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By Leslee Kulba- The last formal meeting of Asheville City Council was characterized by items added to the agenda as the meeting proceeded. All had a decidedly Democrat flavor.

With wall-to-wall news coverage of the Florida massacre, there would be outcry if city council did not somehow pay homage. However, inspired by a Facebook post by Councilman Cecil Bothwell on futile gestures, Mayor Esther Manheimer decided in lieu of a moment of silence to advocate for gun control and urge members of the public to vote for Democrat leaders that would further infringe the right to keep and bear. She specifically voiced her disapproval of “ridiculous” state laws passed by a Republican majority that prohibit municipalities from passing their own concealed carry laws, and consequently allow persons with guns to walk through city parks. She, of course, did not mention political parties by name.

Bothwell followed with disdain for Republican leaders who are “trying to eliminate rules completely” and “just let everybody carry guns.” The legislative majority, he said, “doesn’t realize where most people in the country are.” It was hard for him to imagine why the United States couldn’t be as “sane” as Australia, England, Germany, France, and other countries with stricter gun laws; but instead continues with a “massive insistence that everybody have the right to have the firepower to kill as many people as possible.” He closed, saying, “What madness. What utter madness.”

The words echoed the scenario Monday when Speaker Paul Ryan asked for a moment of silence on the House floor. Some Democrat leaders walked out, and following the moment of silence, some of the remaining Democrats heckled Ryan trying to break with the agenda to promote anti-gun legislation. Pundits have since observed the legislation in question, banning persons on TSA’s No-Fly List from getting gun permits, had absolutely nothing to do with the latest fifteen minutes of fame, as the perpetrator was not on the list.

To be fair and balanced in reporting, if not in government, the opposition argues law-abiding citizens must be able to arm themselves. “The best defense is self-defense” speaks to personal responsibility, avoiding 30-minute police response times, and not falling into the trap of being a soft target sought out by perps. Besides, anybody who is going to commit cold-blooded murder is not going to be stopped by gun control laws. Memes on the Twitter machine to this effect include Chairman Mao saying, “I banned guns. Then I killed 49 million people;” a Native American woman saying, “If the government says, ‘You don’t need a gun,’ you need a gun;” and another phrase, “Making good people helpless won’t make bad people harmless.”

Rather than reasoning about cause and effect in all other factors equal situations, the nation plays a political game. The right cites a high percentage, near 100, of mass shootings that have occurred, over some stretch of years, in gun-free zones. Then, the left makes the claim out to be a lie with research that, drawing different parameters, concludes only something like 92 percent of massacres have taken place where concealed carry is banned.

Moving right along, the mayor asked approval, “to add one item to our consent agenda, and that is the resolution at all your desks setting an aggressive meeting schedule for our summer to help us examine a potential bond referendum.” The referendum is needed because the city’s projects cost more than revenues collected from fees and taxes and state and federal sources. For the city’s 2016—2017 budget, debt service, or principal and interest owed, is estimated at $12,145,694, or 7.5 percent of general expenditures. It is expected the people will be told the money is for some disadvantaged community or critical public safety or infrastructure upgrade, while elsewhere in the budget is funding for things like fru-fru streetscaping and corporate welfare. Voters will be assured the bond will keep debt capacity constant, as if the tax rate ought never be lowered.

Next, Transportation Director Ken Putnam announced the NC DOT had decided upon the Least Environmentally Damaging routes for the I-26 connector. For those following, Section A will be widened to either six or eight lanes, Section B will follow Alternative 4B, and Section C will be built in accordance with Alternative F1. Putnam said those were the options city leadership and staff had supported. The DOT will begin acquiring rights of way in 2019, and construction should begin in 2021. Bothwell said making a signature bridge worthy of postcard photos would not require more materials, just more brain power. Julie Mayfield said at the last working group meeting, it was conclusively decided the bridge must be beautiful.

Another addition to the agenda was a legislative update. One bill hand-wavily addressed was H483, which would protect property owners against changes in zoning approved after land has been purchased and developers from amendments to local ordinances enacted after a project has entered the design review process. Manheimer said a number of cities were uniting to oppose the bill, which could limit their powers to impose conditions on projects.

Of more concern was a bill threatened by outgoing seven-term Senator Tom Apodaca that would cause members of Asheville City Council to be elected by district. Depending on how the lines are eventually gerrymandered, incumbents could be double-bunked. Apodaca was presumably reacting to complaints from under-represented business interests in the south. He is the only Republican serving in the legislative delegation, so the other members sat him down for a meeting and reached out to council, which happens to be all-Democrat. Manheimer said first and foremost, she does not want the bill filed; but if it must be, she would hope citizens would be able to give the proposal an up or down in a referendum and that an independent commission or city council would be allowed to draw the district lines.

Bothwell said he had seen the proposed districts, and it appeared software had assembled them block-by-block on the basis of political party. For example, it lumped people in the Sunset Mountain community with those in Haw Creek, on opposite sides of a mountain. It also divided the Central Business District in half. Bothwell complained the Republicans preach limited government and local control, and legislate to the contrary. This was another instance of leaders choosing their voters, rather than the other way around. The legislators were saying, “Go pick your switch. We’re comin’ for you. You decide how bad it’s gonna be,” said Bothwell.

Lastly, Mayfield noted there was no ruling on the city’s NC Supreme Court case trying to prevent the municipal water system from being taken over by the Metropolitan Sewerage District. City Attorney Robin Currin said the next date for rulings would be August 19, and the one following would be in late November. Bothwell said the city had been an “incredible steward” refurbishing and upgrading the water system. Then he called attention to absurd arguments from the state’s defense, like one justification for MSD control was lead in Flint, Michigan’s water.

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