Friday, December 28, 2012
Greensboro News & Record editorial page
Asheville is fighting to keep its municipal water system and avoid a soaking. But the state legislature has the last word.
Other cities should tune in to this drama playing out in the water-wealthy mountain community.
While Asheville operates its own water system, wastewater service is handled by a Metropolitan Sewerage District that covers all of Buncombe County. A legislative study committee reported last year that combining systems could achieve efficiencies, and a bill passed this summer would authorize a sewerage district to exercise “any power” of a city water system. The measure, pushed by Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, was seen as a prelude to a merger. But some critics suspect the ultimate goal is to privatize water services in Asheville. Moffitt and McGrady deny it, but much of this story seems to lie beneath the surface.
The Asheville City Council is trying to block any action to remove the water system from city control. It put the question to city voters in a nonbinding referendum last month. Eighty-six percent said they wanted to keep the system. It passed its own resolution, unanimously, that warned: “The forced taking of … local government infrastructure sets a dangerous precedent in the state of North Carolina, a precedent that will have a chilling effect on any local government investing in needed infrastructure in the future.”
Asheville is currently spending $40 million for water system improvements and believes any compensation it receives if its system is folded into the Metropolitan Sewerage District won’t be adequate. A recent study commissioned by the city placed the value of its water system at $177 million and also said consolidation under MSD management would reduce costs for sewer customers by $18 million to $23 million over nine years but cost Asheville water customers $33 million more.
On the other hand, if Asheville managed the consolidated operation, the city report said, all users would save money. But that has not been an option discussed by legislators, who appear to be preparing for some action in 2013.
The state does have the power to force a regional approach to the provision of water and sewer services. And, with water resources becoming more scarce and environmental concerns putting greater focus on wastewater treatment processes, any means of achieving efficiencies must be considered.
But Asheville’s objections aren’t unreasonable. Like Greensboro, High Point and most other sizable cities in North Carolina, it has made huge investments in water collection, treatment and delivery. At the very least, its customers and taxpayers deserve fair compensation for what they’ve spent. They are the ones who stand to get a soaking.
Sometimes elected officials need your help–and this is one of those times.
As you likely know, there is an effort underway to seize from the City of Asheville our water system–the 20,000 acre watershed, two reservoirs, over 1,600 miles of water lines, all of it.
As a member of Asheville City Council, I remain committed to defending our water system from state takeover legislation. But make no mistake, the threat facing Asheville is real and growing. Reps. Moffitt (R-Bunc.) and McGrady (R-Hend.) have stated their intention to introduce in January legislation forcing Asheville to merge its water system into the Metropolitan Sewerage District(MSD), who would control and manage the asset.
This Friday, Nov. 30th at 12 noon The Planning Committee of MSD, on which myself and Vice-Mayor Esther Manheimer are Asheville appointees, will be meeting at MSD’s headquarters at 2028 Riverside Drive in Woodfin. The purpose of this meeting will be consideration of the merger proposal by MSD’s consultant. Attached is the consultant’s preliminary report. The compensation piece in the report is worth close scrutiny.
Also expected to be present with be the bill’s likely sponsor, Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County. A good question to ask might be why a Henderson County legislator is leading this effort. See the attached articles for more background on this question.
Unlike city council meetings, the public rarely attends MSD meetings. With so much at stake, that has to change. As mentioned, sometimes elected officials need your help. I write today to ask, if your schedule permits, you attend Friday’s meeting to help send the message this power grab by the state legislature is not going unnoticed.
Yours in service,
Asheville City Council
Early voting continues through Nov. 3. If you want to know who to vote for in Buncombe County, CLICK ICON FOR ONE-PAGE 2012 BUNCOMBE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC VOTING ROSTER:
After completely floundering at the Chamber of Commerce forum last month, Tim Moffitt has largely gone missing in action. Rather than face the hard questions, Mr. Moffitt has skipped public forums of the Asheville Civitan, the League of Women Voters, the Deerfield Candidate Reception and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and instead chosen to hide behind the hateful mailings and ads of multimillionaire Art Pope’s PACs and the Republicans. Mr. Moffitt does not want to answer the public and media’s questions on his record of:
- Gutting education;
- Giving tax loopholes to the wealthy;
- His single-handed efforts to steal Buncombe’s community assets for the benefit of other counties or private interests.
Perhaps he’s avoiding this discussion …
The Mountain Xpress recently posted their candidate questionnaire, revealing Moffitt’s top three donors: Harold Brubaker, Mitchell Setzer, Bill Brawley.
Bill Brawley, is a N.C. representative from Mecklenburg County, who Moffitt appointed to the “study” committee recommending the involuntary seizure of Buncombe’s water system — which, if passed, will result in our county subsidizing Henderson’s sewage, water, and sprawl. You may recall that Brawley earned the Double Dunce-cap award from my blog after insulting the Buncombe residents and leaders who came out to Moffitt’s fake public hearing last April.
Harold Brubaker is currently on the board of ALEC, the pro-privatization, pro-corporate lobby group most recently in the news for funneling more than an estimated $4 million in gifts to state legislators for travel, hotel rooms, and meals at posh resorts since 2006. LOCAL MEDIA: PLEASE FOLLOW-UP ON THIS! I would like to know if Moffitt has traveled on ALEC’s dime.
In 1989, the New York Times reported that Mr. Brubaker was paid $10,000 to assist developers in Durham, North Carolina, regarding a real estate project that drew scrutiny from authorities. The project involved converting a hosiery mill into homes for the elderly, and caused concern when subordinates had reportedly been against the project, but funds were appropriated nevertheless.
Michell Setzer is an N.C. representative from Catawba County.
The Xpress also lists Moffitt’s endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). I’d like to remind you that the NFIB is a group has been shown to lobby on issues that favor large corporate interests and run counter to the interests of small businesses. “NFIB, which claims to be non-partisan, engages in partisan politics, and receives millions in hidden contributions. “
All this brings me to the ad in today’s paper bought and paid for by LOCAL, BUNCOMBE COUNTY RESIDENTS. Please support Jane Whilden and get your friends in District 116 to vote for her:
If you want to know who to vote for in Buncombe County, CLICK ICON FOR ONE-PAGE 2012 BUNCOMBE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC VOTING ROSTER:
Can you help hand out voting roster at early voting sites?
The Buncombe County Democratic party needs help staffing volunteers at the early voting sites to hand out the slate card above to voters coming into the polls. This is actually one of my favorite volunteer jobs to get out the vote. Voters really appreciate having a list of who to vote for in the non-partisan races, such as judges — as they are not listed by party on your ballot. If you have any free time between now and Nov. 3, please call Tom Sullivan and sign up to volunteer at: (828) 274-4482.
Taking it to the streets! Water Rally Oct. 30
[UPDATE 10/29/12: RALLY CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER]
A rally and press conference in support of voting NO on the water referendum is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 5:30-6:00 pm (meet at 5:15!) at Pack Square Park at the Vance Memorial; Intersection of Patton Ave. and Biltmore Ave. This rally is sponsored by Clean Water for NC, Food and Water Watch, WNCA, WENOCA Sierra Club, Mountain Voices Alliance, PARC, and other local partners.
Bring: Signs, baseballs and baseball gloves. Suggested sign messages: “Vote ‘NO’ on water referendum,” “Defend our water! Vote NO,” “A vote of NO is a grand slam for local control,” “Save Asheville’s water,” etc. Sign-making materials will be available at Clean Water for NC’s office … contact Katie Hicks, CWFNC, if you’d like to come by to make signs. (Katie Hicks: 828-251-1291, Katie Hicks)
Great news! The water referendum may be binding
At Monday’s water forum, Asheville’s Vice-Mayor Ester Manheimer said that the water referendum may very well be binding — a referendum of this kind has never been tested in N.C.’s courts. Previous to Monday, I had understood that the referendum was a symbolic opportunity for City voters to express their objection to Tim Moffitt’s slimy attempt to have the state seize the water system (an action that — if it comes to fruition — will force Buncombe County to subsidize Henderson County’s water and sewage costs and put our water at risk of privatization). The fact that the referendum may be binding makes it especially important to get to the polls and vote NO to the referendum.
The Power of 5 Women is a project to support and elect Democratic women in Buncombe County.Last Sunday, we ran this ad in the Asheville Citizen-Times, and we have two more ads coming out this Sunday opposing Tim Moffitt. We would like to raise enough money to run more ads. Please click on the link if you would like to donate:
CLICK ICON FOR ONE-PAGE 2012 BUNCOMBE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC VOTING ROSTER:
The following is a press release detailing tomorrow night’s water forum:
PLEASE SHARE WIDELY:
“Defending Our Water: What You Need to Know Before You Vote”
Monday, October 22
Jubilee Community Church, 46 Wall St.
Free & open to the public
People who live in the city limits of Asheville will be asked on the Nov. ballot: “Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment and water distribution system?” A growing list of organizations and businesses is endorsing a VOTE of NO on this nonbinding referendum! Defeating the referendum will give our city officials proof that the residents of Asheville don’t want to lose control of their water system.
The Asheville City Council advanced the referendum after a proposal was made by the NC State legislature which would remove control of the water system from the city of Asheville and turn it over to the Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD), which is administered by an unelected regional board.
Guest speakers include:
- City Councilwoman Esther Manheimer, who will explain the wording and purpose of the referendum and the status of ongoing studies by local governments;
- Renée Maas & Mary Grant of the consumer organization Food & Water Watch, on the pitfalls of reduced local control of water systems in other areas across the country;
- Local activist Barry Summers, who will present a brief historical overview on the issue and update us on where we go from here.
Of all the utility services, water is the one we simply can’t live without – that’s why it’s urgent that decisions about water be transparent, local, and with plenty of opportunities for the public to participate. Let’s send a message loud and clear that our community’s drinking water is too important for decisions to be made behind closed doors in Raleigh while local residents’ voices are ignored!
A Q&A session will follow the presentation. The forum is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by Mountain Voices Alliance, Clean Water for NC, Food & Water Watch, WNC Alliance and WENOCA Sierra Club.
If you’d like to volunteer to help with community outreach, the upcoming forum, or other efforts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-255-8537 or email@example.com, 251-1291. Please forward this to others you think might be interested!
Early voting has started!
CLICK ICON FOR ONE-PAGE 2012 BUNCOMBE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC VOTING ROSTER:
EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS:
From October 18 – November 3, voters in Buncombe County can vote at any of 18 different conveniently located sites. Voters may cast their ballots Monday – Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday October 20 & 27 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday November 3 from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at all of the 18 sites. On Sunday October 21 and 28 from 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. four locations will be open (North Asheville Library, Black Mountain Library, South Buncombe Library & West Asheville Library). The 18 sites are:
- North Asheville Library – 1030 Merrimon Ave., Asheville
- Buncombe County Training Center, 199 College
- Black Mountain Library – 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain
- South Buncombe Library – 260 Overlook Rd., Asheville
- West Asheville Library – 942 Haywood Rd., Asheville
- Fairview Library – 1 Taylor Rd, Asheville
- Biltmore Square Mall – 800 Brevard Rd, Asheville
- Kenilworth Presbyterian Church – 123 Kenilworth Rd, Asheville
- Lutheran Church of the Nativity – 2425 Hendersonville Rd., Arden
- UNC-A Justice Center – 200 Wellness Way, Asheville
- Weaverville Town Hall – 30 S. Main St., Weaverville
- Leicester Branch Library – 1561 Alexander Rd, Leicester
- Swannanoa Fire Dept. – Bee Tree Substation – 510 Bee Tree Rd, Swannanoa
- Avery’s Creek Community Center – 899 S.E. Glenn Bridge Rd, Arden
- Asheville Mall – 3 S. Tunnel Rd., Asheville
- Jupiter Fire Dept. – 331 Jupiter Rd., Weaverville
- Upper Hominy Fire & Rescue – 1795 Pisgah Hwy., Candler
- New Morgan Hill Baptist Church – 370 Lake Dr., Candler.
Voters throughout the County can vote at ANY of these sites. The ballot for each voter’s district will be available for them. If you would like to review your ballot before visiting the voting site, go to http://www.buncombecounty.org/Governing/Depts/Election/SampleBallots.aspx