What do your real neighbors say? Vote NO to districts on November 7th.
You're looking for the website of a sketchy pro-district PAC? Sorry. They should have bought the URL before we did. See, what they don't want you to know is that all those "Vote Yes" signs and billboards aren't funded by your neighbors, but by the Omni Grove Park Inn and the Restaurant and Lodging Association, a statewide lobbying group. Why do hotel lobbyists want Asheville to have district elections? Good question! Let's consider the facts:
- The state law in question would divide conservative-leaning areas from liberal-leaning areas, making it easier for conservatives to win. This is especially true in the far south end of town, where district boundaries are defined by the law. (Its precincts voted for McCrory in 2012.) Don't believe us? The local GOP chairman and others have repeatedly admitted the law is about electing Republicans to council.
- Smaller elections would also be easier for outside money to influence. Money isn't everything in Asheville elections, as we saw when a candidate with record fundraising lost in the primary this year. But what if all that money only needed to persuade 750 or 1,500 voters, instead of 12,000? Corporate and PAC donations could buy a lot of mail and ads to saturate smaller areas.
- All of the group's arguments for districts are misleading or false.
- "The cost of district elections should be significantly reduced." As mentioned, they don't have to be. A political action committee like this one, looking to buy a seat on council, could spend the same dollars to much greater effect on a smaller voter pool.
- "On average, 78% of voters do not participate in city council elections. District elections should increase voter interest and turnout." Sadly, the first sentence is true, but the second is dead backwards according to scholarly analysis.
- "Each district would have an elected council person representing their unique community's needs." This could be true if you consider the needs of Shiloh to be the same as those of Kenilworth, or downtown's concerns to be the same as Southside's and West Asheville's. (A sixth of the city is still a pretty big area covering a number of neighborhoods.) Unfortunately the converse is also true: Each district would also not be represented by the other five district's members, who would have power over your roads and taxes, but would not be accountable to your vote. And it takes a majority of four council members to get anything done.
- "90% of North Carolina's largest cities have district elections." Yes, because they were forced to, as jurisdictions covered by special provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We aren't aware of a city government in North Carolina that converted to district elections without being required to by the federal government due to a history of racial discrimination. Not even Senator Chuck Edwards' city of Hendersonville has districts. Certainly, no city in NC has ever adopted a district system only to guarantee representation for a political party or side of town that felt left out.
- Districts ensure diversity, but also cap it. If the state's districts were in place this year, both African-American candidates would be competing for the same seat. (This is known as "cramming.") Instead of both potentially winning, mathematically, only one would.
- District-based elections tend to lead to more fractious and provincial councils, as each council member focuses on their own fiefdom, according to analysis by the UNC School of Government. No more citywide actions to address problems like housing or infrastructure!
- Speaking of which, the hotel industry has been singled out by current city council moves to control hotel development, require living wages, and wrest control of the hotel room tax. You mad, bro? The hotel lobby probably is. That's why they've filed lawsuits to overturn council decisions on hotel regulation and standards.
You mean the district bill is supported by hotel and tourism interests to disrupt or reverse recent moves by council to rein them in? Say it ain't so!
What can you do? On Tuesday November 7, vote "No" on the district referendum question on your ballot. Tell your friends and neighbors to do the same. While you're at it, vote for council members who will defend Asheville from Raleigh's legislative attacks. Candidates Vijay Kapoor and Rich Lee have been particularly vocal on this topic. Candidates Gwen Wisler, Kim Roney, and Sheneika Smith have said they're voting No, as well. Also, Mayor Esther Manheimer has suggested she will sue the state to keep elections under local control, if it comes to that.
Your vote matters. A state law monkeying with Greensboro's elections was overturned when it went against the wishes of city voters, as expressed in a referendum. This is pretty important. If it wasn't, would fake groups like Neighbors for Asheville be spending so much to convince you? Think about it.