sweat equity” construction hours to reduce the cost of their homes. Families work together to build their homes under the guidance of an MHO construction supervisor. They invest “sweat equity” by helping to build not only their own home but all of the homes in the group, with no one moving in until all of the houses are complete.

“I took the mailing as a sign that I needed to look into this program, “ said Treva. “I knew it was a God given opportunity for me and my family.”

Read More→

Categories : Housing, Local
Comments (1)
Feb
26

Organizing for 2014

Posted by: | Comments (8)

Your Buncombe County Democratic Party needs you. We’re getting organized to make some change in 2014 elections, and every registered Democrat is invited to be a part of it. After the jump please find the time and location of your precinct meeting. Not sure which precinct you’re in? Use this handy tool.

Read More→

Feb
09

Sunday Morning Music

Posted by: | Comments Comments Off

Comments Comments Off
Feb
06

Three-Legged Stool

Posted by: | Comments Comments Off

Screenshot 2014-02-06 at 11.09.48 PMThat was the original title for this essay generously published in the Mountain Xpress this week. Click through to read the whole thing. Excerpts:

I’m proud to be a part of a city where people care about each other. One recent study cited Asheville as one of the most generous cities in America, whose residents volunteer lots of time and money to make the world a better place. This is a community that knows we’re all in it together, and that’s why we’re going to be able to rise to the challenges facing us today.

We love living here, but we’re acutely aware of the fact that Asheville has a very high cost of living and very low median household income. Helping us get that median wage up are Living Wage Certified businesses that have made human value and dignity central to their business models. Great businesses like New Belgium Brewing, Linamar and PLI are helping too. The sad fact, however, is that too many employers here pay low wages for an honest day’s work. No one who works a full-time job ought to live in poverty. The city, county, Economic Development Coalition and Chamber of Commerce are working hard and all rowing in the same direction: toward better paying jobs. Asheville is examining our economic-incentive policies to better support homegrown entrepreneurs who pay living wages.

[...]

Asheville aspires to be a city of equal opportunity for all. Increasing incomes and offering affordable transportation options are two parts of a three-pronged approach to ensure a thriving city for generations to come.

The third leg of that three-legged stool is affordable housing, defined as spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing costs. We all want a vibrant city where economically mobile citizens can get a leg up, and where the elderly and disabled can live in dignity. We want an Asheville where residents can save money toward homeownership, business startups, tuition and increased opportunities for their children. Without affordable housing, a big part of our Asheville family struggles just to stay afloat.

Comments Comments Off

This is a guest post from the effervescent Amanda Rodriguez. Thanks for sharing your story, Amanda.

Amanda Rodriguez, homeowner.

Amanda Rodriguez, homeowner.

I moved to Asheville eight and a half years ago from Massachusetts because I hated big city life and bitter Boston winters. I also wanted to be closer to my grad school. While completing a low-residency program in Charlotte, I lived in Asheville and worked full-time, scraping to get by, supplementing my meager income with student loans. After graduating, I was still in love with Asheville, but I was buried under crippling student loan debt and the exorbitant cost of renting in the city. I wanted so badly to stay in Asheville, but it seemed like an impossibility. I was nowhere near hitting the 30K a year mark despite having a Masters degree.

When construction started on the Clingman Lofts, I became fascinated with them. As they took shape, their fun, funky aesthetic seemed perfect for me. I even crept into and explored them one night while they were still a work-in-progress. My heart ached at visions of the future that I imagined with myself cozy inside one of those lofts so close to downtown. My heart ached at the seemingly unattainable dream that I could be a homeowner in Asheville.

Affordable housing made that dream a reality. I’ve lived in my loft on Clingman Avenue for over five years now, and though the road to get here was rough, it was so very worth it. Using various programs throughout the city, I became a homeowner, and my monthly mortgage payments are even slightly less than I was paying to rent all those years ago. Because of affordable housing, I was able to set down roots in Asheville and make a life for myself. I was able to add myself to this vibrant community, contributing to the economy and the work force, contributing my intelligence, my creativity, and my diversity to my new home town.

I think of all the amazing and valuable people who’ve essentially been pushed out of Asheville because the wages are too low and the cost of living too high. I’m fearful of the trend towards gentrification that seeks to homogenize a city that is a renowned tourist destination because of its eclectic community. Affordable housing is vital to attracting and retaining talented people in our city, to fostering diversity, and to keeping Asheville weird.

wolfWhen the NC General Assembly political advertisements rain down upon us later this year, you’ll be hearing a lot about the tax cuts being peddled as good for the little guy. Yes, the cuts will further reduce resources for education, mental health, and other important services. Yes, the cuts will give the wealthiest North Carolinians some nice wallet padding, some of which will trickle down into campaign coffers. The thing that NC Policy Watch wants everyone to know is that these tax cuts are actually a tax increase on most of us. Please bookmark this post – you will need it to counter the coming disinformation campaign from the ruling party.

Excerpts:

66—percentage of tax cut passed by the 2013 General Assembly that will go to the wealthiest one percent of North Carolinians (“Final tax plan puts at risk what makes North Carolina great,” N.C. Budget & Tax Center, August, 2013)

940,000—amount in dollars of annual income of wealthiest one percent of North Carolinians (Ibid)

80—percentage of North Carolina taxpayers—the bottom 80 percent—who will pay more under the tax plan approved by the General Assembly this summer that also allows the state Earned Income Tax Credit expire for low-wage workers (Ibid)

[...]

2,898—amount in dollars of tax INCREASE for married non-elderly couple with two kids with a small business income of $80,000 (Ibid)

262—amount in dollars of tax INCREASE for married couple with two children with an annual income of $20,000 (N.C. General Assembly Fiscal Research Division)

2,318—amount in dollars of the DECREASE in taxes for a married couple with two children with an annual income of $250,000 (Ibid)

23—number of days since state tax deductions ended for retirement income, small businesses, unreimbursed job expenses and college 529 savings plans, all part of the 2013 tax plan passed by the General Assembly