-December 2, 2013-
3:00 -- Is it unethical for Rep. Tim Moffitt to publish a newspaper outling all the great things his Republican Party passed in the NC Legislature?
4:00 -- Americans don't trust each other any more. Why? Plus Art Pope and William Barber exchange words.
5:00 -- Kevin King joins us to talk about his grassroots organizing work on college campuses. Plus, Milton Friedman debates Frances Fox Piven.
-December 3, 2013
3:00 -- Pete offers NC Democratic candidate recruiters the opportunity to come on the show. They chicken out.
4:00 -- The rise of the administrative state and why budget battles will be the focal point now.
5:00 -- The Hobby Lobby lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act, plus should chimpanzees get legal "personhood" status.
-December 4, 2013
3:00 -- A coup on the Mecklenburg County Commission might make it easier for South Asheville to de-annex from the city. Plus, a Hindu guy is mad at a local brewer for naming a beer Shiva.
4:00 -- Jake Frankel from Mountain Xpress joins us to talk about the latest edition on news stands. Plus, Buncombe County Commissioners say they want to reduce the carbon footprint by 80%.
5:00 -- Kurth Schlichter, columnist at Townhall, says liberals have to lie. Plus, human cheese.
-December 5, 2013
3:00 -- Fast food workers protest for an increase in the federal minimum wage.
4:00 -- Ford O'Connell, GOP strategist and former McCain-Palin adviser, talks about what the Republican Party needs to do to win the Presidential race in 2016 - including "getting over the fact that Reagan is dead."
5:00 -- It turns out President Obama did know his illegal alien uncle living in Boston. Plus, the Democrats are desperate to get everyone to focus on income inequality.
-December 6, 2013
3:00 -- Why the Affordable Care Act is costing Democrats support among women.
4:00 -- Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) dismantles a liberal professor's defense of presidential overreach. Plus, Rev. William Barber's comments after getting convicted on 2 of 3 counts for his Moral Monday protests.
5:00 -- More from Rev. Barber. Plus, the Olympic torch lights a man on fire in Siberia and the NC lottery is now offering subscriptions!
Last week, Asheville City Council held a Town Hall meeting to let the public come down and complain about a list of proposed budget cuts.
This list was created by City staff to impress upon residents the great damage being inflicted upon them by the republican-controlled NC General Assembly.
The tactic is not new, although it is very politically convenient this year for the City Council.
During government budget debates, there is always a tension between revenue and expenses. Do the politicians raise taxes to support new programs and services that they promised on the campaign trail? Do they cut certain programs and services to find the money without raising taxes? If it's an election year, will they get punished for tax hikes or service cuts at the polls?
City Council is taking full advantage of the fact that the NC General Assembly is GOP-controlled and is proposing limits on city powers, which have traditionally been expanded by state Democratic leaders.
And because this is an election year, it makes political sense to broadcast this argument so as to minimize potential fallout at the ballot box.
But there is a uniquely Asheville aspect to this debate.
It's about "outsiders."
I noticed a theme when I arrived here more than a year ago which manifests itself in all sorts of ways. Just as in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, most issues were viewed through a prism of race relations, in Asheville most issues seem to be viewed through an "Us vs. Them" prism.
Perhaps it's because so many people come here from Florida, New York, and California (and look to change the local culture rather than adopt it). I don't know.
I suspect the mindset pre-dates any mass immigration from other states, although the recent influx of arrivals has probably magnified it.
The water fight is a good example.
Asheville City leaders have coveted differential water rates for generations. Getting the ability to charge non-residents higher water fees would allow the City to control and direct growth - making annexation easier and making more properties available for taxation. This growth would then bring more revenue to the City budget.
Cities all over the USA do this. But because Asheville is prevented by state law from charging different water rates, it seems a siege mentality has taken hold - whereby anyone who lives outside the City limits is viewed as an outsider sucking the economic lifeblood from the City. These "Outsiders" are believed to be gobbling up all sorts of City funding through demands on facilities, services, and roads.
The concept that “outsiders are using lots of services” seems to be driving the Outrage Train - as was heard at the City Council's Town Hall meeting. Feeding fuel to that engine also helps Council, as I explained earlier.
Taxing the thieves
However, the City can find other ways to extract more money from these Oppulent Outsiders, if its leaders had the political will.
Charging different amounts for using parks and recreation facilities is one way. Differential rates - they're not just for water! The City could provide annual or seasonal passes to facilities for people who pay property taxes or who are registered to vote inside City limits. Residents get into the Nature Center for free. Non-residents pay.
Another idea is for the City leaders to build a coalition and get state approval to levy its own dedicated tourism tax. This would generate money which the Council could use to fund its own preferred projects, rather than go through the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
A hotel-motel tax or a prepared food and beverage tax could support tourism-related amenities to attract more of those mooching outsiders.
Other cities have won state approval for local tax increases, and some politicians have paid the price at the polls for it. But if leaders believe in the need, they should be willing to sacrifice their elected office to secure the funds.
That 'vision' thing
As City Manager Gary Jackson said in 2010, Asheville needs to decide what it wants to be. Should it be a low-tax and fewer-services city? Should it be a city with lots of amenities and a higher tax burden to pay for those amenities?
The City's 2025 vision plan doesn't offer an answer.
Jackson's question poses thornier political questions for Council. It appears that over the years Council has opted to make small budget adjustments each year to support a list of programs and services promised to particular constituencies, while maintaining one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. You can celebrate that low property tax rate, but you cannot escape the budget implications.
The budget gaps are structural and annual.
Just last week, Councilman Gordon Smith tweeted that they’ve cut all they could and they were getting into core services before the NC bills were factored into the mix.
So, the NCGA bills might push the City of Asheville’s budget over the edge, but Council knew the edge was there… was already standing at it… and had no real long-term plan to address the widening gap between revenues and expenses.
Politically, the Council is laying the foundation to blame the NC GOP for the first property tax rate increase in 13 years. Some of that blame is deserved. But Council has it's share, too.
City Manager Gary Jackson's question remains unanswered.
Are we trying to attract outsiders? Are we trying to keep them out? I think the lack of an answer is due to a fundamental philosophical idea that the City of Asheville is entitled to other peoples’ money. If outsiders would just hand it all over, Asheville could have all sorts of pretty new amenities and awesome services for its residents.
It seems like a sclerotic governing philosophy that we want the outsiders’ money – without the outsiders.